Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI; Hall 2 Stand A88) and Bell (Outdoor Exhibit L2-L5) have begun development of a version of the Bell 412EPI for the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), having won the UH-X competition for a new utility transport helicopter. This will replace the UH-1J (Bell Model 205) in JGSDF service.
Fuji and Bell have forged a long partnership that has seen FHI build the UH-1B, UH-1J and AH-1S Cobra under license for the JGSDF, while it also license-built the service’s AH-64 Apaches. The UH-X helicopters are to be built at the company’s Utsunomiya plant.
Selection of the Fuji-Bell team for UH-X was announced in July last year and a contract for 150 helicopters was awarded in September. Originally a Kawasaki Heavy Industries team had been selected to develop UH-X as a new design, but the program was relaunched following alleged improprieties in the bidding process. The renewed UH-X requirement specified a modified off-the-shelf aircraft to keep costs down. KHI teamed with Airbus Helicopters to offer the new H160, but the Bell 412-based helicopter won out in a number of the Japanese evaluation categories, including delivery timescale. First deliveries are slated for 2021.
Currently referred to as the 412+, the UH-X helicopter will have state-of-the-art avionics, upgraded transmission and a higher gross weight compared to the 412EPI, which is Bell’s current production model. The UH-X will also have greater airframe durability and longer run-dry endurance.
Although the JGSDF requirement is the driving force behind the program, FHI and Bell are also hoping to pursue opportunities for the 412+ design in the civilian market. Following a relaxation on Japanese export regulations in 2014 the Fuji-Bell team is also proposing the 412+ for export.
By the time that the UH-X is being delivered, however, the Japanese company will have a new name. At the end of June FHI announced that it is to officially re-brand as the Subaru Corporation from April 1 next year, in the year of its 100th anniversary. Adopting the Subaru name (the Japanese name for the Pleiades—or “Seven Sisters”—star cluster) reflects the company’s best-known global product line. FHI’s history reaches back to 1917 when what soon after became the Nakajima Aircraft Factory was founded by Chikuhei Nakajima. In 1945 it was reorganized as Fuji Sangyo, producing civilian goods. In 1953 Fuji Heavy Industries was formed from various elements of the Fuji Sangyo concern.