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Civil Aviation Industry

  • YS-11
  • YS-X
  • MRJ
  • YP-X
  • HondaJet
  • 7J7 / YXX
  • 777
  • 787

  • Japanese aerospace companies have established themselves in the global aerospace industry as important manufacturers of a wide range of civil, military, and corporate aerospace products. They supply components and structures for a broad spectrum of commercial aircraft (especially Boeing and Airbus jet transports) and aircraft engines. But although they are respected as suppliers, Japanese firms have not been able to successfully produce a commercial transport aircraft. Despite its long history in aerospace manufacturing, by 2008 Japan did not currently produce its own commercial aircraft and has never produced a commercial jet.

    While Japan supports one of the area's more advanced aerospace manufacturing sectors, the nation's limited land area, past experience with commercial aircraft production, and focus on military products and international subcontracting work account for Japan's poor showing in the civil aviation market. The country faces a number of obstacles to full-scale participation in aircraft manufacturing, including air transport infrastructure and regulatory constraints that limit the potential of the domestic market to support an aircraft program, reliance on the military sector, relatively high costs, and national policies which prohibit the export of dual civilian and military use technology and products.

    The aerospace sector's advanced technological capabilities, reputation for high-quality products, and relative financial strength are conducive to continued collaborative arrangements with global aerospace entities and a possible role as partner in an aircraft development program. Annual production of Japan's aircraft manufacturing industry is valued at approximately $10 billion. The industry is heavily geared towards meeting the needs of the Japanese Defense Ministry (MOD). Other production supplies frames, wings, and other parts and components to foreign aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing, Airbus, Embraer, and Bombardier. Of the total domestic production in 2005, defense orders accounted for 54 percent and exports for 27 percent.

    While the wartime Japan aircraft industry had produced excellent fighters, only Nakajima Aircraft (the forerunner of today's Fuji Heavy Industries) had ever designed and built a passenger airplane, the 8-seat AT2. A ban on aircraft production during the U.S. occupation after World War II kept Japan out of the aerospace sector until 1952, at which time the country became involved in licensed production of military aircraft, followed by subcontracting work. In Japan the industry instead became a victim of inter-ministerial battles among three ministries: the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), in charge of producing of aircraft, the Ministry of Transportation that given charge of air traffic operations, and the JDA, in charge of military aircraft development.

    While usually successful, the consortium approach did not do as well to build a domestic aircraft industry in Japan. Making airplanes turned out to be an exception in Japanese business partly also because of the involvement of several government agencies at varying levels. In other Japanese industries, such as steel, semiconductors, and computers, a single ministry, the Ministry of International Trade and Industries (MITI) had these managed consortiums relatively successfully.

    Japan's attempts to take its innovative skills and subcontracting experience to the level of civil airframe competitor have been largely unsuccessful, evident in the country's YS-11 regional aircraft program and the numerous delays in Japan's plan to build a successor to the YS-11. The YS-11, a Japanese-designed 64-seat passenger turboprop developed in the 1960s, was deemed technically sound, but few orders materialized because of market demand for jet-powered aircraft and the lack of global product support. The program incurred huge losses, and at the close of production in 1973, only 182 aircraft had been produced.

    The industry's successor program, the YS-X 100-seat regional transport, in development since the 1980s, has produced only feasibility studies and funding for the program was cut to $1.3 million for 1998-99, presumably in response to a growing competitive environment in the medium-sized aircraft sector and the industry's lack of progress on the program. Japan hoped that Boeing might be the Western partner to support its YS-X project, but the company's decision to produce the 717-200 appeared to preclude U.S.-Japanese cooperation on the similar YS-X program.

    Japan's aircraft industry is consolidated under the Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies. The country's aerospace manufacturing industry, led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Fuji Heavy Industries, and Shin Meiwa Kogyo Company, also produces engines, components, electronics, and avionics, and is involved in supersonic transport research.

    Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), the first company in Japan to manufacture and market jetliners, launched the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) in 2008. MHI has created the tentatively-named Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation to conduct MRJ's business, and the Corporation has been capitalised at 3 billion with calls to increase up to 100 billion (around 500 million) in line with business operations development.

    Model ApplicationDevelopment &
    No. of Aircraft
    1953KAL-1/-2Piston liaisonKHI4
    1954KATPiston trainerKHI2
    1956LM-1Piston liaisonFHI27
    1958LM-2Piston trainerFHI66
    1960T-1Intermediate jet trainerFHI66
    1962KH-4General-purpose helicopterKHI203
    1965YS-11Turboprop transportNAMCO182
    1966MU-2Business turbopropMHI765
    1967FA-200Piston light planeFHI299
    1968PS-1Turboprop antisubmarine patrolSMIC23
    1969P-2JTurboprop antisubmarineKHI83
    1970C-1Jet transportDev.: NAMCO, Mfg.: KHI31
    1971T-2Supersonic jet trainerMHI96
    1974US-1Turboprop rescue amphibianSMIC20
    1975FA-300Business pistonFHI47
    1977F-1Jet support fighterMHI77
    1977T-3Primary piston trainerFHI50
    1980MU-300Business jetMHI103
    1985T-4Intermediate jet trainerKHI212
    1988T-5Primary turboprop trainerFHI36
    1997OH-1Observation helicopterKHI22
    1999MH2000Multi-purpose helicopterMHI7
    2002T-7Primary turboprop trainerFHI43

    A sonic boom is the change in air pressure observed when the shock wave produced by the sharp compression of air around an aircraft flying faster than the speed of sound propagates and reaches the ground. This pressure change vibrates a person's eardrum and is perceived as a sound. Because a sonic boom is attributed to a shock wave, it is accompanied by rapid pressure changes and is heard as an explosion-like sound.

    The sharp pressure increase is known to be the result of the accumulation on the ground of shock waves produced by the various parts of the aircraft. Many countries are conducting research on what is considered to be effective in reducing the sonic boom through innovation of the aircraft shape to disperse the shock waves reaching the ground.

    Out of the supersonic aircraft technology research that Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency [JAXA] has tackled since 1997, the project "D-SEND", which would demonstrate key technology, began in the spring of 2011. D-SEND is an abbreviation for "Drop test for Simplified Evaluation of Non-symmetrically Distributed sonic boom". Refers to the drop tests for simple assessment of asymmetric sonic booms. The D-SEND project will demonstrate, through drop tests, that JAXA's original airframe design concept can reduce sonic booms-the noise characteristic of supersonic aircraft-by half in comparison with the Concorde. The project was implemented in two stages at a test range in Sweden through 2013.

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    Page last modified: 10-12-2015 19:42:27 ZULU