The P-3 Orion has served with the United States for a long time, but also saw wide export service. One of those export customers was Japan, which operated over 100 Orions built by Kawasaki.
Like the American Orions, these Japanese planes needed to be replaced – and for Japan, this was a very important program. In World War II, American submarines managed to choke off Japan’s maritime supply routes. This is a lesson that stuck with the island nation, and lead them to a focus on anti-submarine warfare.
So Japan didn’t decide to buy into the P-8 Poseidon Multi-Mission Aircraft program. Instead, it designed its own maritime patrol plane, dubbed the P-1.
Granted, that sounds like Japan is going backwards, but Tokyo has always numbered its post World War II indigenous aircraft designs in a separate sequence. This is why its Phantoms and Eagles are known as F-4EJs and F-15Js, respectively.
Now, the P-1 may look like a 707 with a big “stinger” on the tail (which is called a magnetic anomaly detector, or “MAD”), but the looks are deceiving. The P-1 was designed and built to be a sub-hunter.
According to company officials, the P-1 features a spacious fuselage and large wing. While the 737-based P-8 has two engines, the P-1 has four F7-10 engines designed for the maritime patrol mission.
It can carry lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes like the American-designed Mk46 or Japan’s Type 97 – as well as future designs. It also can carry mines, AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, ASM-1C anti-ship missiles, and AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles (which can hit either naval or land targets).
MilitaryFactory.com reported that the P-1 has a top speed of 540 knots, a maximum range of 4,971 miles, and can operate at altitudes of almost 45,000 feet. The plane is also equipped with a number of systems to counter enemy air defenses, including chaff, flares, a “missile warning system,” self-defense electronic warfare capabilities, and it is also highly maneuverable.
In short, Japan has built an aircraft that could be very deadly for submarines.