Japan’s Ministry of Defense has selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to supply 40 license-built Sikorsky UH-60J+ helicopters for the Japan Air Self Defence Force’s search-and-rescue fleet. The deal is worth around $2.3 billion, and includes 20 years of logistics support. The selection was the first result of a new bid evaluation process the Japanese government introduced to increase transparency in defense procurement.
The 40 new UH-60Js will be phased in over a 20-year period and will replace a similar number of older UH-60Js, which currently partner Hawker 800-based U-125 with air rescue squadrons at Akita, Ashiya, Chitose, Hamamatsu, Hyakuri, Komaki, Komatsu, Matsushima, Naha, Niigata and Nyutabaru.
Japan’s initial batch of UH-60Js entered service in February 1991. From the fourth aircraft they were built entirely in Japan, including T700 engines from Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries. The UH-60J+ replacement helicopters will feature significant improvements, including satellite communications, collision avoidance system and removable refueling probe. The latter option has been retrofitted to a number of aircraft from the first batch, with training in its use being conducted by the U.S. Air Force at Moffett Field, Calif.
Since 1988 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, under license from Sikorsky, has built 226 H-60s for Japan’s Ministry of Defense. These include UH-60JAs for the JGSDF (army), UH-60Js for JMSDF (navy) and JASDF, and SH-60J/Ks for the JMSDF.