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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Philippine Air Force plans to acquire at least 21 surplus Bell UH-1H Hueys from South Korea

The Philippine Air Force's 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing (205th THW) celebrated its 58th Founding Anniversary today, 24 September 2020.

As part of the program celebrating this milestone, PAF Air Mobility Command Commander Maj. Gen. Simeon Felix confirmed that the Philippine Air Force is intending to acquire additional air assets from South Korea, in the form of used Bell UH-1H Huey combat utility helicopters previously operated by the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA).

One of the Bell UH-1H Huey combat utility helicopters of the Republic of Korea Army. Photo taken from and credited to Hoon114's Blog.


This coincides with reports from South Korea that the South Korean Ministry of Defense has recently approved the potential transfer of retired military helicopters to the Philippine government, which MaxDefense Philippines posted on its Facebook community page last 15 September 2020.

The Republic of Korea Army operated the UH-1 Huey since December 1968, with more than 120 units operated over the years. The ROKA finally retired the type last 31 July 2020, and will be replaced by the locally-made and larger KAI KUH-1 Surion combat utility helicopter

The Republic of Korea Army has retired the UH-1H Huey helicopter last 31 July 2020, and will be replaced by the KUH-1 Surion helicopter. Photo taken from and credited to Bemil Korean Defense Page.


This is a needed boost since the Philippine Air Force is grappling with lack of sufficient utility helicopters that would allow it to provide support to military units around the country.

According to Maj. Gen. Felix, the PAF's Technical Working Group will be conducting an inspection of the helicopters being offered by the South Korean government by November 2020. It still remains to be seen in funding is available. Despite donated, the Philippine Air Force will still need to pay for other expenses including logistics and shipping, repair, training, and other ancillaries and administrative costs. This might still be worth a few hundred million pesos, unless if the Philippine Navy could assist in bringing in the helicopters using their Tarlac-class landing platform docks to help reduce the cost.

Since these helicopters were from the US, approval to transfer the helicopters to another country is needed from the US government. MaxDefense Philippines expects the US government to have no objections to transferring these helicopters to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing currently operates a mixed fleet of former US Army Bell UH-1H Hueys, former German Army Dornier-Bell UH-1D Delta and Super Delta Hueys, and new Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters.


The PAF currently operates the Bell 412EP (top), the UH-1D Delta Huey (above) and the UH-1H Huey combat utility helicopters. Photos credited to original sources.


But the recent fatal incident involving one of the Dornier-Bell UH-1D Delta Huey helicopter in Cauayan, Isabela province last July 2020 has stressed the entire fleet since the Delta & Super Delta helicopters have been grounded while investigations continue on the crash.

The PAF's Commanding General Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes also confirmed during the recent congressional hearing on FY2021 for the Department of National Defense (DND), the 205th THW has 10 more UH-1H Hueys that are in need of funding to allow their rehabilitation and retire to service.

Despite expecting 6 brand new Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters this year and 10 more Black Hawks in 2021, the Philippine Air Force is still desperately short of combat utility helicopters considering its ideal quantity is at least 130-140 units to make sure that 100 combat utility helicopters are available at any given day.


The PAF is preparing to receive its first batch of 6 Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters by October-November 2020, although these helicopters are not expected to be fully operational until 2021. 10 More S-70i Black Hawks are arriving in 2021. Photo shared to MaxDefense by aviation photographer Marcin Bobro.


The PAF also plans to acquire 16 brand new Mil Mi-171 transport helicopters from Russia, but has hit a roadblock due to inability to go around the sanctions posed by the US government's Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Apparently the Russian and Philippine governments have failed to find a way for the Philippine government to pay for the helicopters since banking institutions are not willing to assist for fear of backfire from CAATSA.

Thus, acquiring surplus UH-1H from South Korea, which MaxDefense Philippines learned to be at least 21 units, would definitely help the PAF reach a higher operational capability in the short term.

MaxDefense expects that these helicopters won't be operating for too long considering their age, but it could be good enough to provide an interim solution while the Philippine government is looking for ways to acquire more brand new Combat Utility Helicopters to eventually replace all their ageing UH-1 Huey fleet.

This early, MaxDefense Philippines thanks the South Korean government for assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines in improving its capabilities.

Congratulations to the Philippine Air Force and the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing for reaching a new milestone in serving the Filipino people. Photo taken from 205th THW's Facebook page.


With relation to this new development, the planned transfer of surplus helicopters for the Philippine Army's Army Aviation Regiment (PA AAR) is still in the planning stage, although MaxDefense Philippines previously received information that the PA AAR is also interested in acquiring surplus combat utility helicopters as an interim measure while it starts building up its fleet.

It still remains to be seen though if the PA AAR will also be getting helicopters from South Korea, or from other countries like Japan and the US. 

The recent news wherein Senator Francis Tolentino mentioned about the donation of 4 UH-60 Black Hawk combat utility helicopters and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters to the Philippine Army still remains a plan, as the Philippine Army contingent to inspect the condition of the helicopters 

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First edit and release: 24 September 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

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