Air Force soars in service with new, modern aircraft

The year 2020 has been a challenging one as it saw the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) take a toll on the lives of the people and impaired various activities of both government and private sector projects. 

However, despite the pandemic, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) soared to greater heights and is expected to further boost its capability to protect the country against all forms of security threats and aid Filipinos in times of disasters with the arrival of more than a dozen modern aircraft and helicopters this year.

First on the PAF’s list for this year was the arrival and commissioning of its new Gulfstream G280 command-and-control (C2) aircraft, which arrived on September 20.

It was commissioned the following day and was used to transport personal protection equipment and other medical supplies to Davao City during its inaugural flight.

“The C2 aircraft will become part of a system designed for enhanced control of operations through continuous communications, especially during operational exigencies and emergencies. It will allow for time-sensitive decisions to be made while airborne, especially by the AFP chain of command, like the secretary of national defense; chief of staff, AFP; major service commanders; and commanders of the unified commands,” PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Aristides Galang said in a recent interview.

The Gulfstream G280 is capable of speeds of about 500 knots and has a range of 3,600 nautical miles. It can transport 12 to 15 persons, including the pilots and crew, and land on small runways.

The contract for the G280 was signed in early 2019 and was acquired via US Foreign Military Sales.

Second on the list was the commissioning of six Embraer Defense and Security A-29B “Super Tucano” close-air support aircraft on October 14.

Four of the A-29B close-support attack aircraft arrived on September 19 while the remaining two arrived on October 1.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, during the commissioning ceremonies of the six “Super Tucano” attack aircraft, said these airplanes are a reminder of the “indispensability of airpower” in national defense and security.

Embraer company pilots flew the aircraft from the company airfield in Sao Paulo, Brazil and made fueling stops in the Canary Islands, Portugal, Malta, Egypt, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, India, Thailand, and Vietnam before landing in the Philippines.

The A-29B aircraft were earlier scheduled to be delivered by the end of July but the pandemic and subsequent travel bans skewed the delivery timetables.

The aircraft, which will be part of the PAF’s 15th Strike Wing, will beef up the remaining SF-260 and OV-10 attack aircraft used by the Air Force in strike missions.

The “Super Tucano” is a turboprop aircraft designed for light attack, counter-insurgency, close air support, aerial reconnaissance missions in low threat environments, as well as providing pilot training.

The contract for the six aircraft is worth PHP4.97 billion and was issued in late 2017.

Earlier this month, the Department of National Defense (DND) held a ceremony for the arrival and commissioning of six out of the 16 S-70i “Black Hawk” combat utility helicopters ordered from Polish company Polskie Zaklady Lotnicze Sp.z.o.o. and manufactured under license from Sikorsky USA for USD241 million (about PHP11.5 billion).

The helicopters were procured through a government-to-government transaction with Poland. The negotiations were completed in 2019.

The acquisition of the “Black Hawk” combat utility helicopters was part of Horizon 2 of the AFP Modernization Program.

Designated as a medium transport helicopter, the “Black Hawk” is capable of flying at speeds of 224 miles per hour (361 kph) and has a range of 290 miles (460 km.).

The first five S-70is were delivered via the Antonov An-124 heavy cargo aircraft to Clark Air Base last November 9 while the sixth unit arrived aboard a ship on November 27.

The remaining 10 are set to be delivered next year.

These helicopters are capable of transporting cargoes and personnel, medical evacuation, casualty evacuation, aerial reconnaissance, disaster relief operations, troop insertion and extrication, combat resupply, combat search-and-rescue, and limited close-air support. PNA.GOV.PH