MANILA—Aside from training Filipino pilots get the necessary jet time and competency before they can advance to much sophisticated fighter planes, the newly-acquired South Korean-made FA-50 “Fighting Eagle” can also defend the country’s airspace and conduct international security operations against lawless elements and groups.
This is possible as the FA-50PHs are a multi-role jet aircraft, Philippine Air Force (PAF) spokesperson Col. Antonio Francisco said Wednesday.
“Besides territorial defense, the FA-50PHs is a multi-role fighter, lead-in-surface attack and trainer aircraft,” he added.
The aircraft’s surface-attack potential (also known as ground support capability) was demonstrated last Jan. 26 when a flight of FA-50PHs conducted airstrikes at the Butig, Lanao Del Sur lair of Abu Sayyaf chief Isnilon Hapilon, severely wounding the former, aside from killing many of the latter’s men.
But for the moment, Francisco said the FA-50PHs are being used to train more Filipino pilots in jet operations so that these personnel will be ready to handle much advanced fighter planes in the future.
“There will be a posibility that we are going to acquire some more (advanced) fighters in the future, so we are now (focusing) on the generation of more fighter pilots who have skills and flight time in jets,” the PAF spokesperson stressed.
On Wednesday, the ninth and tenth FA-50PHs of the PAF, out of the total order of 12, arrived at Clark Air Base, Angeles City, Pampanga.
“FA-50 with tail number 009 touchdown at 11:20 a.m. while FA-50 with tail number 010 (landed) at 11:21 a.m.,” Francisco added.
The PAF spokesperson said the two aircraft took off from Saechon, South Korea on 7:59 a.m. of Tuesday and landed on Jeju on 8:50 a.m. the same date.
After refueling in Jeju, it took off around 12:39 p.m. and landed in Taiwan around 2:47 p.m. also on Tuesday.
Francisco said the FA-50PHs departed deparated from Taiwan around 10:08 a.m. Wednesday with FA-50PH with tail number 009 landing at 11:20 a.m. and tail number 010 arriving at 11: 21 a.m.
FA-50PHs with tail numbers 007 and 008 arrived in the country last March 29 and were commissioned into service last April 6.
The first two FA-50PH units were delivered last Nov. 28, 2015 while the second batch was handed over last Dec. 8.
While the third batch was turned over to the PAF last Feb. 22.
With the arrival of the two jet aircraft, only two more FA-50PHs are scheduled to be delivered by May, completing the PAF’s 12-plane order from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) worth PHP18.9 billion.
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.