AT 10 a.m. on Monday, two FA-50 fighter jets will touch down at Air Force City in Clark Air Base, Pampanga, signalling the revival of the Philippine Air Force’s jet or supersonic age.
Piloted by two South Koreans, the two aircraft will take off from the Sancheon Air Base, South Korea, and will be welcomed by top Defense, Armed Forces and Air Force officials when they land at the former US military base.
Delivery of the first batch of FA-50 fighter jets is part of the Air Force modernization program, Col. Enrico Cayanan, Air Force spokesman, said on Wednesday.
The remaining 10 fighter jets will be delivered in batches up to 2017, according to Cayanan.
“This is historic because this will be the first time that we will have supersonic [aircraft]once again since our jets were decommissioned in 2005. This will be the first time that we will have supersonic capability since 2005, so this is the revival of the jet age, supersonic [age],” he said.
Prior to the delivery of the aircraft, Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado had a first-hand experience in “co-piloting” the supersonic planes in South Korea on November 6, 2015.
The FA-50PH piloted by a South Korean, with Delgado as a “back rider,” flew at Mach 1.2 or around 1,482 kilometers per hour earning for himself a “Mach Buster Plaque” for breaking the sound barrier of Mach 1.0.
Three pilots from the Air Defense Wing have undergone training in South Korea in handling the aircraft.
Also, 34 maintenance personnel were also sent there for six to seven-month training.
The Department of National Defense sealed the jet acquisition contract with Korea Aerospace Industries last year at a cost of P18.9 billion.
It originally planned to procure a squadron or 24 jets but reduced 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.