Support units of the PAF are also scheduled for acquisition of new assets, some of which have already arrived.
Ongoing Delivery of New and Additional Assets:
On March 30, 2015, the PAF accepted and commissioned its first of three new medium tactical transport aircraft, the Airbus-CASA C-295M aircraft which was acquired under the Medium-Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft project, and is expecting the delivery of the remaining two aircraft within this year. The aircraft will be assigned with the 220th Airlift Wing based in Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan, Cebu.
|The 1st C-295 in PAF service, during the acceptance ceremonies last March 30, 2015.|
Photo taken from GMA News website.
Despite being embroiled in accusations regarding contract breaches and corruption, the PAF also accepted and silently commissioned the first 7 units of a scheduled 21-unit buy of Refurbished UH-1 Helicopters in the form of ex-German military Dornier UH-1D Huey combat utility helicopters last February 2015. These additional helicopters are now with the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing. The supplier, a joint venture between Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters, was given a Partial Notice of Termination as of March 26, 2015, and was given 7 days (April 2, 2015) to justify the continuation of the contract with a new deadline within April 2015. According to MaxDefense sources, the remaining 14 helicopters are all fully assembled, and 6 of these helicopters have already undergone and passed the acceptance test by the PAF and are only awaiting for the PAF to accept them formally should the contract between RASI and the DND continues.
|One of the accepted Dornier UH-1D Super Delta during the pre-acceptance tests.|
Photo taken from Tim Maceren's FB page.
Assets Confirmed and Awaiting for Deliveries:
Still part of the Medium-Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft project, two more Airbus Military-CASA C-295M medium tactical transport aircraft are expected for delivery soon, and there were indications that the PAF might be able to receive both aircraft before the end of 2015. They will all be assigned to the 220th Airlift Wing.
|The CASA C-295 & CN-235 assembly line in Spain. 2 more C-295M are expected to be delivered by Airbus Military-CASA to the PAF within 2015.|
Photo taken from flightglobal.com.
Another airlift-capable aircraft that is in the pipeline is the acquisition of 2 Light-Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft (LLFWA) to complement and eventually replace the N-22B Nomads. Indonesia Aerospace-PTDI won the project with their NC-212i, and was expected to deliver the aircraft by March 2015. Unfortunately the project was awarded to IA/PTDI later than planned, so they are now expected to arrive at least by 3rd or 4th quarter of 2015.
|The PAF is scheduled to get 2 PTDI NC212i light lift aircraft within 2015.|
Aside from the C-295M and NC-212, the 220th Airlift Wing is also expected the delivery of two refurbished Lockheed C-130T Hercules heavy tactical transport aircraft by early to mid 2016. These are ex-US Marine Corps tanker aircraft but it is still unconfirmed if they will retain their air-to-air refueling capabilities. This would bring the total commissioned C-130 fleet of the PAF to 5 units.
|The PAF's joint inspection team during the final check on USMC KC-130T no. 022 before accepting the offer of the US government to transfer the aircraft together with another one for refurbishing prior to delivery to the PAF.|
Under the Attack Helicopter project, the 15th Strike Wing is scheduled to receive their first batch of a total of 8 AgustaWestland AW-109P armed helicopters by the 1st quarter of 2015, with the first 2 helicopters arriving on December 2014 and is undergoing pre-acceptance tests and checks as of this writing. It is expected that both helicopters will be officially accepted and commissioned by the PAF within this month.
|One of the PAF's AW-109P armed helicopter undergoing tests. Take note of the FN RMP Pod installed on the side weapons mount.|
Photo taken from Wikimedia.
Another helicopter acquisition program that is expected to bear fruit this year is the Combat Utility Helicopters, wherein the DND acquired 8 Bell 412EP from the Canadian Commercial Corporation under a government-to-government project. 6 brand new helicopters are expected to arrive on or before October 2015, and will be assigned with the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing. Due to the need for more helicopters to transport VIPs this year as part of the Philippines' hosting of APEC Summit 2015, 3 of the helicopters will initially be configured as VIP transport helicopters for the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing. It is not yet confirmed though if these 3 helicopters will continue to serve as permanent VIP transport helicopters, or if they will be reconfigured to combat utility helicopters later on.
|The PAF is expected to get their new Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters soon, which are said to be almost similar to the configuration of the CH-146 Griffon used by the Canadian Armed Forces.|
Photo by Michael Durning, taken from Airliners.net.
Ongoing Projects for Implementation and Approval:
There are upcoming projects that are still being processed as of this writing, and some have even already started the bidding process although were among those affected by the delays in the implementation of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.
The Close Air Support Aircraft acquisition project is the most anticipated project that has not yet gone past a successful bid submission schedule. This involves the acquisition of 6 brand new ground attack aircraft to complement and eventually replace the ageing Rockwell OV-10A/C/M Bronco being used by the 15th Strike Wing. Among the most anticipated participants in this project are Hawker Beechcraft with their AT-6 Texan II, and Embraer with their A-29 / EMB-314 Super Tucano. The project is currently on-hold, awaiting for the final approval of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.
