2013: A promising year for the Philippine Air Force
This year – 2013 – must be a promising year for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) It really must be so, because good things happened to its advantage as the new year was about to break.
Consider the following auspicious occurrences during the last quarter of 2012:
1. Timely return from the United States (US) last October of the C-130 “Hercules” heavy transport plane that had undergone a successful P190-million “Periodic Depot Maintenance [since] August 8th at a British Aerospace facility in Mojave, California.”
(Matikas Santos, “PAF doubles rescue capability in disasters with refurbished C-130,” INQUIRER. net, October 17, 2012)
Even with only one operational C-130, the “PAF has been responsive and was able to airlift supplies and equipment . . . during disasters and calamities; now with another one we will double that capability,” declared PAF Chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino de la Cruz. His positive attitude is bolstered by Lockheed itself, US maker of the C-130, in a statement on its website:
[It is the] world’s proven airlifter. Throughout aviation history, no aircraft, either developed or under development, can match the flexibility of the C-130 Hercules. In production longer than any other military aircraft, the Hercules has always demonstrated the ability to fulfill the mission at hand. (Jonathan de Santos, “Air Force adds ‘proven airlifter’ to its fleet,” YAHOO! NEWS, October 18, 2012)
2. The Department of National Defense’s (DND) decision to spend P1.26 billion “to acquire  refurbished Bell UH-1H (“Huey”) helicopters along with the corresponding logistics support package through ‘open competitive bidding procedures’ as specified by Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.”
(RAPPLER.COM, “Air Force opens bid for 21 Hueys,” October 29, 2012)
Hon. Fernando Manalo, DND Undersecretary for Finance, Munitions Installations and Materiel, said that this acquisition plan “aims to address the capability shortfall on the number of utility helicopters [- there are only 16 fully/ partial mission-capable Hueys in the PAF inventory -] in order for the PAF to efficiently perform their missions.” He finally said that the additional Hueys are most needed “as they are anticipating an increase in air mobility requirements due to [the upcoming 2013 elections] and other election related flights in various parts of the country.” (Frances Mangosing, “21 Huey choppers to boost PAF’s operations,”
INQUIRER.net, November 26, 2012)
Such decision is in keeping with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program, “which seeks to develop the military into a mult-mission oriented force capable of effectively addressing internal and external security threats.”
3. The DND’s draft request for proposals (RFP) that includes the PAF’s “highest profile acquisition [plan] for 12 lead-in fighter trainer aircraft” and such relevant requirements as “radar, supersonic speed, and the ability to prosecute both ground and air targets – the latter with beyond visual range missiles.” (Greg Waldron, “Manila plans wide-ranging modernization of air force,” FLIGHT, October 31, 2012)
This acquisition plan is expected to fill the PAF’s “several capability gaps . . . in the coming years” and includes “an additional C-130 as well as two medium lift transport aircraft and two light transport aircraft.” These will complement the air force’s two operational C-130Hs and one C-130B. The required budgets “have been [already] approved by the air force leadership, with RFPs likely in the next twelve months.” (Greg Waldron)
4. Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s interview statement after the 73rd anniversary celebration of the DND last November that a “South Korean company seems to be at the upper hand to supply [the] 12 jet-trainer fighter planes [referred to in the foregoing RFP] .”
But he quickly added that “other countries may still be in the running to [submit] proposals.” (Ben Cal, “PH Boosts Firepower,” The Manila Bulletin Newspaper Online, November 13, 2012)
These planes are badly needed because the PAF has had “no jet fighter Interceptors since 2005 when [its] F-5 jet fighters were retired [since] they were already obsolete.” The previous week, a significant development occurred when the “Philippines and Canada signed an agreement to hasten the [AFP’s] modernization.”
5. The bill creating the Philippine Air Force Academy (PAFA), which Senator Edgardo Angara, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Culture and Arts recently filed “specifically . . . for the instruction and training of Aviation Cadets for military service.” (SENATE PRESS RELEASE, “Angara Calls for Creation of Philippine Air Force Academy,” November 15, 2012) Following are his pertinent reasons:
a. The existing PAF Flying School (PAFFS) can no longer cope with the required number and proper training of officer pilots for the Air Force because of inadequate facilities;
b. The proposed PAFA would provide the education needed in the highly specialized career fields in the Air Force; and
c. The country has currently a weak training education program for aviation whether for military or commercial.
