PH Air Force boosts fleet with first batch of new Black Hawk choppers
CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga — The Philippine Air Force (PAF) welcomed its first batch of brand new combat utility helicopters as it commissioned six Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk choppers in a ceremony here on Thursday (Dec. 10).
NOW: Commissioning of 6 Black Hawk helicopters for the Philippine Air Force pic.twitter.com/bgZKyUcP20
— Frances Mangosing (@FMangosingINQ) December 10, 2020
The helicopters formally entered into service after being delivered by Polish contractor PZL Mielec, a subsidiary of the American defense company Lockheed Martin. Ten more units are expected in early 2021.
The 16 Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters — costing a total of P12.1 billion — replaced the canceled contract of 16 Bell 412EP helicopters from Canada.
In 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte called off a deal to buy Bell 412EPI combat utility helicopters from Canada, which expressed concern that the helicopters could be used in counterinsurgency operations in the Philippines.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted he was unhappy with the cancellation of the contract at the beginning.
“I was very, very unhappy. That it came when it was due to be implemented was doubly frustrating,” he said in his speech. It brought them back to square one, he said.
“We were racing against time before we lose the money to other projects,” he said.
But Lorenzana said it turned out to be for the good in the end: “We got a better deal with this aircraft. Not only it’s more powerful, more payload, and longer range, we got them cheaper… The procurement process proceeded very fast and smooth as well.”
Lorenzana said the PAF has expressed interest in acquiring 16 more units of Black Hawk helicopters.
“The chances of that being fulfilled is very big actually. So, we’ll see,” he said.
The new Black Hawk helicopters would boost the aging Huey choppers and a handful of Bell 412 helicopters of the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing.
The Defense department earlier said it was also interested in acquiring surplus Huey choppers from South Korea.
Transport helicopters are crucial in Philippine military operations. They are primarily used in ferrying troops and cargo, medical evacuation, resupply, search and rescue, limited close air support, and for disaster relief.
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