The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) has committed to transferring an unspecified number of Fuji Heavy Industries-made UH-1J Huey utility helicopters to the Philippine Army in a bid to bolster the Army Aviation Regiment’s humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR) capabilities.
Commenting on the move in a statement issued on December 19, Col Xerxes Trinidad – the Philippine Army spokesperson – highlighted that the transfer will be completed through a government grant, adding that the donation of an undeclared number of UH-1J helicopters is expected to be received in the next two or three years. The Japanese pledge was announced during a bilateral meeting between the two armies at the inaugural Japan-Philippine-US Trilateral Key Leaders’ Engagement at Camp Asaka in Tokyo, Japan, on December 11.
The deal will represent a major boost to the capability output of the Army Aviation Regiment, which currently has just five/six aircraft in its inventory. When operational, these soon-to-be former JGSDF UH-1Js will help the Philippine Army to significantly bolster its ability to carry out HA/DR missions, along with medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), troop transport and damage assessment operations in times of national emergencies and crises.
License-built by Fuji Heavy Industries in Japan, the UH-1J Huey entered operational JGSDF service in 1993, with 130 examples delivered to the air arm in total. The final aircraft was delivered to the JGSDF in January 2012. Japan is believed to still operate approximately 128 UH-1Js, with the type boasting a low attrition rate, having lost just two examples in heavy landings on June 21, 2019, and February 7, 2020, respectively.
In a recent meeting between Lt Gen Romeo S Brawner Jr, commander of the Philippine Army, and the JGSDF Chief of Staff, Gen Yoshida Yoshihide, the two army leaders also discussed the potential of increasing military cooperation between the two services in capability development, training and exercises, as well as the provision of defence materiel assistance. Brawner noted that this partnership would be mutually beneficial for both the Philippine Army and the JGSDF.
“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,” he said.