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Friday, January 3, 2020

Why the Transfer of additional OV-10 Broncos and Spare Parts for PAF Should Proceed

MaxDefense will try to make some minor changes in the way we use the blog entries in reporting news on the AFP. We'll have more shorter blog posts, only a few paragraphs long but will have more entries per month than usual.

Our first entry for 2020 should have been good news, but MaxDefense has not really found too much good news this early of the year. Instead, we are carrying over a potential bad news that came from late last year which we were not able to report due to our need to get more information from sources.

The fist one for the year will come from the Philippine Air Force (PAF), which has been active in the last year on their modernization projects due to a strong push by their leadership.

But at the very end of the year, MaxDefense found out that there appears to be issues surrounding one of its projects that was started by the previous PAF leadership. We are talking about the PAF's OV-10 Bronco Aircraft and Spare Parts Transfer Project, which is a PAF Special Project undertaken within the period covered by the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Project.


All four OV-10s shown in the photo consisting of 2 OV-10A and 2 OV-10G+ are seen here in NASA's Langley Research Center in Viriginia. The FLIR turret on the OV-10G+ were already removed by the USAF prior to handing over the planes to NASA. All four are being transferred to the PAF, if this deal continues to push through. Photo taken from The Drive The Warzone website.

Being a special project, it is not funded by the AFP Modernization Trust Fund, and is actually funded by the annual funding allocation of the PAF.

Before proceeding with the rest of the article, MaxDefense hopes its readers to read our first entry regarding the project, which explains the deal and gives a background on how the deal even started. It can be found on the link below:

"OV-10G+ Combat Dragon II Broncos & Spare Parts for Transfer to the Philippine Air Force" - first posed on 24 July 2018.

The OV-10G+ Combat Dragon II Broncos as used by the US Air Force. Credits to original source of photo.

The article above describes the capabilities of the aircraft being transferred, as well as its potential contributions to the PAF once it enters service.

Based on information gathered by MaxDefense this past weeks leading to the New Year, it appears that the Philippine Air Force is still having issues in closing the deal for the delivery of used OV-10 aircraft and spare parts from the US, which includes two (2) used Rockwell OV-10A Bronco and two (2) OV-10G+ Combat Dragon II close air support aircraft that are being kept by the US government, as well as millions of dollars worth of OV-10 Bronco spare parts that were acquired at very discounted prices by the PAF.

The four working aircraft were added by the US to the package, which the PAF found to be very useful due to the declining condition of its existing fleet of OV-10A/C Broncos with the 15th Strike Wing.

It would be remembered that MaxDefense's previous discussion about the proposed transfer was that the four OV-10A/G+ Bronco aircraft were previously used by the US military but transferred to the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and were originally for disposal. And since the PAF will acquire the stored spare parts, the US government decided to include the 4 aircraft as part of the package after the Philippine side negotiated for them.


While the PAF's overall budget for the transfer was only a little over US$2 million, the spare part's worth is said to be worth several millions of dollars worth, with the aircraft added as freebies.

OV-10G+ capabilities with the US Air Force. While some of its US-only equipment has been removed, the original plan was for the PAF to install some of them back at PAF's own cost using PAF-standard equipment like MX-15 EO/IR turret and L3Harris communications equipment. Photo credits to original source.

Possible Cancellation of the OV-10 Aircraft and Parts Transfer to the Philippine Air Force:


Based on information gathered by MaxDefense, the deal to transfer the OV-10 aircraft and spare parts to the PAF appears to be not yet 100% confirmed due to multiple reasons. And MaxDefense believes it is bad news if the deal does not push through.


The cancellation of the deal to transfer additional OV-10 Bronco aircraft and spare parts will have negative implications on the Philippine Air Force, which includes the following:

1. Failure of additional aircraft to arrive means no increase in PAF's air combat capability - this means that instead of boosting the air combat capability of the PAF by adding four additional aircraft, the PAF would not have additional improvements and instead will expect reduced capabilities.

2. Lack of spares to support active OV-10 Bronco aircraft - if the large pool of spare parts that the PAF is expected to not arrive, the PAF could potentially have difficulty sourcing spare parts for the fleet. The original plan of the PAF was for the spare parts to allow continuous operation of the OV-10 Bronco fleet until 2024. This would become impossible if the deal falls through.

3. Lack of spares to revive mothballed OV-10 Bronco aircraft - the lack of available spare parts would also not allow the PAF to revive mothballed aircraft to increase quantity of air assets. Many of the mothballed OV-10s are in need of spare parts that the US-sourced pool was suppose to provide, with the PAF estimating at least 4 mothballed aircraft possible for rehabilitation. This would also be threatened if the deal does not happen.


