Two of the Five Leased T-C90 Japanese aircraft will be officially transferred to the Philippine Navy next week in a boost for Manila’s limited capabilities and an indicator of the significance of the bilateral defense relationship.
T-C90 Trainer jet is developed by Beechcraft Super King Air and is comprises of number of twin-turboprop models that have been divided into two families; the Model 90 and 100 series developed in the 1960s are known as King Airs, while the later T-tail Model 200 and 300 series were originally marketed as Super King Airs, with "Super" being dropped by Beechcraft in 1996.
The King Air was the first aircraft in its class and has been in continuous production since 1964. It has outsold all of its turboprop competitors combined. It now faces competition from jet aircraft such as the Embraer Phenom 100, Honda HA-420 HondaJet and Cessna Citation Mustang; as well as from newer turboprop aircraft including the Piaggio P180 Avanti, and single-engine Piper Malibu Meridian, Pilatus PC-12, and Socata TBM.
According to the Japan Ministry of Defense’s Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Agency (ATLA), two Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) TC-90 training aircraft will be officially transferred to the Philippine Navy on March 27. In a confirmation on Monday, the agency said that the aircraft would leave on Tokushima Air Base on March 23, with an arrival ceremony to be held at Naval Base Heracleo Alano in Sangley Point, Cavite City.
It had also come shortly after both sides had inked a landmark defense equipment and technology agreement, which was just the fourth Tokyo had signed with any country. As I have pointed out before, though attention tends to be overly focused on the Philippines’ relationship with its treaty ally, the United States, Japan is another of the key security partners that Manila has been cultivating. Thus far, signs are that this is set to continue under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, despite discontinuities in other dimensions of foreign policy
Philippine officials have publicly admitted that the TC-90s would be a much-needed capability boost for the military, which remains one of Asia’s weakest. The planes have around twice the range of the existing Norman-Britten BN-2 Islander fleet, which the navy uses for patrol, surveillance, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and rapid assessment missions. They are also much faster. The aircraft can also be fitted with additional equipment such as basic surface and air surveillance radar that would make it useful on the South China Sea front.
The TC-90s will be used to augment the existing Norman-Britten BN-2 Islander fleet, which the Navy uses in patrol, surveillance and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and rapid assessment missions.
Last November, two Philippine Navy pilots and six air crews left for Japan to start their TC-90 flight training.
The Department of National Defense (DND) earlier announced that the Philippines will re-equip the TC-90s as Japan has stripped them of some equipment, including their surveillance systems.
The country will pay Japan $7,000 USD each for the first four aircraft yearly and only $200 USD for the fifth, for total of $28,200 USD as stipulated in its lease agreement.
The 5 TC-90 Beechcraft Super King Air which would be transferred to the Philippines for lease agreement are part of the active 40 TC-90 Trainer Jet in Japan leaving 35 active in the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) asset inventory.
The DND added it is also looking at the possibility of using the TC-90 for 20 years while the military is upgrading its equipment.
The TC-90, which is part of the Beechcraft King Air aircraft family, was offered by Japan shortly after the Agreement Concerning the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology was finalized Feb. 29 last year.
The TC-90’s patrol range is double that of a small Philippine aircraft, which only has a maximum range of 300 km.