• Kyodo

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The Air Self-Defense Force deployed its brand-new C-2 transport aircraft at an air base this week following years of delays in the development of the domestically-made plane.

A ceremony was held at Miho Air Base in Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture, on Thursday to mark the deployment of three C-2 planes two days earlier. A total of 10 C-2 planes — the largest transport aircraft owned by the Self-Defense Forces — are expected to be in service at the air base by the end of March 2021.

The next-generation twin-engine jet aircraft will replace the ASDF’s older C-1 model and is slated for use in operations to defend Japan’s southwestern islands amid China’s growing maritime assertiveness, as well as for disaster relief missions overseas.

“Reinforcing our aviation transportation capacity is a pressing task amid the increasingly severe security environment, so the role of the C-2 is important,” Col. Yasuji Kitamura, the top officer at the Miho base, said in the ceremony at a hangar on the base.

The C-2 is 44 meters in length and width, which is 1.5 times the size of the C-1. The plane has a flight range of 7,600 km when carrying a 20-ton load, compared with the C-1’s 1,700 km range with a 3-ton load.

The Defense Ministry began development of the C-1’s successor aircraft in fiscal 2001, aiming for deployment in fiscal 2011. But the plan faced delays after a flaw was found in the C-2 airframe.

The three new C-2 planes will be used for missions starting December. They will also undergo operation testing through September next year, according to ASDF officials.

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