MANILA - The Philippines said it is eyeing four foreign companies as suppliers for the purchase of a dozen brand new surface attack aircraft to jump-start the long-delayed modernization of the Philippine Air Force, state media said.
It said the possible suppliers of these air crafts are the KAI TA-50 “Golden Eagle” of South Korea; Alenia Aermacchi Agusta M-346 Master of Italy; Yak-130 of Russia; and BAE Hawk of the United Kingdom.
The PAF has stressed the need for the procurement of the planes as these will have a dual role as lead-in attack planes and as a trainer aircraft for jet fighter pilots.
At present, the PAF has no jet fighters in its arsenal after it decommissioned the F-5A/B interceptors in 2005 because they were already obsolete. And because of this, the Philippine airspace is devoid of defense and the same situation is being experienced by the Philippine Navy (PN) whose ships are mostly old, many of them World War II vintage.
With a weak military capability, the PAF and the Navy failed to intercept 26 foreign intrusions into Philippine territory during the first quarter of this year, not to include the stand-off at the Panatag Shoal or Scarborough Shoal by scores of Chinese vessels since April.
The AFP has welcomed the announcement by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin that the Aquino administration is determine to modernize the AFP. “The upgrade and modernization program for our Armed Forces is presently in full swing," he said.
He said they are working speedily on the approval of contracts for the upgrade and modernization of 138 projects to be implemented over the next five years.
“These projects would surely provide the Philippine Air Force with brand new and reliable assets for its operations, along with the operational requirements of the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Army,” Gazmin said.
The acquisition, he said, will include SAA, lead-in fighter trainer, attack helicopters, light transport and medium transport aircrafts to be delivered in 2014.
South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle is a jet trainer and light attack aircraft designed to provide pilot training for current and next-generation fighters such as advanced such as the F-15, F-16, F-18, F-22, F-35, the Tornado, Kfir and Mirage supersonic jet interceptors.
The PAF said the T-50 is a trainer jet but can be used as an interceptor as it has a maximum speed of 1,837km per hour. The range and service ceiling of the aircraft are 1,851km and 16,764 meters, respectively. The service life is 10,000 hours.
The T-50 Golden Eagle has digital fly-by-wire controls and hands on throttle and stick. The cockpit displays include two 127mm full color Honeywell multi-function displays, Honeywell instrumentation displays and a head-up display supplied by BAE Systems. It provides pilot training for current and next-generation fighters.
The flight equipment includes a navigation/attack system, a Honeywell H-764G embedded global positioning and inertial navigation system and HG9550 radar altimeter, Rockwell Collins VIR-130A integrated VOR and instrument landing system and ARN-153V advanced digital tactical aid to navigation, and Raytheon ARC-232 VHF radio.
The AN/APG-67(V)4 multi-mode radar, supplied by Lockheed Martin, is installed in the nose of the LIFT version. The two-crew, tandem-stepped cockpit is fitted with an onboard oxygen generating system and ejection seats supplied by Martin Baker of Uxbridge, UK.
The aircraft has seven external hard points for carrying weapons, one on the centerline under the fuselage, two hard points under each wing and an air-to-air missile launch rail at the two wingtips.
The wingtip launch rails can carry AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. The under wing and centerline hard points can carry rocket pods, air-to-surface missiles or air-to-air missiles. It can also be armed with 84 bombs or rocket launchers and three-barrel M61 cannon. It is also equipped with electronic warfare pods and a radar warning receiver.
On the other hand, the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master is a military transonic trainer aircraft. It has a top speed of mach 1.15 or 1,255 kilometers per hour. The M-346 Hawk can be armed with an array of weapons from air-to-air, air-to-ground missiles, cannons and bombs. It can also be deployed a light attack aircraft for combat operations.
The British-made BAE Hawk MK 127/128 Lift lead-in fighter is in the service of several countries such as the Royal Australian Air Force, Canadian Air Force, South Africa Air Force, Bahrain Air For, Indian Air Force, the British Royal Air Force, and the Air Forces of Finland, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Abu Dhabi, Switzerland, Zimbabwe and the United States. The BAE Hawk can also be used as an attack surface aircraft as is armed with missiles, bombs and cannons.
The Russian-made Yakovlev Yak-130 is subsonic two-seat advanced jet trainer/light attack aircraft or lead-in fighter trainer developed by Yakovlev. It entered service into the Russian Air Force in 2009.
As an advanced training aircraft, the Yak-130 is able to replicate the characteristics of five generations of fighters like the supersonic Sukhoi T-50. It can also perform light-attack and reconnaissance missions, carrying a combat load of 3,000 kilograms, including air-to-air-and air-to-ground missiles and bombs.
In addition to its training purpose, it is also able to function as a light-attack and reconnaissance plane. Countries which have Yak-130 aircraft are Libya, Algeria, Syria, Serbia and Uruguay.
The acquisition of SAA aircraft will enable the PAF to maintain readiness before it will acquire high-performance fighter jets such as the F-16 and like in the future.
This will also enable PAF pilots to familiarize in flying supersonic jet interceptors which the AFP will have by 2023.
Col. Raul del Rosario, wing commander of the PAF Wing Air Division based in Pampanga province, said a conservative number of equipment and with the right combination of sensors and weapon systems the air force will acquire and a competent personnel, “we can jump start the Philippine Air Defense System.
“We start with a vision of a credible air power. We capitalize on the support of President Benigno Aquino and fast track the project within his term,” he said.