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Combat Utility Helicopter (Horizon 2) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force

As part of its continuing need to improve its mobility capabilities to address the lack of enough air assets and the ageing of existing air assets, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) raised the requirement for the acquisition of another batch of Combat Utility Helicopters (CUH) to complement the existing fleet of Bell UH-1H Huey, Bell-Dornier UH-1D Huey, PZL Swidnik W-3A Sokol, and Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters operated by the PAF's 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing.

This page would focus more on the pre-procurement phase of the Combat Utility Helicopter Acquisition Project (Horizon 2), up until the selection of the helicopter to be acquired.

Sikorsky S-70A42 Black Hawks of the Austrian Air Force. Photo for representation only.


Overview:

(still under construction)




Summary:

Combat Utility Helicopter Acquisition Project (Horizon 2)

* End User: Philippine Air Force (205th Tactical Helicopter Wing)

Quantity: at least 16 helicopters


* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP


* Project ABC:
 Php18,976,000,000.00


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

* SARO Release:
 SARO-BMB-D-17-0025076 dated 20 December 2017


* Winning Proponent:
 Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. (thorough its Polish subsidiary PZL Mielec)

Product for Delivery: Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk International


* Contract Price:
 
US$241.4 million

* First post by MaxDefense: 3 July 2016

Status: Contract signed 21 March 2019. Notice to Proceed released as of 16 April 2019. Awaiting delivery.




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U P D A T E S:
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06 July 2017:

In our Facebook community page post, MaxDefense confirmed that aside from offers for brand new helicopters, the PAF also received offers from companies providing lease-to-own offers, with the Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk military helicopter.

These helicopters can be delivered in a short span of time, and are offered together with a ready air and ground crew which will also serve as trainers for PAF personnel and pilots, and will be operating based on a fixed amount for a specific number of flight hours. Also, the leasing company will include maintenance and sustainment costs while the helicopters are under contract, and eventually these helicopters will be passed on the to the PAF after the contract ends.

While the option is now cheap, the process of having the helicopters available would be quick and will be properly supported until the PAF takes over the helicopters.

Also, the PAF is still looking at the Bell 412EP and Bell412EPI, to be procured through Canadian Commercial Corporation, similar to how the initial batch of CUH bought during the Horizon 1 phase was made.


And while the KAI KUH-1 Surion appears to be the national government's preferred choice, the PAF is also looking at other options including the Leonardo AW139M, Airbus Helicopters H160, and Russia's Mil Mi-171 which is scheduled for demonstration to the PAF very soon.



The PAF is still looking at both the Russian Helicopters Mil Mi-171 (top) and Leonardo AW139M (above) despite news that the government prefers the KAI KUH-1 Surion from South Korea.


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27 September 2018:
MaxDefense posted in its Facebook community page that Lockheed Martin made a confirmation during ADAS 2018 that they are not just offering the F-16V Viper to the Philippine Air Force, but also the Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk helicopter, most likely to fill the Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition project.

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. is now part of Lockheed Martin.


Lockheed Martin's Randy Howard, director of Business Development at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. Integrated Fighter Group, during his interview with Business Mirror during ADAS 2018.


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28 September 2018:

MaxDefense posted on our Facebook community page on Leonardo's presence in ADAS 2018. Aside from marketing their fixed wing aircraft, they are also marketing the AW139M combat utility helicopter, as well as the AW109 for armed scout helicopter requirements.

The problem with Leonardo is that they are being confronted by the AFP for not being able to provide spare parts and support for the fleet of AW109E Power helicopters acquired by both the PAF and Philippine Navy. This would have a negative effect on the selection of the AW139M for the CUH requirements, out of feat that the issue on support and spares would spill over to the AW139M.



The AW139M scale model and poster as displayed during ADAS 2018 at Leonardo's booth. Photo provided by MaxDefense community members.

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01 October 2018:
Based on the ADAS Official Publication from Shephard Media
, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) confirmed that they offered pre-owned, refurbished, modernized Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters to the PAF as an alternative to brand new units.

IAI's Lahav Division specializes in aircraft refurbishing, life extension and upgrade works, and may have sufficient number of Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawks in their care. 

MaxDefense sources confirmed that IAI's offer is indeed cheaper than a brand new helicopter, and may be a cheaper alternative should PAF prefer quantity for their budget.
The article from ADAS 2018 official publication Day 3, as provided by Shephard Media.



Meanwhile, South Korea's Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is also present in ADAS 2018, as they continue to offer the KUH-1 Surion helicopter for the CUH Acquisition Project. But they are currently at a disadvantage after a recent fatal crash involving the type in South Korea, which is still under investigation but may have happened due to faulty parts from Airbus' subcontractor in France.

