(Nikkei: July 18, 2015 – p.4)
The Ministry of Defense announced on July 17 its selection of Fuji Heavy Industries as the developer of the Utility Helicopter-X (UHX) for the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) Kawasaki Heavy Industries also participated in the selection process but the ministry decided that Fuji is better than Kawasaki in development period and price. Fuji and Bell Helicopter of the U.S. will jointly develop a helicopter for civilian use, which will be modified for the GSDF for deployment to its units beginning the end of FY 2021.
This is the first time to use the framework in which a civilian aircraft jointly developed internationally is modified for conversion to SDF use. The framework will slash the development cost by half, to 13.3 billion yen, compared with the cost of development by a single manufacturer. The price for one helicopter is about 1.2 billion yen, but if production is ramped up for civilian use, volume efficiency will likely lower the price.
Last April’s Cabinet decision on the three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology opened the way for exporting and international development of defense equipment. Based on this framework, the government will deliberate on exporting the UHX to the West.
Lately, the development and production costs of defense equipment are increasing on account of advances in technology. In order to restrain procurement costs and to promote technology acquisition, the Defense Ministry will take advantage of international joint development for defense equipment and bulk purchase.
As examples for defense equipment cooperation under the new three principles, the government exports parts of surface-to-air missile to the U.S. and jointly conducts research with the UK on air-to-air missiles. The government also provides Australia with the technological information needed for selecting a partner in seeking a way for international joint development and production of a new submarine.