The Maritime Self-Defense Force will from next week start training Philippine naval pilots to fly TC-90 aircraft ahead of a lease deal between Tokyo and Manila that takes effect in March.
The first trainees — two lieutenant commanders — will undergo training from next Monday to March 24 at the MSDF’s Tokushima Air Base in Tokushima Prefecture. A total of six Philippine pilots will be trained through November next year, the MSDF said Monday.
Japan agreed with the Philippines in May to lease up to five TC-90 aircraft used by the MSDF for pilot training.
It is the first time Self-Defense Forces aircraft have been leased to another country.
The move is believed to have been prompted by the view in the Abe government that helping the Philippines to bolster its maritime patrol capabilities will be beneficial in countering China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.
The TC-90 has a flight range of about 2,000 km, double that of current Philippine Navy aircraft.
Five TC-90 aircraft will be leased to the Philippines, with the first two scheduled to be transferred in March.
The aircraft is also expected to be used for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities.