Japan’s next-generation UH-2 multi-purpose medium-sized helicopter will enter service after the completion of the development plan of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), the Ministry of Defense (MoD) Procurement, Technology and Logistics Agency (ATLA) announced on June 24.
The development of the prototype machine (called UH-X at the time) began in fiscal year 2015 (FY). The image of the prototype was painted in JGSDF camouflage colors and surfaced in mid-November 2018 for ground engine testing at the manufacturer Subaru’s Utsunomiya plant north of Tokyo.
Following the first flight in December 2018, the prototype was delivered to the Ministry of Defense for further testing in February 2019. UH-X is a cooperative project between Subaru (formerly Fuji Heavy Industries) and Bell, aiming to replace the aging UH-1J helicopter of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
So far, 13 UH-2 helicopters have been funded. ATLA awarded the company a contract worth US$129 million in March 2020 for the production of the first batch of six UH-2 helicopters. The delivery will be completed in January 2023. Recently, the Ministry of Defense budgeted approximately 112.5 million U.S. dollars to purchase another 7 UH-2 helicopters. 2 seconds for the most recent fiscal year.
The Ministry of National Defense plans to replace the increasingly obsolete 127 UH-1J fleet of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force with approximately 150 UH-2s in the next two decades. In the 2019-2023 Mid-Term National Defense Plan (MTDP) released in December 2018, the Ministry outlined its plan to purchase the first 34 new helicopters at a unit price of approximately US$16.2 million over a five-year period.
The Ministry of National Defense expects that JGSDF will use UH-2 to perform a series of tasks, including supporting the defense of remote islands in Japan and transporting personnel and supplies during national emergency interventions such as natural disasters.
The UH-2 is a twin-engine helicopter based on the Subaru Bell 412EPI commercial helicopter. It has a four-blade main rotor, which is different from the single-engine UH-1J with a two-blade main rotor. UH-1J itself is a licensed production and locally updated variant of the Bell UH-1H Iroquois platform.
The Ministry of Defense also hopes to replace its traditional Bell Subaru AH-1S Cobra attack helicopter, which was first delivered in 1979. About 59 of them are still in service, but can be replaced according to the AH-X plan. Although the Army Aviation of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force is traditionally land-based, the RfI issued by the Ministry of Defense in May 2018 expressed the hope that the next generation of attack helicopters can be installed in shipboard and expeditionary operations.