DUBAI — Japan showcased its new Kawasaki C-2 transport aircraft for the first time amid an international crowd at the Dubai Airshow.

The air show, which runs from Nov. 12 to 16, is Japan’s first big opportunity to garner foreign interest for the C-2, which was developed and made in Japan by Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

“Our potential overseas customers know the C-2 from the internet or from its catalogue, so this is the first time to see the actual aircraft,” Col. Tokukazu Omine, the C-2 program manager for the Japan Air Self Defense Force told Defense News in a Nov 12 interview. “The best way to understand the aircraft is actually seeing it, so we hope for everyone to learn more about the C-2 through this airshow.”

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The C-2 is the most high-profile aircraft making its international debut at the show, which typically emphasizes commercial aviation.

The plane, which is powered by twin CF6-80CK1F turbofan engines, was designed to be a more powerful alternative to Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules, which is operated by the JASDF, but was not meeting the country’s airlift requirements, Omine said.

Japan’s Ministry of Defense has spent about ¥260 billion (U.S. $2.3 billion) in development costs on the program, and is under contract for 11 aircraft — although Omine said Japan currently plans to buy about 20 planes. Since March, Kawasaki has delivered three aircraft to the JASDF, with a fourth plane coming this month.

Japan is in talks with several potential customers about the C-2, said Omine, who declined to say which countries or regions have shown interest. The Japanese MOD and Kawasaki believe the C-2 could compete in the same market as Lockheed Martin’s C-130 and Airbus A400M, and New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates are rumored to be interested in the aircraft.

The JASDF is paying about ¥20 billion, or $176 million U.S. dollars, per aircraft. However, Omine noted the costs would be different for international customers based on the configuration of the aircraft and the volume of the procurement.

The C-2 is the largest plane ever developed by a Japanese aircraft firm. It can travel a distance of 4,500 kilometers while carrying its maximum payload of 36 tons in its cargo bay, and can hit max speeds of about 0.82 Mach, according to the Japanese MOD.

The program wrapped up developmental tests in March, and has begun operational testing.

Omine could not provide data about the number of fight hours clocked by the aircraft or give insight about how the aircraft have been used operationally since delivery, but said the JASDF has been satisfied with the aircraft.

Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.

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