MANILA, -- The Japanese government plans to lease retired Maritime Self-Defense Force TC-90 training aircraft to the Philippine Navy, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
The Philippines will use the aircraft for air patrol missions related to China’s maritime expansion in the South China Sea, according to informed sources. The Japanese and Philippine governments are expected to agree on the lease of the aircraft as early as this spring.
Aircraft currently used by the Philippine Navy for air patrol missions have a short range, with a radius of action of about 300 kilometers. “It’s difficult to patrol over all the area of the Spratly Islands where China has been expanding and then return to the Philippines,” a source close to the government said.
The TC-90 aircraft, which has a radius of action over twice that of those in the Philippine Navy, is reportedly capable of covering most of the Spratly Islands. Because the TC-90 is a training plane, it is equipped with almost no radar or other such devices, meaning they are expected to be used by the Philippine Navy for visual inspection monitoring for the time being, according to the sources.
Ahead of leasing the aircraft, the Japanese and Philippine governments were to conclude an agreement concerning the transfer of defense equipment and technology on Monday. Defense Minister Gen Nakatani will visit the Philippines as early as this spring to conclude an official agreement on the lease, the sources said.
Up to five “secondhand” TC-90 aircraft whose deployment period has already expired are expected to be leased to the country, the sources said.
Japan has been supporting Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries that lag far behind China in terms of defense equipment to enhance their vigilance and surveillance capabilities. As part of the support, the government is providing patrol vessels to Vietnam and the Philippines through official development assistance.
However, the use of ODA is limited to nonmilitary purposes, meaning it is impossible to apply it to the provision of TC-90 aircraft because they are MSDF defense equipment. Therefore, the government will provide the aircraft to the Philippines based on the Three Principles of Transfer on Defense Equipment and Technology that the Cabinet approved in April 2014, which allow arms exports in principle, the sources said.
While Manila has been asking Tokyo to provide the aircraft as cheaply as possible, it is difficult for Japan to offer national property such as TC-90 aircraft to other countries for free under current law.
Therefore, the government decided to provide the aircraft to the Philippines under a “lease contract,” the sources said. It is said that the Philippines will pay several millions of yen annually.
The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Beechcraft TC-90 King Air fixed-wing trainer aircraft.