A Milestone for Japan Could Mean Profits in France

by C. Zachary Hofer, Electronics Analyst, Forecast International.

With Japan entering the global defense trade, a French electronics company looks like it could reap some benefits. It all hinges, though, on which equipment the deal specifies and if the deal is even executed.

During Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s December 12 visit to India, an agreement was reportedly reached. India would purchase 12 ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious aircraft to fulfill a maritime search-and-rescue requirement. If executed, the agreement would see at least two of the planes produced in Japan, with the other 10 being produced by a yet-to-be-decided Indian partner.

This contract would be tremendous for the Japanese defense aircraft industry, marking one of its first major international sales. It could also lead to a lucrative situation for the French defense electronics industry.

In Japan, the US-2 flies with Thales’ Ocean Master I-/J-band (X-band) radar, which fulfills the plane’s need for a high-functioning, maritime-optimized unit. The Ocean Master provides the US-2 with a diverse set of capabilities, including IFF, MTI, ISAR, SAR, navigation, weather avoidance, and search-and-rescue transponder detection modes. In short, it is a highly capable, well-tested machine that would be a great radar option for India. But will the country specify it?

In recent years, the Indian government has been making a major push to bolster its native electronics development and manufacturing competencies. This is occurring to the detriment of India’s military capabilities, such that some major Indian defense programs – which have already encountered significant delays – have been experiencing delays a few more years beyond what would be typical.

With the potential US-2 deal, the question is whether India will pursue a known radar with high-level capabilities (Ocean Master) or attempt to design a domestic option that may fall notably short of those capabilities. Forecast International believes that the deal could go either way and is too close to call. In fact, it is just as likely that India pursues either radar option as it is that India never purchases the aircraft at all.

Over the course of 2016, the situation should become clearer.

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