In a Twitter video last week, the Japan Joint Staff (JJS) of the Japan Self-Defense Forces said on June 26, its P-3C anti-submarine patrol aircraft with 19 crew members had returned to Japan safely after almost two months at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.
“We sincerely appreciate your kindness to offer help when we were facing difficulties. We will never forget our strong ties. Thank you, Vietnam,” the JJS said.
The aircraft was on its way home following an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden in the Middle East and in dire need of a refueling station to help complete its 10,000 km (over 6,200 miles) journey, intensified since no country would let them enter due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When we had difficulty in securing transit point due to the spread of the Covid-19, VN readily agreed to received the P-3C at Tan Son Nhat for refueling,” it said.
On April 29, the aircraft landed at Tan Son Nhat. But after getting the fuel, engine trouble during take-off has grounded the aircraft.
“Vietnam admitted the SDF [Self-Defense Forces] personnel into the country and offered a rest space.”
“It took about two months for the maintenance of the P-3C and accompanying coordination. Vietnam gave us its full support,” the JJS said.
Vietnam also allowed Japan to send technicians over, bringing along a new engine to replace the broken one.
Japan’s Embassy in Vietnam said all Japanese technicians had tested negative for Covid-19 before the trip to Vietnam. When landing in HCMC, they were sent to quarantine for 14 days before starting work to repair the plane.
The P-3C is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed for the U.S. Navy. Since 2009, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force had deployed the aircraft on anti-piracy patrols.