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International Relations

Japan looks to Greece for first major defense export

Athens envisions using amphibious rescue plane for firefighting

With the US-2 priced at more than $90 million, Greece is expected to seek assistance from the EU in making the purchase. (Photo courtesy of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan will begin negotiations with Greece to export the US-2 rescue aircraft in a deal that would mark the nation's first sale of finished defense equipment, sources have told Nikkei.

Greece is modernizing its aging fleet of firefighting planes and plans to replace several dozen. The European country has expressed interest in buying the amphibious craft produced by ShinMaywa Industries.

The US-2 has a range of 4,700 km and the ability to land in 3-meter waves. The aircraft, used by Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force for search-and-rescue missions at sea, would be fitted with water tanks for sale to Greece.

Japan relaxed its ban on weapons exports in 2014, allowing the conditional transfer of defense equipment and technology. Considering that Greece intends to use the US-2 for firefighting purposes, clearance of the sale by Japan's National Security Council may not be necessary.

Cash-strapped Athens will seek financial assistance from the European Union, a Japanese official said. The aircraft is priced at slightly more than 10 billion yen ($90 million).

Japan has yet to sell finished hardware since relaxing the exports ban. The country lost to France in 2016 on a bid to supply submarines to Australia, while Spain won a contested Thai air defense radar contract this spring. Negotiations to sell the US-2 to India have faltered over price.

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