The East Asian U.S. ally is seeking a new helicopter to replace the approximately 70 Bell AH-1S Cobra helos currently in use by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. The country had released a request for information in May seeking a new helicopter.
Speaking to Defense News at the show, retired Lt. Gen. George Trautman, a former U.S. Marine aviator and commander of all Marine Corps aviation who now works as an adviser for Bell, said the company responded to the RFI through the U.S. government with 50 AH-1Z helicopters.
John Woodbery, Bell’s director of global military business development in the Asia-Pacific region, added that the RFI called for an attack helicopter with “marinization and shipboard compatibility,” with Trautman asserting that the AH-1Z can “operate onboard ships far better than the competition.”
The representatives from Bell said there’s more to marinization than additional corrosion protection from saltwater. They said this also includes foldable rotor blades and other measures that reduce the stowage footprint onboard the limited space on ships, as well as a design that minimizes electromagnetic interference.
The requirement for the new attack helicopter to operate from ships suggests Japan plans to use them on Izumo-class helicopter destroyers or the smaller Hyuga-class of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, which are equipped with a long flight deck to operate multiple helicopters.
Japan will likely require at least a degree of technology transfer and local production for the new helicopters. Bell’s relationship with Japan reaches across 65 years, including the company’s partnership with Fuji Heavy Industries (now Subaru) for production of Japan’s AH-1S helicopters.