In May this year the Indian Prime Minister visited Japan and, among other things, discussed a deal for India to buy the Japanese US-2. This aircraft, a four engined amphibian, is used by the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force for SAR. There are less than 50 versions of the aircraft in operation.
Japan is flexing some muscle here; Japan has not exported any military equipment since 1967 and, politically connecting India and Japan is their mutual wariness of China. But Japan’s reluctance to export military equipment may be fading. The Japanese are waiting for the Indian RFP.
India may buy 15 or more of the US-2s. While the aircraft is operated by the Japanese military, it is not a combat aircraft. Its role in maritime patrol is useful from a non-military perspective. India has a coastline of nearly 5,000 miles when one adds in the islands. India has a manifest interest in its oceans; exploitation of marine resources, dumping of industrial and toxic wastes are concerns. Moreover, India has an extensive low-lying, densely populated, coastal zone. The aircraft’s 2500NM range would be most useful to India.
In addition, India wants more aerospace capabilities and Japan wants to grow its own aerospace industry. Demand and supply are nicely matched with a deal. India has a long history of working with Russia on building aircraft, and is working through a deal with France for the Rafale to be made locally. The Japanese would need to provide 30% offset for the deal.
Michel Merluzeau from G2Solutions suggests the US-2 offers more flexibility than other maritime patrol aircraft. Specifically its ability to inspect vessels at sea and its long loitering time combined with good payload. There is no other aircraft with the same capabilities.