Japan is to lease five Beech TC-90 King Air trainer aircraft to the Philippines for maritime patrol operations. The aircraft, previously operated by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, will be used to patrol Philippine-claimed waters and outcrops in the disputed South China Sea. It is not yet clear if they will be used merely for visual observation or whether some sort of surveillance radar will be installed.
Plans for the lease deal were confirmed by Philippine President Benigno Aquino during a speech at a change of command ceremony on March 9 for the chief of the Philippine Air Force at Fernando Air Base. Final details, including the cost and length of the lease, have yet to be agreed and no possible timescale for deliveries has been announced.
Initially, Japan had wanted to donate the TC-90s to the Philippines, but this was prevented by current Japanese law, which prohibits free transfer of government assets to another current. The leasing option was therefore determined as the best option to overcome this problem. Manila has been looking at options for additional maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) for several years. In 2014 a tender was issued for two long-range MPAs, but it appears not of the offers were suitable. Last year, the possible acquisition of surplus Japanese P-3C Orions was also being looked at, but nothing further has come of this proposal as yet. Alan Warnes