Frigates, anti-sub choppers, surveillance planes in DND shopping list
CLARK FREEPORT ZONE: President Benigno Aquino 3rd has authorized the Department of National Defense to enter into a P44-billion multi-year contract for seven major military acquisitions as part of measures to beef up the armed forces, a defense official announced Saturday.
Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo told reporters, who witnessed the arrival of the first two of 12 FA-50 Golden Eagle lead-in fighter-trainer jets acquired by the government from South Korea, that the President signed the proposal last Friday, November 27.
“In-approve na ni Presidente iyong authority ni SND (Secretary of National Defense) to enter into a multi-year contract for seven projects,” Manalo, the official in charge of the military’s modernization program, said.
He said among those in the “new” shopping list were two frigates, anti-submarine helicopters, amphibious assault vehicles, long range patrol aircraft, close air support aircraft, munitions for the FA-50s and an air surveillance radar for the Philippine Air Force.
The payment for the projects will start from 2015 to 2017 or 2018, Manalo said.
It was not clear if Manalo’s disclosure was a repeat of what he said last July.
He then said that the President had signed a P60 billion “shopping list” last July 22.
Included in the list were frigates worth P18 billion, three air surveillance radars worth P2.68 billion, six close air support aircraft worth P4.97 billion, two units of long range patrol aircraft worth P5.98 billion, multi-purpose attack craft project worth P864.32 million, night fighting system worth P1.116 billion; two C-130 aircraft worth P1.6 billion, two naval helicopters worth P5.4 billion and lead-in fighter trainer jets ammunition worth P4.47 billion.
The July shopping list also includes four basing support system and logistics projects with a total budget of P2.15 billion, radio communications system for the Philippine Army, thermal imaging device, field ambulance units, armored personnel carriers, flight simulators, amphibious assault vehicles, combat systems, light utility vehicles and engineering equipment.
The ‘Eagles’ have landed
The delivery of the two FA-50 jets marked the country’s return to supersonic fighter jet status after almost a decade, amid growing tensions with China.
The two new aircraft are the first of an order of 12 and signal a new readiness by Manila to assert itself militarily.
The two fighters, flown from Seoul by South Korean pilots, were met in Philippine airspace by two Italian-made S211 subsonic jets which escorted them to the Clark Air Base where they were received by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado, commanding general of the Philippine Air Force.
The two FA-50s and the two S-211 flew in a diamond formation to symbolize their “integration” into the Philippine Air Force before landing. The new jets were given a “water cannon salute” as they taxied into the Haribon Hangar.
“We’re glad. We are finally back to the supersonic age,” he told reporters as he inspected the “Golden Eagle” jets.
Gazmin has said the aircraft could serve as both trainers and fighters, and that among the areas they would be posted will be the western island of Palawan, the country’s closest point to the West Philippine Sea where the Philippines has a territorial dispute with China.
China claims most of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea and even up to the coastline of its neighbours. Other countries have conflicting claims and the Philippines has been the most vocal in opposing China despite its overwhelming military superiority.
The cash-strapped Philippines, which is also battling internal communist and Muslim insurgencies, has long neglected external defense, relying on ageing ships and aircraft to patrol the disputed waters.
It retired the last of its supersonic fighter jets, US-made F-5 Freedom Fighters, in 2005 due to their age and since then has relied on propeller-driven planes and the Italian-made S211.
The S211s are intended for training new pilots and are not capable of supersonic flight. But the military has been forced to use them for other roles such as patrolling territory and conducting bombing missions on insurgents.
However, as the country’s economy improved, Philippine President Benigno Aquino has been upgrading the military, acquiring two surplus frigates from the United States and new aircraft from different sources.
The two new FA-50s are part of the P18.9 million contract entered into by the government with the Korea Aerospace Industries. All 12 aircraft are expected to be completely delivered by 2017.
The armed forces earlier said the new fighter jets will be based in the former Cubi Air Station in Subic while the new frigates would also be home-ported at the former US naval base.
The fighter jets would still have to undergo technical inspection and acceptance flights before it would be turned over to the PAF.
The PAF sent three pilots to South Korea early this year to undergo training in operating the FA-50.
Lt. Col. Rolando Peña 3rd, one of the pilots who wento to Korea for flight training, said they trained with Korean fighter pilots for six and a half months.
“We had instructor pilots who are one of the best fighter pilots of Korea and the training was tough because we have to learn the system of the aircraft because it is a fly by wire aircraft so it’s really different from what we used to fly,” he said.