New Airbus-Japan venture aims for new aircraft

March 14, 2017, © Leeham Co.: A new partnership, still in the Memorandum of Cooperation stage, between France and Japan aims to expand a relationship that could lead to joint development of advanced aircraft for Airbus.

The MOC was signed between the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry of Japan (METI) and the Directorate General for Civil Aviation of the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy (MEDDE) of the French Republic.

“An Airbus-Japan Ad Hoc Civil Aeronautical Industry Working Group will be established, and it will meet on a regular basis to discuss technology fields that could be considered for cooperation between Airbus and Japan such as material, aircraft system and equipment, or manufacturing technologies for the development of future Airbus aircraft,” Airbus said in a March 1 press statement announcing the MOC.

Airbus sales historically trailed Boeing badly in Japan, although the current backlog leans slightly in the European OEM’s favor: 87 to 74.

Boeing-Japan cooperation

Cooperation between Boeing and Japan’s industry goes back decades. It was deepened with the development of the 787, in which Japan’s “heavy” industries (Mitsubishi, Kawasaki and Fuji) have roles in the design, development and production of Boeing airplanes that were unprecedented.

It was also a rocky relationship, as design and production issues upended the industrial partnerships and led to delays Boeing had never seen before.

This is history now. The 787 is proceeding smoothly. Despite difficulties with the Mitsubishi-produced wing, Boeing and this “heavy” entered into a support and services agreement for Japan’s first home-grown commercial airliner since the NAMC YS-11 turboprop 50 years ago, the Mitsubishi MRJ jet.

Close international ties

Historically close relations between the US and the Japanese government had trickle-down benefit to Boeing sales.

“It was a closed market,” said John Leahy, Airbus COO-Customers in an interview on the sidelines of the ISTAT annual conference in San Diego last week. “It was one of our goals for 20 years” to increase Airbus’ market penetration and match, or exceed Boeing’s backlog.

“In the past, there was a lot of [US-Japan] government-to-government sales there,” Leahy said. “When a carrier like JAL was state-owned, it was hard for us to even get in there to see the airline. As the airlines had to stand on their own two feet,” things changed.

The advent of low-cost carriers also prompted a market share shift.

“We have 95% of the LCC market,” Leahy said. Winning an A350 order from JAL was “very important.” Leahy also finally put the giant A380 into Japan’s top carriers, winning an order for three from ANA—albeit through the back door via bankrupt A380 customer Skymark and ANA’s role in the Skymark reorganization.

Airbus-Japan cooperation

Leahy said the MOC with Japan is an extension of Airbus engineering and design centers located globally.

“We want to get the best and brightest going forward,” he said. “This is about advanced design, not industrialization.”

An Airbus spokesman in Japan, in an email interview with LNC, said, “We are interested in broad area and don’t specify the particular area at the moment.  Overall, our interests are in technology fields, such as material, aircraft system and equipment, or manufacturing technologies for the development of future Airbus aircraft.

“We see Japan as key location for partnerships in areas such as R&T and digital innovation for our future aircraft,” the spokesman said. “We welcome Japan’s cutting-edge aerospace technologies on board Airbus aircraft and aim to expand industrial partnerships with Japan. We are seeking for developing non-conventional fuel, more electrical systems, or new configuration of aircraft that would have less impact to the environment.

“We are looking at game-changing technologies that are required for future generation of aircraft, not only from Japan’s aerospace companies, but also from non-aerospace companies,” the spokesman said.

Mitsubishi and Fuji are already suppliers to Airbus, the spokesman said. There are currently about 20 suppliers in Japan.

27 Comments on “New Airbus-Japan venture aims for new aircraft

  1. Maybe MHI can build a bigger CFRP wing for an A321/A322 MoM. And make ask ANA and JAL become launching customers. 😉

    • It’s certainly a chain of events that is possible.

      It’s not especially good news for Boeing – Japan has been a very Boeing country thus far. Airbus getting in at the design / production level is simply Airbus getting more involved with all aspects of the Japanese aviation industry. It’s not going to hurt their prospects!

      Politically it seems Japan is reconsidering its international relationships. Trump and his crazy campaign utterances caused consternation in Japan. Though of course Trump’s Secretary of Defence has now been over there to reassure the Japanese that when Trump said he was going to withdraw all US forces from WestPac, he of course meant that they were going to stay. That didn’t get widely reported in the USA…

      Nonetheless, if one’s most important ally’s CinC talks about breaking off the relationship (indeed, of taking the money and running), followed by the CinC’s minion coming over to make reassurances otherwise, it doesn’t look good. In fact, it looks ruddy awful.

