Air Transport World

Japan's commercial-transport dilemma.

The Japanese have modified their market-share goals but are still having trouble getting into the market in a more meaningful way. By James P. Woolsey. Tokyo-The Japanese Aerospace industry and the portions of the Japanese government that regulate it have softened their position significantly on the goals for their industry and its hopes for the future.

People involved in the commercial-transport industry around the world, and especially in the U.S., were alarmed by a paper published in August, 1988 by Japan's Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies, a similar body to the Aerospace Industries Association in the U.S. It represents Japan's aerospace manufacturers, principally what is known as the Big Four, comprising airframe makers Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Fuji Heavy industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and its major engine maker, Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries.

In its paper, SJAC set forth goals for the Japanese commercial-aircraft industry for the year 2010 that included 10% of the world commercial-transport-building business, which it said should amount to approximately 25% of the volume of the U.S. industry by that time. Currently, Japan's share of the world industry is very small. in 1988, its total aircraft industry had sales of about $5 billion, or about 1/15 of the business done by U.S. firms.

Understandably, the U.S. transport manufacturers, and more specifically members of the U.S. Congress facing $50 billion per year in trade deficits with Japan, were concerned. The SJAC paper listed the programs that would achieve the 2010 market-share goals. These included the V2500 engine program, already in production, the YXX/7J7 program with Boeing Commercial Airplane Group-now on the shelf-a 75-seat twinjet still searching for partners and in the feasibility-study phase, an improved version of the Boeing 767now called the 767X or 777-and then a couple of surprises: An improved 747 and an HST/SST. Specter of the FS-X The concept produced visions of the U.S. aerospace industry, the strongest U.S. export-manufacturing industry, going the way of autos and electronics. Hanging around all of this was the still controversial Japanese FS-X fighter program. The FS-X will be a support fighter to replace the Japanese-designed and manufactured F-1. Back in October, 1987, the Reagan administration and Japan agreed that the new fighter would be based on the U. …

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