TOKYO — Japan’s Subaru Corporation is conducting ground tests with its prototype UH-X helicopter, which is slated to replace the Fuji Heavy Industries/Bell UH-1J utility helicopter in Japanese service.

According to Ayako Nakajima with Subaru’s defense programs division, the first prototype UH-X helicopter, which is based on the Bell 412EP family, has been built and is undergoing ground testing. These ground tests will be followed by its first flight and delivery to the Japanese government, which is expected in early 2019.

A Japanese photographer last week published an photo of the prototype with its engines running on the ground at Subaru’s facility in Utsunomiya, north of Tokyo.

The maiden flight will lead to the full-scale production of 150 UH-X helicopters for the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, which plans to use the aircraft in a variety of missions, including disaster relief.

Join Defense News in Tokyo as we explore the Japan International Aerospace Exhibition!

Subaru, then known as Fuji Heavy Industries, won Japan’s UH-X tender in 2015 in partnership with Bell with an entry based on the Bell 412EPI variant. Subaru has since developed the Bell 412EPX featuring improved torque at low speeds, increased gross weights and a more robust gearbox that will be used for the UH-X and offered for sale to civilian operators.

When contacted for comment, George Trautman, an adviser to Bell, told Defense News at the show that “so far the program has been very successful and we have no reason to think that the 412EPX won’t be an incredible machine for both commercial and military use in Japan.”

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

More In Japan Aerospace Exhibition