Kawasaki OH-1 Ninja Light Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter
Kawasaki designed and developed the OH-1 as an indigenous replacement for the Hughes OH-6 in the reconnaissance helicopter role.
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For decades the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) has made use of the American Hughes OH-6 "Cayuse" light observation helicopter in the reconnaissance role. Better known as the "Loach", the nimble single-engined aircraft served in similar roles with a bevy of nations around the globe. The OH-6 was produced in Japan locally under the Kawasaki brand label as the OH-6J and the follow-up OH-6D. The former was based on the Loach whilst the latter stemmed from the similar Hughes 500D model. Some 387 examples were produced by Kawasaki of which around 100 300 are in active operational service as of this writing (2012).
Thought eventually gave way to design and development of an indigenous light scout helicopter solution in the 1980s and this gave rise to the OH-X helicopter program. As competitions go, the program was responded to by Fuji, Kawasaki and Mitsubishi of which all submitted proposals. Ultimately, Japanese authorities selected the Kawasaki submission as the winner of the OH-X competition in September of 1992, to which it ordered prototypes under the XOH-1 designation. The aircraft has since garnered the nickname of "Ninja". Kawasaki represented the prime contractor of the XOH-1 with subcontractors Fuji ad Mitsubishi in tow (each managing a 20% stake in the project).
First flight of the XOH-1 pilot vehicle was on August 6th, 1996. five more prototypes then followed and these successfully completed initial testing the next year. After successfully completing the required tests, the JSDF formally adopted the XOH-1 as the OH-1 (the designation change coming in late 1996), scheduling serial production to begin in 1998. At the outset, the JGSDF suggested their procurement order maybe several hundred aircraft though this may not be realized amidst current budgetary constraints. As such, deliveries of OH-1s have been slow with less than 50 aircraft completed to date (2012).