Kawasaki designed the XOH-1 (OH-X), nicknamed Ninja, Japan's new indigenous battlefield scout helicopter. One JDA project to which the aircraft industry's fortunes are tied is the OH-X observation helicopter, the first such aircraft, including engine, to be developed in Japan. KHI is the airframe prime contractor, just as it is on the McDonnell Douglas-licensed OH-6D, which the OH-X will replace. MHI is in charge of the new helicopter's twin engines.
The first XOH-1 prototype made its first flight on 6 Aug, 1996. A total of four delivered between May and August 1997. The Ground Self-Defense Force has penciled in purchases of 180 to 200 OH-Xs. That would be far fewer than the 297 OH-6Ds KHI had through March 1995, and even this goal could fall prey to the new defense budget realities in Japan.
Like similar types, OH-1 has tandem seating and stub wings for armament. The ducted tail rotor is of "fenestron" type. The design features a composite hinge-less rotor hub for high control responsibility with damage tolerant main rotor blades, and auto Flight Control System. The targeting system is integrated, with FLIR, TV and LASER ranging system. The shock absorbing seat and crew protection armor are part of the integrated cockpit.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. had been developing an all-composite bearingless helicopter main rotor system for over fifteen years. Series production began for the new light observation helicopter, the OH-1. The bearing-less rotor system consists of a hub plate, torsion elements and the main rotor blades. These components are very complex composite parts, requiring an innovative automated lay-up and molding process. To facilitate this need KHI developed a robotic roving placement system and a new molding process called Matched-die Isostatic Pressing, MIP.
Japan has a requirement to replace its AH-1F Cobras-about 100 or so attack helicopters. A Japanese design would possibly be based on the OH-1 scout helicopter developed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Development of an indigenous design, sometimes referred to as the AH-2, would require importing more powerful turboshaft engines than those used aboard the OH-1. The all-Japanese helicopter also would need a new rotor/gearbox assembly and sensor/targeting package.