Where are the guns?

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THE AIR UP THERE  A news photographer on board one of the Huey helicopters used in Tuesday’s demonstration flight takes a snap.  PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

THE AIR UP THERE
A news photographer on board one of the Huey helicopters used in Tuesday’s demonstration flight takes a snap.
PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

MUNTINLUPA City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon–at 80–still looked every inch a Marine as he stood ramrod-straight at the Camp Aguinaldo grounds to await the arrival of a flight of UH-1D helicopters that were flying in from Villamor Air Base on Tuesday.

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The helicopters were among the 21 combat utility helicopters that were part of the controversial P1.2-billion project, which The Manila Times earlier exposed as allegedly anomalous after a revelation made by Rhodora Alvarez, who claimed she was privy to the deal between the Department of National Defense (DND) and Rice Aircraft Services Inc.

Only seven of the 21 helicopters were delivered after the project was partly terminated a month after The Manila Times published a series of reports on alleged irregularities in the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philipines (AFP).

Biazon, a Marine soldier who once ruled Camp Aguinaldo as chief of staff of the AFP during the first Aquino administration, had spent countless hours flying in Huey helicopters.

When he spoke during a briefing before an actual demonstration flight with the media got underway, he took note of one detail–the combat helicopters had no guns.

Biazon said if the helicopters were indeed “combat mission” capable, the guns should have been mounted.

No one from among the DND and military officials that included Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin replied to the congressman’s query.

But after Biazon left, the officials told the reporters who pressed them for answers that the guns were removed before the helicopters took off from Villamor Air Base “because it was a public test flight.”

The officials then showed the gun mounts attached to the aircraft.

In his impromptu speech, Biazon said the House of Representatives will include the P1.2-billion helicopter deal in its “sunset review” of the AFP modernization program.

He added that the House Committee on National Defense and Security will look into, among others, the legality and practicality of the acquisition of the helicopters. The hearing is set for July 29.

Gazmin, commanding general of the Presidential Security Group when Biazon was AFP chief, said the DND welcomes the review and investigation even as he pointed out that all the allegations about the helicopters’ acquisition particularly the alleged kickbacks or commission were all lies.

“They are all lies. They are mere allegations of one [person]. She should substantiate her allegations. They are nothing. Did you hear the admission of [Robert] Rice (of Rice Aircraft Services Inc. or RASI) that she was the one asking [for kickbacks]. She is circumventing the issue,” Gazmin told reporters at the sidelines of the flight demonstration.

He was apparently referring to whistleblower Rhodora Alvarez, the principal source of The Manila Times series that uncovered the alleged anomalies behind the acquisition of the helicopters from RASI and Eagle Copters Ltd.

Gazmin, together with DND and Philippine Air Force officials, led the presentation of the seven UH-1D helicopters that was followed by a public test flight. Fourteen reporters, photographers and television cameramen joined the flight from the AFP Grandstand to San Mateo, Rizal, and back.

“We decided to bring the seven helicopters to see them for yourselves and the two UH-1H so you can compare their difference and capability,” he said.

Gazmin added that he himself rode the controversial choppers several times and he “is still alive.”

He noted that the aircraft were not defective as earlier alleged because if they were, they would not be accepted by the AFP’s Technical Inspection Advisory Committee (TIAC).

An Air Force’s presentation said the TIAC ensured that the items delivered are in accordance with specifications stipulated in procurement documents. The committee accepted the items and forwarded the acceptance report to Procurement Center or Contracting Office.

Col. Dino Diño, TIAC chairman, said the seven helicopters underwent proper procedures pursuant to existing rules.

The seven helicopters were accepted by TIAC from August 20 to December 26, 2014 and were gradually turned over to the Air Force from October 23 to February 2015.

Col. Moises Micor, director for operations of the Air Force’s 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing, said that in comparison, UH-1D is much better than the UH-1H based on specifications upgrades and modifications.

“With the noted differences between the two models, we can conclude that the UH-1D is at par in terms of performance, if not much better than the UH-1H,” he added.

The decision to fly select reporters and photographers aboard the UH-ID helicopters was aimed at disproving allegations that the aircraft are not air worthy and mission capable.

The demonstration flights took off from Camp Aguinaldo at 11:07 a.m. and made a short flight to San Mateo, Rizal. The aircraft and their passengers arrived at the military base at 11:46 a.m. safe and sound.

