By Ankit Panda
March 05, 2015
New Delhi and Tokyo are inching closer to finalizing a deal for the sale of Japan’s US-2 amphibious aircraft to India.
As India and Japan continue to strategically converge amid mutual fears regarding China’s rise, they have deepened their defense cooperation. Notably, India will likely be Japan’s first export partner for military hardware under Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s principles on defense equipment exports. The Japanese government recently lifted its decades-old self-imposed ban on exporting weaponry to other countries.
The two governments look all set to conclude a landmark deal for the sale of Japanese amphibious search and rescue (SAR) aircraft, a deal that has been in the works for years. India will likely purchase 12 ShinMaywa US-2 short take-off and landing (STOL) SARs this year (down from an earlier estimate of 15). Negotiations for the sale of the US-2 began in 2011 under the Democratic Party of Japan, first under Prime Minister Naoto Kan and then under Yoshihiko Noda.
The US-2 itself is a reliable and capable surveillance aircraft with a range of around 4,700 km, capable of transporting its crew and cargo from Indian territory to anywhere in the Indian Ocean region within 3 hours; its most notable feature is its ability to take-off and land at sea. Once acquired, India will likely station the US-2s off the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, using the aircraft to conduct surveillance of the eastern Indian Ocean region. Indian military sources have also told the press that the US-2 will allow the Indian military to support friendly vessels in Southeast Asian waters, potentially detecting pirates and other threats.
Additionally, the US-2′s versatility and ability to land at sea make it well-suited to assist military and civilian ships that break down at sea or need emergency assistance. The search-and-rescue, anti-piracy, and humanitarian assistance applications of the US-2 make it a compelling option for the Indian Navy. Additionally, amid Indian fears that the Chinese Navy will add the eastern Indian Ocean into its regular area of operation, the US-2′s surveillance capabilities haven’t been a tough sell domestically.