TOKYO, July 4 (Reuters) - Japan on Friday postponed the rollout of a long-range military cargo jet for two years because of defects, potentially complicating Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for a more robust defence.
The C-2 aircraft built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries needs to be re-engineered after a rear cargo door blew out during cabin-pressure tests, the Defense Ministry said in a press release.
The C-2 represents a major logistical upgrade on the C-1 now in service. The new plane can lift nearly four times as much -enough to carry a helicopter or a mobile missile battery - more than six times as far.
While the C-1 struggles to reach Japan’s outlying islands in the East China Sea, near territory hotly disputed with China, the C-2 could carry loads from Tokyo as far as Afghanistan.
Abe this week took a historic step away from Japan’s postwar pacifism, ending a ban on the nation’s military from aiding a friendly country under attack.
Until it gets the C-2 into service, Japan could be forced to ask civilian airlines such as ANA Holdings or Japan Airlines to help move equipment and personnel, a Defense Ministry official said.
The delay will increase the C-2 program’s cost by 40 billion yen ($390 million) to 260 billion yen and comes after two previous postponements that have already lengthened the project by three years. ($1 = 102.0500 yen) (Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; Writing by Tim Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)