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Subaru Corporation has announced the first flight of its prototype UH-X, the new utility helicopter the company is building for Japan’s Ministry of Defense (JMOD).
Subaru has partnered with Bell to develop this variant of the Bell 412EPI, which was type certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in July as the 412EPX. The aircraft will replace the Japan Ground Self Defense Force’s current fleet of UH-1J aircraft under a contract awarded to Subaru (formerly known as Fuji Heavy Industries) in 2015.
In a press release, Subaru reported that its first UH-X prototype took to the sky at 2:50 p.m. on Dec. 25 at its Aerospace Company Utsunomiya Plant in Tochigi Prefecture, landing safely after a successful 55-minute flight.
According to the release, this prototype aircraft will be delivered to JMOD by the end of fiscal year 2018 (March 2019) after the completion of a series of flight tests by Subaru. Subaru will establish a new production line at its Utsunomiya Plant for the JMOD’s utility helicopter as well as a commercial variant, the Subaru Bell 412EPX.
“Under cooperation with Bell, the Subaru Bell 412EPX will provide a great opportunity to expand the commercial business,” Shoichiro Tozuka, Subaru’s corporate executive vice president and president of aerospace company, stated at the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow in July.
According to earlier press releases, the Subaru Bell 412EPX will benefit from a more robust main rotor gearbox dry run capability, increased internal maximum gross weight (to 12,200 lb.) and an increase in mast torque output of 11 percent at speeds below 60 knots.