      Still, I guess we’re all getting used to that. The Japanese are certainly wise enough to know that Trump is merely temporary, probably, but they have to have a plan B.

      What I sense is that Japan is seriously reconsidering its defence and trade priorities, is considering the possibility that the USA is not the unwaveringly reliable ally that Japan needs, and is now more open than ever to doing deals with other Blocs, e.g. Europe.

      There’s been a steady flow of such deals in all sorts of areas in the past few years, military and industrial, especially with the UK. For example, Royal Navy ships can now call in on Japan any time they like, there’s no need to pre-arrange diplomatic clearance. The RAF have been over there, showing off Eurofighters, and so forth.

      And of course they’re building up their own independent military capability (aircraft carriers, subs, etc. Their subs are really good), just in case the USA decides not to support them over some dispute or other with China.

      Expanding that European cooperation into the airliner business is just a natural part of that. And historically there’s close relationships between RR and Mitsubishi, who make some turbine stages (and other stuff) for some RR engines. Presumably that’s a beneficial commercial relationship; more of the same would be most welcome after the rocky-road-ride with the 787.

      Japanese companies are also wary of doing megadeals with American companies. For example, Sharp has been utterly trashed by its relationship with Apple. Word gets around. European businesses are less commercially vicious, are more interested in long term fruitfulness.

    • After a first optimistic response there are certain keywords for me. On the positive, high tech, R&T, innovation, new aircraft.

      Then it dawned on me (coming from Africa), “sustainable development”, work groups, signing of MOU’s/C’s, support agreements with different countries”forcing” them to buy your product by arrangement and not merit.

      Congrats Ryanair for giving people the opportunity to fly, smell paraffin and see places. And it is Boeing’s you are flying, for a good reason.

      In my part of the world there is a saying; “Let the Germans build the cars and the Americans the planes”, maybe now more true than ever?

  2. It is sad to see how the so called European Airbus has no eyes and heart for the European aerospace resources and potential in the East of Europe which fall apart or are being used or abused by the US, Russia and China.

    While Airbus was previously a major driver of European integration, now they seem to not realize that there’s also a Europe east of Dresden, Salzburg and Trieste.

    • While I notice some “political” comments. With all the changes at BA are they not readying a LCC BA arm and it’s “goodbye” to Ryanair and EasyJet after Brexit?

      Maybe Airbus don’t want to take chances with the building of a new wing in the UK?

    • Well, they tried. But Polish politics were not very helpful….
      On the other hand has Premium AEROTECH has a big enterprise in Romania (while Stelia is more focused on Africa).

      • Without an intent to drive this discussion off topic, but: We are talking here about a region larger than Germany or France – both in population and GDP (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia)…
        In Austria for instance a major high tech supplier of composite structures (FACC) to Boeing, Airbus, RR was sold to/bought by the Chinese…

        • …you see me lost. To get it right; in your first post, you complained that Airbus does not care for east Europe. Remarking that Airbus does, as they have (tried) with the Orlik MPT and the (failed) H225M Caracal in Poland and the PAG production side in Braşov plus several suppliers located in Czech, Romania, Poland etc. Doesn’t that count for care? Must it be owned?

      • Hi “Fuesioterapoit”.

        Don’t know if you are from Romania? I’ve never been there but is on my short list.

        I have looked on Google Earth and noticed that Bucharest have potential to be a “Dubai-Type” hub for Low Cost Carriers (LLC’s) connecting Europe (E&W) with India/Central Asia/China.

        Airlines line SpiceJet, AirAsia’s, Silk etc can feed into it from the East (Twin and Single Aisles) while LCC’s like RyanAir, easyJet, Eurowings can feed into Europe (Single Aisles). There could also be potential for longer range LCC flights from Bucharest into the USA that is fed mainly from destinations in the India/East.

        Examples of distances from Bucharest (Nautical Miles);
        Bejing: 3 800,
        Bangkok: 4 200,
        Mumbai: 2 800,
        Hanoi: 4 100.

        Dublin: 1 400,
        Cologne: 850,
        Geneva: 850,
        Barcelona: 1 100,
        Oslo: 1 100.

        New York: 4 100,
        Miami: 5 000,

    • The US drive to heckle and encroach on the RF has turned most of those places into train wrecks.
      Ukraine used to have lots of potential in that domain.
      All sunk in corruption and graft.

  3. I read it all and I agree Japan has something to give in this area. I cant get by this however:

    “the Directorate General for Civil Aviation of the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy (MEDDE) of the French Republic..”

