Tag Archive: AFP modernization


Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad took over as Philippine Navy chief Aug. 10, 2015 (photo by author)

Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad took over as Philippine Navy chief Aug. 10, 2015 (photo by author)

Newly installed Navy chief Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad yesterday downplayed China’s military buildup in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) but stressed the need for more firepower for the force, considered as one of the weakest in the Asia-Pacific.

“We’ll come up with acquisitions of needed firepower, additional firepower for us to be able to deter any naval force that would try to stop us from employing our assets to assert soveriegnty over our waters,” Taccad told reporters.

Taccad made the remark when asked how the Philippine Navy will respond to China’s military buildup in the West Philippine Sea, given the former’s limited capabilities.

Rocket-armed versions of the Navy's new AW-109 helicopters (photo by author)

Rocket-armed versions of the Navy’s new AW-109 helicopters (photo by author)

“Kailangan natin ma-cover o ma-patrolya ang karagatan in order to impose that we have sovereignty over this sea,” he said.

Taccad, however, noted that the situation with China is not as threatening as before.

“Considering that it’s much heated before, I think we are in a better position now. We are communicating with China, and more or less not as threatened as before. You know what they are trying to do and we try to maintain more or less a peaceful coexistence or settlement of what issue we have,” he said.

BRP Ivatan, one of two landing craft heavy (LCH) ships donated by Australia, was christened ahead of Taccad's taking over of the Navy (photo by author)

BRP Ivatan, one of two landing craft heavy (LCH) ships donated by Australia, was christened ahead of Taccad’s taking over of the Navy (photo by author)

Taccad also said that he does not see China’s reclamation and construction works on seven reefs in the hotly-contested Kalayaan (Spratly) Island Group as an “expansion.”

“I dont see any expansion from China. They have been there for a long time and they are guarding what they think is their interest in the South China Sea… No expansion happening, they are just pursuing what they think is their interest,” he said.

President Benigno Aquino III installed Taccad as the 35th Navy chief, replacing Vice Admiral Jesus Millan who reached the compulsory retirement age of 56 yesterday.

Millan bid farewell to the force with a literary piece that used names of the nine Philippine-held territories in the Spratlys.

Taccad, on the other hand, vowed to transform the force into a “strong and formidable” Navy.

Before the turnover ceremony, the Navy held a “christening” for two landing craft heavy (LCH) ships donated by Australia and two rocket-armed AW-109 Power helicopters acquired from Anglo-Italian aircraft maker AugustaWestland. (John Roson)

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A US Navy LCU participating in last April's Balikatan exercises in Zambales (photo by author)

A US Navy LCU participating in last April’s Balikatan exercises in Zambales (photo by author)

The Philippine Navy has received a landing ship donated by South Korea and is now repairing it ahead of deployments for post-disaster and military operations.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Jesus Millan said the landing craft utility (LCU) from South Korea arrived May 30 and is now at the naval shipyard in Cavite for “some machinery and equipment repairs.”

South Korea handed the vessel for free, along with 16 rubber boats, with the Navy paying only P16 million for the shipping cost, Millan said.

“It was shipped direct from Korea… We just paid for its shipping cost. It will be a big boost for HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) operations and troop transport,” he said in a text message.

US Navy LCU-1631 and USS Green Bay during April's Balikatan exercises in Zambales (photo by author)

US Navy LCU-1631 and USS Green Bay during April’s Balikatan exercises in Zambales (photo by author)

Current repairs are estimated to cost P26 million which, even if added to the shipping cost, is way lower than buying a brand new LCU for P6 billion, Millan said.

Before this, the Navy only had five LCUs, of which three are in operation and two are undergoing repairs, according to Millan.

The newly-arrived LCU has better capabilities than the ones already in the fleet because it is of a newer model, he said.

South Korea offered the LCU, rubber boats, and computers when Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin visited that country in June 2014.

US Navy LCU 1651 (photo from Wikipedia Commons)

US Navy LCU 1651 (photo from Wikipedia Commons)

South Korean officials said the offer — which came amid the Philippines’ territorial row with China in the West Philippine Sea — is for expressing their gratitude to Filipino soldiers’ role in the Korean War during the 1950s.

