As Japan’s largest amphibian and the second largest in the world, ShinMaywa US-2 is particularly impressive for transport, it has no duty to carry goods but to serve another job.
In the current period, only a few countries in the world are capable of designing and manufacturing seaplanes, and Japan is one of them. At this time, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force are using ShinMaywa US-2 multi-role seaplanes. A total of 6 aircraft of this type are in operation. The sixth seaplane was purchased for 12 billion yen in 2013, nearly $156 million. At such a price, US-2 can be classified as the most expensive seaplane in the world.
The development of the US-2 took eight years to complete. With the Shin Meiwa US-1A fleet introduced in the 1970s beginning to reach the end of its service life, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force attempted to obtain funding for a replacement in the 1990s, but could not obtain enough to develop an entirely new aircraft. In October 1996, ShinMaywa was nominated by the Ministry of Defence as a main contractor to develop advanced version of existing US-1 aircraft. The new aircraft was designated US-1A Kai. This aircraft features numerous aerodynamic refinements, a pressurised hull, and more powerful engines. Flight tests began on December 18, 2003. The US-1A Kai was re-designated the US-2 Amphibian, and was formally inducted to a squadron in March 2007.
Designed to serve the rescue mission at sea, the ShinMaywa US-2 seaplane is capable of taking off and landing on the water with extremely short momentum, makes it possible to swoop down to any sea area as needed.
In addition, this aircraft is also capable of carrying water to perform fire missions. Maximum of each mission, ShinMaywa US-2 can carry up to 15 tons of water, US-2 will discharge all this water immediately to the target within seconds.
As an improved version of US-1A, the US-2 inherits the design lines of its predecessor. The appearance of the aircraft is no different from a traditional flying boat: a pair of straight wings on the shoulders with two engines on each wing. The tail is a typical T-type configuration. The wings and fuselage are made of composite materials with the standard dimensions of 33.5m in length, 33.2m in wingspan and 9.8m in height.
The cockpit is located just behind the sharp nose, giving great visibility forward and the engines on either side. The glass cockpit is equipped with an integrated control panel. A single LCD panel integrates the digitalised meters. The aircraft incorporates fly-by-wire flight control system, the computerised flight system improves the safety and controllability of the aircraft. Under each main wing is arranged a Pontoon float to help the plane balance on the water. The empty weight of the aircraft is 25.6t and the maximum takeoff weight is 47.7t. The aircraft can carry up to 20 passengers or 12 stretchers. In addition, the aircraft is also equipped with a tricycle type landing gear to operate on land.
The aircraft has a crew of up to 11 people with the ability to carry about 20 passengers or 12 stretchers.
The four engines fitted on the US-2 are the Rolls-Royce AE 2100J turboprop driving six Dowty R414 bladed propellers. Each engine generates a maximum power of 4600 horsepower. There is also one LHTEC T800 turboshaft Boundary layer control compressor, providing 1364 horsepower. The aircraft can reach a maximum speed of 560 km/h. The maximum range of the aircraft is over 4,700km and the service ceiling of 7,200m
The US-2 is a capable plane that is particularly helpful during rescue operations. ShinMaywa says that the US-2 is the world’s only amphibian that is equipped with a Boundary Layer Control powered high-lift device, this gives the US-2 the ability to cruise at extremely low speeds, approximately 90km/h. In addition to better cruising performance, the US-2 features numerous improvements over its predecessor US-1 for safe operations even during inclement weather, it can take off and land on water with waves up to three meters high. The US-2 would also serve to be a good aircraft for ocean surveillance and preservation of remote islands.
India and Thailand are thought to be very interested in this amphibious search and rescue aircraft. Indonesia is also a potential customer. After deadly fires in the Greek Attica Region in July 2018, the Greek government sought to order US-2 to replace its aging firefighting fleet.
ShinMaywa US-2 – The most expensive seaplane on the planet comes from Japan