The Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) placed an order for new naval helicopters as Leonardo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) sign a contract, marking the start of a mid-life update (MLU) program for the MCH-101 type in Japan.
The signing, which follows the order for one aircraft placed in 2022, marks development for the JMSDF as they finalize a contract for additional MCH-101 naval helicopters.
The JMSDF currently operates ten MCH-101s, which are license-built versions of the Leonardo AW101 helicopter, for mine countermeasure and transportation tasks, in addition to three CH-101s used to support Japan’s Antarctic research.
In the joint efforts of Leonardo, KHI, and Marubeni Aerospace Corporation, the MCH-101 project sees KHI leading as the prime contractor while Leonardo provides technical support for the platform.
Marubeni Aerospace Corporation serves as Leonardo’s distributor, taking charge of spares, ground support equipment, and services.
On 24 May 2006, KHI delivered the first AW101 aircraft to the JMSDF. In 2015, the JMSDF received the first helicopter equipped with the mine countermeasures system.
The AW101/MCH-101 helicopters are used primarily for Airborne Mine Counter Measure missions and are among the limited number of helicopter types capable of towing the AN/AQS-24A, the only operationally-proven, high-speed airborne mine hunting system.
The 3-engine configuration of the AW101/MCH-101 ensures safe towing operations at low altitudes and slow speeds, stated the Leonardo.
Since its introduction in 2016, the JMSDF has accumulated over 25,000 flight hours with these aircraft.
“We are proud that Japan’s MCH-101 program was able to launch additional procurement with the latest specifications and the MLU. Japan, the United Kingdom, and Italy all have this excellent platform,” Kenya Takaha, Executive Senior General Manager, Marketing Division Aerospace System Company at KHI said.
“We anticipate that there may be common operational requirements in each country, and the introduction of common equipment on the platform can effectively contribute to strengthening the defense capabilities of each country,” he added.
This agreement coincides with a KHI, Leonardo, and Marubeni Aerospace Corporation commemorating their 20-year collaboration in the helicopter market.