TWO Japanese reconnaisance aircraft transferred to the Philippine government are expected to upgrade the Southeast Asian country’s surveillance capability over its long coastline, particularly in the hotly-contested reefs and shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
Navy Flag-Officer-in-Command Vice Admiral Ronaldo Joseph Mercado revealed the impending arrival of two TC-90 reconnaissance aerial aircraft during fellowship night with the Defense Press Corps aboard BRP Andres Bonifacio birthed at Pier 13 South Harbor Wednesday.
Mercado said the 2 TC-90 aircraft from the Japan Maritime Defense Force were scheduled to arrive on March 27 this year, the first batch of the five to be delivered to the Philippine government as part of the countries’ bilateral defense cooperation.
“Yes, it will boost our capability on aerial reconnaissance, particularly on maritime surveillance,” Mercado said.
Mercado said the 2 TC-90 in the Air Force inventory would eventually be utilized not only for surveillance purposes, but would also hasten humanitarian assistance and could ferry limited cargoes and personnel for maritime use as well.
The Philippines has 36,289 kms coastline, longer than Australia’s 25,760 kms and Japan’s 29,751 kms but shorter than Russia’s 37,653 kms.
Navy spokesman Capt. Lued Lincuna also said the three TC-90s would be transferred to the Philippine Navy hopefully at the end of the year.
Lincuna said the Japanese surveillance plane would supplement the existing Norman-Britten BN-2 Islander fleet in its maritime missions.
Earlier, the Defense Department said the government would be refitting the TC-90 with necessary equipment following Japan’s stripping some of its tools, to include surveillance systems.
The government would be paying Japan $7,000 for the first four aircraft yearly and $200 for the fifth, or a total of $28,200 as stipulated in the lease contract agreement.
The TC-90, part of the Beechcraft King Air family, is a fixed-wing aircraft and is 50 percent faster in cruising speed, twice the range of the BN-2 and could reach areas faster and also cover more search area, compared to the existing Philippine aircraft which has only a maximum range of 300 kms.