The Philippines has approved plans to buy fighter jets and other military aircraft and may sign contracts for the projects this year, Air Force spokesman Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said.

Senior officials of the Department of National Defense approved plans for the Air Force to buy 12 units, or a squadron, of lead-in fighter trainer jets, eight light transport planes, three medium transport planes, and attack helicopters, Okol said in a phone interview.

“They have been approved by the senior leadership and we expect their contracts to be signed within the year. It will take about two years for that to be delivered,” he said.

Last Tuesday, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Philippines is looking at several countries, including South Korea, France, and Italy for its fighter jet acquisition.

The Air Force retired its last seven F5 fighter jets in 2005, after being in service for 40 years.

Meanwhile, Okol said the Air Force expects two C-130 carrier planes and four Sokol combat utility helicopters to be delivered to in the coming months.

One C-130 plane will arrive in the first week of June after having undergone depot maintenance in the US while the other, which was repaired locally, may be released in November, he said.

The four Sokol helicopters, expected to arrive also in November, are among the eight which the Philippines bought from Italian-Polish firm Augusta PZL Swidnik for P2.8 billion. The other four were turned over to the Air Force last March. (John Roson)

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