|The Close Air Support Aircraft project is still pending as of now, but it is anticipated that the competitors will be between the Hawker Beechcraft's AT-6 Texan II and Embraer's A-29 / EMB-314 Super Tucano.|
The PAF has also started the bidding for its Long Range Patrol Aircraft (LRPA) project, which requires the acquisition of 2 new Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The first attempt to bid the project failed, and ultimately the project was affected by Malacanang's pending approval for the Revised AFP Modernization Program. Aside from the possibility of acquiring brand new assets, the DND is also looking at the offers made by the US government to transfer, either by grant or by sale, or refurbished Lockheed P-3C Orion aircraft, which is a long standing offer by the US but was not availed before due to the high acquisition, maintenance, and operating cost of the aircraft. It is expected tha the PAF's 300th Air Intelligence & Security Group will be operating the said type of aircraft.
|New maritime patrol aircraft like the Airbus-CASA C-295MPA (above) and used refurbished models like the Lockheed P-3C Orion from the US (below) are being considered by the PAF.|
Future Acquisition Projects:
After acquiring 2 new Long Range Patrol Aircraft, the PAF is planning to acquire another 2 units by 2020. It would be possible that this would be the same model as the first 2 to be acquired by the PAF. The goal is for the PAF to have at least 4 units, depending on the financial and threat requirements of the PAF.
There is also a requirement to acquire four (4) units of Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) aircraft, scheduled in 2 batches of 2 units. The plan is to have 2 units by 2020, and another 2 units by 2022. The ECM aircraft is still a vague acquisition, and interpretation on this project may vary. MaxDefense believes that this is Special Mission aircraft that will be using a transport or business aircraft similar to the expected platform for the PAF's future AEWC aircraft. But others suggest that this could be a special fighter aircraft similar to the US Navy's EA-18G Growler or US Air Force's F-16CJ/DJ Falcon that can perform fighter support and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) more commonly known in US nomenclature as "Wild Weasel".
Other support aircraft that is worth waiting are the requirements for at least a single Air-to-Air Refueling Tanker by 2021. As the project is still expected to be implemented a few years from now, it is still unclear how much is the budget and what are the required specifications of this aircraft. The most probable solution is for the acquisition of either a new or used refurbished C-130 aircraft with Air Refueling Tanker equipment, although it could be as high as acquiring a commercial airliner fitted as a Tanker/Transport like the Airbus KC-30 / A330 multirole tanker/transport aircraft.
A step up from the usual combat utility helicopters being operated by the PAF is a plan to acquire a minimum of 4 Medium or Heavy Lift Helicopters, planned to be acquired in 2 batches of 2 units each by 2019 and 2022, respectively. As previously indicated by several PAF officers, the organization prefer a helicopter design that has a rear ramp which was very instrumental on Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. Among those they are looking at are the Boeing CH-47F Chinook and the AgustaWestland AW-101.
There are also several projects that the Philippine Air Force is planning to acquire that are not listed in the "Flight Plan" report, but are actually logical in nature.
There is an impending plan to acquire at least 2 VVIP-configured Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters and a new VIP fixed wing jet aircraft for the 250th PAW, although it is said to be funded separately from the Revised AFP Modernization Program. For the helicopters, the budget will be taken from the Department of Energy (DOE) with an ABC of Php 2.09 billion. The VVIP fixed wing aircraft will be acquired by the Office of the President and has an ABC of Php 3.69 billion. The VVIP aircraft budget will be enough to acquire either a standard Boeing 737-800, or probably even a Boeing Business Jets BBJ. This would represent an improvement as the currently the only VIP aircraft in PAF service is the old Fokker F-28 Fellowship aircraft which lacks in size, range, and modern safety features.
There are also plans to increase the number of additional orders for transport and utility aircraft that were already ordered by the PAF. These include the Medium-Lift Fixed Wing aircraft, the Light-Lift Fixed Wing aircraft, the Attack Helicopter, and the Combat Utility Helicopter. This will be subject to availability of more funds, and the overall performance evaluation of the aircraft acquired.
If all aircraft acquired by the PAF are all performing well, expect the PAF to request for additional Airbus-CASA C-295 aircraft (probably the newer C-295W version), the Airbus-PTDI NC-212i, the AgustaWestland AW-109P, and the Bell 412EP. The increase in acquisition would allow the PAF to retire its older assets, namely the Fokker F-27 Friendship, the GAF N-22B Nomad, and the Bell UH-1H Iroquois.
There are also plans to acquire a long-term replacement for the Aermacchi AS-211 being used by the PAF, as a trainer that will bridge the gap between the SF-260FH primary trainer and the FA-50 LIFT. It is still unclear if the plan calls for a jet or propeller powered aircraft model. Another type of aircraft being considered are medium sized Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or "drones" that will be used for surveillance and observation. The PAF is looking for a model that has enough range and endurance to reach the country's territories and EEZ in the West Philippine Sea, including the Kalayaan Group of Islands. Previous offers made was by Elbit Systems for a maritime patrol version of their Hermes 900 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), although it remains to be seen if the AFP will accept the said offer.
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In general, the PAF's modernization program has been moving slowly but surely, boosted by the support provided by the Aquino Administration. To address the slow movement, MaxDefense believes that it only goes back to more funding and a faster procurement process. Add to that the instilling of a culture of project continuity within the PAF, the DND, and the whole Philippine government.
Apart from the equipment acquisition projects, the PAF's Flight Plan also discusses the importance of changes and improvement in the organization, training, research and development, human resource system, doctrine and knowledge system, bases and support systems, and values system. All this work hand-in-hand to further improve the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force towards a world-class organization tasked in defending the Philippine skies and supporting the Filipino people in any way possible.