“[The flight demonstration and briefing] aims to correct allegations coming out in the media [that the UH-IDs]are defective and not flyable. We thought it prudent to bring the helicopters here and let the media know about their capabilities and difference from the UH-IHs,” Gazmin said in Filipino.

The Defense chief denied claims that he and other officials were asking for 15 percent commission for the UH-ID project.

“Those are all lies,” he said.

The acquisition of the 21 UH-IDs has been mired in controversy after claims of bidding irregularities and the aircraft being defective.

It was partly terminated last March 25 after suppliers Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters Ltd. failed to deliver the rest of the aircraft.

“In compliance with Section 88, Rule XXII of the IRR of Republic Act 9184 (Philippine Procurement Law), the contract agreement between the DND/AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and the Joint Venture of Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters Ltd. for the supply and delivery of 21 UH-I helicopters for the PAF with corresponding contract price of P1,263,000,000 shall be partially terminated for exceeding the 10 percent maximum liquidated damages,” the DND order signed by Gazmin said.

There are 20 UH-IH and seven UH-1Ds in the Air Force inventory as of this time.

“Both aircraft have the top speed of 124 KIAS [knot indicated airspeed]but when you are flying UH-IH model, you can feel the aircraft starting to shake or shiver when you are approaching speeds up to 82 to 90 knots. But in the UH-ID, you can feel no vibration and even if you are cruising at speed of 110 KIAS,” said Major Aristides Galang, 210th Tactical Squadron operations officer and the test pilot involved in the acceptance test of the UH-IDs.

“It [UH-ID] also climbs very fast compared to the UH-IH,” the PAF official pointed out.

Galang, who has 1,900 flying hours to his credit, said during acceptance tests of the aircraft, either the UH-ID performs up to standard, as specified in the PAF checklist, or it will not be accepted for service until.

During so-called “maintenance test flights” (which are done during the pre-acceptance phase), all forms of maneuvers are conducted to ensure that the aircraft has no major discrepancy that could cause it to fail or crash while in PAF service.

These include air and ground handling and various emergency procedures, the pilot said.

On claims that major discrepancies were encountered during initial tests of the aircraft, Galang said this is only natural as all aircraft are prone to wear-and-tear while flying.

He added that the same holds true for all aircraft in every Air Force in the world and dealing with such discrepancies is the job of maintenance crew and officers.

PAF spokesman Col. Enrico Canaya earlier said the “D” designation in the UH-1 means that it was manufactured by Dornier, a German aircraft manufacturer that started construction of the UH-1 from 1967 to 1981. Around 350 units were built by the German company.

Canaya said all seven UH-IDs are deployed to Central Luzon and Manila PAF units.

“The PAF, however, opted to deploy these newly turned over units to Central Luzon and Manila areas for endurance flights, training and other missions to make them accessible to technical representatives and take advantage of warranty claims,” he added.

The PAF spokesman clarified that the UH-1Ds and UH-IHs, still in Philippine service, are similar models but made by different manufacturers.

“Their airframes are old but once they are refurbished… they are reliable to perform missions. The PAF has a wealth of experience operating and maintaining UH-1 helicopters since the 1970s,” he said.

Canaya dismissed reports that UH-1D spare parts are no longer available in the market.

“Their parts are not obsolete and are available in the market just like the parts for the existing fleets of UH-1Hs the PAF is currently maintaining. The UH-1H helicopters are still widely use in other countries,” he said.

Canaya added that the PAF does not accept aircraft with technical issues.

“The PAF only receives and operates units that passed the Technical Inspection And Acceptance Committee,” he pointed out.

The PAF spokesman said the newly arrived UH-IDs are superior to the UH-1Hs as they feature composite main rotor blades that perform better and safer than the latter aircraft.

Rico Quicho, spokesman for Vice President Jejomar Binay, said Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Teofisto Guingona 3rd should not prejudge the helicopter deal.

“Senator Guingona’s committee has once again shown that while it prejudges and destroys the political opposition, it is a safe harbor for administration officials and allies embroiled in reported anomalies,” he added.

With PNA

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18 Comments

  1. Station those chopper at Pag-asa and at BRP Sierra Madre please to protect our fisherman and our territorial waters.

  2. Louie Cauilan on

    I don’t know which of the seven commissioned Dornier UH-1 combat utility helicopters, Mr. Biazon is referring to that had no door mounted machine guns. The photos taken by the journalist shows that there are installed machine guns. I just could not paste the pictures here.

  3. Louie Cauilan on

    I don’t know which of the seven commissioned Dornier UH-1 combat utility helicopters, Mr. Biazon is referring to that had no door mounted machine guns. The photos taken by the journalist shows that there are installed machine guns. I just could not paste the pictures here. I hope that this issue is not raised just to stir and condition the minds of the readers as to the weight of the false allegations.

  4. We need combat helicopters that can compete with modern helicopters, of a world power. How can we meet head-on with an enemy using the 40 year old huey and doesn’t have even a protection for the soldiers, because with the physical features alone it is open on both sides and our soldiers will just be sitting ducks when it comes to actual combat.

  5. emmanuel mallari on

    Huey? It was last used during the Vietnam war and was heavily criticized because most often than not…it crashes every now and then. ever since, hindi na ito ginamit pa in combat.

  6. flying those reporters in the so called refurbished helos, doesn’t prove anything as far as corruption is concern at DND. Of course before flying those coffin they’ve checked & re-checked it making sure it will fly, for say up to an hour or two. The fact remained the same that those helos are obsolete and a flying coffin for our troops, period.

  7. Those reporters who bravely took the challenge to ride the repaired choppers deserve medals of valor from DND. They are still alive, are’nt they?

  8. Isn’t that the helicopters were bought to modernize the Armed forces? How can 40 year old helicopters modernize?

  9. hermenegildo s manas on

    we don’t have to please the Mediamen…why take them on board for demo…they don’t know anything and they should be restricted from getting on board the Military Aircraft.
    i logged in 3000 flying hours during my active military carreer in combat missions and peace time training…the hueys are the most reliable helicopters that were built…of course the Hueys are starting to be replaced by the UTTAS (known as the black hawks…the Seahawks…tested in Alaska…the Hueys are being transferred to National Air Guard..the Philippine Government (National Defense ) could have Purchased the Huey November Models (twin Engine which until now are still in the USA Aviation Inventory…again the Philippine Armed Forces are the Damping Ground of the Oldest Helicopters…we just accept or buy what we are being offerred …because the German Air Defense would like to discard there delapidating Aviation equipment (ie the Huey D models) 20’s and 7 were delivered perhaps they delivered only 7 out 20’s which most them were cannibalized from the rest of the 20’s…i don’t agree With Rep Biazon (where are the Armaments on those demo Helicopters0 he should know better than that …that these flight were conducted to please the Media and were flying in Civilian and commercial area or air space. the armament should be on board for any reason at all…the mediamen should stay out of these….this is purely Military Businness….

  10. The administration cannot justify purchasing old helicopters by showing they could fly. How much did we spent getting them in the air?

    • Louie Cauilan on

      These are refurbished surplus German built Hueys. And refurbished by RASI which has this introduction in their website – Innovations along with aggressive application of new technology have made Rice Aircraft Services a recognized world leader in the overhaul maintenance and refurbishment of Bell Series Helicopters and components.
      Rice Aircraft Services’ restoration, overhaul and upgrade programs result in significant performance enhancements and impressive cost savings when compared to aircraft which are outfitted in the original equipment manufacturers’ (OEM) configuration.
      Rice Aircraft Services performs maintenance in accordance with Military and Bell specifications, or maintenance programs based on the customer’s requirements. We can also complete full inspections of aircraft that have been in storage for long periods of time, certify the aircraft to comply with FAA regulations i.e. STCs, TSOs, 337s, etc., and return the aircraft to service.

  11. My only question is, for 1.2 billion, why buy 40 year old huey’s. I am a retired senior citizen of this country. I have been a businessman since I was 16 yrs old. My son & daughter took over our transport business. we will never buy a bus or a truck that is already 40 yrs old, no matter how cheap the price is. maybe we will buy the truck or bus for P15,000.00 no more than that. we will use this for scrap, maybe we will still make a little money from it.

    In the USA, they are not using these helicopters anymore. some of them are in their museums already and the rest are junked. They used these helicopters in the USA during parade. They are placed on top of a trailer being pulled by a Humbee during the parade.

    • not true. I live in the US and they still use this choppers. especially the national guard. The Army and Marines still have them. Don’t write lies.