    This is the kind of over-regulatory crap – that only Western countries seem to be expected to saddle – that Ive come to expect as standard nowadays. Airbus probably arent even alllowed to design, test and produce parts the way they normally would with an”environmental” (some might say anti industry, anti endeavour) oversight like that. Its just over-regulation and anti-West disguised as environmental friendliness.

  4. Agree, and/or is Airbus eyeing a Boeing 787 type wing for a clean sheet aircraft in the 250-300 seat class to replace the A330’s and compete with the 787 at the upper end and the 797 at the lower?

    High tech sounds like the driver for such an aircraft that will make the 787 and 797 “outdated” when a new twin Airbus below the A350 is launched?

    This will leave Airbus with 2 twin-aisles and Boeing with 3 to manufacture. Maybe Airbus is eyeing a very fuel efficient high tech “wide single-aisle” for the 200-250 seat market in the long run?

    • No, certainly not. To make a carbon wing for the A330 needs no new partners – but Airbus will certainly not make that step anyway.
      If you look a little closer, you see that Japanese companies are really quite strong in the electronics department, something that Europe is not necessarily (and certainly not in East Europo, sorry Ferenc).
      To me it looks like the are really planing ahead with electric and hybird propulsion systems with regional “jets” as the prime canditates for application, which could be made either by Mitsubishi or ATR.

  5. This can only be seen as a sign that the US’s decision to shoot itself in the face by electing Donald Trump will have far-reaching consequences. heck, even my Japanese relatives and friends still ask “What in the hell are you guys doing?!?” The Japanese are probably wavering a bit on just how trustworthy the U.S will be as an ally with Trump’s loose cannon attitude, and to look at alternatives is a pretty smart idea.

    From Airbus’ perspective, the access to very sophisticated Japanese technology and knowhow (and by proxy, gleaning all the tech/knowledge that Japan either received or co-developed with American firms) is a smart move, and extends their influence.

    Don’t think Boeing, LMCO, Raytheon, GD, and NG aren’t noticing this, as well as other American firms.

    • Yes, everything’s Trump’s fault (at least the “bad” things).

  6. US Congress blocking F22 sales send out a clear signal earlier. And Washington / Boeing builds their own wing factory.

    Japanese value long term relationships & 4 years is only an intermezzo. But if it becomes 8..

    • Large parts of the 777 are made in Japan and likely will continue so with 777X.
      “Boeing Co. retained the work of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. and said five Japanese companies will build 21 percent of its latest widebody jet 777X.” Bloomberg.

  7. The real reason for any Airbus interest in development with Japan is the huge state subsidies that would go with it.

    This is an old (2005) article about the 787 but it shows the amount of Japanese state aid for the 787
    “Japan’s role in Boeing’s 787 programme is to be financed partly by the Japanese taxpayer. Negotiations between the government and the Japanese Aircraft Development Corporation (JADC) have been going on for a year over the terms of $1.6 billion-worth of launch aid to enable JADC to meet Boeing’s needs.

    Other sources say that when the 787 was being developed the Seattle IAM union leader went to Japan, where he found the wages were similar or higher than US.
    So its not for cheaper production costs that they use Japanese firms.

    To be its bizaarre that Mitsubishi, the japanese military fast jet specialist, is the one running the development on its new airliner. They have found out the hard way having no previous expertise on airliner production and certification is much more complicated and expensive than they thought. And yet its Kawasaki who is the lead developer on the large airframe projects for the japanese military, having both its well regarded P-1 and C-2 flying.

  8. If I must select 2 airliners the industry can’t survive with as we speak?

    B737-800 and 777-300ER, true?

      • Hi Uwe,

        I asked that myself this morning.

        The 777-300ER is likely the “Most Global”, and capable high capacity long range aircraft flying at the moment flying in large numbers. If the worlds entire fleet of 777’s must be grounded today I think there could be havoc.

        The 737-800 is a toss-up with the A320, maybe its personal experience. But I have flown into and out of some real “dodgy places” with 737-800’s, you tend not to see A320’s at these type of strips/airports. Maybe Ryanair has also showed it to be a real reliable workhorse?

        • 77W and 738 have sold in large numbers worldwide, just like A330 and A320.

          • Strange question as they are both ‘keepers’.

            If the GE90 wasnt as good as it turned out then likely the A340-600 would rule the skies and the MD11 would still be in production with a Max version !

          • Lets not forget the PW4000 and Trent800. Pratt was dominant first.

  9. Knock off the political stuff or I will close comments. This isn’t about Trump or America. This is about a relationship between Japan, France and Airbus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *