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    European & US helicopter Makers Bid for $2bn Japan Deal

    Japan is in early talks with top global helicopter makers and their Japanese partners about a deal worth around $2 billion to supply transport aircraft to its military that would also be sold overseas, sources with knowledge of the discussions said.

    The talks, which began in earnest over the past two months, represent another milestone in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's bid to nurture a domestic military export industry that would also bring down Japan's defence procurement costs at a time of rising tensions between Tokyo and an increasingly assertive China.

    Abe has eased decades-old restrictions on Japan's military exports and is looking to give its armed forces a freer hand in conflicts by changing the interpretation of a pacifist constitution dating from Japan's defeat in World War Two.

    The project, dubbed the UH-X, is meant to replace around 150 of Japan's aging fleet of troop-carrying Huey helicopters, a design by Bell that dates from before the Vietnam War. It is likely to run for at least a decade and cost as much as $2 billion, one of the people with knowledge of the process said.

    Airbus Helicopters, a division of the European aerospace giant, has joined with defence contractor Kawasaki Heavy Industries, while Bell Helicopter, a unit of industrial conglomerate Textron, is partnered with Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru cars, the two sources said.

    AugustaWestland, part of Italy's Finmeccanica Spa, is looking to sell Japan helicopters through Japanese trading company Mitsui & Co., which would be assembled by Fuji Heavy, they said.

    By creating a market beyond Japan for the UH-X project, officials hope to bring down the per-unit costs of the helicopter for Japan's Self-Defence Forces (SDF), part of a bid to keep pace with China's expanding military.

    "The aim is to keep costs down," said one of the people with knowledge of the project, who asked not to be named because the discussions remain private.

    Japan's government sent out an early "request-for-information" from the bidders over the past two months. Officials hope to move quickly to the next stage in which the bidding companies would be asked to submit detailed proposals, including costs, the sources said.

    While the UH-X project was public knowledge, the involvement of Airbus Helicopters, AugustaWestland and Bell Helicopters and their local partners had not been previously reported.

    Airbus and Bell declined to comment on their intentions in Japan, while AugustaWestland did not respond to a request to discuss its business in Japan. Kawasaki and Fuji Heavy declined to comment, while no-one from Mitsui & Co was immediately available for comment.


    Japan and China have been mired in a dispute over ownership of tiny islands in the East China Sea, with tensions spiking last month when Japan said Chinese aircraft had come within a few dozen metres fo its warplanes.

    In the 20 years to 2012, Japan was the sixth-biggest military spender in the world, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. China jumped to second place from the seventh after it hiked its defence spending more than five-fold over the same period.

    Japan said last year that it would raise its military spending by almost 3 percent over five years. But with spending constrained, Japan's military planners have turned to ways to increase the efficiency of defence spending programmes to counter China.

    Industry analysts say Japan's armed forces often pay two to three times more for military equipment than other comparable countries because defence contractors are limited to fabricating small lots for the SDF.

    Selling the new helicopter overseas should lower the cost paid per unit by Japan's military by widening the production base. Including foreign companies would also help spread development costs.

    In a related move, Japan plans to create an arms procurement agency to streamline spending and promote military exports that merge spending by the sea, land and air forces, according to people involved in the planning.


    Kawasaki and Airbus Helicopters, formerly Eurocopter, which are already partners on the successful BK117 utility transport that first flew 35 years ago, are offering a new design for the UH-X, according to the sources who spoke to Reuters.

    The Ministry of Defence awarded Kawasaki Heavy the UH-X contract in 2012, but cancelled the contract in March 2013 after two SDF officers said they had helped the company win the deal by leaking information on the bid.

    Bell and Fuji Heavy are proposing an aircraft based on the Bell 412 utility helicopter, military versions of which are used in countries ranging from Britain to Colombia, Ghana and Thailand.

    AugustaWestland is offering its 10-seat twin-engined AW169, the prototype of which first flew in 2012. Using Mitsui as its partner in Japan, the company has told the Japanese government it would recruit Fuji Heavy to assemble the aircraft under licence.

    A partnership of Sikorsky Aircraft, which is owned by United Technologies Corp, and Japan's biggest defence contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries had initially shown interest in the UH-X, but did not responded to requests for information from the Defence Ministry, according to one of the sources. Mitsubishi Heavy and Sikorsky declined to comment.

  • #2
    Taiwan Receives Fourth Batch of Apaches

    Delivery test flights of six new AH-64E Apache attack helicopters drew spectators at Kaohsiung International Airport on Saturday 30th August, one day after Taiwan took delivery of the aircraft from the United States.

    One of 30 new AH-64 'E' model Apaches purchased by Taiwan

    This latest delivery is the fourth of five shipments in a USD 2 billion order for 30 of the newest model Apache, according to Taiwan's Defense Ministry.

    The shipment came after a new Apache crashed into the top of a three-story residential building in Taoyuan County in April, damaging four homes but causing no serious injuries. On July 15, the Army said that environmental conditions and human error were found to be the main causes of the crash. Apache training operations had returned to normal before the investigation report was completed, it added.