Many of the PAF's OV-10A/C Broncos are non-operational due to lack of spares, or reaching maximum service lifespan of its airframes. Apparently its down to its lowest ever in the PAF's history as you can count those operational with the fingers of your hand. Photo credits to original source.

4. Early retirement of OV-10 Bronco than originally planned - with no additional spare parts for both active and mothballed aircraft, the PAF might be forced to retire the OV-10 Bronco fleet earlier than planned. MaxDefense estimates that the Broncos may be out of service by 2021 instead of 2024 or later as originally planned.

5. PAF not having enough Close Air Support assets - with the potential early retirement of the OV-10 Bronco if no parts or additional aircraft arriving, the PAF would not have enough air assets to provide close air support, considering the PAF is only expecting 6 new Embraer A-29B Super Tucano aircraft that were originally meant to add numbers to the already depleted fleet of OV-10s equipping 15th Strike Wing. Should the Broncos retire earlier than planned, the six (6) new A-29B Super Tucano fleet would be left on their own. And since the PAF has not ordered additional Super Tucanos, there won't be enough aircraft for the PAF to use for close air support or air strikes.

6. 15th Strike Wing might need to hang on to the armed SF-260TP Warrior fleet - originally, the PAF was to remove the SF-260TP Warrior armed trainer fleet from combat duty and will be shifted to  training duties for the 15th Strike Wing once the six new Super Tucanos arrive, which means the Broncos and Super Tucanos will become the fixed wing combat assets of the wing. But should the Broncos retire early, the wing might be forced to use the SF-260TP Warriors for combat operations longer than planned.


The 15th Strike Wing's other fixed-wing attack aircraft, the SF-260TP Warrior is not really capable enough in providing air support compared to the OV-10 or A-29B. Photo credits to original source Samuel R Forston.

Signs of the Deal Not Pushing Smoothly as Planned:
The US government through the US Air Force previously held a public tender for a contractor to do the crating and shipping of the four OV-10A/G+ Bronco aircraft to an overseas location, and reassemble the planes once delivered to the said overseas country. But this has not moved and has been inactive until now with the FBO services of the US government.


Another sign is that the deal has not moved positively since 2018, despite the original plan for the aircraft and parts to be moved out of NASA's storage yard by end of 2018 to give way to more space. By end of 2019, there is still no positive news on the deal. Any positive movement should have been picked up by large international defense news outlets by now.


This previous solicitation made by the US government has not moved forward, which is not a good sign for the PAF. Photo taken from FBO website of the US government.

MaxDefense has also been monitoring if the PAF was able to receive any shipment of spare parts of created aircraft from the US, but MaxDefense received confirmation from PAF sources that no deliveries were made between 2018 and 2019. The PAF remains to still be relying on whatever parts they have, including mothballing other Broncos. There are now less flying Broncos with the PAF compared during the Marawi City crisis in 2017.

While there were news of PAF officers flying to the US that is related to the OV-10 aircraft and spare parts deal, there were only meetings that did not really made a huge dent on making the deal happen.

There were also plans for the PAF to install new MX-15 FLIR turrets and communication equipment from Harris Corporation (now L3Harris) to replace those removed by the US Air Force. So far there are no confirmed contracts or signs that the deal was closed for the acquisition of such equipment.

MaxDefense Philippines did not report these events as we continued to hope that the deal would push through, considering we are still picking up news that the deal is still a go despite these negative signs.


Another Potential Reason Which May Lead to a Potential Cancellation:
Although MaxDefense did not receive a solid confirmation if the deal crumbled or not, it appears that there were changes in the PAF leadership's policy with regards to the fate of the OV-10 Bronco fleet.

It would be remembered that the plan to acquire the spare parts and aircraft from the US was based on a plan that the PAF would continue operating the Rockwell OV-10 Bronco until at least 2024, while the PAF is still in the process of acquiring additional Embraer A-29B Super Tucanos on top of the six units ordered during the Horizon 1 phase.

It is highly possible that the current PAF leadership is considering or may have even already considered making changes on that plan, including the consideration of shortening the OV-10 Bronco's service to until 2021 only. This may include cancelling any plans to acquire more aircraft or reviving mothballed aircraft, and just focusing on keeping the current active fleet flyable until then.

Another possible issue is funding since the PAF did not use AFP Modernization funding for this deal, instead using their own annual operating funds in the hope of reducing red tape and hastening the deal rather than going through lengthy process as prescribed by RA 10349 (Revised AFP Modernization Program Act).

