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Monday, February 12, 2018

Canada's Hypocrisy Paved the Way for PAF's Bell 412EPI Order Cancellation. So What's Next for the CUH Acquisition Project?

The recent signing of a contract for the acquisition of 16 Bell 412EPI combat helicopters from Bell Helicopter Textron through the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) held last December 2017, was a short-lived celebration after being announced to the world during the Singapore Airshow, as the Philippine government is now preparing to cancel the contract. This is after the Canadian government, specifically its International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, backed by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said he would review and investigate the sale of the helicopters to the Philippine government, and block it if necessary. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's stand is also not in favour of the deal with the Philippines, and has mentioned that they must look into how Canadian equipment is being used by their buyers.

The PAF never hid its intention on how they will use the Bell 412. It is a Combat Utility Helicopter - a helicopter that can do utilitarian duties both in combat and peacetime conditions. It is not an attack helicopter. The Canadian government knows about this since the 1st contract to acquire 8 units was made in 2014.
Photo taken and credited to the Philippine Air Force.

This action by the Canadian government prompted the Philippine government to act. In his latest press release, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana confirmed that they are already preparing the cancellation of the deal with CCC and Bell Helicopters, as to spare the Philippines from possible delays brought by the Canadian government's decision to investigate and possibly block the deal's implementation. According to Sec. Lorenzana, the letter of cancellation could be out by next week.

It was clear from the very beginning that the Philippine Air Force's primary intention in using the Bell 412EPI helicopters is for supporting combat operations, thus the "Combat Utility Helicopter" labelling of the acquisition project's name. It was never hidden from the Canadians, although the description made during the acquisition was that the helicopters would be used for Search and Rescue (SAR) and HADR operations. This is true although it is not the primary mission of the helicopters. Even the earlier order of 8 Bell 412EP during the term of Pres. Benigno Aquino III has the same project name and was acquired with the same intention. The only difference now is that the incumbent president is known for his human rights violations.

See, the Canadian ambassador was even there when the PAF accepted the last 4 Bell 412EP it ordered, when they were commissioned to service in late 2015.
Photo credits to Bell Helicopters.

But despite being coined as a Combat Utility Helicopter, the name  says it all - its a Utility Helicopter, which means it is planned to be used as a logistics workhorse and could be used in a combat environment, thus the name Combat Utility. The presence of the door guns are only meant to defend the helicopter during low level operations, but not as an offensive weapon. These Bell 412EPIs are also not designed to carry air-launched munitions like rockets and missiles, since the Philippine Air Force has other platforms designed for such requirement, like the Leonardo AW109E Power and the MD-520MG Defender armed helicopters.

Despite the Philippines having a president with human rights issues, is it really fair to use it as a reason to block the sale of helicopters for the Philippine Air Force? The PAF is among the least exposed armed service of the Philippine government due to its nature of work of providing air defense, air surveillance, logistics and air support to the government. And yet, they were unjustly deprived of a helicopter fleet that could improve their capability not only to ferry troops to combat and injured troops away from the battle, but also in conducting logistics support and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) during times of calamity.

A Royal Canadian Air Force Bell 412EP Combat Utility Helicopter (known as the CH-146 Griffon in RCAF service) in Roxas Airport while conducting Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda / Haiyan. The Philippine Air Force intends to use the Bell 412EPI in the same way as the RCAF. So what's wrong with that?
Photo taken from the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Canada itself uses the Bell 412EP (called CH-146 Griffon in Canadian Forces service) as Combat Utility Helicopters. And yet, Canada itself showed the HADR capabilities of their Griffons when they brought a few to the Visayas region in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda / Haiyan in 2013. This demonstration by the Canadian helicopters gave the PAF the reason to choose the Bell 412 over other helicopter designs that were offered to them.

A Canadian Armed Forces Bell 412EP (called the CH-146 Griffon in CAF service) side-by-side with a Philippine Air Force Bell UH-1H Huey during the HADR operations for Typhoon Yolanda victims in the Visayas region in 2013. The Canadians brought the Bell 412EP to showcase its capabilities, which gave the PAF a reason to sign a contract to buy 8 units from CCC in 2014, and delivered by 2015.
Credits to owner of photo.

Canada Wasted the Philippine Government's Time:

The Canadian Commercial Corporation is a crown corporation, a government-owned entity that actually reports to the Ministry of International Trade, which is headed by the same Minister Champagne that is trying to block the sale of the helicopters to the Philippines.