    The 'E' model s the latest in the Apache attack helicopter series with the US and Taiwan the only operators of the type so far.

    The final shipment of Apaches is due in October.


    • #3
      China Pushing for Z-18 Export Sales

      China is currently touting the capabilities of its new locally made Z-18F anti-submarine helicopter, mainly because it wants export sales. This model is seen as the first acceptable Chinese made anti-submarine helicopter. It is described as a 13 ton naval helicopter that carries a dipping sonar, 32 sonobuoys and up to four light (235 kg/517 pound) anti-submarine torpedoes. The Z-18F is too heavy for most Chinese warships and will be used on Chinese carriers and large amphibious ships (that look like small carriers). The Z-18F appears to be a major upgrade to the earlier Z-8F and is the same weight as anti-submarine used on many Western warships (which tend to be larger than most Chinese ones.)

      China was not pleased with an earlier effort, the Z-8 naval helicopter. China eventually built twenty Z-8Fs, and used them on some of their warships. The problem with the Z-8, aside from weight, was that it was built with stolen tech. China's track record of technology theft is breathtaking, but frequently these efforts are much less successful than were hoped. One such case was the Chinese copy of the French Super Frelon (SA-321) helicopter. The SA-321 is often used on ships. China bought some SA-321s in the early 1970s, and by 1976 were working on reverse engineering them and producing their own, illegal, version. The first flight of the SA-321 clone (called the Z-8) took place in 1985. But there were too many technical problems, plus the French were none too happy about this bit of theft, and made their displeasure known in various convincing ways.

      China's Z-18F, a derivative of the former Aérospatiale SA321 Super Frelon

      France retired the last of its SA321 Super Frelon helicopters in 2010. The French Navy had wanted to retire the SA321s since the 1990s, as these choppers date from the 1960s. Retirement finally became possible when it was revealed that a third of the SA321s were unavailable for service because of age related maintenance issues. Then it was revealed that the SA321s also tended to fail at inopportune times in the combat zone. Only 110 SA321s were built (plus Chinese Z-8 copies), and most were used by nine different nations they were exported to. Designed as a naval helicopter, most ended up serving as troop and cargo transports. The SA321 is a three engine, 13 ton aircraft with a crew of five and a capacity of 27 passengers. Naval versions were often armed with four torpedoes or two anti-ship missiles, plus a 20mm autocannon. Endurance was four hours.

      China spent over a decade tinkering with the Z-8. In the 1990s more models of the Z-8 were developed for the army and some of these performed better and went into production. But only about half a dozen entered service. China kept tinkering, adding a more powerful engine and hundreds of technical improvements. Until the appearance of the Z-18F the Chinese did not consider the current Z-8F good enough for widespread and sustained use. The navy was content with the original SA-321s, but the Z-8 clones (like the current Z-8F) were only considered adequate for limited uses. It appears that the Chinese have carried up some major upgrades to the Z-8F and combined that with higher quality Chinese made components.

      The Chinese Navy, for the more serious missions like anti-submarine operations, bought Russian models. China ordered 27 Russian Ka-28/31 naval helicopters, beginning in the late 1990s and is apparently happy with them. The 12 ton Ka-28 entered service in 1982 in the Soviet (later Russian) navy as an anti-submarine aircraft. The Ka-31 model is equipped with a large radar (that is deployed underneath the helicopter once it is in the air), and acts as an early warning aircraft. The Ka-28/31 have a cruising speed of 205 kilometers an hour, and a top speed 270 kilometers an hour. Sorties for both helicopters average 3-4 hours. Both have a useful load of four tons (weapons and additional electronics). The Ka-28s and three Ka-31s are export versions of the more lavishly equipped Ka-27, used by the Russian navy. This family of naval helicopters do not have the finish, reliability or reputation of Western models, but the Ka-27 type costs a lot less, and still gets the job done. China believes the Z-18F can do the job as well as the Russian helicopters.


      • #4
        Japan To Receive New Helicopter Carrier

        Japan is to receive a new Izumo-class helicopter carrier. The vessel is currently undergoing sea trials and is expected to be commissioned in 2015. The new carrier will dramatically increase Japan's force projection in the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan. This new Japanese capacity has also raised concerns in China

        The new Izumo-class helicopter carrier has been undergoing extensive sea trials since late September in preparation of the acceptance of the new carrier by Japan’s Self Defense Forces Navy.

        JDS 183 Izumo seen at the Yokohama port in Japan, August 2014​

        JDS Izumo helicopter carrier is the first of two 30,000 ton (full load) Izumo-class ‘helicopter carrier destroyer’ (DDH) class vessels to be commissioned next year. Unveiled last month at the Yokohama port, south of Tokyo, JS-183 Izumo, is the biggest warship in Japan’s fleet since World War II, has been described by the Chinese media as an “aircraft-carrier in disguise”. Although the is configured with a large flight deck and hangars, designed to accommodate up to 28 helicopters, Izumo does not have catapults or arresting cables nor a ‘ski jump’ curved deck, assisting short take off of conventional aircraft. The Japanese Navy is highlighting the vessels’ ability to quickly respond to emergency or natural disasters.

