The Japanese Ministry of Defence (MoD) is reportedly planning to conduct research to evaluate the feasibility of domestically building an airborne early-warning (AEW) aircraft.
Unnamed MoD officials were quoted by The Yomiuri Shimbun as saying that production of the new AEW aircraft is scheduled for completion by the mid-2020s to help replace the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF) ageing US-made E-2C Hawkeye aircraft.
The indigenous aircraft is being developed with the aim of increasing surveillance on possible incursions into Japan’s territorial airspace, the sources added.
In addition to this, the MoD intends to introduce a domestically developed AEW aircraft and plans to request JPY80m in the 2015 budget to study the matter, according to the sources said.
The sources said the ministry is planning to cooperate with private-sector companies to make a prototype aircraft by basing the fuselage on the indigenously manufactured P-1 antisubmarine patrol aircraft, in 2015.
The new aircraft is expected to be integrated with a radar that employs domestic technology, such as the one used in stationary ground radar.
However, the project is likely to be affected by budgetary constraints as the ministry has already spent JPY252.8bn to develop the P-1 over the last 12 years.
The JASDF currently uses 13 E-2C Hawkeyes along with E-767 airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft to perform observation and surveillance missions.
The AEW development report came after Japan lifted a self-imposed ban on weapons exports.
Meanwhile, the Japanese Defence Ministry officials could not be reached to comment on the report.
Japan has claimed that its fighters were scrambled more than 800 times in the previous year in response to incursions by Chinese and Russian aircraft, which represents the highest number of deployments since the Cold War ended in 1989.
Image: An E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. Photo: courtesy of Toshi Aoki – JP Spotters.