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Friday, July 2, 2021

Philippine Air Force selects its future advance trainer aircraft to replace SIAI Marchetti S.211 jet trainers

Back in October 2014, MaxDefense Philippines wrote a blog entry asking if it was already time for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to replace its dear SIAI Marchetti AS.211 Warrior advanced jet trainers.

"Is it Time to Replace the Philippine Air Force's S-211 Aircraft?" - first posted on 07 October 2014.

That time, the AS.211 Warrior was not just the most capable trainer in the PAF, but was also the most capable combat aircraft in the entire PAF fleet, due to the absence of proper multi-role fighters or light combat aircraft, or even a modern close air support aircraft. The PAF's current fleet of FA-50PH Fighting Eagle supersonic light combat aircraft and the A-29B Super Tucano light attack aircraft were not yet available to the PAF in 2014.

Normally when we write something, we are actually providing clues on what's already being prepared. In 2014, we already received information that the PAF may include the need for new intermediate-advanced trainer aircraft to replace the AS.211 Warrior by the mid 2020s, with the new aircraft to be acquired either as part of the 2nd List of Horizon 1 phase, or with the Horizon 2 phase.

Even before 2014, studies were already started by the PAF on what its future training curriculum and phases would be, and what kind of training equipment are needed, including aircraft, flight simulators, and others. 

And with the AS.211 Warrior fleet reaching 30 years of service by the early 2020s, it was found that it would probably best to start replacing the AS.211 Warrior trainer jets with a newer, more modern, more efficient, more dependable, more forgiving, and more advanced trainer aircraft.

Now, that time has come, as the Philippine Air Force starts the acquisition of a new trainer aircraft, and selecting its choice for procurement.

A KT-1 Woongbi operated by the Republic of Korea Air Force. Photo credits to Wikipedia.

The Trainer Aircraft Acquisition Project of the PAF:

The Philippine Air Force is in the market for new trainer aircraft which would be used for intermediate-advance pilot training.

Th new aircraft would be replacing the SIAI Marchetti AS.211 jet trainer, which has been in use with the PAF since the early 1990s. The type is already entering 30 years of service with the PAF in the next couple of years, although it is believed that the PAF would keep the AS.211 flying together with the new trainer for jet proficiency training and for low-intensity combat and surveillance roles.

One of the PAF's AS.211 Warrior jet trainer aircraft.

The aircraft would be slotted between the SF-260F basic trainer, and the FA-50PH Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft which also doubles as  lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) for future fighter pilots.

12 units are planned for procurement with an Approved Budget for Contract (ABC) worth Php4.2 billion. It is planned to be procured through Multi-Year Contractual Authority (MYCA), and could be a Government-to-Government (G2G) transaction with the winning manufacturer's country of origin.

MaxDefense PH is still confirming if these new aircraft would be assigned with the 5th Fighter Wing's 105th Fighter Training Squadron at Basa Air Base in Pampanga, or with the Air Education and Training Command in Fernando Air Base in Batangas. Since it is expected to replace the AS.211, it is possible that it would be with the 5th Fighter Wing.

The AS.211 is employed as a light attack aircraft and patrol aircraft, and is capable of using assorted munitions including AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile and Paveway II laser guided bombs (both not shown), free fall bombs, and rocket pods. Photo credits to Peter Ho.

Aircraft Models for Consideration:

According to MaxDefense Philippines air force and defense industry sources, the PAF Technical Working Group (TWG) for the Trainer Acquisition Project were looking at several options, which include the following aircraft models:

1. Embraer A-29B Super Tucano - the PAF already operates the A-29B in the light attack and close air support role with the PAF's 15th Strike Wing, and is a practical choice for commonality. But it was said to be too capable for the trainer role, and all the added capability also increases the overall price of the aircraft.

A-29B Super Tucano of the Philippine Air Force. Photo credits to AFP Public Information Office.

2. Beechcraft Textron T-6C Texan II - currently one of the most widely used basic-advance trainer aircraft in the world, with the US military itself using it for their training requirements. The AT-6 Wolverine lost to the A-29B Super Tucano for the PAF's Close Air Support Aircraft program, although it is still pushing the T-6C for trainer requirements due to issues on the A-29B as trainer aircraft as mentioned above. Thailand ordered the trainer and light attack variants of the T-6.

