MELBOURNE, Australia — The Japan Air Self-Defense Force has inducted the first of a new intelligence-gathering aircraft into service, following a two-year flight test program.
The JASDF announced the induction of the RC-2 electronic intelligence, or elint, gathering aircraft at a ceremony held at Iruma Air Base in the western suburbs of the Japanese capital Tokyo on Oct. 1.
The RC-2 is based on Kawasaki Heavy Industries' C-2 airlifter and has been heavily modified with multiple aircraft fairings that contain antennas for detecting, receiving and classifying electronic emissions. The aircraft made its maiden flight in early 2018, though the variant had been in development since at least 2015.
Since that time, it underwent a series of flight tests conducted by the JASDF Air Development and Test Wing at Iruma, where the force’s elint squadron is based.
The RC-2 will replace the four NAMC YS-11EBs currently serving with the squadron, although it’s unknown if the new platform will replace the YS-11EBs on a one-for-one basis. The Defense Ministry’s latest budget request, released on the same day of the RC-2′s induction, seeks $67.2 million to acquire more of the specialized elint systems by purchasing an unspecified number of RC-2s.
Japan is also seeking to recapitalize its standoff jamming capability. The latest budget request sought $144.9 million to develop a new standoff jammer aircraft, with the accompanying graphic released by the ministry suggesting that it will also be based on the C-2.
This aircraft will likely replace the two YS-11EAs and possibly the sole Kawasaki EC-1 in service with the JASDF’s Electronic Warfare Squadron, which is also based at Iruma.
The EC-1 is based on the older Kawasaki C-1 that Japan is slowly replacing with the C-2. The latest budget request is seeking $487.5 million to acquire two more of the airlifters in the coming fiscal year.
Japan has acquired the C-2 at a relatively slow rate, with seven aircraft funded for fiscal 2014 through fiscal 2018. Fiscal 2019 received no funding for the effort.
In recent years, the country has also flirted with the idea of buying Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules airlifters from the United States as a cheaper option.
The U.S. ally is also seeking a further $47.4 million to develop a new elint collection system that will eventually go on a new platform to replace the four Lockheed EP-3C Orion aircraft currently operated by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.