Pacific News Minute: Japan Hopes to Make Its First Major Defense Export to Greece

Aug 1, 2018

ShinMaywa Industries US-2
Credit 海上自衛隊 / mod.go.jp

Four years after ending a 50 year ban on defense exports, it looks as if Japan’s first major foreign sale will be an amphibious plane that Greece wants to use as a firefighter.

According to the Nikkei news agency, negotiations are set to begin on the sale of several dozen four engine flying boats manufactured by ShinMaywa Industries, known as US-2s. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces will fly the US-2 on search and rescue missions at sea; Greece wants to adapt the aircraft into a water bomber.

The US-2 boasts a range of almost 3,000 miles and can set down on land, or in waves up to ten feet high.

In 2014, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed through a change to the law prohibiting foreign arms sales. At the time, he hoped to win a lucrative contract to build a new fleet of submarines for Australia, but Canberra chose a French design instead. 

Japan has not found many defense customers since. Spain won a contract to supply air defense radars to Thailand earlier this year and talks on the sale of a dozen US-2s to India have stalled. “I still think the deal will go through at some point,” Paul Burton of Janes told Nikkei, “but we might have grandchildren by the time it happens.”

F-35A Lightning II
Credit Staff Sgt. Madelyn Brown / U.S. Air Force

On the other hand, Tokyo spends billions to acquire defense equipment from abroad, nearly all of it from the United States. Japan is building 42 F-35A fighters under license from Lockheed Martin and may buy 20 more at about 100 million dollars a pop.

On Monday, the Ministry of Defense selected Lockheed Martin to provide the radars for two land based anti-ballistic missile systems. The facilities, known as Aegis Ashore, are estimated at 4.2 billion dollars.