Fresh off the heels of becoming the first export customer of the tilt-rotor Bell V-22 "Osprey" platform, the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) has selected the Bell Model 412 as its new general transport amidst growing tensions with China in the South China Sea. The decision to go with the proven Model 412 is a sound one, promising low-cost procurement and on-time delivery. The Bell product - to be produced locally under license by Fuji Heavy Industries - beat out challengers from Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) and Airbus Helicopters to secure Fuji a short-term future in the Japanese rotary-wing aircraft market. FHI owns an advantage in having teamed with Bell to produce earlier marks of the famous UH-1 "Huey" / "Iroquois" transport helicopter of Vietnam War fame. The product was one of the most iconic and popular helicopters of the Cold War decades. The last UH-1J built by FHI came in 2007.
The Model 412 formed the FHI submission for the JSDF's "UH-X" helicopter competition initially won by Kawasaki in 2012. Kawasaki lost its bid when the government cancelled its commitment due to bid-rigging accusations. Fuji had been pushing the Bell 412 since 2009 and was awarded the new contract in 2015 based on a proven track record, its experience with Bell products and its delivery and performance promises. The selection of the Model 412 means that the Huey line will continue in production and service for a time longer that ever envisioned, already over 55 years since the original single-engined UH-1 was introduced with American forces. A much-improved mark then followed with a twin-engine arrangement.
Fuji has manufactured the UH-1H as the UH-1J locally and these were produced with 2 x Allison T53-L-703 turboshaft engines of 1,800 horsepower each. A vibration-reduction system, night-vision equipment support and IR-based countermeasures were part of the local improvements.
The Model 412 has seen its fair share of variants produced since its inception. The Model 412 marked standard versions with Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) PT6T-3B engines. The Model 412 EPI became a "glass cockpit" version outfitted with P&WC PT6T-9 electronically-controlled engines and represents the main American market variant. It is this model series that will be represented in the JSDF inventory. It is assumed that the Japanese military will remain largely faithful to the American product and will retain its PT6T engines (military designation of "T400") but with more modern onboard systems to suit JSDF over-water operations. The twin engine layout, a requirement of the UH-X program, will provide increased survivability over water when transporting Japanese troops to island hotspots in the region. These two engines driver power to a single-gearbox which, in turn, manages function of the four-bladed main rotor and a twin-bladed tail rotor (fitted to port side).
The UH-X Model 412 will no doubt also support mounting of various weapons including rocket pods, gun pods and door guns. The fixed landing skid will do away with a more complicated retractable undercarriage. Internal seating will be for two flight crew and up to eleven combat-ready troops. Beyond its obvious military applications, the UH-X is also expected to serve in humanitarian relief roles as called.
As of this writing (2015), the UH-X is expected to be procured in 150 total systems with development set to begin before the end of 2015. Production is set to span into the early 2040s extending the life of the UH-1 family that much further. A civilian market form will also be offered by FHI to help offset the gaps in the expected military batch orders. Possible customers may include regional partners in South Korea and elsewhere. Barring delays, the UH-X should become a JSDF mainstay in 2021.
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July 2018 - The Model 412EPI, now designated the "412EPX", has achieved certification. A prototype has been completed.
September 2018 - The UH-X remains on schedule with production by Subaru set to begin in April 2019 and first-deliveries set for 2021-2022.
December 2018 - The prototype UH-X flew for the first time on December 25th, 2018 completing a flight lasting 55 minutes over Utsunomiya. At least 150 UH-X units are required by the Japanese military to succeed an aging line of UH-IJ transports.
May 2021 - Subaru Corporation has delivered its first locally-produced Bell 412EPX example, ordered in 2019, to Iwate Prefecture Police force.
July 2022 - Japan forces have received their first production-quality UH-2 helicopters.
Subaru (Fuji Heavy Industries - FHI) - Japan / Bell Helicopter - USA Manufacturer(s)
Support for rocket pods, gun pods, and door guns as required by mission.
UH-2 - Base Series Designation.
Model 412 - Bell Helicopter product model based on the Bell Model 212 twin-engine UH-1 series.
Subaru-Bell UH-X - Original project designation; revised to XUH-2.
Subaru-Bell XUH-2 - Revised project designation from UH-X naming convention.
Model 412EPX - Commercial market version of the UH-X.
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry.
Rating is out of a possible 100 points.
Relative Maximum Speed
This entry's maximum listed speed (162mph).
Graph average of 150 miles-per-hour.
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
The three qualities reflected above are altitude, speed, and range.
Aviation Era Span
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (1)
Compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian).
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Image released by the Japanese Ministry of Defense.
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Image from official Bell Helicopter marketing material; Model 412EPI configuration shown.
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