Following Gazmin’s visit to Seoul, the Department of Foreign Affairs said South Korea will also donate a “Pohang”-class corvette — a type of warship — to the Navy.

Government officials, however, have been mum on the corvette since then, as talk came out that China was “angered” by the offer and threatened to “unleash” North Korea against the South if it continues “arming” the Philippines. (John Roson)

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An FA-50 fighter jet. (photo grabbed from KAI website http://www.koreaaero.com/)

An FA-50 fighter jet. (photo grabbed from KAI website http://www.koreaaero.com/)

The Armed Forces’ Central Command in Cebu has started building facilities to host fighter jets and other aircraft which the Air Force will use for territorial defense, military officials said.

Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado, Air Force chief, said the Central Command, particularly the 2nd Air Division, was chosen to host new aircraft because of its “strategic location,” which allows it to quickly send planes to Luzon in the north, Mindanao in the south, or Palawan in the west.

“We intend to put up more hangars here for our fighter aircraft and our transport aircraft and helicopters,” Delgado said in an interview by state-run television PTV-4.

Lieutenant General Nicanor Vivar, Centcom chief, said construction of hangars at the 2nd Air Division started about three months ago.

Construction projects presently being carried out fall under the AFP Modernization’s “First Horizon,” which has a total cost of P90 billion, Vivar said.

“A lot of development will be done here soon,” including docks for Navy ships, he said.

The Department of National Defense earlier announced that it allocated P135.99 million for base support systems of fighter jets, particularly the South Korean-made FA-50 lead-in fighter trainer jets.

Aircraft maker Korea Aerospace industries said earlier this week that it aims to deliver the first two of 12 FA-50s ordered by the Philippines by yearend.

Colonel Enrico Canaya, Air Force spokesman, said that aside from the two fighter jets, the PAF expects to recieve 20 other aircraft from suppliers this year.

These include two C-295 medium lift planes, eight combat-utility helicopters, eight AW-109 attack helicopters, and two CN-212i light lift planes, Canaya told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo Friday.

Developments at the Central Command come as the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), where the 2nd Air Division is “co-located,” embarks on a project to upgrade facilities, including its runway.

Vivar said that aside from becoming a hub for modern military aircraft, Central Command is also being eyed as the home of the AFP’s “strategic command.”

“External defense, nandiyan na tayo… this will be the home of the strategic command, hopefully, and that will cater to the territorial defense of the country,” he said. (John Roson)

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The Philippines is interested in acquiring P3 Orion surveillance planes from Japan, the Department of National Defense said Thursday.

Peter Paul Galvez, DND spokesman, confirmed the department’s intent after reports indicated that the country may acquire at least four P3s from Japan by yearend.

“Tinitingnan if it will become an excess defense article. When it becomes an excess defense article, then we can get it at a very low price,” Galvez told reporters.

Galvez, however, could not say how many P3s are being considered for acquisition.

Japan’s navy is currently using P3 Orions in a joint training with Philippine Navy sailors in waters off Palawan, near the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Fernando Manalo, defense undersecretary for modernization, said the plan to acquire P3s is “separate” from the DND project to buy two long-range patrol aircraft (LRPA).

Manalo made the remark when asked on reports that the acquisition of P3s has been substituted for the LRPA project, which is currently suspended because President Aquino has yet to approve parts of the AFP Modernization Program.

The DND plans to buy two long-range patrol aircraft for the Air Force for P5.97 billion. (John Roson)

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The Philippines’ first lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) jet successfully completed its first flight in South Korea, aircraft maker Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) announced Wednesday.

The “FA-50PH” made its maiden flight on June 19, after the Philippines signed a contract to buy 12 units in March 2014, KAI said in its Facebook page.

“We will our best to deliver initial two aircraft by the end of this year,” the company said.

Fernando Manalo, defense undersecretary for modernization, said KAI may deliver two of the jets by the third quarter of 2015.