Airbus' is the technology provider to KAI that led to the development of the Surion, as it was derived from Airbus' Super Puma.



KAI's booth in ADAS 2018 features the KUH-1 Surion (left), and the still under development KAH-1 (right). Photo provided to MaxDefense by one of its community members.



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03 October 2018:
Philippine Air Force's Commanding General Lt.Gen. Kintanar confirmed in the Senate hearing on DND budget for 2019, that there are 4 helicopter models qualify for the PAF's acquisition of Combat Utility Helicopters to eventually replace the Bell UH-1 Huey, and after the cancelled deal to acquire Bell 412EPI helicopters from Canada:

1. Still the Bell 412EPI, but to be acquired directly from the US instead of going through Canada;


Bell 412EP of the PAF.



2. The Leonardo (AgustaWestland) AW139M helicopter from Italy;


Leonardo AW139M of the Italian Air Force.


3. Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk, which is expensive but the PAF will take a look at the totality of the offer;


A Sikorsky Black Hawk of the US Army.



4. Russia's Mil Mi-171 (which is an export version of the Mil Mi-17)


Mi-171 helicopter. Photo from Airplane Pictures.


Other offers were not mentioned after being cut by Sen. Ejercito, although there was mention of the Korean KAI KUH-1 Surion which recently was involved in a crash.

MaxDefense previously confirmed the PAF's interest in all 4 helicopter models, as well as other offers made to the PAF, with the latest being the S-70 Black Hawk being among those packaged by the US government in their offer to sell arms to the Philippines.

Some interesting notes:

The package offered by the US includes both Bell and Sikorsky offers, and it is up to the Philippines to determine which one it prefers. Bell USA has been in negotiations with the PAF and DND to directly acquire the Bell 412EPI from them instead of going though Canadian authorities. There are other equipment being offered to the AFP and DND which MaxDefense will discuss in future posts.

The Bell 412EPI remains to be the cheapest in the shortlisted models, although it is also the least militarized. So far, PAF helicopter pilots prefer it due to the several reasons including transition, doctrine, design, and closeness to the Bell UH-1 that it will eventually replace.

The Bell 412EPI recently got a boost after the Japan Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) chose it as basis for their UH-1 replacement, which they call the Subaru-Bell 412EPX.

The AW139M was originally what the PAF was looking for when they were to acquire Attack Helicopters from AgustaWestland, but found it to be expensive, so they settled with the smaller AW109E. Also, the US Air Force recently selected the MH-139 (American version of the AW139M) as their replacement for the UH-1N for nuclear silo security.

The Russian Mi-171 is an export version of the Mi-17, and is the largest among the offerings. Apparently it is the second cheapest, after the Bell 412EPI, but is said to be expensive to operate due to its larger size. MaxDefense was informed by PAF sources that they believe the Mi-171 will fit better in future acquisition of Medium Lift Helicopters, as it is too big for certain missions they make use of Combat Utility Helicopters.

The video from the hearing can be accessed HERE.


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17 October 2018:

After posting about the Airbus H225 Super Puma and the KAI KUH-1 Surion's mechanical issues this morning, MaxDefense received info from a source involved in the Philippine Air Force's Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition project.

Apparently the PAF TWG and PAF Senior Leaders are NOT IN FAVOR of acquiring the Korean made KUH-1 Surion despite the juicy offer they made recently, which is for PAF to acquire 10 brand new Surions for the Php12.1 billion budget allocated for the project, and it will receive 2 additional brand new Surions, 7 used MD500 Defender helicopters formerly used by the Republic of Korea Army, and a Pohang-class corvette for the Philippine Navy, as a grant from the Korean government.

Source said that if there is someone insisting on the Surions, definitely its not from the PAF's side, since they know that the Surion is still plagued by mechanical failures and design issues, including rotor and gearbox issues as the faulty H225 Super Puma made by Airbus, which share the same components as the Surion.


The PAF is concerned about the results of the recent crash of a KAI MUH-1 Marineon (Marine variant of KUH-1 Surion) which appears to be a failure on the rotor assembly.



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08 December 2018: 


MaxDefense received confirmation from at least 3 relevant sources that the Philippine Air Force has selected the Sikorsky PZL Mielec S-70i Black Hawk for its Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition project (Horizon 2).

This was also confirmed by Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana in an interview by the media. He also confirmed that the PAF is looking at finalizing the acquisition of the S-70i Black Hawk by next year.


