July 12, 2023 By Helicopters Staff
Leonardo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries signed a contract for additional MCH-101 naval helicopters for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force. The contract also marked the start of a mid-life update (MLU) program for the type in Japan. The MCH-101 is a license-built version of the Leonardo AW101 helicopter.
The deal, which follows the order for one aircraft placed in 2022, was made as Leonardo, KHI, and Marubeni Aerospace Corporation celebrate a 20-year partnership in the helicopter market and the Japanese AW101 program.
The Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) has 10 MCH-101s for mine countermeasure and transportation missions and three CH-101s for utility transport used to support Japan’s Antarctic research activities, ensuring commonality within the fleet. The updated program, which launched this year, will see a batch of aircraft updated to the latest avionics configuration for the MCH-101, aligned to the new helicopters’ configuration and enabling the enhancement of the JMSDF’s operational effectiveness.
For two decades, Leonardo, Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) and Marubeni Aerospace have collaborated on the MCH-101, with KHI as the prime contractor and Leonardo providing technical support for the platform. Marubeni Aerospace Corporation acts as Leonardo’s Distributor and is responsible for spares, ground support equipment and services.
KHI delivered the first AW101 aircraft to the JMSDF on May 24, 2006. In 2015 the first Airborne Mine Counter Measures equipped MCH-101 was delivered to the JMSDF. The AW101/MCH-101 primary task is Airborne Mine Counter Measure and is one of only two helicopter types capable of towing the AN/AQS-24A, described as the only operationally proven, high-speed airborne mine hunting system in the world. Leonardo explains the 3-engine configuration allows for safe operations when towing at low altitude and slow speeds. The first aircraft entered operational service in 2016 and the operator achieved more than 25,000 flight hours in 2021.
Leonardo’s helicopters have been in operation in Japan since the mid-1980s and there are approximately 160 Leonardo helicopters of different types in service with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF), Coast Guard, Police and Fire Service, with specialized operators for medical and commercial services.