What in the hell was Min. Champagne doing since early 2017 when the CCC, which reports to his ministry, was already processing the deal with the Philippine government? If he knew what was happening, Minister Champagne should have asked CCC to halt the process while they investigate about the matter.

Why did Minister Champagne allowed both the Philippine government and his officials from the CCC to waste their time and effort to close to deal if he is against it in the first place? This is gross disrespect of the Philippine government, which, despite being labelled as a human rights violator, still deserves respect from foreign officials. They could have just kindly said no to the Philippines!!

Now the CUH Acquisition Program will definitely experience unnecessary delays as the Technical Working Group and PAF planners will again need to re-study what other helicopter can be bought as an alternative to the Bell 412EPI.

See? The PAF's Bell 412EPs were actually baptised as Catholics! 

Despite MaxDefense's disagreements with the policies of Pres. Duterte and Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, especially those surrounding the issues of the Philippine Navy's Frigate Acquisition Project, MaxDefense agrees and support the president's decision for the cancellation of the contract between DND, CCC and Bell Helicopter Textron.

In this particular deal, the Canadian government acted like an ass, obviously showing double-standard, hypocrisy, and lack of respect to the Philippine government. Just search about the sale of Canadian-built Light Armored Vehicles to Saudi Arabia to find out what MaxDefense meant.

Canadian-built Light Armored Vehicles being used by Saudi security forces in crackdown of militants. The PAF isn't expected to use the Bell 412EPI in the same manner.

Other Options to the Bell 412EPI:

The Bell 412EPI was actually the best balance between unit price, maintenance and operating cost, size, quality, continuity, and performance that PAF's limited money can buy. 

It is a direct decendant of the venerable Bell UH-1Huey which is the centerpiece of PAF's helicopter operations. The PAF's doctrines, logistics, training, knowledge, and all other skillsets were nurtured by decades of operating and mastering the Bell UH-1 helicopter. We're talking about decades of experience with the platform. What's great with the Bell 412 is its exactly what the Bell UH-1 of the future should be!! Simple, cheap, nimble, capable and with good quality.

During the CUH acuqisition's pre-contract stage, there were several offers made by other helicopter manufacturers to the PAF. MaxDefense can confirm that these companies include Leonardo with their AW139M and W-3A Sokol helicopters, Airbus Helicopters with their AS565 Panther, and Korea Aerospace Industries with their KUH-1 Surion helicopter.

As discussed in previous posts on our Facebook community page, the preference for Bell 412EPI has several factors. Aside from commonality with existing Bell 412EPs in PAF fleet which makes it easier for logistics, training and transition, and familiarisation for the entire team, the 412EPI also has the right size, being larger than the Panther, but smaller than the Surion. The size difference affects the carrying capacity, range and endurance of the Bell 412EPI versus the smaller AS565 Panther. And while the Surion is larger, the Korean helicopter is also more expensive. The PAF's doctrines on CUH operations was made around the Huey helicopter, which is the ancestor of the Bell 412EPI and shares a lot of common attributes with its older stablemate.

The Surion, being a new helicopter, is still experiencing troubles even back in Korea. Meanwhile, the Sokol, despite being in service with the PAF, has issues regarding its small sliding door openings which are said to have made it difficult for troops to alight and embark, and is also a problem when conducting HADR operations.

Compared to the Bell 412EPI which is actually a militarised civilian helicopter, the KUH-1 Surion is a military helicopter by design, based on the Airbus' Super Puma helicopter. Thus its larger size, which may not fit the requirements and budget of the PAF, unless changes are made.

The defense secretary also mentioned of Turkey, Russia and China as alternative sources. The only readily available helicopter Turkey can offer is the TAI-Sikorsky T-70 Black Hawk, which is Turkish version of the Sikorsky S-70i International Black Hawk. Russia may have made offers with their Mil Mi-17 Hip medium helicopter and Mil Mi-35 Hind, but both helicopters are too large for CUH requirements. Kamov's Ka-60 Kasatka could be closer in size to the Bell 412EP so that is something that we could be keeping our eyes on. China? Moving on...

The PAF also has preference to skid landing gear due to its simplicity and ability to allow the helicopter to land on uneven surfaces. The PAF is not in favor of having retractable landing gear due to its lack of sturdiness and the need for unnecessary costs in maintenance and parts requirement.