It's good that Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana himself confirmed that the Philippines Air Force's Technical Working Group for the Attack Helicopter and Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition projects selected the Turkish-made T129 ATAK attack helicopter made by Turkish Aerospace Industries, and the US-made S-70 Black Hawk made by Sikorsky (Lockheed Martin), respectively. This means that the DND and the SND himself supports the decision of the PAF, and would back them up for this decision in getting the final approval by the president.

At least former Commanding General PAF Lt.Gen. Galileo Kintanar's sacrifices of being forced to step done from his position would not be in vain. 

Sec. Lorenzana's statement was recorded in the footage, which can be accessed HERE.


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08 December 2018:


MaxDefense released this guide for its readers in the Facebook community page. This is after several fake defense pages are tollerating the proliferation of fake news or incorrect information in their pages, which is confusing readers into believing wrong information.


For those who still do not understand the helicopter acquisitions of the Philippine Air Force especially those who do not see the differences, here's a summary for you:

There are currently 2 different and separate helicopter acquisitions of the PAF:

1. Attack Helicopter (AH) acquisition project - this is for armed helicopters capable of attacking ground or sea targets using guns, rockets, and even missiles, and providing close air support to ground forces. The winner for this is expected to replace the ageing McDonnell Douglas MD-520MG Defender helicopter fleet.


The PAF's TWG and leadership selected the TAI T129 ATAK attack helicopter for the PAF's Attack Helicopter acquisition project. Credits to original source of photo.



2. Combat Utility Helicopter (CUH) acquisition project - this is for utility helicopters that can be utilized during combat operations, and are used to move troops to and from the combat zone, bring in supplies, and can also be used during disaster relief operations and for search & rescue. The winner in the project is expected to eventually replace the ageing Bell UH-1D/H Huey helicopters.


The PAF's TWG and leadership selected the Sikorsky PZL Mielec S-70i Black Hawk for the PAF's Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition project. Credits to original source of photo.



The PAF's Technical Working Groups chose the following, according to our sources from PAF, as well as from Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana himself:

For Attack Helicopter, the PAF chose the Turkish-made T129 ATAK made by Turkish Aerospace Industries (left photo below).

For Combat Utility Helicopter, the PAF chose the American S-70 Black Hawk made by Lockheed Martin Sikorsky (right photo below).


The botched deal with Canada for Bell 412EPI helicopters is also under the Combat Utility Helicopter project. But that don't matter anymore.


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09 December 2018:

KAI, one of the competitors for the Combat Utility Helicopter (CUH) project of the Philippine Air Force, also confirmed in their Company President's speech recently that they acknowledge Lockheed Martin (owner of Sikorsky) as offering low price dumping for their CUH (obviously talking about the Black Hawk) in the Philippines.

This corroborates with Defense Sec. Delfin Lorezana's announcement that Lockheed Martin Sikorsky did offer their Black Hawks lower than expected. The SND mentioned that Sikorsky will indeed supply 16 Black Hawks for the same budget originally allocated for 16 smaller, cheaper Bell 412EPI helicopters, although originally Sikorsky offered to sell only less than 16 units for the same budget.


Recent reports also confirmed that KAI can only provide 10 helicopters in the same budget, which makes Sikorsky's offer very enticing to the PAF.


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11 December 2018:

The Department of National Defense (DND) needs to hurry the acquisition of the Combat Utility Helicopter (CUH) acquisition project of the Philippine Air Force. MaxDefense received a bleak info from some of its defense and government sources that the SARO (fund allocation) for the CUH acquisition project worth Php12.1 billion is EXPIRING THIS MONTH, and has been denied extension by the Department of Budget & Management (DBM) since this has already been extended last time. Once expired, the allocation will be cancelled, and the DND would need to do the request for funding allocation again next year, and this might take several months again, numerous meetings and document signing before getting re-approval.


There are only few solutions that the DND can do, and all of them require the DND Bids and Awards Committee as well as the DND Negotiating team to convene and work fast. Government to Government Deal (G2G), including US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) won’t be possible as it normally takes months before a deal can be reached.

One of the options is to work fast and award the project to Lockheed Martin – Sikorsky Helicopters within this month. But this may require the DND to pass a new Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) in favour of a Commercial Contract with Lockheed Martin – Sikorsky, instead of a G2G or FMS deal with Poland or US, respectively. The current ADM approved by the DND is said to be in favour of G2G or FMS with a foreign country.