The AT-6 Wolverine light attack and T-6C Texan II trainer aircraft. Photo credits to original source.

2, KAI KT-1 Woongbi - South Korea has been very active in marketing their defense products to the Philippines, and the KT-1 has been one of the first products they started marketing as early as the early 2000s. And with the sale of the FA-50PH Fighting Eagle years ago, KAI has established a foothold in the Philippine Air Force and DND. Within the ASEAN region, Indonesia is currently using the KT-1B.

The KT-1T, operated by the Turkish Air Force. Photo credits to original source.

4. Aero Vodochody L-39NG - one of the jet trainer aircraft offered to the PAF, the L-39NG is the latest version of the successful L-39 Albatross family of advanced jet trainer aircraft. The L-39NG makes use of the latest avionics systems and uses the American-made Williams International FJ44 turbofan engine. Vietnam ordered 12 units, which will start delivery by 2023.

The L-39NG jet trainer aircraft. Photo credits to Armada International.

5. Pilatus PC-21 - this is the latest trainer aircraft from Switzerland's Pilatus Aircraft, known for the  successful PC-7 and PC-9 advanced trainers. The PC-21 is said to be the most advanced in the selections despite using a turboprop engine. But it is also one of the more expensive options, which could be am issue for the a stingy market like the Philippines. Currently, Singapore uses the PC-21 for advanced flight training.

Two PC-21 trainer aircraft of the Swiss Air Force. Photo credits to Swiss Air Force.

6. Leonardo Aermacchi M-345 High Efficiency Trainer (HET) - part of Leonardo's family of trainer aircraft, the M-345HET is a latest variant of the original SIAI Marchetti S.211 jet trainer already in service with the PAF. It uses a similar but improved airframe but with everything else updated to the latest technology include glass cockpit, more powerful but efficient turbofan engines, among others. No regional air force uses the type although the Italian Air Force is a major user.

The Aermacchi M-345 HET from Leonardo. Photo credits to Leonardo.

PAF Selects its Next Trainer Aircraft:

In 2020, MaxDefense Philippines started liaising with PAF sources on what they are looking for as their next trainer aircraft. 

Apparently, groups within the service are divided if they would prefer a jet-powered aircraft, or will they return to turboprop-powered aircraft models, considering the AS.211 Warrior is already powered by turbofan jet propulsion. 

So far, only the Aero Vodochody L-39NG and the Leonardo Aermacchi M-345HET were the jet-powered offers, so if the PAF selects a jet-powered trainer, we can definitely find it easier to see what they could have chosen.

But by late 2020, we received confirmation that the PAF TWG prefers a turboprop-powered trainer aircraft, taking out both the L-39NG and M-345HET from the shortlist.

By 2021, we started receiving word from several sources that the PAF TWG has identified its top choice for the project, and has began negotiations with the top selection. And it was identified as KAI's KT-1 Woongbi, with another aircraft model believed to be Beechcraft Textron's T-6C Texan II coming in second.

This has become more apparent when we received confirmation last June 2021 that the TWG's recommendation was already approved and signed by PAF Commanding General Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes, and has already been submitted to the DND, with Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana approving the recommendation for submission to Malacanang and the Department of Budget and Management.

As usual, this would be dependent on DBM if funds are available, and with Malacanang for final approval.

The KAI KT-1 Woongbi as seen in KAI's official brochure, which was also posted as part of the PAF Symposium 2021 Virtual Showroom. Photo credits to KAI.

The KT-1 Woongbi trainer aircraft:

The KT-1 Woongbi is a single-engine basic-intermediate trainer aircraft designed jointly the South Korean Agency of Defense Development (ADD) and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). It is currently built by KAI, and was the first indigenous aircraft developed to meet the requirements of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF).

The aircraft was said to be loosely based to the Pilatus PC-9 trainer aircraft.

Newer versions of the aircraft can be equipped with glass cockpit configuration, and avionics can be changed and improved depending on requirements, including use of Night Vision Goggles (NVG), heads-up display, multi-function display, hands-on throttle and stick configuration, among others.

It also has an armed version called the KA-1, which can be used for weapon training or light attack requirements. It can be armed with gun and rocket pods, bombs, and missiles, with an option to install Forward Looking Infra-red (FLIR) turrets and laser range finder.

