Four years after ending a 50 year ban on defense exports, it looks as if Japan’s first major foreign sale will be an amphibious plane that Greece wants to use as a firefighter.
According to the Nikkei news agency, negotiations are set to begin on the sale of several dozen four engine flying boats manufactured by ShinMaywa Industries, known as US-2s. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces will fly the US-2 on search and rescue missions at sea; Greece wants to adapt the aircraft into a water bomber.
The US-2 boasts a range of almost 3,000 miles and can set down on land, or in waves up to ten feet high.
In 2014, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed through a change to the law prohibiting foreign arms sales. At the time, he hoped to win a lucrative contract to build a new fleet of submarines for Australia, but Canberra chose a French design instead.
Japan has not found many defense customers since. Spain won a contract to supply air defense radars to Thailand earlier this year and talks on the sale of a dozen US-2s to India have stalled. “I still think the deal will go through at some point,” Paul Burton of Janes told Nikkei, “but we might have grandchildren by the time it happens.”
On the other hand, Tokyo spends billions to acquire defense equipment from abroad, nearly all of it from the United States. Japan is building 42 F-35A fighters under license from Lockheed Martin and may buy 20 more at about 100 million dollars a pop.
On Monday, the Ministry of Defense selected Lockheed Martin to provide the radars for two land based anti-ballistic missile systems. The facilities, known as Aegis Ashore, are estimated at 4.2 billion dollars.