        The construction of the first ship of the class began in 2011 at an IHI Marine United shipyard in Yokohama, at a cost of $1.5 billion (113.9 billion yen). Commissioning of the first of class is currently scheduled for 2015 with the second ship of the class, yet unnamed, to follow in 2017.

        Once commissioned, these Izumo-class vessels will more than double the current anti-submarine, anti-ship, and amphibious assault capabilities of the Chinese Navy, over the current force consisting of two helicopter carriers, operating the Shirane-class helicopter carrying destroyers, accommodating 9-10 helicopters. Those vessels are planned for decommissioning soon.

        The Japanese navy also operates two 20,000 ton Hyūga-class helicopter destroyers – Hyūga and Ise, commissioned in 2009 and 2011. Each is configured to carry up to 18 helicopters. These vessels typically operate three SH-60K and one MCH-101 mine sweeping helicopters. Hyūga class carriers are also equipped with Mk 41 VLS common launcher, armed with ESSM anti-air and ASROC anti-submarine weapons. Izumo class has more sensors and electronic warfare assets, designed for anti-submarine warfare and border-area surveillance missions, its self-defense capabilities are limited to close-in weapon systems (CIWS) such as the PHALANX and SEARAM.

        In addition to the larger capacity, the flight of JDS Izumo deck has 5 helicopter landing spots enabling simultaneous landings or take-offs. On deployments JS Izumo will carry a typical complement of 14 helicopters, seven ASW helicopters and two SAR helicopters. In addition, the ship will be able to transport 400 marines, 50 trucks and supplies.

        Some analysts have speculated the Izumo could be adapted to carry F-35B (STOVL) and V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, but sofar official Japanese authorities have not addressed these speculations. A similar platform designed to operate those aircraft is twice as large as the Izumo – American LHA-6 – USS America – has recently been commissioned with the US Navy.​


        • #5
          China's First Female Attack Helicopter Pilots Complete Training Exercises

          China's first female attack helicopter pilots recently took part in exercises in China's Yan Mountains.

          The five pilots, who last year transferred to the People's Liberation Army Aviation Unit from the People's Liberation Army Air Force, have been trained in combat and assault flying techniques.

          "As women are meticulous and sensitive, female pilots have their advantages in flying attack helicopters, especially in operating precision instruments and distinguishing the terrain," said a senior aviation army officer. "However, in addition to their basic military flying training thet must also attended tactical courses, such as missile loading and the live firing of the weapons on the helicopter in order to enhance their all-round combat abilities."

          All of the pilots achieved good results in their examinations which included aviation theory, emergency responses and operating procedures. The female flyers have an average age of 24 with each of them having earned a bachelor's degrees or higher.

          The group recently completed a series of 'advanced' training exercises, flying the Z-10 helicopter, in the northern region of China and which concluded on 29th October.

          China's first female attack helicopter pilots have been qualified to fly the nation's Z-10 attack helicopter

          Chinese female pilots aboard the CIAC Z-10

          The army pilots simulate airborne manoeuvres

          The flyers discuss the exercise area and training plan

          China's first female attack helicopter pilots

          The Z-10 is an attack helicopter developed by the People's Republic of China. It is designed primarily for anti-tank missions but has a secondary air-to-air capability as well. It was designed by the Kamov design bureau of Russia under special contract from the Chinese government. Further developments and flight testing were carried-out by China's 602nd Research Institute (a Chinese design centre which operates in collaboration with China's Xian Aircraft Industry Corporation). The aircraft is manufactured by Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC) of China.


          • #6
            WZ-10 Could be as Good as Apache!

            Chen Hong, a Chinese military expert, has told Chinese state mouthpiece, the People's Daily, that the WZ-10 attack helicopter designed by Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC) could be as good as the US Army's AH-64 Apache helicopter.

            The WZ-10 helicopter began its service with the PLA back in 2012. It is capable of carrying seven tons of munitions and stay operational for three hours. In addition, Chen said that the combat radius of a WZ-10 is 300km. Like the AH-64D Longbow Apache, the WZ-10 is a very powerful helicopter, Chen said. At the Zhuhai Air Show, the WZ-10 displayed its ability to carry air-to-surface missiles, bombs, and rockets.

            The CAIC WZ-10 might match Boeing's Apache according to Chinese aviation expert Chen Hong

            The WZ-10 is a perfect candidate to provide close air support for ground forces. Chen said that another advantage the WZ-10 has is its speed. The maxium speed of the attack helicopter is 300km an hour. Preparing for a future conflict, Chen Hong told the People's Daily that good coordination between attack helicopters and ground fighting units will be crucial for the PLA to defeat its enemy on the battlefield.

            Unlike J-20 and J-31 fifth-generation stealth fighters, WZ-10 did not attract much attention from the international community, a report from the Jamestown Foundation said. However, the report pointed out that the PLA has actually been increasing its number of powerful attack helicopters in recent years.

            Our sister newspaper, China Times, said that the armed forces in Taiwan and India should beware of this new type of threat in the future.