Tag Archive: air force


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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New PH jet completes 1st flight

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 Philippine Air Force grounded its UH-1H (Huey) helicopters after one unit got involved in an accident in Cagayan de Oro City on Wednesday.

The Huey unit carrying the number 518 “rolled over” while it was about to take off from Camp Evangelista, headquarters of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, around 3:30 p.m. Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Enrico Canaya said.

The helicopter has two pilots and two crew members at the time, but no one was reported injured, Canaya said in a text message.

He said the helicopter was damaged, though the extent is not immediately known.

The helicopter was supposed to return to the Air Force’s 10th Tactical Operations Group base at the Lumbia Airport after transporting 4th ID commander Major General Oscar Lactao from the 402nd Brigade headquarters in Butuan City, said Major Ezra Balagtey, Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command public affairs officer.

“UH-1Hs are grounded,” he said. (John Roson)

– end –

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 Philippine Air Force on Wednesday warned adventure-seekers not to push with plans of flying over areas where Pope Francis will be holding activities, saying various aircraft and guns are in place to stop them.

“We are employing different types of aircraft, from S-211 jets, helicopter gunships, regular helicopters, and even ground-based anti-aircraft guns for air cover,” Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Enrico Canaya said.

“Ang message namin, there maybe those who plan to overfly the areas. They should be informed that an air defense system will be in place, baka kasi mayroong mag-adventure diyan, mag-overfly,” he stressed.

The S-211 jets, currently the fastest in the PAF fleet with a maximum speed of 667 kilometers per hour, will be used to “intercept” aircraft that are monitored to be heading towards areas where Pope Francis will be holding activities, Canaya said.

They will be used in areas at least 10 nautical miles away from where the Pope is to prevent aircraft from approaching the 3-nautical mile “no-fly zone” designated by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, he said.

Helicopters will be used within the “inner layer.”

Canaya said the PAF and Navy will use a total of 26 air assets for different operations, including air cover.

“As much as possible, we don’t want to use force,” he said, adding that even drones are not allowed no-fly zones.

Amid the massive and seemingly threatening deployment, Canaya assured that Air Force pilots and gunners will “exercise prudence” in dealing with those who enter no-fly zones.

“We are exercising prudence in our judgment… We will see to it that there is no collateral damage,” he said. (John Roson)

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Two of the Abu Sayyaf’s remaining kidnap victims, both Europeans, appeared safe despite a bloody clash between government troops and the bandit group in Talipao, Sulu, on Friday, the military commander in the province said Saturday.

Colonel Allan Arrojado, commander of the Armed Forces’ Joint Task Group Sulu, made the remark after saying that two kidnap victims – Ewold Horn of The Netherlands and Lorenzo Vinciguerra of Switzerland – were seen among Abu Sayyaf members Saturday.

Horn and Vinciguerra were spotted with heavily-armed bandits in Sitio Kan Amat, Brgy. Bagsak, Patikul, around 12 noon, Arrojado said.

The bandits, numbering about 100, were led by Abu Sayyaf top leader Radullan Sahiron, he said.

“Accordingly, some of them (Abu Sayyaf) are recuperating due to bullet wounds suffered during their firefight against AFP troops on Friday,” Arrojado said, citing field intelligence reports.

“Walang nasaktan sa mga kidnap victims,” he said, when asked if Horn and Vinciguerra had also been hurt during the fighting.

Horn and Vinciguerra, kidnapped while bird-watching in Tawi-Tawi on February 1, 2012, are among the at least nine people still held by the Abu Sayyaf.

Major Edilberto Aramponi, JTG Sulu’s civil-military operations officer, said troops did not see any of the kidnap victims during Friday’s clashes in Brgy. Bud Bunga, Talipao.

“Medyo mahirap makita dahil tinatago silang mabuti ng Abu Sayyaf,” he said.

