As per media reports India and Japan may sign an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) to cooperate on ShinMaywa‘s offering of utility seaplane- mark II (US-2), similar to the IGA it has entered with Russia to co-develop a fifth generation fighter. An IGA recognises the strategic importance of a procurement programme, and takes it out of the purview of the restrictive Defence Procurement Procedure.
The Prime Ministers of the two countries had met recently in New Delhi after which Dr. Manmohan Singh mentioned that a joint working group was looking into ways of cooperating on the use of US-2 and its production in India. The amphibious plane could be outfitted for firefighting or as a kind of amphibious hospital and cost an estimated $110 million per unit.
ShinMaywa leads in the amphibious segment, though there are two other amphibians in the world – the CL-415 of Canada and the Be-200 of Russia. Although they vary in size and features, a comparison of their performance reveal the US-2‘s superiority.
The US-2 can take off and land on rough seas, as well as on the ground. Originally developed for the Ministry of Defense of Japan, some of its equipment has the potential for diverse applications other than rescue work and transport of emergency patients, if converted for usage by the private sector or other ministries and agencies.
On the company website, the General Manager, Business Development & Contract Department, Aircraft Division, Yasuo Kawanishi answers some of the questions to do with its capabilities.
Could you tell us about the US-2‘s reputation within the Maritime Self-Defense Force?
Its pilots say that the US-2 is far easier to fly than the US-1A. In addition to improved operational performance, the pressurized cabin creates a comfortable space for the rescued, as well as the crew.
Another reason why the US-2 is enjoying high popularity is its significantly longer cruising distance. The considerable extension of its maximum unrefuelled range has allowed a greater number of applications.
The US-2 has generated increasingly greater interest outside of Japan, what do you attribute it to?
Only three countries can make amphibian aircraft: Japan, Canada, and Russia. However, only the US-2 can meet all of the diverse performance requirements in the market, namely, the capability to land on the ocean, carry a large number of people, and cover long distances.
As a manufacturer of the US-2, we need to further reduce manufacturing costs.
What benefits can be gained if the scope of the US-2‘s applications is expanded?
Because this aircraft was developed using national assets, we believe that it is necessary to expand its applications in Japan first. One of our suggestions is to equip the US-2 with a firefighting function. This is not only useful for extinguishing frequently occurring forest fires, but also enables firefighting in areas that cannot be reached by fire engines or helicopters in the wake of a large-scale disaster. The US-2 can make a big difference.
Another thing that you can do with the US-2 is send an “ambulance amphibian” to collect acute patients on remote islands where one cannot use a helicopter to send a doctor. The possibilities will be even greater for applications that take advantage of its capability to take off and land on either land or water. Preserving the safety and welfare of those living on remote islands will lead to the protection of this country. After all of these plans have been made a reality, we hope to begin exporting the US-2 in the near future as a model case of our contributions to society through engineering prowess