Berlin – The German government is increasingly cautious about allowing Japan to take part in a joint project with France to develop marine patrol aircraft, sources familiar with the matter said Monday.
As part of its efforts to boost defense-related exports, Japan has been seeking to offer technologies from its P-1 patrol aircraft for the project.
But concerns are mounting in Germany that the P-1 may not be able to acquire necessary certification for military aircraft at an early date, the sources said.
Germany had been more positive than France about Japan's participation and had been showing interest in the P-1. Berlin's change of attitude puts Japan at a disadvantage in a competition with rivals including U.S. aerospace giant Boeing Co.
The P-1 was developed by the Defense Ministry and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. as the first Japan-made patrol aircraft. It has been used by the Maritime Self-Defense Force since 2013 to monitor submarines and other vessels.
In the past, Japan tried to sell the P-1 to the U.K. and New Zealand, but the aircraft lost to Boeing's P-8 Poseidon.
Germany and France plan to jointly introduce next-generation patrol aircraft in 2035, when their current models are to retire.
In June, the German Defense Ministry decided to end the use of the current P-3C Orion built by Lockheed Martin Corp. in 2025, ahead of the initial schedule of 2035, due to high repair coats. It plans to procure stopgap patrol planes and use them until 2035.
The German ministry has listed several candidates, including the P-8, as the stopgap planes, but Japan's P-1 was not on the list, according to the sources.
The German side believes that it would take over five years for the P-1 to acquire type certification, questioning whether the aircraft could be ready by 2025, according to an official familiar with the matter.
It is possible that Germany and France will use the aircraft to be selected as a stopgap solution even after 2035, because it is unprofitable to change patrol planes, usually used for several decades, after only 10 years.
The P-1, which was developed specifically for use as patrol aircraft, has advantages in low-altitude and low-speed flights, important when patrolling the ocean. It is costly, however, compared with the P-8, which was developed based on passenger aircraft.
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