The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) has committed to transfer a number of Japanese-made UH-1J utility helicopters to beef up the disaster response capabilities of the Army Aviation Regiment of the Philippine Army (PA). The JGSDF pledge was announced on the sidelines of a bilateral meeting between the two armies during the first-ever Japan-Philippine-US Trilateral Key Leaders’ Engagement at Camp Asaka, Tokyo, Japan on December 11, 2022. The donation of UH-1J aircraft is expected to be received in two to three years. The transfer will be made through a government grant. The nascent partnership would bring about mutually beneficial outcomes for both the Philippine Army and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
The utility helicopters will significantly boost the capabilities of the Army Aviation Regiment, especially in the field of humanitarian assistance and disaster response, medical evacuation, transport of personnel and supplies and for damage assessment flights in times of national emergencies and calamities. The Army Aviation Regiment currently has around five to six aircraft in its inventory. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has a long history of acquiring United States Air Force assets, including the Bell UH-1. In AFP service, the type was regularly used to combat local insurgents as well as to conduct disaster relief operations after several earthquakes and typhoons hit the nation.
During 2013, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) was pursuing the acquisition of 21 used UH-1H helicopters; the deal reportedly included their refurbishment prior to delivery. Furthermore, during October 2019, the Philippines made a deal with Japan to acquire some of its spare parts inventory; this reportedly was to facilitate the restoration of seven stored UH-1s to flightworthy condition. By January 2021, the PAF had 13 UH-1H and 10 UH-1D helicopters in an operational condition. On 14 October 2021, the PAF officially decommissioned the remainder of its UH-1D fleet, despite some having only been acquired seven years prior; the retired rotorcraft were stored at Clark Air Base.
The Bell UH-1 Iroquois (nicknamed “Huey”) is a utility military helicopter designed and produced by the American aerospace company Bell Helicopter. It is the first member of the prolific Huey family, as well as the first turbine-powered helicopter in service with the United States military. Fuji-Bell UH-1J is an improved Japanese version of the UH-1H built under license in Japan by Fuji Heavy Industries for the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. Among improvements were an Allison T53-L-703 turboshaft engine providing 1,343 kW (1,800 shp), a vibration-reduction system, infrared countermeasures, and a night-vision-goggle (NVG) compatible cockpit. Japan’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency is planned for a locally-built model of the twin-engined multirole Bell 412 helicopter to replace the remaining UH-1s in Japanese service.