Part Outsourcing Leads to Japan’s Newest Aviation Era


During World War II the Japanese aviation industry was at its peak. The Mitsubishi A6M Zero was the most feared plane in the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, with nearly a 12-to-1 kill ratio when it was first introduced in 1940. However, when the war in the Pacific ended in 1945, the Allies banned Japan’s aircraft industry from building any new aircraft and forced it instead to make parts for American military jets, which it has done to this day.

But that’s all about to change, thanks to the reemergence of Japan’s aerospace industry due to continued parts outsourcing by aerospace companies like Boeing.

Nearly a full third of the parts of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is supplied by Japanese manufacturers, mainly Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which manufactures the 787 Dreamliner’s carbon-fiber composite main wing. This innovation and contracting has led to other major aerospace advancements, including the launch of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, the first major jetliner to be created in Japan since the end of a failed 1973 government-backed manufacturing program that led to the production of the YS-11. The YS-11 was plagued with a host of issues, from failing air-conditioning systems to overbearing engine noise. With only 182 of the aircraft ever manufactured, the project was shut down after a year, and the planes were sold for a loss.

In late 2013, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation will reemerge in the aerospace industry with the production of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet. When that happens, the 90-seat commercial plane will become the first major jump into the aerospace industry that Japan has made in almost 70 years. Already Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation has 165 firm orders and is aiming for more than 5,000 in the next two decades. If that happens, it will clearly reaffirm Japan’s place in the aerospace industry and create a new competitor in the aerospace landscape that has been dominated by America’s Boeing and France’s Airbus.

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