Kawasaki’s big light blue P-1 maritime patrol aircraft has taken center stage at the Paris Air Show, marking its debut at a major international trade show, and the first time a Japanese military aircraft has visited Le Bourget.

The distinctive four-engined aircraft was developed indigenously by Japan as a replacement for its fleet of Lockheed P-3 Orions.

Currently, 11 are in service, but the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces hope to grow the fleet to 60-70 to suit the island nation’s maritime security needs over the coming years. Tokyo is also mulling whether to replace its fleet of special mission versions of the P-3 with adapted P-1s.

The P-1 is no stranger to Europe however, in 2015, a pair visited the Royal International Air Tattoo in 2015 after the UK examined the type for its maritime patrol needs.

Japan relaxed its decades-old rules on the export of defense equipment back in 2014, and since then the aircraft has generated considerable interest, but no foreign customers yet. Exports would still be limited to nations that Japan can form a defense relationship, and share not only technology but also Tokyo’s views on international security.

Some ten nations have sent delegations to take a look around the aircraft, whilst it is in Paris, Takahiro Yoshida, the director of aircraft project management at Japan’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency told Show News.

He added the aircraft was regularly operational over the Sea of Japan on anti-submarine patrols, and was routinely detecting submarines at longer ranges than was possible with the P-3 from both medium and low altitudes. Japan is currently investing in an improvement in the aircraft’s acoustics systems and plans to upgrade the aircraft with new equipment every 10 years to keep up with advances in submarine technology.