Japan has postponed the rollout of its long-range military cargo jet for two years, saying the aircraft would have to be re-engineered due critical defects.
Build by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, the C-2 aircraft experienced problems during cabin pressure tests when its rear cargo door blew open, Japan’s defence ministry has revealed.
The troubled project casts a shadow over the initiative of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to develop stronger defence industry in Japan.
The C-2, a major upgrade of the twin-engined short-range military transport plane C-1, which is currently in use, should be able to carry cargo four times as heavy as its predecessor. The plane is designed to transport helicopters or mobile missile batteries.
C-2’s six-times improved range, compared to its predecessor, would enable it to reach as far as Japan’s outlying East China Sea Islands, which have been out of reach of the currently used C-1.
Until it gets the C-2 into service, Japan could be forced to ask civilian airlines such as ANA Holdings or Japan Airlines to help move equipment and personnel, a Defence Ministry official said.
The delay will increase the C-2 programme's cost by 40bn yen (£227.43m) to 260 billion yen and comes after two previous postponements that have already lengthened the project by three years.
This week, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe took a historic step away from Japan's postwar pacifism, ending a ban on the nation's military from aiding a friendly country under attack.