THE Philippine Air Force (PAF) is drawing closer to its quest of going back to fighter jet operations with the expected initial delivery anytime this month or early next year of two of the 12 FA-50 lead-in fighter jets from South Korea.
The Department of National Defense (DND) sealed the jet acquisition contract last March at a cost of P18.9 billion.|
It originally planned to procure a squadron or 24 jets but reduce it to 12 because of funding problem.
The Philippines was the first Southeast Asian country to have supersonic fighter jets when it acquired 23 brand-new F-5 jets in 1965 from the US under a bilateral assistance pact.
The FA-50s would replace the F-5 jet fighters, which were retired in 2004.
Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol, Director for Operations, Air Defense Wing, on Wednesday said the initial delivery of the two fighter jets is scheduled between December 15 and January 16, adding that the mode of delivery is being ironed out with the supplier, Korean Aerospace Industry (KAI).
Okol said the P18.9-billion bill for the two jets did not include cost of armaments and weapons worth at least P5 billion and the basing cost of the jets.
According to Okol, the jets would either be flown to the Philippines or reassembled here.
At KAI’s expense, he said, three veteran Air Force pilots and 34 maintenance personnel would also be sent to South Korea for six to seven-month training.
Okol added that the maintenance team, composed of two officers and 32 enlisted personnel, would be trained on the various systems of the plane, including electrical, hydraulics, radar, avionics and armaments, while the three pilots would undergo basic flying training with the Korean Air Force.
All three pilots, all with the rank of major, were chosen based on their flying experience.
According to Okol, another batch of pilots, holding the ranks of captain and lieutenant, would be sent to South Korea after four months to undergo a three-month simulation training at the KAI facility.
He explained that the FA-50 lead-in fighter jets were not yet the real thing but said their acquisition was a positive step toward realizing the PAF’s goal of being able to attain multi-role fighter jets in the future.
He said the two-seater FA-50 planes would serve as fighters jet and lead-in fighter trainers to help build up a pool of well-trained pilots in preparation for acquisition of a more modern single-seater fighter jets.