Japan mulls export to India of SDF search-and-rescue aircraft

Japan and India have agreed to establish a joint working group to explore prospects of exporting to India a costly search-and-rescue aircraft developed by the Defense Ministry.

The agreement was reached in May 29 talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Indian Navy officials began expressing interest in the US-2 short takeoff and landing, search-and-rescue amphibian aircraft a few years ago.

If future discussions proceed as Japanese officials hope, it would be the first instance of an export of defense equipment used by the Self-Defense Forces that had been converted for civilian use.

The US-2 is produced by ShinMaywa Industries Ltd., which is based in Hyogo Prefecture. The aircraft has a range of about 4,500 kilometers and its amphibious landing capabilities make it suited for search-and-rescue operations.

Government officials are seeking to export the aircraft to reduce the procurement costs for each aircraft. Mass production could dramatically lower production costs for each aircraft.

Indian government officials have begun discussions on whether to purchase the aircraft.

However, because the US-2 carries sensitive communications equipment and other equipment, there were concerns that exporting the aircraft would violate Japan's three principles banning the export of weapons.

Government officials have concluded that if the equipment in question were removed beforehand, the aircraft itself would not constitute a weapon and the three principles would not be violated.

A major problem with the US-2 is its high cost. The aircraft costs about 11 billion yen ($108 million), much higher than similar competing aircraft.

According to government sources, India has not yet decided whether to purchase the US-2.


THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

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