Japan eyeing fresh order of AW101 helicopters

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Leonardo Helicopters is in discussions with the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force for a follow-on order of a dozen AgustaWestland AW101 rotorcraft.

Tokyo already operates seven of an eventual 11-strong fleet of the heavy helicopters configured for minesweeping missions, designated as the MCH-101, plus two of an eventual three CH-101 utility transports.

The 15.6t rotorcraft, powered by three Turbomeca RTM322 engines, are locally assembled by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Leonardo’s long-term Japanese partner.

Speaking at a 17 June media briefing, Giovanni Soccodato, Leonardo’s executive vice-president for strategies, markets and business development, said the company was “close to finalising” a new contract with Tokyo.

And Stefano Bortoli, sales and marketing senior vice-president for the helicopter division, adds: “We are in discussions for an incremental batch of over a dozen new aircraft.”

Asset ImageLeonardo Helicopters

Aside from the remaining Japan-built helicopters, the company is presently assembling AW101s for Italy and Norway at its Yeovil, UK production facility.

The two European nations hold outstanding orders for eight and 14 rotorcraft, respectively.

Bortoli says there are a number of other “potential operators on the radar screen” that would help “give continuity” to the production line.

A similar, more urgent sales effort is also taking place for the other military helicopter produced at Yeovil, the AW159.

Known as the Wildcat in UK service, deliveries of a total of 60 examples to the Army Air Corps and Royal Navy are due to complete in late 2016, leaving an outstanding backlog of just six rotorcraft: four for South Korea’s navy and two for the Philippines.

Bortoli plays down concerns of a looming production gap, pointing to a number of ongoing sales discussions, both in Asia and Europe. Germany, for example, is in the early stages of launching a replacement effort for its fleet of 22 Westland Lynx 88s, of which six are in service.

“We are talking about hard opportunities, not simply ideas,” Bortoli says.


MCH-101 Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) Helicopter, Japan

MCH-101 is an Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) and transport helicopter, operated by the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF). Modified by Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI), MCH-101 was derived from the EH-101 medium lift helicopter, manufactured by AgustaWestland. The MCH-101 will replace the fleet of MH-53E that are in service with the JMSDF.

The MCH-101 helicopters are primarily deployed in minesweeping and transport missions. It will also be used to provide transport support for Antarctic exploration. The MCH-101 can be operated from shore as well as from JMSDF ships, such as Hyuga Class helicopter destroyers.

KHI was selected as a prime contractor by the Japan Defence Agency (JDA) in 2003 to produce the airframe and engine of EH-101. KHI signed an agreement with AgustaWestland to produce MCH-101 minesweeping helicopters based on the EH-101. KHI was awarded contracts to supply a total of 14 helicopters for the JMSDF.

The power plant with three engines drives the high-performance five-bladed main rotor. The rotor blades and tail section can be folded for convenient stowage on the warships. The helicopter is also equipped with an active anti-vibration system. The helicopter features superior flying characteristics, while offering higher safety levels.


The length of the MCH-101 is 22.8m, while the rotor diameter and height of the helicopter are 18.6m and 6.6m respectively. The helicopter has the gross weight of 14,800kg.

The glass cockpit of MCH-101 accommodates two crew members, including a pilot and co-pilot. The night vision goggle (NVG) compatible cockpit is equipped with five multiconfigurable liquid crystal displays.


The MCH-101 helicopter is powered by three Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft engines. KHI was granted a licence to assemble, test, repair and overhaul RTM322 engines for the MCH-101 fleet of the JMSDF. The first engine assembled by KHI was delivered to the JMSDF in 2005.


Each RTM322 engine develops a maximum power of 1,566 kW. The engine’s operation is controlled by a Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system. The power plant provides a maximum speed of 280km/h.

Technical specifications

General data:

  • Length: 1.129 m
  • Height: 0.659 m
  • Width: 0.604 m
  • Dry weight: 228 kg (244 kg MK250)


  • Max. Continuous output: 1375-1662 kW
  • Max. Start Performance: 1604-1787 kW
  • Max. Emergency power (with engine failure for 2 min): 1791-1957 kW
  • Overall pressure ratio: 14.2 to 15.2



AQS-24A Airborne Mine-hunting Vehicle

The AQS-24A and its predecessors, the AQS-24 and the AQS-14 – all built by Northrop Grumman – are the only operational airborne mine-hunting search systems used by the U.S. Navy for the past 29 years. The AQS-24A is a high-speed mine-hunting system that is primarily towed from the MH-53E helicopter and has been adapted easily to the JMSDF version of the EH-101 aircraft.


The AQS-24A contains a laser line scanner that provides precision optical identification of underwater mines and other objects of interest. The AQS-24A allows for simultaneous operation of the sonar and laser, which significantly improves area coverage rate, shortens the mine clearance timeline and alleviates unnecessary maintenance cycles. Advanced navigation controls and processing provide highly accurate target positioning.



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