TOKYO - Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force said Monday it will start training Philippine naval pilots next week to fly TC-90 aircraft to be leased to the Southeast Asian country from March for maritime patrol and other purposes.
The first trainees -- two lieutenant commanders -- will undergo training from next Monday through 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 in a press release.
Japan agreed with the Philippines in May to lease up to five TC-90 aircraft used by the MSDF for pilot training. For the first time, Japanese Self-Defense Forces aircraft are to be leased to another country. Tokyo apparently hopes that assisting the Philippines' efforts to bolster its maritime patrolling capabilities will be beneficial in countering China's assertiveness in the South China Sea.
The TC-90 aircraft has a flight range of about 2,000 kilometers, double that of current Philippine Navy aircraft. A total of five TC-90 aircraft will be leased to the Philippines, with the first two scheduled to be transferred there around March.
The aircraft is also expected to be used for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities.