The Japanese Ministry of Defence has awarded a contract to Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) to initiate the development of a prototype of the next-generation utility helicopter (UH-X) for the Japan Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF).
Under the contract, the company will partner with Bell Helicopters to manufacture 150 multi-purpose helicopters to replace JGSDF's current fleet of UH-1J aircraft.
Based on the Bell 412EPI twin-engine utility platform, the UH-X aircraft named the Fuji-Bell 412+, is scheduled to be used for island defence and disaster relief efforts.
Bell Helicopter president and CEO John Garrison said: "The Fuji-Bell selection is a significant win for FHI and Bell Helicopter, and today's contract enables the Fuji-Bell team to initiate the developmental programme, including collaboration on the design and industrialisation of the aircraft, while setting a path to first flight of a prototype that will meet the JGSDF's specifications.
"Bell Helicopter has a long-standing relationship with FHI and history of successful co-development in Japan, and we look forward to continuing to serve this important customer for many years to come with the best products and service in the industry."
The Fuji-Bell UH-X aircraft is would be developed to JGSDF specifications targeting enhanced performance, safety, and efficiency, which are expected to extend the availability of the Bell 412 platform into the future.
Manufactured at the FHI facility in Utsunomiya, Japan, the helicopters will leverage Bell 412EPI's inherent reliability and FHI's manufacturing and support capabilities to enable low lifecycle costs and high-availability rates, while performing demanding missions.
Deployment of the helicopters is scheduled to start from 2021.
In addition to, standing up the developmental UH-X programme, the Fuji-Bell team also aims to advance capabilities for the global commercial market through the programme.
Image: An artistic impression of Japan Ground Self Defense Force's UH-X helicopter. Photo: © FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES Ltd 2007.