For the longest time, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has been the most pathetic branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Compared to the country’s neighbors, our poor excuse of an air force—with its obsolete jets, Vietnam War-era helicopters, and training planes that frequently crashed—looked the least prepared to protect a nation’s skies.
The PAF had seemingly lost the pride it had in earlier decades when its Blue Diamond squadron would fly in formation every Independence Day, sending the mighty message that they would perform their role as protector and defender of Philippine skies with ease.
Because the hardware of the PAF was not properly upgraded to keep pace with other countries, many an Air Force pilot would switch to the more lucrative private sector, flying commercial airliners at top pay.
Who could blame them?
Because they were flying old aircraft, they felt that they were exposing their lives to unwarranted danger every time they took to the skies, which was often.
The PAF not only provided air support for our ground troops whenever they were battling the New People’s Army, the Abu Sayyaf or rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front, they were also called upon to aid victims of natural disasters, flying in much-needed supplies or flying out the old or the injured.
Now, the PAF can finally look forward to the upgrade that should have occurred decades ago, when the modernization of the AFP first became law.
The young pilots who were waiting for the government to purchase new planes for them to fly have become middle aged men due to the long wait. But soon, they will be able to take to the skies in brand new fighter jets.
As part of his state visit to South Korea, President Benigno Aquino 3rd said the Philippines was close to sealing a deal with a state-owned Korean aerospace company for the purchase of a dozen FA-50 fighter jets.
The contract is valued at P18.9 billion and is expected to bolster the PAF’s ability to defend Philippine air space in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
The 12 jets comprise a full squadron. This is not enough to fully cover the entire air space of the country, but it’s as good a start as any.
President Aquino said he discussed the purchase of the brand new multi-role combat aircraft from the Korean Aerospace Industries Inc. when he met with South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the start of his two-day state visit on Thursday.
The PAF can take heart that the dozen fighter jets are neither second hand, nor donations from friendly countries. They are brand new units that the Philippines will pay for. No more begging for reconditioned units that may or may not even be airworthy.
In the near term, it is hoped that the government also procure helicopters for the PAF.
Filipinos want to be proud of their air force. Finally, the opportunity has presented itself with the pending purchase of 12 high-quality Korean jets.