But MaxDefense sources and contributors highly doubt the issue of funding since, apparently, the PAF is actually well funded in terms of modernization projects for 2018 compared to the Philippine Navy and Philippine Army. Not to mention, the more than US$2 million cost is nothing compared to the budget of the PAF on acquiring spare parts for its air assets every year.


MaxDefense's Opinion:
First of, MaxDefense believes it would have been better for the PAF to proceed with the OV-10 Aircraft and Spare Parts Transfer project. Our reasons are as follows:

1. The six new A-29B Super Tucanos coming in this 2020 are not expected to be fully operational until 2022. The PAF usually follows a post-delivery program wherein the unit handling the new assets are given at least 2 years to be proficient enough with the new aircraft before the unit can be called fully operational with the new asset. This means that the PAF would be forced to break this due to lack of air assets once the Broncos are retired.

This happened to the 15th Strike Wing before, when the 18th Attack "Falcons" Squadron was pushed to use the AgustaWestland AW-109E Power armed helicopters earlier than planned, especially when the Marawi City crisis happened in 2017, when the unit was still in the process of operationalizing the newly acquired assets.

2. The PAF has not made any follow-on orders for additional Super Tucanos to cover the retirement of the remaining OV-10A/C Broncos in service with the 16th Attack "Eagles" Squadron. It would be remembered that it will take around 2-3 years from ordering to delivery of the aircraft, plus another 2 years for operationalization, although the squadron that will operate the Super Tucanos are expected to be already proficient with the type when the 2nd batch are delivered. 


If the PAF puts an order for another batch of Super Tucanos this year (which is probably not going to happen), it means the PAF is only expected to receive them by 2023 and probably have them operational by 2024, which means the PAF will have insufficient air assets between 2021 to 2024 except for the 6 Super Tucanos delivered in 2020.

Aside from the 6 A-29B Super Tucanos ordered in 2017, the PAF has not made any follow-on orders for more units. This despite the obvious situation wherein the PAF may not have enough CAS assets once the OV-10s and SF-260TPs are retired from combat duties. Photo credits to original source.

3. While the Broncos are old, they have proven their worth in its almost 30 years of service with the PAF since the early 1990s. They are expected to be a better attack platform than the other platform in service with the unit, the Aermacchi SF-260TP Warrior armed trainers which are smaller and not really designed for close air support.

4. The PAF is still having problems on the acquisition of Attack Helicopters as the final decision has not been made last 2019 if it will continue to proceed with the Turkish-made TAI T129 ATAK which the PAF's Technical Working Group (TWG) selected in 2018, or if it will change its decision due to issues involving Turkey and its relations with the US and its other NATO allies that may affect the supply of helicopter engines and subsystems. Even if the PAF makes a confirmed order by 2020, it is expected that the first new attack helicopters will arrive only by 2023.


PAF officer in Turkey with the T129 ATAK during flight tests last December 2019. So far the PAF has not made a final decision if it will push through with the T129 ATAK that it selected last 2018, or will change to another model due to concerns of Turkish relations with the US that may affect sourcing of subsystems and engines for the helicopters. Photo shared to MaxDefense by a contributor.

The only quick fix solution MaxDefense sees is if the PAF decides to order the Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter, and use the option to request the US government for grants or sale of used ex-US Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters that could be delivered as early as late 2020.


MaxDefense is still hopeful that the PAF would proceed with the deal within the year, and that the PAF may see the benefit of this deal in the short term while still continuing its modernization program by procuring new assets. MaxDefense believes that the PAF has people capable of seeing the problems it might encounter if fails to make this Bronco deal happen.


MaxDefense still hopes that this could really happen in the future. Credits to original source of fanphoto.

Project Summary:

OV-10 Bronco Aircraft and Spare Parts Transfer Project


Note: Edited as of 02 January 2020.


* End User: Philippine Air Force (15th Strike Wing)

* Quantity: 4 used OV-10 aircraft, millions of dollars worth of OV-10 spare parts


* Modernization Phase: Special Project within Horizon 2 phase timeline


* Project ABC:
 ~US$2 million ++

     
Acquisition Mode: US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program

* Source of Funding: PAF 2018-2019 GAA


* SARO Release: N/A


* Winning Proponent: TBA


Product for Delivery:
      - 2 units used OV-10G+ Combat Dragon Bronco aircraft

      - 2 units used OV-10A Bronco aircraft
      - 1 lot OV-10 spare parts worth millions of USD.


* Contract Price: 
TBA


* First post by MaxDefense: 
24 February 2018


* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PAFOV10TransferProject


* Status: Procurement process said to be ongoing but has met some problems, potentially for cancellation.


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First post and edit: 02 January 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines


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