THE Department of National Defense (DND) is investing some P11 billion for the acquisition of two long-range patrol aircraft and six close-air support planes, which the Philippine Air Force (PAF) will use to patrol the country’s territorial boundaries, including the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya on Wednesday said the DND’s move will boost the morale of the Air Force, whose capability to effectively secure the country’s territorial boundaries has long been hampered by its limited resources of aging and obsolete air assets.
“These types of aircraft are [of]long endurance and more capable in terms of documenting or settling in relation to the conduct [of aerial patrols]. We have been looking ever since to have this type of capability,” Canaya said. “It will be a welcome development, we are happy that it [procurement]is now at the bidding stage.”
At present, Canaya said, the PAF is using a Fokker aircraft that also doubles as a transport plane if the need arises but with the acquisition of two long-range patrol planes, the AFP would now have a dedicated air asset for the purpose.
According to him, the six close-air support (CAS) planes would replace the PAF’s aging OV-10 Bronco fleet that it currently uses for CAS and aerial reconnaissance.
The DND has allotted P5.976 billion for its long-range patrol aircraft acquisition project and P4.968 billion for the CAS project.
The amount will be sourced from the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund provided by Republic Act 10349 or the Revised AFP Modernization Program.
Last March, the DND awarded an P18.9-billion contract to Korea Aerospace Industries for the supply of 12 FA-50 training fighter jets and another P4.8 billion for eight utility helicopters from the Canadian Commercial Corp.
Delivery of the FA-50s will be within 18 months after the signing of the contract or sometime in September 2015.