Your 1st in Philippine defense

Fighter / Surface Attack Aircraft / Lead-in Fighter Trainer Acquisition Project (Horizon 1) of the Philippine Air Force

To prepare the return of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to fast jet operations, it embarked on a project to acquire a fleet of Lead-in Fighter Trainers (LIFT) that can double as a light combat aircraft to train PAF future fighter pilots while allowing a minimum air combat capability in the absence of proper multi-role fighters.

The result was the Fighter / Surface Attack Aircraft / Lead-in Fighter Trainer (F/SAA/LIFT) Acquisition Project, which was allocated Php18.976 billion for 12 aircraft or more. This is the most expensive acquisition project in the entire Horizon 1 phase.

Some of the KAI FA-50PH Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft of the PAF. Photo c/o Interaksyon News.


Overview:

The PAF has been planning the procurement of new aircraft as part of its 1995 AFP Modernization Program. Among those in the original plan are Surface Attack Aircraft (SAA), which was described by our PAF contributors as light combat aircraft that can conduct limited fighter capabilities, including short range air interdiction, close air support, and ground attack missions. Due to its limited capability, it is not feasible to use the SAA for air defense missions, and instead can be used to provide fast jet strike capabilities in lieu of multi-role fighter aircraft.

Based on the 1995 AFPMP, the PAF originally wanted a fleet of 24 Surface Attack Aircraft, which could double as advanced trainers should a two-seat version be available. Further revisions to the AFPMP after the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis dropped the quantity to just 12 units.


Among those shortlisted back then were the BAE Hawk 100 series (two-seat combat capable trainer) and 200 series (single seat light combat aircraft) from the UK, the Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatross family (which later on included the more advanced L-59 Super Albatross, L-139 and L-159 ALCA combat capable variants) from the Czech Republic, the Aermacchi MB-339 and AMX International AMX from Italy, and the Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet.

If MaxDefense can remember (since we have been following the AFPMP since 1995), the PAF's favorite back then was the Italian-Brazilian AMX International AMX, due to its attack capabilities and the availability of a two-seat trainer version.

But this proposal did not bear fruit, as the AFPMP failed to reach its potential, and the PAF diverted whatever funds it received for immediate needs instead of buying SAA.



An AMX light combat aircraft of the Brazilian Air Force. The PAF was interested in the AMX even when the RAFPMP was already in place in 2012. Photo taken from Wikipedia.




This old magazine advertisment of AMX International's AMX Fighter shows two aircraft flying over Taal Lake, after bringing them over to the Philippines for a demonstration in 1991. Photo taken from EBay.


Moving to post 2010 with the approval of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP) in 2012:

The plan to acquire SAA continued, with the DND and PAF taking interest on used AMX International AMX (now called A-11) from the Italian government, that are stored but ready for reactivation anytime. A delegation from the DND led by then Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin signed an agreement with his Italian counterpart Defense Min. Giampaolo de Paola which will allow seamless transfer of combat ready equipment to the AFP, including AMX A-11 light combat aircraft to the PAF.

But by 2013, further discussions for the transfer of AMX A-11 light combat aircraft has not moved forward.

Meanwhile, the original plan of the PAF to acquire a separate Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) aircraft which will be used by to build a pool of pilots that can easily transition to fighter aircraft training once the PAF reaches that point of acquiring modern Multi-Role Fighters, in which the US government offered between 12 to 24 used F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, which will require refurbishing and reactivation works prior to delivery to the PAF.

Six (6) units were originally planned, with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) offering the TA-50 Golden Eagle armed LIFTs, Alenia Aermacchi of Italy offering the M-346 Master, and BAE offering the Hawk trainer aircraft. Other aircraft were said to be considered as well, but only these three models were seriously considered, with the M-346 Master and TA-50 shortlisted.

During the pre-procurement phase, the original plan to acquire the AMX A-11A light combat aircraft was still in the negotiation phase when KAI also offered to sell their combat-capable FA-50, which was designated "Fighting Eagle", which promised to provide LIFT capability, plus also allow better performance than the AMX A-11A and similar to that of a light multi-role fighter due to features that are found on other 4th generation multi-role fighters like early-model F-16C/D Fighting Falcons

The PAF and DND thoroughly discussed the matter and decided to upgrade the acquisition to a Fighter/Surface Attack Aircraft/Lead-In Fighter Trainer (F/SAA/LIFT) acquisition, by combining the SAA and LIFT aircraft requirements into a single aircraft using a revised specifications that required the aircraft to be combat capable.

