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Aerospace & Defense

Philippines radar deal marks Japan's first arms export

Mitsubishi Electric's detection system to help Manila monitor the South China Sea

Members of the Philippine Air Force inspect helicopters near Manila. The new radars are expected to help Manila better monitor activities in the South China Sea.

TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Electric will supply warning and control radar systems to the Philippines, in what would be Japan's first export of finished defense equipment since it lifted a ban on such transfers in 2014.

The Tokyo-based company has signed a roughly $100 million contract with the Philippine defense ministry for four radar systems, which will be used to detect fighter jet and missile activity, the Japanese Ministry of Defense announced Friday.

"Having warning radars in the Philippines matches our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific," Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono told reporters.

The Philippine Air Force began evaluating options for new radars in 2018. Mitsubishi Electric will develop and manufacture the equipment based on the air force's requirements. Japan hopes the new systems will help the Philippines track China's expansionist moves in the South China Sea.

"The Philippines is located by the Bashi Channel and other critical sea lanes, and is working to monitor these waters," Kono said. "The use of Japanese technology there will be a step toward stronger cooperation."

Japan lifted its ban on weapons exports in 2014 under the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, which allow the overseas handover of defense instruments if it "contributes to Japan's security."

The country so far has only exported parts and not finished products. "The transfer of finished equipment will strengthen Japan's defense industry," Kono said.

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