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Interesting facts about the Kawasaki OH-1 aka The ‘Ninja’ Attack Helicopter

The Kawasaki OH-1 aka The Ninja is the helicopter that was designed and manufactured by the famed Kawasaki Aerospace Company to be the scouting slash observation helicopter. The primary operator for this particular helicopter is the JGSDF (Japan Ground Self Defense Force) who designed this helicopter to be a successor for the aging OH-6D Loach. The thing that makes the Kawasaki OH-1 so unique is that it is the only helicopter of Japan that was entirely designed and built in Japan.

The helicopter can also be used for attack missions other than its suctioning ones. For this purpose, the aircraft can be equipped with various munitions like the limited quantity of the air-to-air missiles and the anti-tank missiles but all for the purpose of self-defense.

Over the course of many years, many variants of the Kawasaki OH-1 have been proposed with many of them primarily being for the attack versions as well as for utility helicopters. Until March of 2014, there were nearly 38 of these Kawasaki OH-1s were entered in the service of JGSDF. As of now, they are only complementing the already existing fleet of OH-6D Loach’s instead of replacing them.

For our readers today we have gathered a bunch of interesting facts about the Kawasaki OH-1 aka The Ninja attack helicopter.

Entirely designed and built domestically:-

The thing that actually made the OH-1 Ninja such a big deal in Japan is theta it is the only reconnaissance and scouting aircraft of Japan serving its JGSDF (Japan Ground Self Defense Force) that entirely designed and manufactured in the country.

Prior to the time when OH-1 Ninja came into being, the primary attack helicopter in service of JGSDF was the Boeing AH-64 Apache. Japan ordered the Boeing Company for a fleet of nearly 50 Apaches but at the same time, it also wanted an attack helicopter that had been designed and built entirely in Japan. Japan’s wishes were made true by Japan’s famed Aerospace Company named Kawasaki Aerospace Company.


The Kawasaki OH-1 Ninja is the helicopter that is powered by two different engine types with either one being the twin Mitsubishi XT1-10 or the twin TS1-M-10 engines. Both of these engines allow the OH-1 Ninja to have about 890 shp for propelling the aircraft for a top speed of nearly 173 mph for a combat radius range of nearly 342 miles. As for the service ceiling height of the OH-1 Ninja, it is about 16010 feet and can easily be operated with the help of two crewmembers; one being the pilot and the one being the observer.


When designing the OH-1 Ninja, the Kawasaki Company made use of the JGSDF’s AH-64 Apache’s structure and design.

The overall design of the OH-1 Ninja is sleek in appearance and it is powered by twin engines as well as has 4 hardpoints that can be used to equip the helicopter with the following things.

  • Gun pods
  • Rockets
  • Air-to-air missiles
  • Anti-tank missiles
  • Advance sensor pod

As for an all-out combat scenario, the OH-1 Ninja is not built for one. Its primary strength lies in its ability to do scouting and observation missions and for that purpose, it can be launched not only form ground station but also from an aircraft carrier.

The aircraft with its combat radius of 342 miles is able to perform the surveillance and reconnaissance mission for gathering up information of any loitering enemy vessels near Japan’s coastline.

Upgrade of OH-1 doesn’t make sense:-

The OH-1 Ninja is actually quite an unorthodox for being an aircraft for replacing the already existing Japanese fleet of OH-6 Cayuse. Compared to the OH-6 which was a very sleek and nimble aircraft, OH-1 actually is very bulky and large along with having no combat viability.

The OH-6 is actually similar to America’s MH-6 Little Bird and thus is an ideal helicopter for missions of surveillance and reconnaissance. Still, despite Japan’s plans to replace the OH-6 by OH-1, it is still in use.

Japan has no real attack helicopters:-

As per the concession made at the end of World War II by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Japan has only been allowed to defend itself.  Japan is very close to its neighboring enemy countries like China, Russia, and North Korea and in order to defend itself against them, it has to rely on either USA or the NATO Forces operating on its lands.  Other than them, the country itself is very vulnerable to the attacks.

Still, in order to defend itself in times of any small scale enemy attack, Japan has a fleet of not only AH-64 Apaches but now also of OH-1 Ninjas.

Limited deployment:-

There are actually less than 50 of the OH-1 Ninjas that are in service of the JGSDF and that makes it a small fraction for the force’s entire aerial assets. As for other aerial assets of the JGSDF, they are not equipped with combat viability in case of an open conflict with Japan’s adversaries with whom it shares the sea.

This puts Japan at a serious thereat against even Philippine which has no aerial assets. This means that if the OH-1 Ninjas are ever required for the exchange of fire with enemy aerial assets or vessels, the OH-1 Ninja would still not be able to defend properly.

AH-64 Apache; Japan’s first line of defense:-

There is one reason that despite taking the initiative to design and build an attack helicopter, Japan placed an order with Boeing for 50 of their AH-64 Apaches. The reason is that in case of an attack, these state of the art attack helicopters would still be able to play the role of limited defense for its coastline until the allied forces arrive.

As for the scenarios like when Russia decides to test its air defense against Japan with its Su-27s, even the Apaches would not be able to do a thing and the only asset to even hold a little conceal would be the obsolete fleet of F-5s.

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