“It will be possible for the FA-50s to feature in the Armed Forces’ 80th anniversary,” he said in an interview during the military’s 79th anniversary last December.

Colonel Enrico Canaya, Air Force spokesman, called the first jet’s maiden flight a “positive development.”

“It’s a good sign that we are about to become a more modern PAF soon,” Canaya said in a text message to reporters.

The government signed a contract to buy 12 brand-new FA-50s for P18.9 billion in March 2014, amid China’s buildup in the West Philipppine Sea (South China Sea).

Three Air Force pilots are presently in South Korea to train in operating the FA-50s.

The pilots were chosen for the jet project after registering more than a thousand hours flying Marchetti S-211 planes, Colonel Miguel Ernesto Okol, director for operations of the Air Force’s Air Defense Wing, told reporters in December.

The Philippines’ air defense was reduced to the S-211s when the country retired its last seven F5 fighter jets in 2005, after the latter had served for 40 years.

The S-211s were originally designed as trainers and secondary attack planes, but were refitted with avionics equipment and machine guns in recent years to take on air defense.

KAI’s FA-50 jets rake the sky with speeds of up to 1.5 times the speed of sound, compared to the S-211s that fly at a maximum 667 kilometers per hour.

It can be fitted with missiles like the AIM-9 “Sidewinder” air-to-air and heat-seeking missile, aside from light automatic cannons.

The FA-50 will act as the country’s interim fighter until the Philippines gets enough experience of operating fast jets and eventually acquire “multi-role fighters.” (John Roson)

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The Philippines’ acquisition of fighter jets for its air force continues to advance but the procurement of essential air surveillance radars cannot commence because the government has yet to approve it, a defense official said Wednesday.

Fernando Manalo, defense undersecretary for finance, munitions, and materiel, said construction of the 12 FA-50 fighter jets being bought from South Korea are now in “different stages of completion.”

“I think it is fair to say that the construction is within the target milestone. Baka nga mapaaga pa ang delivery ng dalawa,” Manalo said in a text message.

South Korean manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) may deliver two of the jets as early as the third quarter of 2015, Manalo said in an interview on December 18.

Manalo, however, said Wednesday that the project to buy aerial surveillance radars that are much needed in deploying fighter jets has not yet started because the government has not yet approved the AFP Modernization Program.

The Department of National Defense had announced plans to buy three air surveillance radars for P2.68 billion.

Israel Aerospace Industries is reportedly being eyed as the supplier of the radars, but Manalo declined to reveal the prospective contractor until a notice of award is issued.

“It should follow a process. First is the approval of the AFP Modernization Program. Without the approval, we cannot proceed with the procurement,” he said, when asked when the contract is expected to be awarded.

Having fighter jets on hand without radars telling them where to go could prove dangerous for the country’s just-recovering military prowess, especially in the face of China’s continuous force buildup in the disputed Spratly Islands.

In a recent interview with reporters, Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang said China’s reclamation on one feature at the Spratly Islands is “about 50 percent complete” and Beijing was setting up what looks like an air field.

The Philippines currently has one air surveillance radar left at the Wallace Air Station in La Union province which defense officials admit has a “very limited” scope.

Recently, the Air Force admitted to relying on the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines’ radar when it enforced a 3-nautical mile “no-fly zone” during Pope Francis’ visit from January 15 to 19.

“Fighter jets will not be effective without radar systems,” Manalo, a former Air Force official, said when asked how important the radars are when using fighter jets.

“Radars are early detection instruments to aid fighters where to intercept unidentified air traffic,” Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya explained.

The modernization program is still awaiting the approval of President Benigno Aquino III after it was submitted to MalacaƱang last February 2013 for review.

Under the revised Armed Forces modernization law, the President, upon recommendation of the defense and budget secretaries, shall submit the upgrade program to Congress within 60 days since the law took effect.

Manalo clarified that the pending approval will not affect the fighter jet acquisition, which had been approved separately. (John Roson)

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The Philippines may spend more than P90 billion (US$1.995 billion) for the second phase of modernizing its military in the six years after 2017, defense officials said Wednesday.

