ShinMaywa Industries offers amphibious aircraft to India

Even as a joint working group — set up in the wake of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan early this year — grapples with firming up modalities for possible cooperation and joint development of the Japanese ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious aircraft on offer to the Indian Navy, ShinMaywa Industries Ltd has intensified its search to identify an Indian collaborator, mainly for maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) of the aircraft.

The company, however, wouldn’t want to partner with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), as the public sector aerospace company “is too big and complicated for us.”

Having earlier shown interest in the Indian Navy’s requirement for nine such platforms, primarily to carry out search and rescue, the company, which has limited presence in the Indian civil aviation market for nearly 20 years, hopes to forge a strategic alliance with India in the larger context of the expanding Indo-Japan relations.

Kanji Ishimaru, Executive Officer, and Yasuo Kawanishi, General Manager (Business Development) of the company, told The Hindu at the Naval and Maritime Expo here on Tuesday that though their aircraft competed with Russian, Canadian, and German offerings, it possessed an edge by way of range, versatility, and ease of operation.

“We are waiting for a request for proposal from the Navy,” they said.

The duo said the US-2 was ideal for outer-sea operations and it could operate in rough-sea conditions. “It can operate in sea state-5, when the waves are three metres high. Its long range of 4,100 km helps you easily cover the Andaman islands. The aircraft, falling in the short take-off/landing category, just requires about 300 metres for take-off and landing. It can also carry three tonnes of material, as it is fairly big,” said Mr. Ishimaru.

He said the company had set its sights on making it big in India a la Suzuki and was on the look out for partners to do maintenance, repair, and overhaul of engines (the aircraft has Rolls Royce engines that power the C-130 J Hercules in service with the Indian Air Force), besides structural maintenance. “We have held consultations with several firms, but nothing has been finalised.”

Mr. Ishimaru said India and Japan had similar interests in trade, maritime commerce and shared similar security concerns. Japan, which eased its ban on export of defence equipment a few years ago, was keen to strengthen ties with India, Indonesia, and Vietnam, primarily to counter the Chinese in the region, he said.

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