PARIS -- The British have shown interest in the P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries based in Japan in a potential $1 billion deal to replace the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod as Britain's submarine hunter.
Britain signaled their interest after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided to reverse previous self-imposed Japanese defense export restrictions and allowed domestic manufacturers like Kawasaki to find foreign partners.
Kawasaki developed the P-1 as a replacement for the P-3C for the Japanese Self Defense Force. Production on the submarine hunter started in 2008 and the first flight of the production model occurred in 2012.
Since then, the P-1 has developed into a competitor for Boeing's P-8 maritime patrol aircraft as interest grows with the aggressive actions of China and Russia. Defense analysts have predicted a boon in maritime aircraft as more international navy officials seek more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection at sea.
The British have had to depend on foreign navies and air forces to patrol for submarines since they retired the Nimrod and canceled the BAE Systems effort to replace it due to cost overruns.
The U.S. Navy flies Boeing's P-8 Poseidon, which is seen as the top maritime patrol aircraft in the market. The U.S. Navy announced its plan to buy 16 more of the aircraft as the service has launched more missions in light of the aggressive activity by the Chinese in the South China Sea.
However, the interest by the British sparked a debate whether Kawasaki's model could compete with Boeing's P-8.
Takumi Kobayashi, manager of Kawasaki's P-1 and C-2 export office, said the company has received a great deal of interest here at the Paris Air Show. He explained that last year at the Farnborough Air Show in London, there was more interest solely over the news that Kawasaki could export the P-1.
This year representatives from multiple countries have visited Kawasaki's booth at Le Bourget to find out more about the aircraft. However, Kobayashi was careful to point out that potential buyers must have strong bonds with Japan.
"It really depends on the relationship with the country in order to continue the discussion," Kobayaski said.
-- Michael Hoffman can be reached at Mike.Hoffman@military.com