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Politics

Japan in talks to sell patrol plane tech to Germany and France

Exporting homegrown defense equipment remains a key goal for Tokyo

Japan is in negotiations to export parts and technology used in the P-1 surveillance aircraft built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Aiming to boost defense-related exports, Japan has entered into talks with the German and French governments to provide parts and technology for a patrol aircraft the European countries are developing together.

Germany and France use surveillance planes, mainly to monitor Russian submarines. Less reliant than the archipelago nation of Japan on the aircraft, they have flown older planes. The European duo signed a memorandum of understanding this April to develop a new one to cut costs.

Berlin and Paris are interested in advanced technology used in Kawasaki Heavy Industries' P-1 patrol aircraft, a Japanese government source said. The trio are now discussing which country will be in charge of what, with an eye toward three-way cooperation throughout the development process.

The P-1, used by Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force, is positioned as the successor to Lockheed Martin's P-3C patrol plane used around the world. The P-1 drops a sonic sensor into the water to capture minute sound waves emitted by submarines. The model is well-known for being fuel-efficient and quiet, as well as its ability to fly slowly at low altitudes.

The Japanese government greatly lowered barriers to exporting defense equipment and technology back in April 2014. But companies have failed to secure any overseas contracts for assembled equipment, partly because of the high cost of Japanese products. The P-1 costs about 16 billion yen ($145 million).

"It is important to work toward exporting finished products, but we will also focus on providing specific technologies and parts in response to the other countries' needs," explained an official at the Ministry of Defense here.

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