Philippines Air Force to Get 10 More Attack Helicopters
BEFORE the end of the year, the Philippines would have 10 new attack helicopters, and the go-ahead has also been given for the purchase of 12 surface attack aircraft/lead-in fighter-trainer (SAA/LIFT) to form part of the P75-billion modernization program of the Armed Forces.
This was revealed by the Air Force commander, Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino de la Cruz, who flew in from Europe through the Middle East on Monday afternoon, after participating in the Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom (UK).
“I was able to take a firsthand look at some of the industry participants, talk to some of them and would now report to senior leaders in the Armed Forces the best options available for the country,” he said during a brief interview at the airport.
The purchase of the attack helicopters has been approved and these would be provided by Italy.
“I was in Italy to look at some of the attack helicopters that were offered and hopefully, we will have them by the end of the year,” he added.
He said the Philippines preferred the Italian models because they are cheaper compared to those made by Americans, which are top of the line and are very expensive.
The attack helicopters would replace the ageing OV-10 “Bronco” armed reconnaisance planes and MG-520 attack helicopters currently in the Air Force inventory.
De la Cruz said the acquisition would be purely for defense purposes.
“The Armed Forces concentrated on dealing with internal insurgency until we realize the need for credible defense following the row with China over the Spratlys,” he said.
Col. Miguel Okol, Air Force spokesman, said the command was given authority to proceed with the 38 projects lined up to beef up its assets. These include the purchase of medium and light lift aircraft as replacement for the C-130 “Hercules” troop and transport carrier, long-range patrol aircraft, radars, SAA/LIFT and attack helicopters.
From one of the best in Southeast Asia in the 1960s, the Air Force fleet gradually deteriorated and became obsolete without being replaced, leaving the country with no external defense capability.
To upgrade the entire military’s capabilities, the Department of National Defense and Armed Forces are working to fast-track the approval by July this year of a total of 138 contracts.
The contracts, mostly aimed at boosting badly depleted air and naval assets, would be implemented during the Aquino administration.