15 dead, 58 wounded

Friday’s clash, the first “major encounter” since a renewed hunt for the Abu Sayyaf was launched in October, left 15 people dead and at least 58 others wounded.

Five soldiers, all ranked private first class, were killed. Twenty-eight others, including a young officer ranked 1st lieutenant, were hurt. All of them belong to the Army’s elite Scout Rangers.

Three of the injured are in serious condition and have been airlifted to Zamboanga City, while the rest are being treated at the station hospital in Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista, Jolo, Aramponi said.

Arrojado said 10 members of the Abu Sayyaf, including sub-commander Hairullah Asbang and Sahiron’s brother-in-law Beting Jakka, were also killed while more than 30 bandits were injured.

Asbang reportedly died of bullet wounds inflicted by an MD-520 attack helicopter that was sent to support ground troops, he said.

“So far, may seven nang identified out of the 10 killed sa Abu Sayyaf. Mayroon na kaming 18 names ng more than 30 wounded sa kanila, marami pang unidentified,” Arrojado said.

Aramponi admitted that the slain Abu Sayyaf members were not recovered, though their deaths were confirmed thru intelligence operatives.

He also said there has been no evacuation of civilians because the clashes occurred far from populated areas.

Members of the Scout Rangers, Marines, and the Army’s 32nd and 35th Infantry Battalions are still in the jungles to pursue the Abu Sayyaf, Aramponi said.

More than 2,500 soldiers are presently in Sulu to run after Abu Sayyaf members, following an order by President Benigno Aquino to stop the al Qaeda-linked group’s kidnapping activities “once and for all.”

The “law enforcement operation” was launched after the bandits released two other Europeans captives – Germans Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen – on October 17, following an alleged payment of ransom. (John Roson)

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14 killed in Sulu clashes – military

Five soldiers were killed and 26 others were wounded when government troops clashed with a large band of Abu Sayyaf members in Talipao, Sulu, Friday afternoon, military officials said.

Nine Abu Sayyaf members were also killed while more than 30 other bandits were wounded, Colonel Alan Arrojado, commander of the Armed Forces’ Joint Task Group Sulu, said in a statement.

Soldiers encountered about 300 bandits led by Abu Sayyaf top leader Radullan Sahiron in a series of clashes that lasted for five hours, he said.

Major Edilberto Aramponi, JTG Sulu’s civil-military operations officer, said the first clash in Brgy. Bud Bunga started 1:50 p.m. and another erupted 4:30 p.m.

Elements of the elite Army Scout Rangers’ 3rd Battalion, numbering about 150, met the Abu Sayyaf twice and the bandits used grenade launchers, Aramponi said by phone.

“Mayroon ding ibang units na kasali doon sa operation, nandoon din ‘yung 35th Infantry Battalion at saka Marines, pero ‘yung Rangers ang nakahagip,” he said.

The slain soldiers, all enlisted personnel, belong to that unit, Aramponi said.

It was not immediately known if the wounded soldiers include officers.

Arrojado said an MD520 attack helicopter was deployed to support ground troops during the fighting.

Hairullah Asbang, an Abu Sayyaf sub-commander, reportedly died of bullet wounds inflicted by the attacking aircraft, he said.

Those reported killed on the Abu Sayyaf side also include Hamer Absara and Beting Jakka, Sahiron’s brother-in-law, Arrojado said.

Aramponi said troops have yet to recover any of the slain bandits, but were able to confirm their deaths thru intelligence operatives.

Arrojado said pursuit operations against the bandits will go on through the night.

“More troops were sent to block the escape routes of the bandits. We will continuously pursue them in their jungle hideouts,” he said.

More than 2,500 soldiers are presently in Sulu to run after Abu Sayyaf members, following an order by President Benigno Aquino to stop the al Qaeda-linked group’s kidnapping activities “once and for all.”

The “law enforcement operation” against the Abu Sayyaf was launched after the bandits released German captives Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen on October 17. (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)

– end –