Additional King Air 350i special mission aircraft arrives in Japan

Textron Aviation has delivered an additional Beechcraft King Air 350i special mission aircraft to Japcon Inc, ahead of the aircraft’s official handover to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF).

The US-based aerospace manufacturer announced the recent delivery on February 25, adding that it will increase the JGSDF’s fleet of fixed-wing liaison/reconnaissance (LR-2) aircraft to eight examples. Known as the LR-2 King Air in Japanese service, the 350i makes up the JGSDF’s only fleet of fixed-wing aircraft, which have been extensively modified to conduct a variety of different missions.

King Air 350i [Textron Aviation]
Textron Aviation announced that it had delivered an additional Beechcraft King Air 350i special mission aircraft to Japan's Japcon Inc on February 25. The aircraft will soon join the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's fleet of fixed-wing liaison/reconnaissance aircraft. Textron Aviation

The special mission aircraft features a removable, belly-mounted forward-looking infrared (FLIR) installation and a forward executive cabin, as well as communications equipment and racks. Prior to its official delivery to the JGSDF, the aircraft will receive further modifications that will enable the platform to undertake medical evacuation and patient transport missions. The new LR-2 aircraft is also fitted with a reconnaissance camera, devices for video transmission and IR night vision to enhance its ability to collect visual information.

Bob Gibbs, vice president of Special Mission Sales at Textron Aviation, said: “We are honoured to expand our relationship with the JGSDF. This aircraft will join a fleet of seven other LR-2 King Air 350 turboprops, which has provided reliable service for more than 20 years.”

When operational, the eighth example will be employed by the JGSDF’s Renraku Teisatsu Hikotai (Communication and Reconnaissance Squadron) from JGSDF Camp Kisarazu, which is located in the nation’s Chiba Prefecture. The LR-2 King Air fleet is used to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, as well as to provide transportation between airfields across Japan and medical evacuation/patient transport operations.

“The LR-2 fleet has been serving an enduring mission by providing transport, reconnaissance, and medical evacuation operations in Japan. When the JGSDF needed a modern aircraft with low direct operating costs, it again chose the Beechcraft King Air 350 platform,” Gibbs added.

The JGSDF has operated the LR-2 King Air since 1992, with ten examples having been delivered in total since. One aircraft is employed solely as a ground-based instructional airframe, while another example was lost to attrition after it crashed while en-route to pick up a patient on May 15, 2017, resulting in the death of all four occupants on board.