MANILA – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) yesterday received eight Bell-412EPs combat utility helicopters and two AgustaWestland AW-109Es attack versions which were expected to boost the country’s military air services.
“The goal of really modernizing our armed forces is a long and painstaking process, this is so because the acquisition… on materiel and equipment for operational readiness are constrained by our financial capability,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in a Manila Bulletin report.
“We therefore need to persevere and be contented with what we can afford based on the priority for urgent operational needs and the financial affordability. This means that we have to be frugal and acquire reliable platform at very reasonable cost possible that’s allowed by meager financial resources,” he added.
The new air assets will be used for security, airlift operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations and other multiple air operations. Five of the Bell-412EPs will be assigned to the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing, while the remaining three will be assigned to the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing. Both Agusta Westland AW-109Es, on the other hand, will be placed in the 15th Strike Wing.
“The availability of mission capable and combat ready air platforms has always been an essential requirement of our air operations. Its importance places a key role in the operational readiness of the Philippine Air Force, especially in combat operations and movements of the troops and their equipment and supplies by air,” Gazmin said.
“Without doubt these air platforms will be of great assistance in enhancing the operational readiness of our armed forces,” he added.
The brand-new choppers were part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program under its Combat Utility Helicopter Aircraft Acquisition project and the Attack Helicopter Aircraft Acquisition project. More aircrafts were expected to be bought this year.
“We have brand-new aircraft that came in lately but we expect more to come in the coming months. We expect six more attack helicopters that will come before the year ends together with two lift aircraft, one medium lift aircraft, and hopefully before the year ends we get the two FA/50s that had been announced,” PAF commander Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado said.
The PAF, for its part, aimed to have a minimum credible capability with the aid of its new aircrafts.
“The credibility will lie on several factors… of course the platform is a big factor but it will also depend on the level of competency of our pilots, the support systems, the radar systems, the ISR (intelligence surveillance reconnaissance) system that supports our air defense capability. So this will put us somehow in a more respectable position as far as our air defense is concerned. This is our mandate which is to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country,” Delgado said.
So far, 55 modernization projects worth P11 billion were completed under President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s administration.
“We expect the rest [of the air assets] to be delivered in 2017. We are also targeting the acquisition of an additional… 2 anti-submarine helicopters,  more AgustaWestland-109 helicopters, 2 light-lift aircraft, 3 medium-lift aircrafts, radar systems, all of which are brand new. These, along with other new equipment, will boost the capacity of our Armed Forces,” Aquino earlier said.
The AFP has already received two Hamilton cutters, two C-130 planes, two C-295 medium transport planes, six UH-1H helicopters, eight combat utility helicopters and 18 basic trainer aircrafts, aside from the newly commissioned aircrafts.