This new requirement automatically removed the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master from the running due to its lack of even a basic combat capability, while KAI improved its offer from the TA-50 Golden Eagle armed LIFT to the FA-50 Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft. The deal with the Italians for used AMX A-11A and TA-11A aircraft fell through afterwards together with all other Italian offers as the DND decided to pursue brand-new materiel through public bidding instead of government-to-government negotiations for mix of new and used equipment from Italy.


To allow the changes, the budget was increased to allow the acquisition of twelve (12) aircraft, although this came at a price, as the PAF and DND decided to decline the offer from the US to receive used F-16C/D Fighting Falcons that still require more than US$750 million to refurbish and upgrade.


The DND decided to go for a Negotiated Procurement through Government-to-Government (G2G) method of acquisition with the South Korean government, and was among the priority projects of the newly approved Revised AFP Modernization Program Horizon 1 phase.

The project was considered as the most expensive project under the Horizon 1 phase, with a budget of Php18.976 billion. 







Summary:

Fighter / Surface Attack Aircraft / Lead-in Fighter Trainer Acquisition Project (Horizon 1)

* End User: Philippine Air Force (5th Fighter Wing)

Quantity: 12 aircraft


* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 1 Phase of RAFPMP


* Project ABC:
 Php18,976,000,000.00


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

* SARO Release:
 TBA


* Winning Proponent:
 Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI)

Product for Delivery: KAI FA-50PH Fighting Eagle


* Contract Price:
 
Php18,976,000,000.00 (approx. US$421.6 million)

* First post by MaxDefense: June 2013

Status: Delivery Completed as of July 2017





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U P D A T E S:
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18 October 2013:

Despite Pres. Aquino's visit to South Korea involving defense-related issues, it appears that there is still no sign of a contact-signing event between the DND and KAI and/or South Korean Ministry of Defense for the supply and delivery of FA-50 light combat aircraft to the Philippine Air Force.

Looks like we need to wait longer.



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21 October 2013:

South Korean media outlets like Chosun Ilbo reported that the Chinese government asked the South Korean government to not sell jets made by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to the Philippines. Obviously they are refering to the FA-50 Fighting Eagle, which are not even fighter aircraft.


Remember this move by China. Such country does not need to be respected. They even have the guts to do this when they are the ones stealing our legally-mandated 200nmi Exclusive Economic Zone and all features in it including KIG and Scarborough Shoal.


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13 December 2013:


The Department of National Defense (DND) agreed to the request by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) that the downpayment for the 12 FA-50 Fighting Eagles to be acquired for the Philippine Air Force will be set at 52% of the contract price.

Its now up to the national government to provide the said amount to make the deal rolling. 


Meanwhile, while the DND has not made any action on the acquisition of FA-50s, the queue is expected to get longer as Iraq just signed a contract for 24 units of FA-50s for the new Iraqi Air Force. The aircraft will be called T-50IQ, and while they are not designated as FA-50s, they are actually closer to FA-50s than T-50s.


Iraq signs a contract with KAI for 24 T-50IQs, before the Philippines can sign a contract with KAI. It means a possible longer production queue for the PAF. Photo from KAI's website.


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08 January 2015:

Although it was not directly implied, the DND believes that the current capabilities of the KAI FA-50 may not be enough to meet the Philippine Air Force's requirements for a multi-role fighter which they are scheduled to request for acquisition in a few years time. 


Although the PAF may also be open for the acquisition of additional units of the FA-50 for other requirements, which MaxDefense believes include pilot training, and other combat roles in support of larger fighters. 

In the meantime, the current order for 12 FA-50 will cover the PAF's requirements for the LIFT/SAA and as a temporary fighter while MRFs are not yet in place.


