Japan flies first series production UH-2

Japanese manufacturer Subaru announced on May 20 that it had carried out the maiden flight of the first series production UH-2 multi-purpose helicopter destined for Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) service.

First JGSDF UH-2 maiden flight
The first production UH-2 for the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, serial number 45152, making its first flight on May 19 from Subaru’s production facility in Utsunomiya Airfield, Tochigi Prefecture Subaru

The helicopter, serial number 45152, made its first flight during the morning on the previous day from Subaru’s production facility in Utsunomiya Airfield, Tochigi Prefecture. The company test pilot flew the UH-2 around the local airspace before landing back at the airfield.

Further company test flights will be undertaken before the helicopter is handed over to the JGSDF. The new helicopter is based on the civilian Subaru Bell 412EPX, which was developed jointly with Bell Textron. The UH-2 variant incorporates modifications specific to JGSDF requirements. A development contract for what was then designated the UH-X utility helicopter had been signed with Fuji Heavy Industries on September 2, 2015. The prototype first flew on December 21, 2018, following which it was handed over to the Japanese Ministry of Defense on March 4, 2019. It was later re-designated the XUH-2, with production deliveries to be designated UH-2.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency awarded Subaru a contract in March 2020 to produce the first six UH-2s for the JGSDF, deliveries of which are due to be completed by January 2023. An additional seven are due to follow in fiscal year (FY) 2024 and 13 more in FY2025. Over the next 20 years the JGSDF plans to acquire 150 UH-2s to replace the existing fleet of 127 UH-1Js.