MaxDefense also received fresh confirmation that Polish government officials, as well as representatives from Lockheed Martin – Sikorsky are currently in the Philippines to discuss the deal and try to find ways to speed up the awarding. Polish officials are needed since Lockheed Martin – Sikorsky will be sourcing their helicopters from Sikorsky’s subsidiary PZL Mielec in Poland. But here’s the problem: even if G2G can be done quickly, the Philippines doesn’t have a Defense Cooperation Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Poland that would allow G2G between the 2 countries. Even if the DND tries to, it may take months before a MOA between the DND and its Polish counterpart can be made, approved and signed for implementation.

Thus the only way to go is a quick awarding of a contract in favour of Lockheed Martin – Sikorsky under a Commercial Contract with the DND.

Poland’s participation in the project also support MaxDefense’s information posted these past few days that Sikorsky’s offer is based on the S-70i International Black Hawk made by PZL Mielec in Poland, rather than the UH-60M Black Hawk made in the US by Sikorsky. Only the S-70i can possibly meet the budget requirements of the Philippines, considering that Php12.1 billion is only worth US$228.3 million in today’s exchange rate, which in turn means 16 Black Hawks could translate to only US$14.3 million each, still far too low compared to the recent contracts Sikorsky made in 2018 alone for Black Hawks in the global amrket.

Normally US made UH-60M Black Hawks would cost north of US$20 million each, and even the Polish built S-70i normally cost upward of US$15 million.

Nonetheless, the DND should work fast and complete this deal within this year. Otherwise, the last remaining solution is for Pres. Duterte to intervene and instruct the DBM to allow the SARO extension until next year.


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12 December 2018:

In a MaxDefense post we made on our Facebook community page, we posted Korean News Chosun Ilbo's report confirming that the prospect that the Philippine Air Force will choose the KUH-1 Surion as its next Combat Utility Helicopter is fading with the PAF's selection of the Sikorsky Black Hawk.

It also confirmed that the Black Hawk had a better score that the Surion during the evaluation that led to the PAF picking the tried and tested US-designed helicopter. This is in addition to Sikorsky's being able to offer 16 Black Hawks for the price of 10 Surions.

But it looks like they are not giving up yet. 

Dismal indeed for the Korean defense aerospace industries after KAI's big loss to Saab-Boeing JV for the USAF Future Trainer (TX) project.

While hopes fade for KAI to export the KUH-1 Surion to the Philippines, they seem to believe that they still have a chance.

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14 December 2018:

In this news report from Poland, Lockheed Martin's Director of Communications in Europe, Middle East and Asia Mr. John Nielson confirmed that the Black Hawks that were offered to the Philippines are those made in PZL Mielec's plant in Poland, which means these are S-70i International Black Hawks, contrary to reports by other pages that the offer was the US-spec UH-60M Black Hawk.

Excerpt from the news report:
"We note information about the selection of Black Hawk helicopters produced in Poland by the Philippines. Every sale of S-70i Black Hawk helicopters is excellent news in the context of employment in the Polish aviation sector. This applies to both production and engineering sites, including 1,700 people employed at PZL Mielec, the largest Lockheed Martin production plant located outside the United States" - says John Neilson, head of Lockheed Martin communication in Europe.

MaxDefense earlier doubted the news on offering the UH-60M to the PAF, since this variant is expensive and illogical, considering it is unreasonable for Lockheed Martin Sikorsky to offer it based on the PAF's budget. The S-70i variant is the same standard Black Hawk model but is cheaper since it is produced using lower Polish labour and production costs, and has less bells and whistles than it's American counterpart.


Based on information released in the past 2 weeks, the PAF selected the Sikorsky Black Hawk, with 16 units said to have been offered to the PAF with the budget it allocated, approx at US$240 million. Even based on previous Black Hawk acquisition by other countries, US$240 million isn't enough to allow for the acquisition of 16 brand new Black Hawks, even the cheapest variant. This deal is actually a bargain for the PAF, so it's interesting to see what are the inclusions should a deal be finalized between the DND and LM Sikorsky.


The Sikorsky PZL Mielec S-70i Black Hawk. Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.


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23 December 2018:

During the change of command ceremonies for the Philippine Air Force, outgoing chief Lt.Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar highlighted the expected deliveries for the PAF for 2019. All of the flying assets highlighted in the list were already discussed by MaxDefense in the past, considering our accurate monitoring of RAFPMP projects based directly from AFP and DND records.

Among those he mentioned and listed was the 1
6 Black Hawk helicopters, which he  described as “the best combat utility helicopter in the world”.

Report from Philippine Daily Inquirer can be accessed HERE.



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