“Mayroon nang estimate… It’s much higher than P90 billion,” defense undersecretary for finance, munitions, and materiel Fernando Manalo said.

Manalo made the remark in a press briefing to present the status of modernization projects under what the defense department calls the “first horizon.”

The first horizon effectively started 2014 and will end on 2017.

Under this phase, the government is spending P90.858 billion to buy warships, fighter jets, helicopters, an air defense radar system, other various equipment, and will upgrade existing bases.

Many of these projects are already being implemented and the government shows capacity to pay, so the “second horizon” can already be implemented by 2017, Manalo said.

The second horizon is slated to be implemented until 2023 while the third horizon will run from 2024 to 2028.

Manalo declined to specify what types of equipment will be acquired under the second horizon, but said these will mostly be for disaster response and protecting territories in the disputed West Philippine (South China) Sea.

“It is sufficient [to say] we are heavy on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and protecting our interest in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Defense department spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said incidents in the West Philippine Sea were “much considered” for the Armed Forces’ modernization.

Manalo hinted that more fighter jets may be bought under the second horizon, saying that the current 12 being bought from South Korea is “way way below than what is needed by the Air Force.”

Defense assistant secretary for acquisitions, installations, and logistics Patrick Velez, for his part, said the Navy may already have five to six frigates at end of the third horizon.

“Where we are right now, we are in the first stages but enough to address some concerns of the Armed Forces… We are moving on from this capability towards the full capability of the AFP to provide for credible deterrence,” Velez said. (John Roson)

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The Philippine Air Force has informed the maker of its Sokol helicopters about last Thursday’s crash in Marawi City and asked the company to help determine the cause.

“The manufacturer was already notified through its local representative and they shall assist the PAF in determining the cause of the accident,” Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya said Saturday.

Canaya said investigation into the crash has already started and might take some time.

“It may take time but PAF will [try] to expedite the process,” he said.

Investigators have also yet to assess if the helicopter can be repaired, Canaya said.

The ill-fated Sokol no. 295 is one of eight units which the government bought from Polish manufacturer PZL Swidnik and British-Italian firm AugustaWestland for P2.8 billion.

It remained at the crash site in Kampo Ranao, Brgy. Saber, as of Saturday but will be moved to facilitate the probe.

“We are moving it to a secure place where investigators can further examine the parts for clues. I have no information yet where it will be moved,” Canaya said.

The seven remaining Sokol units will be grounded until the investigation is completed, he said.

Meanwhile, Canaya said the military has also made assessments of the damage suffered by the community where the crash occurred.

Military photos and television reports showed that roofs and walls of some houses and a daycare center, as well as wooden fences, were blown away by strong winds from the helicopter.

“Efforts were already done to the determine the damage to properties caused by the acccident and the military will address this matter,” Canaya said.

The crash also left the helicopter’s gunner and a local resident slightly injured. (John Roson)

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The Air Force grounded its remaining seven Sokol helicopters after one crashed in Marawi City last Thursday.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, for his part, ordered the Air Force to report the crash to the company that made the helicopters, which the government acquired just recently.

“PAF was directed to inform the Sokol maufacturer about the incident,” Gazmin said Friday, adding that the Air Force is now investigating the crash.

Lieutenant Colonel Enrico Canaya, Air Force spokesman, said the remaining Sokol units will be grounded until investigators determine what caused the crash.

A 21-member “investigating and recovery team” led by Col. Frederick Cutler, of Air Force Safety Office, arrived in Marawi from Villamor Air Base yesterday to carry out the probe, Canaya told reporters.

“The Sokol helicopters will not be used for the meantime but we still have other helicopters to fill up the gap,” he said.

The Sokol helicopter no. 291 crashed around 2:30 p.m. Thursday, shortly after taking off from the Army 103rd Brigade’s Kampo Ranao headquarters in Brgy. Saber.