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17 June 2015:

More updates on the FA-50 acquisition for today:

1.Depending on KAI's capacity, the first 2 FA-50 will be arriving as early as 1st week of Decemver 2015, or as late as last week of January 2016. So don't ask anymore if the jets don't come by Christmas.
2. There are 3 PAF pilots currently training in South Korea with KAI and the Republic of Korea Air Force. Ground crew training will follow very soon.

3. The PAF targets the implementation of a contract to supply the FA-50's munition by September 2015, although it is still unclear if the PAF can temporarily loan air munitions from ROKAF or US Armed Forces.


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17 March 2016:

The Philippine Air Force confirmed that their first 2 FA-50PH will participate in this year's PH-US Joint Military Exercise Balikatan 2016. 


This is the first time that the PAF will be using them in joint exercises with a foreign power, although it has already used both aircraft in local exercises.


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09 August 2016:

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) continues its production of FA-50PH Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft for the Philippine Air Force, as shown on the photos below.


The photos show some of the PAF-bound FA-50s together with T-50 aircraft for other countries, as well as the KUH-1 Surion helicopter.




Photos show some of the FA-50s bound for the Philippines in KAI's assembly line in South Korea. Photo taken from Dandakhan Scrapbook.



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30 November 2016:

A video was released on the arrival of FA-50PH with tail numbers 03 and 04 bound for the PAF, as it arrives in Kaoshiung, Taiwan for stop over, which can be viewed below. Video taken from the Youtube page of 
Hunter Hearst Helmsley.






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08 December 2016:

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) formally accepted the second batch of KAI FA-50PH Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft, which were delivered last month by Korea Aerospace Industries. 


This now boost the number of FA-50s in PAF service to four aircraft. The other 8 aircraft will all be delivered within 2017, in batches of two (2) aircraft per delivery.


Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana pours champagne on one of the FA-50PH Fighting Eagles,two of which were formally accepted and handed-over to the PAF. Photo credited to PTV News.

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21 February 2017:

Planespotters in Taiwan reported the arrival in Taiwan of the 3rd batch of FA-50 bound for the PAF, with tail numbers 005 and 006. Both aircraft are scheduled to arrive at Clark Air Base on 22 February 2017.




FA-50 with tail nos. 005 and 006 as they arrive in Taiwan. Photo from Peter Ho Han Chia c/o HCCAPA's Facebook page.

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29 March 2017:

The 4th batch of FA-50s with tail number 007 and 008 were spotted in Taiwan on 28 March 2017, as it stopped over before continuing its flight to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. These aircraft continued its flight to the Philippines today.


FA-50 nos. 007 and 008 were spotted in Taiwan during a stop over from South Korea on the way to the Philippines. Credits to the original source of the photo.


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31 May 2017:

The last batch of FA-50PH Fighting Eagles from KAI are now underway, and were spotted in Taiwan on 30 May 2017. The aircraft departed today for Clark Air Base in the Philippines. 



FA-50 with tail nos. 011 and 012 as spotted in Taiwan. Photo taken by and owned by Peter Han Chia Ho, from HCCAPA's Facebook page.


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5 July 2017:

In our Facebook community page post highlighting a report from Korean news Yonhap News wherein Korea Aerospace Industries confirmed that they completed delivery of all twelve (12) FA-50PH Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft to the Philippine Air Force, 3 months earlier than scheduled based on contract requirements.

The timing is also in line with the PAF's anniversary in July, wherein KAI officials met with Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to personally confirm the completion of the delivery.

MaxDefense congratulates KAI and the PAF for a smooth project completion!



KAI President & CEO Ha Sung Yong met with Pres. Duterte during the anniversary of the PAF in July 2017.
Photo taken from Yonhap News.

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01 October 2018:

Despite a successful deal to supply 12 FA-50PH Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft to the Philippine Air Force (PAF), its manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is still bullish in selling more of the type to the PAF, as it expressed its desire to acquire another 12 units as part of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

Its strong presence at the recently concluded ADAS 2018 defense expo in Manila, including its strong marketing of the FA-50 is a sign of what things may come in the near future.

Aside from the FA-50 / T-50 family, KAI is also trying to woo the AFP to look at their Surion helicopter and KT-1 Woongbi trainer aircraft.



KAI's booth in ADAS 2018. Photo from MaxDefense community member.


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