|The Rockwell OV-10 Bronco is expected to be replaced soon in the Philippine Air Force after more than 20 years in service.|
Plans to replace the type due to old age and difficulty in maintenance and underway for some years now, but implementation has not been done due to funding concerns. But with the Aquino administration's drive to modernize the armed forces including the PAF, the OV-10's replacement is back on the sights as well.
MaxDefense will discuss possible replacement models that are expected to be in the PAF's shortlist. Take note that THIS IS NOT THE ACTUAL LISTING, but is MaxDefense' expected candidates:
1. Korea Aerospace Industries KA-1 Woongbi (South Korea)
The KAI KA-1 Woongbi is an armed variant of the original KT-1 trainer aircraft. It can be used for light attack missions, forward air control, as well as basic and advanced flight training missions. The KA-1 is currently used by the air forces of South Korea and Peru although the KT-1 trainer variant is also used by Turkey and Indonesia.
|A pair of KAI KA-1 Woongbi of the RoKAF.|
Photo taken from Nemopan.com
Due to the PAF's choice of its stablemate FA-50 Golden Eagle for its LIFT/LCA requirement, the KA-1 has an added advantage with regards to corporate positioning. Korea and KAI has previously given very good pricing to the Philippine military with its products. But the armed variant has not been proven in combat by its 2 users.
2. Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 Texan II (USA)
The AT-6 Texan II is an armed variant of the T-6 trainer aircraft made by Beechcraft. It has similar concept as the KA-1 Woongbi, and almost similar capability. The T-6 is used by several armed forces including the US Air Force and Navy, Israel, Greece, Germany, and many others.
|The Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 Texan II.|
Photo taken from DefenseTech.org
Despite the trainer variant being widely used and proven with several hundreds delivered, the AT-6 variant is not in use by any armed forces, making it an unproven variant. Also, it may not be qualified if standard bidding procedures are to be used to purchase aircraft under this program due to Philippine legal requirements on number of users.
The AT-6 joined the US Air Force's bid for the Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) project and was projected to be the strongest competitor, but it lost out to the A-29 Super Tucano. Hawker Beechcraft also sent one AT-6 together with other aircraft to Clark Air Base in April 2012, as part of its product roadshow.
3. Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano (Brazil)
Of all the possible competitors for the OV-10 replacement, the EMB-314 Super Tucano holds the distinction of being the most proven, chosen by the most number of air forces, and the most developed for light armed missions. It was developed from the older EMB-312 Tucano, which was also a successful aircraft. The Super Tucano is used extensively by Brazil, and is also chosen by Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and recently by Indonesia. Also being picked by the US Air Force for its LAAR program (as the A-29) is a big boost for the aircraft.
|A pair of Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucanos of the Brazilian Air Force.|
Extensive usage for attack missions by both the Brazilian and Colombian air forces have shown its capabilities, and Brazil even uses it for low intensity air policing duties and border patrols.
Also, the EMB-314 has been initially announced by the DND and PAF as their top pick, although there is no finality yet on the OV-10 replacement program. But that gives the aircraft an extra advantage in the project awarding.
4. Aero L-159 ALCA (Czech Republic)
The L-159 ALCA (Advanced Light Combat Aircraft) is the latest iteration of the L-39 Albatross advance jet trainer that was previously pitched to the PAF in the early 1990s. It comes in 2 versions, the single-seat L-159A which is currently available, and the two-seat L-159B, which is still in the prototype stage. The two-seat version was reportedly pitched by the Czech government to the PAF before for the LIFT/SAA project.
|A flight of Aero L-159A ALCA of the Czech Air Force.|
As a jet-powered aircraft, its advantages is speed and its ability to conduct combat duties similar to the future LIFT/SAA aircraft of the PAF, the KAI F/A-50 Golden Eagle (actually the ALCA's combat performance may be nearer to the capabilities of the T/A-50). But for missions like those conducted by the OV-10 that require endurance and slower speeds, the ALCA's high speed would be a disadvantage. Also, being a single-seater means the pilot will be overworked for observation and surveillance duties.
The ALCA is only used by the Czech Republic, and has not been successful in its bids to other air forces. The nearest chance it got for an export was with Iraq but it was cancelled due to budgetary issues.
5. United Aircraft (Yakolev) Yak-130 Mitten (Russia)
The Yakolev Yak-130 Mitten is another jet powered possible candidate for the OV-10 replacement. It previously competed in the LIFT/SAA program of the PAF, but is also capable of doing what the OV-10 does plus more. It was a spin-off from the joint Aermacchi-Yakolev partnership in the 1990s, and has similar physical attributes with its Italian twin, the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master (another losing PAF LIFT/SAA program candidate). It is a two-seat aircraft, capable of being used as a lead-in fighter trainer, light combat aircraft and reconnaissance/surveillance aircraft.
|The Yakolev Yak-13 Mitten of the Russian Air Force.|
Photo taken from Airliners.com.
Based on released specifications it appears that its advantage is its range and speed, but due to its high speed compared to its propeller-driven aircraft, it does lack on endurance. It has more hard points for different Russian-made ammunition, enabling it to do similar combat duties as the LIFT/SAA aircraft.
Although it is a LIFT aircraft, its dissimilarity with the incoming KAI FA-50 Golden Eagle might be detrimental to the training program when used together. But being dissimilar means it can be used in air combat training representing an OPFOR aircraft. Being a Russian product is another disadvantage due to compatibility and dissimilarity with existing PAF and allied systems and ammunition, and lack of experience by the PAF on Russian systems. This appears to be a major reason why it was not chosen for the LIFT/SAA program. Pricing and operating costs are also quite high compare to its propeller-driven competitors, being the most expensive since it actually is closer in in capability to the FA-50.
The Mitten is used by Russia and several countries that rely on Russia for their arms requirement like Algeria. An issue brought out previously is the capability of United Aircraft to deliver according to contract schedule, wherein there are several orders from other countries like Vietnam, Syria, Bangladesh and even Russia that has not yet been fulfilled.
6. Special mention can be given to the following possible offers, but in MaxDefense' opinion may not make it to a short list should a bid happen:
- Air Tractor AT-802U
- US Aircraft A-67 Dragon
- Boeing OV-10X Bronco
|The US Aircrafts A-67 Dragon is still in prototype stage.|
Photo taken from Wikimedia.
MaxDefense believes that these American aircraft models does not meet some basic requirements of the PAF / DND's bidding requirements, as all are not used by the armed forces of the manufacturer's home country, and most are either prototypes (A-67) or concepts yet (OV-10X). Currently the AT-802U is only used by the United Arab Emirates Air Force.
Press reports last year pointed to Embraer's Super Tucano as the choice for the OV-10 replacement, although this was immediately denied by the DND and PAF, saying that there is no definite choice yet. Previous revelations also appear that the source of the press report was not dependable at all. It was also expected that the bidding for this project will commence this year, but as of writing there is no schedule released by the DND yet to confirm this.
DND USec. Patrick Velez previously confirmed that the Super Tucano, Texan II, Woongbi and L-159 ALCA were in the shortlist for the "close air support aircraft" requirement.
As it is too early to say, MaxDefense will not give its preference on a specific aircraft model. Instead MaxDefense is open to comments, opinions and personal preferences on both the blog page and in our Facebook page.
June 24, 2014:
The DND released a Supplemental Bid Bulletin, moving the bid submission and opening schedule from July 2, 2014 to July 11, 2014. No reason was provided, although it is expected that bidders are given enough time to provide reasonable and competitive bid.
MaxDefense is trying to release an update on this project in a separate blog entry, hopefully within the month.