KAI has marketed the KT-1 as part of an integrated training package when paired with the KAI T-50 Golden Eagle advanced/lead-in fighter trainer jet.

The KT-1 was developed from the KTX Program for the ROKAF in 1988, with prototypes built by 1991. It made its maiden flight on November 1991, and was named "Woongbi" in 1995.

The KT-1 started serial production in 2000, with the ROKAF being its first customer with orders made in 1999 for 85 units. The ROKAF received their first aircraft in 2000, with deliveries completed in 2002.

A follow-on order was made by the ROKAF in 2003 for 20 KA-1 armed trainers, which can be armed with gun and rocket pods for use as weapons trainer aircraft.

The Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) became the first export customer of the KT-1 Woongbi, with an initial order for 12 KT-1B aircraft in April 2003 to be paid by barter with 8 Indonesian-made CN-235 transport aircraft. The TNI-AU eventually ordered 17 KT-1B which was used by the service for basic training and for aerobatic display with the Jupiter Aerobatic Team.

Indonesian Air Force KT-1B Woongbi aircraft with the Jupiter Aerobatic Team. Credits to original source of photo.

In 2007, KAI and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) signed a US$553 million deal to supply 55 KT-1T trainers for the Turkish Air Force. The first 5 aircraft would be built at KAI's plant in South Korea, while the remaining 50 aircraft would be locally produced by TAI in their plant near Ankara. Deliveries started in 2010 and completed in 2014.

KT-1 Woongbi of the Turkish Air Force. Photo credits to Savunma ve Havacilik.

In 2012, the Peruvian Air Force ordered 10 KT-1P trainers and 10 KA-1P light attack aircraft as part of a US$208 million. KAI built the first 4 aircraft which were delivered in 2014, while SEMAN locally assembled the rest of the order. SEMAN delivered the first locally assembled KT-1 and KA-1 aircraft to the Peruvian Air Force on April 2015.

A KA-1 Woongbi armed trainer of the Peruvian Air Force. Photo credits to Wikipedia.

Senegal ordered 4 KT-1S in 2016, with all aircraft delivered to the Senegalese Air Force by 2020. They are KAI's first export customer in Africa, where the South Korean government is hopeful to gain success in exporting their defense products

What's Next:

With the selection already made, it is now up to the DND and PAF to complete negotiations with KAI on final pricing, package inclusions, delivery schedule and payment terms.

This would become the basis for the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the project, before a contract can be signed between the DND and KAI.

MaxDefense Philippines believes that a contract could be signed before the end of the year, but that will depend on how fast (or slow) the DND is in processing the procurement of this project.

If a contract is signed and Notice to Proceed (NTP) is released in favor of KAI within the year, the first batch of aircraft could be delivered to the PAF as early as 2023.

Take note that all these estimates are based on the DND proceeding with KAI, and not changing their decisions during the next few months. Should an agreement between the DND and KAI fails to take off, moving to the next possible model and restarting all procurement processes will definitely delay the project by at least a year.

Anyway, MaxDefense Philippines hopes that everything goes well with this project.


Trainer Aircraft Acquisition Project

Note: Edited as of 02 July 2021.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (5th Fighter Wing or Air Education Training Command)

Quantity: 12 aircraft minimum

* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:
 Php4,200,000,000.00 (approx. US$86 million)

Acquisition Mode: Negotiated Procurement (Government-to-Government)

* SARO Release:

* Winning Proponent:
 TBA, expected to be Korea Aerospace Industries

Product for Delivery: TBA, expected to be KAI KT-1 or KA-1 Woongbi

* Contract Price:

Status: PAF TWG selected KAI's KT-1/KA-1 Woongbi, recommendation approved by CGPAF and submitted to DND. MaxDefense PH received confirmation that SND already approved procurement of Trainer Aircraft based on KAI's offer.

First release: 02 July 2021
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines


  1. Hi, I think going Korean is the most logical and economical way for PAF. They are more advanced in technology compared to us and not as expensive compared to their western counterparts. But if budget is not an issue to PAF, they can broaden their choices including US and Europe suppliers. Kudos to the PAF - TWG for this project.

  2. Personally, I would rather choose Pilatus PC-21, but thats just me.


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