In a latest announcement dated December 11, 2022, Japan pledged to donate a number of UH-1J helicopters to enhance the disaster response capabilities of the Army Aviation Regiment of the Philippine Army.
Japan operates a fleet of about 153 legendary Bell UH-1 helicopters, including UH-1H and UH-1J versions. While still in good working order, they will gradually be replaced by the Bell 412, a more advanced generation of utility helicopters from the Huey family. In a latest announcement dated December 11, 2022, Japan pledged to donate a number of UH-1J helicopters to enhance the disaster response capabilities of the Army Aviation Regiment of the Philippine Army.
Deliveries of UH-1Js will be made through a government grant. This is a sign of the growing defense relationship between the two countries. It should be noted that the Philippines has experience operating a squadron of 13 Bell UH-1Hs, but there is a huge difference between these Japanese-made UH-1J and the Hueys that the Philippine Air Force retired from service recently.
The UH-1Js were built under license in Japan by Fuji Heavy Industries from 1993 to 1998. They are much younger than the Hueys used by the Philippine Air Force, built from the late 1960s to mid 1970s. Basically, Japanese Hueys still have a long service life.
Compared to the older UH-1H, the UH-1J is equipped with a more powerful Kawasaki-Lycoming T53-L-703 turboshaft engine that produces the same power as the Super Hueys. The main rotor and transmission taken from the Bell 212, a tail rotor similar to those used by the Bell AH-1S Cobra, a vibration reduction system, a night vision goggle-compatible cockpit, and infrared countermeasures system. It also has the pointier nose from the Bell 212 which makes it easier to differentiate from the short-nose UH-1H.
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.
Receiving the UH-1J will also open up opportunities for defense cooperation between the two countries. Specifically, the Philippine Army will likely keep an eye on the Subaru-Bell UH-2 for its multi-purpose combat helicopter requirements instead of the Polish-built Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk.