In a notable development for the defense and security landscape of the Philippines, the Department of National Defense (DND) recently signed a contract agreement with Mitsubishi Electric Corporation for the Philippine Air Force’s Horizon 2 Air Surveillance Radar System (ASRS) acquisition project.

This partnership, which comes with a price tag of around PHP5.5 billion ($103.5 million), signifies a milestone in Japan’s defense export policy and marks the first time a Japanese company has transferred finished defense equipment to a foreign government since the establishment of the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology by the Japanese government in 2014.

The ASRS acquisition project is set to significantly bolster the Philippines’ defense capabilities, particularly in airspace surveillance and monitoring, enhancing the security of their extensive coastlines and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The ASRS system is designed to detect, identify, and correlate threats and intrusions within the Philippine EEZ while delivering real-time radar images to decision-makers and relevant operating units.

Let’s dive deeper into the details of this project, its significance, and the broader implications of Japan’s growing involvement in the Philippines’ defense sector.

Japan’s Pivot Toward Defense Equipment Export

The contract signed in 2020 with Mitsubishi Electric Corporation represents a new chapter in Japan’s defense policy.

It showcases Japan’s willingness to engage in defense equipment export to promote international peace, as per the restructured government policy.

This deal also marks a significant departure from Japan’s traditionally restrictive stance on exporting defense equipment and technology.

The ASRS project is not only a major step in strengthening the Philippines’ defense capabilities but also a testament to the evolving dynamics in the Indo-Pacific region.

Japan and the Philippines: An Expanding Partnership

The ASRS acquisition project is a product of the robust partnership between Japan and the Philippines.

This partnership extends beyond defense procurement, encompassing various aspects of cooperation, from economic and social growth to infrastructure development and armed forces modernization.

The two countries share a commitment to maritime domain awareness, freedom of navigation, and the security of their respective economic zones.

The ASRS sites will strategically cover large areas of the Philippine Rise, southern regions of the country, and the southern portion of the West Philippine Sea.

These installations are pivotal for ensuring optimal airspace monitoring, aircraft control, and air defense missions, significantly enhancing security in areas of vital national interest as identified by the DND.

General Romeo Brawner Jr., the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), emphasized the importance of the coastal radar systems funded through Japan’s Official Security Assistance (OSA) program.

These systems are considered a vital addition to the AFP’s maritime defense capabilities, further empowering the monitoring and protection of the extensive coastline, thereby ensuring the safety and security of the seas.

The collaboration between the two nations in the defense sector is also grounded in an agreement signed in 2016, which focuses on transferring defense equipment and technology—thus paving the way for tangible projects that contribute to both countries’ defense and security.

The Role of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation’s role in this project is pivotal.

The company delivered the first unit of the air surveillance radar system to the Philippine Air Force last month, with additional units in progress for future delivery.

The package includes three fixed long-range air surveillance radars, each with building facilities and a mobile air surveillance radar. These radar systems are designed, manufactured, and tested in Japan, showcasing the country’s technological prowess in defense.

They are set to become a fundamental component of the Philippines’ defense infrastructure, enabling the detection and monitoring of threats and intrusions within its exclusive economic zone.

Mitsubishi Electric’s involvement in this project marks a significant milestone for Japan’s defense equipment exports. It is the first instance of a Japanese company delivering finished defense equipment to a foreign government since the inception of the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology in 2014.

The company’s contribution to Japan’s security involves cooperation with the Japanese government to meet the needs for joint development, equipment transfer, and participation in supply chains involving various governments and companies in other countries.

This grant also reflects a growing trend of international collaboration in the defense sector, with countries like Japan expanding their role in providing state-of-the-art defense technology to allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

Significance and Implications

The ASRS acquisition project is of paramount importance for the Philippines as it significantly enhances the nation’s defense capabilities, particularly in monitoring its airspace, securing its coastlines, and protecting its exclusive economic zone.

In an era marked by geopolitical shifts and changing security dynamics, having advanced radar systems is a strategic imperative.

Furthermore, the partnership between Japan and the Philippines underscores the broader regional context of the Indo-Pacific, reflecting on its shared commitment to promoting regional peace, stability, and security.

Both countries are keen to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in their respective economic zones, and the project contributes to the broader efforts to maintain open and secure seas in the Indo-Pacific region.


In conclusion, the Philippine Air Force’s Horizon 2 Air Surveillance Radar System acquisition project, in collaboration with Japan and Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, is a significant milestone for the Philippines and Japan and a testament to the evolving dynamics of the Indo-Pacific region.

The project not only strengthens the Philippines’ defense capabilities but also highlights Japan’s growing role in defense equipment export, demonstrating the potential for increased collaboration among countries in the region to address common security challenges.

As the project progresses, it will likely have a lasting impact on the defense and security landscape of the Philippines and the broader Indo-Pacific region.