The government is eyeing four foreign companies from as many countries to provide it with 12 new surface attack aircraft to start the Air Force’s long-delayed modernization program.
Those are the KAI TA-50 “Golden Eagle” of South Korea, the Alenia Aermacchi Agusta M-346 Master of Italy, the Yak-130 of Russia, and the BAE Hawk of the United Kingdom.
The Air Forces says it needs to immediately procure surface attack aircraft as those will serve as lead-in attack planes and as trainer aircraft for prospective jet fighter pilots.
The Air Force was left with no jet fighters after it decommissioned the F-5A/B interceptors in 2005 because they were obsolete and their parts were no longer available in the international market. The Navy is in the same dilemma as many of its ships are of World War II vintage.
The Air Force and the Navy failed to intercept 26 foreign ships that intruded into Philippine territory during the first quarter this year. They have also failed to break their standoff with China at the Scarborough Shoal, where scores of Chinese fishing vessels were found to have been poaching since April this year.
The military has welcomed the announcement by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin that the Aquino administration is determined to modernize the Armed Forces.
“The upgrade and modernization program for our Armed Forces is presently in full swing,” Gazmin said recently.
He said the Defense Department was working double time to approve contracts for 138 projects to be implemented over the next five years.
“These projects would surely provide the Philippine Air Force with brand-new and reliable assets for its operations, along with the operational requirements of the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Army,” Gazmin said.
The military has said it plans to acquire a surface attack aircraft, a lead-in fighter trainer, attack helicopters, a light transport aircraft, and a medium transport aircraft to be delivered in 2014.
South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle is a jet trainer and light attack aircraft designed to provide pilot training for current and next-generation fighters such as the F-15, F-16, F-18, F-22, F-35, the Tornado, the Kfir and the Mirage supersonic jet interceptors.
The Air Force says the T-50 is a trainer jet but can be used as an interceptor as it has a maximum speed of 1,837 kilometers per hour. The range and service ceiling of the aircraft are 1,851 kilometers and 16,764 meters, respectively. Its service life is 10,000 hours.
The Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master is a military transonic trainer aircraft that has a top speed of mach 1.15 or 1,255 kilometers per hour.
The M-346 Hawk can be armed with air-to-air missiles, air-to ground missiles, cannons and bombs. It can also be deployed as a light attack aircraft.
The British-made BAE Hawk MK 127/128 Lift lead-in fighter is in the service of several countries.