The OH-1 “Ninja” is a light military scout helicopter produced by Kawasaki Aerospace. It first took flight in 1996 and was officially introduced in the year 2000. It’s notable for being the first entirely indigenous Japanese helicopter.
The Ninja was developed as a result of requirements outlined by the Japan Ground Self-defence Force in the late 1980s. The existing Kawasaki OH-6Ds needed replacement and in 1989 the OH-X programme was launched. Kawasaki’s proposal won out against other heavy industry titans such as Mitsubishi and Fuji. In 1992 the helicopter’s development was started officially.
The Ninja possesses a slender and lightweight composite fuselage. The twin-engines are mounted on either side of the fuselage, far behind the cockpit. The cockpit itself uses a tandem configuration reminiscent of dedicated attack helicopters.
The use of composite material extends to the rotors as well. The rotor hub is composite and joint-free. The four main rotor blades are made from a fibreglass composite. The tail rotor uses a Fenestron shroud, which makes the helicopter quieter and safer to operate in cramped situations where the tail may foul a tree, building or other tall structure.
Despite being a scout helicopter rather than an attack helicopter, the Ninja has a respectable weapons loadout. The wing stubs each have four hardpoints suitable for up to 132 kg of weaponry. These can include missiles, rocket pods, cannon, pods and gun pods.
Ironically, the twin engines are made by Mitsubishi and are TS1-M-10 turboshafts producing 884 shaft horsepower each. This means gives the Ninja a top speed of 270 kilometers per hour and a cruising speed of 220. The ferry range is 550 kilometers.
The JGSDF had planned to purchase a large number of Ninjas, somewhere between 180 and 200 units. Budget crunches have slowed down that process and so far only 34 units have entered military service.