Air Force played key role in Marawi liberation: AFP chief

The Air Force played a major role in the government’s victory over Maute Group terrorists in the five-month battle to liberate Marawi City, the head of the Philippine military said.

“These airmen demonstrated power that was felt 24/7 wherever they were needed. In the five-month campaign, the Air Force flew more than 1,350 sorties, transported nearly 7,000 soldiers and police personnel, and transported around 700 wounded personnel,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. said during the commemoration of the Marawi air campaign held at the Edwin Andrews Air Base, Zamboanga City on Friday.

About 1,000 Air Force personnel, including pilots and ground crews, helped in the Marawi campaign, which began May 23, 2017 and ended in October.

Galvez also acknowledged the efforts of the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing that provided various types of missions day and night, along with the 220th Airlift Wing that transported military and civilians, supplies, ammunition, and relief goods during the siege.

The 250th Presidential Airlift wing was also recognized for ensuring the safe flight of the Commander-in-Chief, President Rodrigo Duterte, during his visits to the afflicted areas.

“Thank you Philippine Air Force for saving the lives of our soldiers. Thank you for your dedicated service,” Galvez said.

The AFP chief earlier said the Air Force’s newly-acquired FA-50PHs contributed much to the battle to win back Marawi, noting that without air support, government losses in the campaign would have been much higher.

About 165 soldiers and police officers were killed in the five-month battle, while some 1,000 Maute-Group terrorists, including the Islamic State “emir” in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, and Maute co-founder, Omar Maute, were killed in the government offensive.

“The roar of the FA-50(PH) is the roar to victory. The PAF is the ‘Game Changer’ during the Marawi campaign. Hanga ako sa (I admire the) Air Warriors for flying day and night just to provide all the needed support of our troops on the ground during the entire campaign. Without our very skilled, focused and hard working pilots, air crew and air controllers, our casualties could have been more,” Galvez said.

The FA-50PHs had its baptism of fire in the Marawi City campaign where it was heavily used for close-air support mission roles along with the venerable OV-10 “Bronco” turbo-prop attack aircraft, SF-260 light bombers and various attack helicopters of the PAF.

The FA-50PHs has a top speed of Mach 1.5 or one-and-a-half times the speed of sound and is capable of being fitted air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 “Sidewinder” air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.

A total of 12 aircraft were acquired from Korea Aerospaces Industries for PHP18. 9 billion. Delivery commenced in November 2015 and was completed in May 2017. PNA