MELBOURNE, Australia ― Japan says it will donate five turboprop training aircraft to the Philippines for use in the maritime patrol role, boosting the Southeast Asian nation’s ability to carry out maritime security operations.

This will include the eventual transfer of two TC-90s currently leased to the Philippines, along with another three aircraft drawn from the inventory of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. The TC-90 is the JMSDF’s designation for the Beechcraft Model 90 King Air twin-engine turboprop aircraft, which is used by the service to train its pilots on multi-engine aircraft operations.

Japan’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency, or ATLA, said in a statement that the two leased aircraft, which had arrived in the Philippines in late March, will be officially transferred to the Philippines in March 2018 along with the transfer of the additional three TC-90s.

A program to train Philippine Air Force crews on the TC-90, which has been ongoing since late 2016 at the JMSDF’s 202nd Naval Air Training Squadron at Tokushima air base, will also conclude at the same time.

ATLA says the transfer has been made possible by the recent revision to Article 116-3 of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces Law, which had previously prohibited the Japanese government from disposal of defense assets without charge.

The Philippines, which is an archipelago made up of more than 7,600 islands, has struggled in recent times with its impoverished military lacking the equipment needed to meet a number of persistent maritime security challenges.

Catch up on the security situation in the Philippines with news and analysis.

These range from territorial disputes with China and other Southeast Asian nations over the ownership of resource-rich islands and features in the South China Sea to piracy, transnational crime and movement of armed insurgents in the Sulu Sea.

In addition to the TC-90s, the Philippines has an ongoing requirement for a more advanced maritime patrol aircraft under its Long Range Patrol Aircraft acquisition program which is seeking two aircraft, although two previous rounds of bidding for the program have failed, reportedly due to potential bidders being unable to meet the budget set aside for the program.

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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