The closest helicopter in terms of size and attributes is actually the Bell UH-1Y Venom, made in the US factories of Bell Helicopter Textron. But alas, its price is almost thrice of the Bell 412EPI due to better protection, larger engines, advanced electronics, and other features not found on the Bell 412EPI.

The PAF also received offers for lease-to-own solutions using refurbished helicopters, specifically the Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk and the larger Airbus Helicopters H225M Super Puma. Both can be leased under a 3-year contract, wherein the proponent will supply a batch of 10 helicopters per contract, while also providing the aircrew and ground crew instructors and engineers, and do the maintenance of the helicopters and make them in tip-top shape. The PAF would only pay the lease and the fuel costs every month. At the end of the 3-year contract, the PAF has the option to pay for the helicopters and take-over ownership. Despite being a short to medium term solution, this allows the PAF to have a CUH ready at the earliest possible, as the helicopters can start arriving 3 months after export license has been released by the proponent's home country government.

This is just a proof that such offer exists, despite not being reported by anyone else except MaxDefense Philippines. We intentionally cropped the entire page we consider the contents confidential.

If PAF Really Wants the Bell 412...

MaxDefense believes that there are 4 options for the PAF to able to acquire Bell 412EPIs. 

First is to wait for a new less-overreacting government to be elected in Canada, and try to negotiate again.

Second is to wait until Pres. Duterte is replaced by a new more HR-conscious government either in a legally conducted elections in 2022, or through extra-Constitutional means at an earlier date. 

Third option would be to lease Bell 412EPIs from a 3rd party company. The same way that the Philippine government leased 4 Bell 412EPs during Pres. Ramos' time for use in the APEC Philippines 1996. And have the option to own them after a certain number of years.

And fourth, start negotiating with the Japanese government to acquire the Subaru-Bell UH-X, which is Japan's chosen Combat Utility Helicopter to replace their ageing Huey helicopters. The Subaru-Bell UH-X is essentially a Japanese version of the Bell 412EPI, with specific upgrades made by the Japanese military to fit their needs. It is expected that the UH-X will be made in Subaru's facility in Japan using license-manufactured parts also made in Japan. 

MaxDefense believes that the Japanese would be more than willing to sell the UH-X to the Philippines once production starts.

Subaru teams up with Bell to manufacture the Bell 412EPI as Japan's UH-X helicopter to replace ageing Fuji-Bell UH-1H Huey helicopters.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.

But in the meantime, the PAF should move fast in finding a solution to this problem. Whatever is their second choice as Combat Utility Helicopter should be given a look as early as now. 


  1. Maybe for now sir, better to take a lease-to-own if possible & available for an expedite service, and if the problem with the Canadians still exist at latter time then possibly the the Jap's UH-X would be available for production and with no hesitation to sell on us. Secondly, Plan-B (other CUH helos).

  2. Is it possible to customize a uh1 venom for our needs? Tell bell textron to go easy on the armor and some avionics while we wait for the subaru uhx?

  3. We should consider a mixed of East and West supplier for future weapons acquisition. Maybe more expensive and can lead to logistical or operational issue but some countries have done it.

  4. There should be a clause in the contract an absolute assess to this material which include maintenance, (re)training, repair, spare parts, upgrades and updates. No interference from any third party or any government to avail for at least the next 20 years of used...FOR ALL CONTRACT OF MODERNIZATION PROGRAM

    Th Philippine should start assessing the commitment of its allies or partner in terms of how reliable they are.....Each of them have different government philosophy....

  5. We should consider the Korean Surion . The Koreans seems to be a reliable source of military equipment. KAI the manufacturer of the Surion is the same company that made the FA50PH. The Koreans has also supplied the AFP with trucks (Kia KM250) light machine guns ( Daewoo K3).

  6. i think we shud drop thier garbage infront of thier embassy or air drop them on to thier roofs..

  7. Being the actual son of Fidel Castro and a libtard idiot, Trudeau and his cabinet loves muslim and communist terrorists alike which our government is fighting, in fact they are bringing them in their country...fuck Canada! Better buy helicopters from Russia and somewhere else.

  8. Its just grandstanding on canada part. Obviously corruption is not only found in the Philippines.

  9. Canadian government is full of BS since the Leftist Justin Trudeau became the Prime Minister. So be it, we can get them from other countries like Russia, Italy, or France to name a few. Or maybe just sever our ties with that country.


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