Japan is arranging to approve the export of amphibious search and rescue aircraft for civilian use to India, a move aimed at skirting the nation’s arms-export ban, government sources said.
The move represents Japan’s efforts to promote exchanges with India — one of the region’s emerging powers — while putting pressure on China, another Asian power, as Beijing seeks to boost its military clout in regional waters.
It would be the first export of the US-2, which is manufactured by ShinMaywa Industries Ltd. and used by the Self-Defense Forces.
Tokyo plans to begin an internal process soon to convert the aircraft to civilian use, while entering negotiations with India, the sources said.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was to hold talks with his Indian counterpart, Salman Khurshid, in Tokyo on Tuesday, and was expected to discuss the export and confirm plans to intensify bilateral security and defense cooperation.
For several years, India has conveyed its interest in acquiring the four-engine, turboprop seaplane, the sources said, adding that New Delhi said it wants the aircraft for search and rescue operations and antipiracy measures.
According to the Defense Ministry, the US-2 is the world’s only amphibious search and rescue aircraft capable of taking off and landing in rough seas with waves as high as 3 meters.
The aircraft is equipped with a device that distinguishes between friends and foes, and is covered with special armor, making it likely to be considered a weapon, the export of which is banned under the nation’s “three principles on arms exports.”
“When converting the US-2 into civilian use, we need to remove equipment” from the aircraft that would infringe on the export ban, a senior ministry official said.