Senator Angara also said that “the initial allocation can be kept to a minimum because the existing infrastructure [of the PAFFS] would be converted into the PAFA,” such as “barracks, dorms, office buildings, classrooms and other facilities with the necessary equipment in the Fernando Air Base . . . . This means that the present funding of the PAF is enough to start and operate the academy.” (Senate Press Release)
6. The delivery of two Sokol combat utility helicopters late last November. These comprised the second batch of eight such choppers from PZL Swidnik in Poland. The first batch consisted of four Sokols that were delivered early last year.
The original contract includes ground support equipment, spare parts, support services and training for aircrew and maintainers. The last two Sokol helicopters will be delivered early this year. (Frances Mangosing, “Second batch of Sokol choppers delivered to PAF,” INQUIRER.net, November 30, 2012)
To be used primarily for search and rescue missions, “the eight [Sokol] combat utility helicopters cost P2.8 billion.” (Alexis Romero, “PAF gets two new helicopters,” The Philippine Star, November 30, 2012)
7. The successful repair of the PAF’s third C-130 cargo plane by its own personnel from the Air Logistics Command, 200th Airlift Wing, and 410th Maintenance Wing. “For the first time in its history, the . . . PAF has repaired and maintained a 48-year-old . . . once corroded C-130, [thereby] saving the government P50 million.”
It took the repair team “two years and nine months [and] P549 million to bring it back to serviceable condition.” (Abigail C. Kwok, “Philippine Air Force overhauls transport plane for the first time, saves P50 million too,” InterAksyon.com, December 28, 2012)
During the commissioning ceremony, PAF vice commander Major General Raul Dimatatac, who represented the PAF Chief, said that “the addition of another C-130 . . . will surely boost our airlift capability, not only in transporting our troops . . . but also in the delivery of goods and other services in support of national development.”
He likewise noted that “this is the first time since 1989 that the Air Force had three C-130s on operational status.” Also blessed during the same ceremony were one Huey helicopter, one Cessna “Rainmaker” aircraft, and 12 M35 trucks which the PAF had also refurbished. (VR/Sunnex, “Air Force receives refurbished C-130 plane, trucks,” SUN-STAR MANILA, December 28, 2012)
8. The PAF vice commander’s announcement late last month that “three brand new surveillance radars [will be acquired] as part of [the PAF’s] modernization program.” Major General Dimatatac also said that the “[P2.3-billion] radars will be placed in three strategic locations in the country in order to give maximum coverage.” (PNA and U.S. News Agency/Asian, “PAF to acquire three surveillance radars.” December 29, 2012)
He likewise commented that the radars “are among those listed in the PAF’s wish list for the P75-billion military modernization budget for the next five years.” The list also includes surface attack aircraft (SAA), light lift and long range patrol aircraft, and additional UH-1H helicopters.” (Elena L. Aben, “R2.3-B Radars To Boost Air Force,” The Manila Bulletin Newspaper Online, December 29, 2012)
A review of the foregoing presentations reveals the two forms of advantages the PAF has of late: First, the blessings it received toward the closing months of Yuletide 2012; second, the promises of 2013 which accompanied those blessings. The blessings include the return of the PAF’s second C-130H, which was refurbished in the US; the delivery of two Sokol helicopters that comprised the second batch purchased from PZL Swidnik in Poland; the successful repair of the PAF’s third C-130 by its own personnel; and the local refurbishment of a Huey helicopter, a Cessna aircraft, and 12 M35 trucks..
The promises of 2013 are the acquisition of 21 refurbished Huey helicopters; completion of the RFPs on the procurement of 12 lead-in fighter trainer aircraft, additional C-130, two medium lift and two light transport aircraft; enactment of the law creating the Philippine Air Force Academy (PAFA); acquisition of three new surveillance radar systems; and delivery of the last two Sokol helicopters from PZL Swidnik.
However, among the intriguing and puzzling lessons most people have probably learned in life is that some promises may be fulfilled in due time or at some future time, but others may be forgotten or simply ignored. So, what could happen to 2013’s promises for the PAF? With the PAF’s own experience under the young Aquino Government as basis, one can rightly say that such promises would be fulfilled – some within this year and others hopefully within the next three years!
That both the blessings and the promises for the PAF came about during the Yuletide is indeed propitious. For as Rev. Adoniram Judson Gordon (a 19th century Baptist preacher, writer, composer, and founder of Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) has wisely observed: “The promises of God are certain but they do not all mature in days.”
Source: (zamboangatoday.ph) News - 22 January 2013
Photo: The Philippine Air Force F-5A Fighter Aircraft (Photo by files)