THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is sending four of its best pilots to South Korea to undergo training on flying fighter jets as part of the P18.9-billion contract the Department of National Defense (DnD) signed with Korea Aerospace Industries (KIA) for the supply of 12 FA-50 trainer fighter jets.
Col. Miguel Okol, director for operations of the Philippine Air Force-Air Defense Wing, on Monday said the four PAF men—two test pilots and two operation pilots—would be chosen from among the best in the pool of pilots holding the ranks of captain to major .
Critera, he added, would be based, among others, on the number of hours or jet time each one has logged and the number of years in service.
Okol said those chosen would be sent to South Korea before the end of the year.
He added that they have identified the four most qualified candidates but their names would be announced later for security reasons.
“They would be trained first on how to fly [the FA-50 jets], how to instruct and how to troubleshoot the plane as a test pilot,” he said. “The operative term there is train the trainors first.”
The deal for the 12 lead-in FA-50 training fighter jets was sealed last March, alongside the acquisition of eight utility helicopters worth P4.8 billion from the Canadian Commercial Corp.
Okol said the fresh acquisitions would draw the air force closer to its goal of a minimum credible defense capability.
He explained that the FA-50s would only be part of a defense system the air force is trying to build up that includes radars and long-range patrol aircraft.
Okol clarified that the FA-50s were not the actual fighter jets yet that the PAF wanted, but the real thing was next on their agenda.
He stressed though that the acquisition of FA-50s was positive step towards realizing the PAF’s goal of being able to attain multi-role fighters in the future.
“This is good news and we at the PAF are very excited at this development considering our preponderance for internal defense for the past 11 years,” Okol added. “The next step is the multi-role fighters. That would make us more ready.”
He explained that the two-seater FA-50 plane would serve as a fighter jet and lead-in fighter trainers to help build-up a pool of well-trained pilots in preparation for the acquisition of a more modern single-seater fighter jet.
“They are two-seaters but most of the systems that they have are fighter-like. So it gives us that capability that we can also use for our defense and we can also use it for training,” Okol pointed out.
Delivery of the FA-50s would be 18 months after the signing of the contract or sometime in September 2015.