The Kawasaki P-1 is a maritime patrol aircraft used for prolonged and extensive surveillance and patrol over sea waters. It was originally designed by Kawasaki as a replacement for the P-3 Orion which has been in service with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) for decades.

JMSDF P-1 ‘5504’ performing a performance takeoff at RIAT – July 2015

The P-1 made its first flight in 2009 and has entered service with the JMSDF in March 2013. Newly-developed and manufactured domestically, including its airframe, engines, and patrol systems, the P-1 presents improved features compared to the P-3C: it is faster, exhibits longer range, and possesses a greater loading capacity made possible by the latest technologies. These features enable patrolling of the extensive seas around Japan for long hours.

JMSDF P-1 ‘5504’ preparing for takeoff at RIAT – July 2015

The Kawasaki P-1 was designed to perform the same missions as most maritime patrol aircraft. It is capable of conducting long-range surveillance and reconnaissance over land and sea, anti-shipping, submarine attack, collect intelligence data and perform search and rescue. The P-1 is powered by 4 podded IHI F7-10 turbofan engines, designed specifically for Kawasaki by the Japanese IHI Corporation. Each engine generates a thrust of 60 kN. The four-engine low-wing loading design adopted for the P-1 results in a flight profile with better maneuverability and stability at low-speed, low-altitude flight and allows the aircraft to continue its mission in the event of a single engine failure as well as greater operational survivability, the high-bypass engines provide for quiet, fuel-efficient operation.

JMSDF P-1 ‘5504’ performing a flyby at RIAT – July 2015

The aircraft is also able to carry a multitude of weaponry. The P-1 is capable of carrying external missiles on its 8 hardpoints as well as an additional 8 weapons inside its internal bomb bay stations. More specifically, the P-1 can carry a US AGM-84 Harpoon or Japanese ASM-1C anti-ship missiles, as well as AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles, that can be also used against ships. This aircraft can also carry various torpedoes. Multiple radar warning receivers provide all-round awareness of missile threats, which is combined with a defensive countermeasures suite.

JMSDF P-1 ‘5504’ showing off its internal weapons bay at RIAT – July 2015

Despite the cast weapons arsenal that it can carry, the main edge of the Kawasaki P-1 lies within its avionics, starting from its Toshiba HPS-106 AESA radar system (used to detect submarines and surface vessels). The radar uses a total of four antennas to provide 360 degree coverage, and Infrared/Light detection systems for surface detection.

JMSDF P-1 ‘5504’ preparing for takeoff at RIAT – July 2015

The P-1 is also equipped with the Shinko Electric combat system, specialized for anti-submarine warfare as well as an advanced artificial intelligence system which makes the job of the tactical coordinator officer easier. This has a direct impact on the overall performance of the aircraft.  Various onboard systems are provided by Honeywell, who is the largest non-Japanese supplier to the project, such as the auxiliary power unit, environmental and pressurization control systems, ram air turbine, sonobuoy dispensers and elements of the avionics. The P-1 is also furnished with a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) embedded into the aircraft’s tail, along with deployable sonobuoys, which are used for the detection of submerged submarines. Sophisticated acoustic systems are also used for this purpose.

JMSDF P-1 ‘5504’ performing a flyby at RIAT – July 2015

In addition, unlike the vast majority of similar aircraft who use the fly by wire system, the Kawasaki P-1 is the first ever production aircraft to use a fly by optics flight control system. This system essentially replaces standard metal wiring with optical fiber cables. The advantage of such a system is that it decreases electro-magnetic disturbances to the sensors in comparison to more common fly-by-wire control systems.

To this date, there are 33 Kawasaki P-1 aircraft in service and around 60 more are on order. Kawasaki has also been pushing to export the aircraft overseas in a mission to ease restrictions on military exports from Japan. The cost of a single Kawasaki P-1 aircraft is between $140.8 million and $167 million.

Since 2014, Japan has been making approaches to other nations for prospective export sales of the P-1. New Zealand was the first country to which the P-1 had been offered in what had been referred to by a Japanese official as a “one on one fight with Boeing’s P-8 patrol plane. The P-1 was offered in conjunction with the C-2 to give New Zealand the advantage of commonality for their patrol and transport aircraft. However, in July 2018 New Zealand selected the P-8 Poseidon.

Kawasaki also made efforts to sell the aircraft to the UK, with a pair of P-1s present for the 2015 Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), one aircraft performing a flying display while the other was on static display. This was the first time that any Japanese military aircraft had performed in a European flight display.

After RIAT, the P-1s proceeded to Djibouti Ambouli International Airport to continue with operational trials within tropical and desert climates. Similarly to what happened in New Zealand, this was another failed bid as the UK also chose to proceed with the Boeing P-8 Poseidon.

It is also reported that in 2016, Kawasaki has also offered the aircraft to Thailand whereas in 2018 the aircraft was also offered to France and Germany as these countries seek to replace the Atlantique and the P-3 Orions respectively.

Japanese officials have claimed that the P-1 is a more capable, albeit more expensive, aircraft than the Boeing P-8 Poseidon in comparison to the P-8, the P-1 has a greater range, a larger bomb bay, and has been purpose-built for the maritime patrol mission.

Nowadays, the Kawaski P-1 MPA is based at two Japanese Air Force Airbases, namely at Atsugi with 3 Kokutai Squadron and Kanoya Air Base which has also received 4 P-1s (serials 5517,5518,5520 & 5521).

General Aircraft Specifications:

Length38.0 m
Height12.1 m
Wingspan35.4 m (Code C)
Maximum Takeoff Weight79,700 Kg
Crew3 Flight Crew & 3 Mission Crew
Powerplants4 X IHI Corporation F7 Turbofan Engines
Maximum Speed538 Kts
Cruise Speed450 Kts
Range4300 nmi
Combat Range1,300 nmi
Service CeilingFL 440