The Japanese government has decided to develop an airborne electronic warfare version of its Kawasaki C-2 transport according to local media.
The Yomiuri Shimbun reported on January 13 that, as part of recently released National Defense Program Guidelines, an unspecified number of Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) C-2s would be equipped with radar and communications jamming equipment. The report says the guidelines recommend Japan introduce the ability to “neutralise radar, communications, and other means of counterparts intending to invade [Japan].”
The locally developed C-2 is in the same class of airlifter as the Airbus A400M, sitting in between the Lockheed Martin C-130J and the Boeing C-17 to which it bears a resemblance. The C-2 entered service with the JASDF in 2016, and will replace the older C-1 and the C-130H in service.
An electronic intelligence (ELINT) version of the C-2 – designated RC-2 or EC-2 – featuring prominent dorsal antenna apertures is already in development, and it is believed this will form the basis of the EW version. If adopted, the ELINT and EW versions of the aircraft are expected to enter service from 2026.
The defense guidelines also recommended equipping the JASDF’s locally-developed Kawasaki P-1 maritime ISR aircraft with an enhanced EW capability, possibly to be developed in parallel with that of the C-2’s.
Japan’s military presence in the maritime and air domains southwest of its home islands has been increasingly challenged in recent years, including in the electronic spectrum where China is introducing new airborne and naval EW capabilities and is testing Japan’s capabilities and responses on an almost daily basis.
Until recently, Japan’s military posture has been a defensive one and, as such, its capabilities were primarily defensive in nature. But with tensions rising in the region, the Japanese constitution has been relaxed in recent years to allow the introduction of capabilities such as air-to-air refuelling, stand-off strike weapons, amphibious assault vessels, and now offensive EW capabilities.