About 150 new Bell Helicopter 412s are to join the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) fleet starting in 2021.
Japan’s Ministry of Defense said July 17 that it had selected Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) to develop the 412 variant with Bell as a utility helicopter to replace the JGSDF’s aging Bell UH-1Js. In winning the $3 billion contract, FHI prevailed over Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI), whose bid was based on the H160 made by its partner, Airbus Helicopters.
The ministry reportedly will underwrite some of the program’s $107 billion development and customization costs. Work is to begin shortly.
The selection comes as rising tensions with China have Japan reconsidering its ban against military involvement abroad. Last year, it cleared military exports for the first time in decades. Under the UH-X program, the new helicopter would be sold to other nations to defray Japan’s costs.
Prime Minister ShinzÅ Abe has moved to lift a ban on military operations outside Japan. The nation’s 1947 constitution “forever renounce[s] war as a sovereign right” and “the threat or use of force to settle international disputes.” It prohibits the maintenance of standing ground, naval and air forces, hence the name Ground Self-Defense Force.
The UH-X program has been slowed by controversy. The defense ministry in 2012 awarded the contract to KHI. But it rescinded that in 2013 after learning that JGSDF officers had leaked information on the bidding.