By Froi Garces
JAPAN has pledged two uprated Huey helicopters to the Philippine Army even as it unveiled plans to ramp-up military spendings in the next five years to counter regional threats.
The pledge happened during a side-meeting between the Philippine army chief and the chief of staff of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) in Tokyo last December 11.
It is not yet clear whether Japan will donate the two choppers, or will be sold through a financing term through official development assistance.
The Philippine Army said the Japanese committed two UH-1J utility helicopters.
UH-1J is Japan’s variant of the Huey choppers which are staples in the Philippine Air Force fleet.
Fuji Heavy Industries produced the 14th Brigade’s Aviation Squadron UH-1J helicopter.
According to globalsecurity.org, Fuji has produced 78 UH-1J since 1993. Compared with the Hueys that Filipino chopper pilots are used to, the engine of the Japanese variant is upgraded with Kawasaki T53-K-703 turboshaft engine with 1,800 horsepower. It also includes a vibration reduction system, an infrared exhaust suppressor, a night-vision-goggle-compatible cockpit, and two-bladed main and tail rotors.
Again, it is not yet known if the two soon-to-be-given Japan-made Hueys are hand-me-downs or newly-built choppers.
Last year, the Philippine Air Force has decommissioned 10 Huey choppers after three air accidents killed 14 passengers. For decades, Huey choppers had been partners of the Armed Forces in both combat and civic operations.
The Tokyo meeting
Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo S. Brawner, Jr. participated in the Japan-US-Philippines trilateral Key Leaders’ Engagement at Camp Asaka, Tokyo, Japan on December 11.
On the sidelines, he held a bilateral meeting with JGSDF Chief of Staff, Gen. Yoshida Yoshihide. Both sides identified possible areas of military cooperation including capability development, training and exercises, as well as defense materiel assistance.
“As we all know, the Philippines and Japan are within the Pacific Ring of Fire and we experience so many disasters every year. By collaborating, all of our Armies will be able to cooperate on ensuring that our people are safe as we face the various calamities that come to our land every year,” Brawner said.
The donation of UH-1J aircraft is expected to be received two to three years from now, he added.
The utility helicopters will significantly boost the capabilities of the Army Aviation “Hiraya” Regiment, especially in the field of humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR), medical evacuation, transport of personnel and supplies, and for damage assessment flights in times of national emergencies and calamities.
Japan’s new defense posture in Asia
Amidst the backdrop of increased military cooperation among defense allies — the Philippines, Japan and the United States — Japan has taken a big leap of building up its defense capability.
On Friday, Japan disclosed its biggest military build-up since World War Two with a $320 billion plan to enable the once pacifist nation to counter threats from China and North Korea.
It aims to double defense spending to 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in the next five years from the previous commitment of 1% GDP allocation.
The shift was a complete turn around from Japan’s post-war stance wherein the nation under its constitution renounces war and forbids it from using force to settle international disputes.
While its military is limited to a strictly defensive role, Japan will now take on a more aggressive stance to “various security challenges that we face’,according to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
photos courtesy Philippine Army FB