The transport capability of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) gets a big boost with the delivery of eight Bell 412 helicopters and two AW109 attack helicopters.
Most of the aircraft were reconfigured to suit internal security operations while the Bell choppers can also do search and rescue operations during disasters, an Air Force official said.
PAF spokesman Colonel Enrico Canaya said the eight Bell helicopters were delivered in batches by the Canadian Commercial Corp. and Textron last June.
Canaya said five of the choppers were configured for combat utility, equipped with machineguns and rockets while the three others were intended to be used for VIP transport.
Also delivered were two of the eight AW109 combat utility helicopters with a total amount of P4.5 billion.
“Hopefully this year, all the remaining six AW109 helicopters would be delivered,” Canaya said.
Canaya said all the delivered choppers passed inspection and test flights.
He said the choppers will be deployed in the unified area commands.
“The Bell choppers will also be utilized for humanitarian assistance and disaster response during times of calamity. They will be assigned to the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing; they are a good support for our UH1H and UH1D,” Canaya said
The “inferior” version of the German-made UH1D has become controversial after the discovery of bidding irregularities made by the Bids and Awards Committee of the Department of National Defense that was supposed to purchase 21 secondhand refurbished UH1H worth P1.2 billion. Only seven of the supposed 21 defective UH1D replacements were accepted and the rest were scrapped after the issue became public and investigated by the Senate.
Canaya said the AW109 helicopters will complement the MD520 in the 15th Strike Wing for close air support and reconnaissance.
“This is positive development because right now we are receiving new aircraft, air assets to increase the capability of the Air Force. We are looking forward to the delivery of two more medium C295M and two CM212I light-lift transport. And of course, the first delivery of our FA-50 from South Korea this year,” he said.
The DND has ordered 12 FA-50 lead-in jet fighters or trainer jets which are not combat-ready despite the high cost at P18.9 billion.