It was supposed to escort two other helicopters carrying Gazmin, Interior Sec. Mar Roxas, and Energy Sec. Jericho Petilla to Cagayan de Oro City.

The ill-fated chopper’s passengers, including Army 4th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, escaped unharmed but its gunner and a civilian child playing near the crash site were injured.

The government bought eight brand new Sokol helicopters from the joint venture of Polish manufacturer PZL-Swidnik and British-Italian firm AugustaWestland for P2.8 billion.

The units arrived in batches in February 2012, November 2012, and February 2013.

The helicopters were supposed be used for combat support operations but were eventually assigned to the Air Force’s 505th Search and Rescue Group, after its side door and gun mount were found “unfit” for the military’s tactics.

They are now being used to conduct rescue operations in times of calamities and transporting VIPs.

The incident in Marawi was not the first time for the Sokol units to encounter problems.

In July 2013, another Sokol helicopter (no. 925) was stuck for five days in Camp Aguinaldo after failing to take off due to an undisclosed mechanical problem.

That helicopter was supposed to escort the group of Gazmin to an Air Force event in Pampanga. (John Roson)

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Down. The Sokol military helicopter that crashed in Marawi City (photo from the Army 1st ID)

Down. The Sokol military helicopter that crashed in Marawi City (photo from the Army 1st ID)

Two people were injured when one of the military’s recently-acquired helicopters crashed in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, Thursday afternoon, authorities said.

The Air Force helicopter crashed around 2:30 p.m. shortly after taking off from the Army’s 103rd Brigade headquarters, Chief Superintendent Noel delos Reyes, director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police, said by phone.

It was carrying Army 4th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, Col. Alexander Macario, some staff members, and crew members, Delos Reyes said.

“Okay naman si general Visaya, he survived the crash, saka si Col. Macario. Mukhang ‘yung gunner lang ang injured, napilayan, but everybody is safe,” he said.

(photo from DILG)

(photo from DILG)

Chief Superintendent Robert Kuinisala, deputy director of the ARMM police, said he was informed that a civilian child playing near the crash site in Kampo Ranao, Brgy. Saber, was also hurt.

“Isang crew ng helicopter ay namanhid ang paa at isang batang civilian ang may minor wound po. Naglalaro daw ‘yung bata sa baba,” Kuinisala said in a text message.

The ill-fated helicopter was escorting another military chopper carrying Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin and Interior Sec. Mar Roxas, and a civilian chopper carrying Energy Sec. Jericho Petilla.

“Nagpunta sila (secretaries) to look into the power situation in Lanao del Sur, they met with local government officials. Paalis na sila, papunta na sa Cagayan de Oro,” Delos Reyes said.

(photo from Army 1st ID)

(photo from Army 1st ID)

The secretaries’ helicopters, which took off earlier, went back to check on the crashed chopper, he said.

The aircraft that crashed bears the body number 921 and is a Sokol helicopter, Kuinisala said, adding that the chopper’s propeller was damaged.

Gazmin’s office confirmed in a statement that the ill-fated helicopter was one of the recently-acquired W3A Sokol choppers.

“An investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of this incident,” according to the statement.

One of the Sokol helicopters being delivered in November 2012 (Air Force photo)

One of the Sokol helicopters being delivered in November 2012 (Air Force photo)

The government bought eight brand new Sokol helicopters from the joint venture of Polish manufacturer PZL-Swidnik and British-Italian firm AugustaWestland for P2.8 billion.

The units arrived in batches in February 2012, November 2012, and February 2013.

The helicopters were supposed be used for combat support operations but were eventually assigned to the Air Force’s 505th Search and Rescue Group, after its side door and gun mount were found “unfit” for the military’s tactics.

They are now being used to conduct rescue operations in times of calamities and transporting VIPs.

The incident in Marawi was not the first time for the Sokol units to encounter problems.

In July 2013, another Sokol helicopter (tail no. 310925) was stuck for five days in Camp Aguinaldo after failing to take off due to an undisclosed mechanical problem.

That helicopter was supposed to escort the group of Gazmin to an Air Force event in Pampanga. (John Roson)

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