MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has received a surveillance radar system from Japan as part of the first major equipment transfer since the Japanese government lifted its post-war defense export ban in 2014.
The delivery comes amid clashes between the Philippines and China over contested territory in the South China Sea.
Japan’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency announced the delivery Nov. 2 on social media, the same day Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addressed the Philippine Congress during a two-day visit to the Southeast Asian nation.
The new warning and control radar system, FPS-3ME, can detect multiple fighter jets and ballistic missiles. The FPS-3ME is an improved version of the J/FPS-3 radar, which has been used by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, according to manufacturer Mitsubishi Electric Corp.
The Japanese company in August 2020 signed a contract with the Philippine Defense Department worth about $100 million for four FPS-3ME radars. Domestic production for the first radar concluded in October 2022, and the Philippine Air Force received it last week.
The second radar is meant for the Philippine Navy, and its acquisition is possible thanks to $4.2 million from a Japanese-run security assistance program, according to the Japanese and Philippine governments.
Neither the Japanese government nor Mitsubishi have disclosed the status of the remaining radar systems on order.
“The coastal radar systems … are a vital addition to the [Armed Forces of the Philippines’] maritime defense capabilities and will bolster our ability to monitor and protect our extensive coastline, ensuring the safety and security of our seas,” Gen. Romeo Brawner, the military’s chief of staff, said in a statement.
In his speech before the Philippine lawmakers, Kishida said enhancing the Philippines’ security contributes to “regional peace and stability.”
Philippine ships have clashed with Chinese vessels around the Scarborough Shoal and near the Spratly Islands in recent months. China claims nearly the entire South China Sea as its own, while several other nations also claim territory in the area.
“The Philippines faces important sea lanes for Japan including the South China Sea and the Luzon Strait,” Japan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a Nov. 3 statement. “To ensure the safety and security of these sea lanes, it is very timely and crucial that the maritime domain awareness (MDA) capabilities of the Department of National Defense, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines and especially the Philippine Navy, are enhanced for the effective monitoring of these sea lanes and waters.”
Leilani Chavez is an Asia correspondent for Defense News. Her reporting expertise is in East Asian politics, development projects, environmental issues and security.