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Mitsubishi Aircraft drops MRJ brand and targets U.S. market with a 70-seat variant

Tokyo, Japan - Mitsubishi Aircraft renames its regional jet MRJ (Mitsubishi Regional Jet) as Space Jet and prepares to offer a radical redesign to build a smaller 70-seat model.

Whit these changes, the Japanese manufacturer mainly aims to record orders from the potential U.S. customers for its long-delayed regional jet, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

Mitsubishi Aircraft is also planning to procure some parts of the aircraft from American suppliers to cut costs for the U.S. airline operators as well as moving some production lines to the United States.

Besides the renaming, it marks a notable shift in what had been envisioned before for Japan's first in-house commercial jet.

Mitsubishi Aircraft started working on a 90-seat model in 2008. But the company now decided to opt for a smaller version to ensure access to the world's largest market. However, the work will continue on the larger 90-seat version.

Mitsubishi Aircraft is in the final stages of securing a type certificate for the larger 90-seat variant of the aircraft from the Japanese regulator.

The first deliveries are expected to begin the next year.

The smaller 70-seat variant, however, is not expected to get a type certificate before 2022. Customers who decide to convert their orders from the 90- to the 70-seat will have to wait longer for their Space Jets.

The 70-seat variant of the MRJ (Space Jet) will compete with the jets of the same class from the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer and Canadian Bombardier.

The 70-seat market is dominated by Embraer with 960 orders on the manufacturer's backlog waiting to be delivered. Bombardier follows the Brazilian manufacturer with its CRJ700. It is unclear how much market share Mitsubishi Aircraft will be able to capture from the major players in the market.

Mitsubishi Aircraft has so far received 447 orders mainly from Japanese airlines for the 90-seat MRJ variant. But cancellations reduced this number to 407.

Mitsubishi Aircraft was initially set to deliver the first MRJ jet in 2013, but design changes and delays in the certification led to five delays in the program.

Update: Mitsubishi Aircraft said the MRJ90 regional jet remains its “number one priority” after Nikkei Asian Review reported the company was changing direction to focus on development of a 70-seat version of the aircraft intended for the US market.