JMSDF: Leonardo And KHI Sign Contract For Additional MCH-101 Helicopters

JMSDF: Leonardo And KHI Sign Contract For Additional MCH-101 Helicopters

MCH-101 helicopter (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Leonardo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) signed a contract for additional MCH101 naval helicopters for the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF), and it marked the start of a mid-life upgrade (MLU) programme for the type in Japan.


The MCH-101 is a license-built version of the Leonardo AW101 helicopter. The signing, which follows the order for one aircraft placed in 2022, was made as Leonardo, KHI, and Marubeni Aerospace Corporation celebrate a 20-year partnership in the helicopter market and the Japanese AW101 programme.


The JMSDF has ten MCH-101s for mine countermeasure and transportation missions and three CH-101s for utility transport used to support Japan’s Antarctic research activities, ensuring commonality within the fleet. The update programme, which launched this year, will see a batch of aircraft updated to the latest avionics configuration for the MCH-101, aligned to the new helicopters’ configuration and enabling the enhancement of the JMSDF’s operational effectiveness.


For two decades, Leonardo, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Marubeni Aerospace have collaborated on theMCH-101, with KHI as the prime contractor and Leonardo providing technical support for the platform.


Marubeni Aerospace Corporation acts as Leonardo’s Distributor and is responsible for spares, ground support equipment and services.

Adam Clarke, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters UK, said: “This contract demonstrates the key role that Britain’s only helicopter manufacturer plays in global defence. Through this significant partnership with Japanese industry, exports from Leonardo’s helicopter business are contributing millions of pounds to the UK economy. We look forward to many more years working together, creating important technologies to help the customer deliver a range of challenging missions.”

KHI delivered the first AW101 aircraft to the JMSDF on 24 May 2006. In 2015 the first Airborne Mine Counter Measures equipped MCH-101 was delivered to the JMSDF. The AW101/MCH-101 primary task is Airborne Mine Counter Measure and is one of only two helicopter types capable of towing the AN/AQS-24A, the only operationally-proven, high-speed airborne mine hunting system in the world.

The unique 3-engine configuration allows for safe operations when towing at low altitude and slow speeds. The first aircraft entered operational service in 2016 and the operator achieved more than 25,000 flight hours in 2021.

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