India and Japan have declared to form a Joint Working Group for cooperation on the US-2 amphibian aircraft. Kanji Ishimaru, the Managing Director of ShinMaywa Industries India Pvt Ltd and Director of ShinMaywa Industries Ltd, Japan, in a recent interview with SP’s Naval Forces said that the US-2 is the only ‘in-service’ open sea capable amphibian aircraft with state-of-the-art equipment.
SP’s Naval Forces (SP’s): Post issuance of request for information (RFI) during 2011 for the amphibious aircraft for the Indian Navy, what is the movement forward for the project?
Kanji Ishimaru (ShinMaywa): Since the RFI was issued and we responded to it, ShinMaywa has commenced the process of Indian Offshore Partner (IOP) surveillance. We have also had many meetings with the Government of India officials, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and the Indian Coast Guard. Our experience has been very good till now and there is clearly a very good appreciation of unique capabilities of US-2, and how usefully it can conduct a variety of difficult missions.
SP’s: After the last visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Japan in May 2013, there are reports which suggest formation of a Joint Working Group (JWG) to work out modalities for induction of US-2i aircraft (a product of ShinMaywa) from Japan for the Indian Navy. Could you provide requisite status on the report?
ShinMaywa: During the summit meeting held in Tokyo in May 2013, the Prime Ministers of India and Japan have declared to form a JWG to explore modality for the cooperation on the US-2 amphibian aircraft. The JWG has now been established. Therefore, we expect that the progress of JWG would be discussed as part of the agenda during the next summit meeting.
SP’s: In the event of selection of US-2i, how confident ShinMaywa would be to deal with ‘single vendor’ situation to take the project forward till its culmination?
ShinMaywa: As far as we know, the case would be steered following the defence procurement procedure (DPP) process. In that, we are bound to honour the offset requirements. We will respect and follow the laid down procedure and the agreements between our governments. ShinMaywa is absolutely confident of delivering the best product that would meet the requirements of India in general and the Indian Navy in particular. The US-2’s features for sustained operations in Sea State 5, shortest take-off and landing distances, very longrange operations, good payload and high transit speeds are unmatched in the world. Combine this with Japanese technology, customer support and quality standards, we know that the US-2 is second to none.
SP’s: What kind of transfer of technology (ToT) are you envisaging to accomplish with this project? Would it help build the Indian aviation industry bring in capabilities that the nation does not have as yet?
ShinMaywa: The Indian aviation private sector does not have enough capability and experience at the present moment in aircraft manufacturing. So we have to really partner with Indian industry to build the required capability, develop the right skill sets, imbibe highest quality and work ethics and provide mentoring to our IOP to become a world-class company. Especially, for an aircraft as complicated as the US-2, it might take us a little while and the process has to be gradual, but we are fully confident that if we have a chance we can help to transform the Indian aircraft industry just like Suzuki did to the automobile sector. We are also looking at maintenance, repair and overhaul for the aircraft in India, foreign direct investment and sourcing from a large number of small and medium enterprises and in addition, we also have an extremely interesting plan for creating an impact towards genuine capability building in the country in aeronautical engineering. Our plans are not one-off sale but we plan to partner with India for a long-term hightechnology relationship.
SP’s: Two prime roles defined for the Indian Navy is ‘benign’ and ‘constabulary’. How does US-2i fit the bill in this context?
ShinMaywa: The modern amphibious aircraft is a veritable force multiplier since they fulfil a multitude of missions in a single platform. Unlike helicopters and aircraft, amphibious aircraft can land at the location and enforce both the will and the law of the country and thus are a platform of choice for all benign and constabulary missions of navies. The US-2 is a unique aircraft and the only ‘in-service’ open sea capable amphibian aircraft with state-of-the-art equipment, very rough sea operations and riverine/lake landing capability, short take-off and landing features, long endurance and extended radius of operations with large payload capacity. With such unique features, we consider the US-2 to be the most effective platform to carry out ‘benign’ missions such as search and rescue, humanitarian relief and disaster management, and ‘constabulary’ missions such as extended exclusive economic zone (EEZ) surveillance and maritime domain awareness missions of the Indian Navy to maintain effective and economic good order at sea. In addition, the US-2 is extremely useful for strengthening the safety and security of sea lines of communications (SLOCs), long-range fleet support and island/offshore assets (both overseas and coastal) support functions. These missions when combined in a single multi-modal platform such as the US-2 can achieve for India a resounding success in public diplomacy and in earning the precious goodwill of nations of the Indian Ocean region commensurate with its identity as a responsible rising power. We are privileged to partner with India to realise these important aspirations.