MANILA, Philippines—Philippine troops and civilians were awed by the latest military air asset acquisitions, which went on test flights Monday afternoon, a military spokesman said.
In a press briefing Tuesday, Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said the Sokol choppers, which flew from Clark Air Base in Pampanga, amazed the troops and civilians at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija where the aircraft passed by.
He said, “The troops were impressed with the capabilities of the Sokol choppers as they executed several air maneuvers.
Major Enrico Ileto of the 7th Infantry Division said the Philippine Army Aviation Battalion of the Light Armor Division stationed at Fort Magsaysay may have been the first Army unit to establish radio contact with the brand-new choppers.
“Pulse rates ran high with enthusiasm for soldiers assigned here when they noticed a unique chopping sound of the air in the background being accustomed to the thud of a Huey helicopter or any other rotary aircraft the Armed Forces Philippines has,” he said.
The helicopters, half of the originally eight scheduled for delivery were from Augusta PZL SWIDNIK of Italy and Poland, arrived last week at Clark Air Base.
The Sokol helicopter or “Falcon” in Polish, is a “more capable utility platform” and can be fitted with equipment depending on the mission that makes it an “ideal utility helicopter” for the air force, he said. It has night vision goggle-capabilities and is equipped with an SN 350 autopilot, which means it “can fly hands free especially in long transit flights.”
While the Huey can carry only seven passengers, the Sokol can accommodate 10 passengers with a maximum takeoff weight of 14, 110 lbs. and an endurance of three hours and 19 minutes. It can reach a maximum range of 402 nautical miles in a single flight with airspeed of 140.5 knots, Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Miguel Ernesto Okol earlier said.
“The Sokol is fitted with gun mounts for the M60D machine gun on both sides and when utilized during search- and-rescue or over-water operations, it can be equipped with pilot-controlled emergency flotation gear attached to the lowest portion of the aircraft. It can also perform various missions other than combat to support the country’s peace and development efforts,” he added.
The acquisition cost is P2.8 billion and the procurement has undergone “rigid screening process.” The rest of the helicopters are expected to arrive in the fourth quarter of 2012 or first quarter of 2013.