Change in Air Force leadership due to helicopter projects: MaxDefense

On December 5, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the appointment of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-Western Command (WESCOM) commander Lieutenant General Rozzano Briguez as the new commanding general of Philippine Air Force (PAF) replacing Lieutenant General Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr. who is not yet due for retirement.

According to National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Kintanar is opting for early retirement.

A day after the appointment of Lieutenant General Briguez, MaxDefense Philippines said that the movement in PAF leadership has something to do with two major helicopter acquisition projects, the attack helicopter (AH) and combat utility helicopter (CUH) acquisition projects.

MaxDefense noted that Technical Working Groups (TWGs) for the attack helicopter and combat utility helicopter have selected Turkish-made T129 ATAK and either the Bell 412EPI or Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk, respectively.

Lieutenant General Kintanar announced, during the anniversary of the 15th Strike Wing last week, the TWG’s preference for Turkish-made T129 ATAK for the attack helicopter acquisition project.

MaxDefense said, “it turns out that the local representative of Leonardo Helicopters was unhappy with the PAF AH TWG decision and asked this close associate of Pres. Duterte to do something about it, who in turn asked the TWG to change their selection and instead pick the AgustaWestland AW109 helicopter, similar to those already in service with the PAF.”

“Also, the government may have already made a pact with the South Korean government and agreed for the PAF to acquire the Korean-made KUH-1 Surion helicopter, as the Koreans wanted to build the Surion helicopter’s export portfolio by starting with the Philippines. A sale to PAF increases it’s chances of winning other export markets like Indonesia,” MaxDefense added.

However, MaxDefense noted that “PAF’s senior leaders headed by its commanding general, Lt.Gen. Galileo Kintanar, stood by the TWGs of both helicopter projects and insisted that the PAF’s decision be respected, being the end user of the products.”

“This is exactly the same case as what happened to the Philippine Navy last year, when its chief/ Flag Officer in Command VAdm. Mercado was relieved for standing by the TWG of the Frigate acquisition project’s decision to insist on the selection they made,” it added.