PH Air Force escalates social media campaign for public support for more choppers
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is escalating efforts on social media to win public support for its acquisition of new combat utility helicopters.
The PAF came up with social media cards and explainer video over the weekend, highlighting the importance of having multi-role helicopters for the country.
PHILIPPINE AIR FORCE UTILITY HELICOPTERPANOORIN: Ang istorya ng mga Huey Helicopter sa ating Hukbong Himpapawid at ang importansya ng mga tungkuling ginampanan nito sa pagtugon sa mga pangangailangan ng ating bansa at ng ating mga kababayan.#TaketheLeadSoarAsOne#AFPModernizationProject#OneDefenseTeamPHDISCLAIMER: Video clips used in the production of this video belong to the rightful owners. No copyright infringement intended.
Posted by Philippine Air Force on Sunday, February 7, 2021
“Because the Philippines is an archipelago with at least 7,461 islands, we need aircraft like helicopters to deliver aid to those in need quicker,” said one PAF post in Filipino.
Ang mga helicopters na ito ang magsisilbing kaagapay ng AFP sa malawakang pagsasagawa ng aming misyon gaya ng search and…
The helicopters may also be used to fight fires, for search and rescue missions, limited close air support, medical evacuation, disaster response and other humanitarian campaigns.
“It is time to buy new helicopters to better meet the needs of our countrymen during disasters brought by calamities,” the PAF said.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent approval of the purchase of additional Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters drew criticisms from progressive group Alliance of Concerned Teachers, saying it was one of the government’s “grave funding mispriorities.”
“Why is the government squandering the people’s money on senseless wars when our biggest adversary today is the crisis that wreaks havoc on all aspects of our national life?” the ACT said.
Malacanang earlier said the acquisition would “slowly address the growing heli-lift deficiency” of the armed forces and would pave the way for the decommissioning of Vietnam War-era Huey helicopters, the PAF’s workhorse.
The iconic Huey helicopters have an average age of 40 years old. It’s not clear how many UH-1, UH-1D and Bell 205 helicopters are in the PAF’s inventory.
Duterte’s decision to acquire new helicopters came following a series of accidents involving Hueys since 2020, killing at least 12 people in separate cases. The most recent occurred in Bukidnon in January and led to the deaths of all seven people onboard.
Last December, the PAF commissioned the first 6 of 16 Black Hawk helicopters, marking the start of transition from the PAF’s rapidly aging Hueys, which have been flying for decades. The rest of the Black Hawk choppers ordered from Poland’s PZL Mielec, are expected to be delivered within 2021. The 16 choppers cost around P12 billion.
While Duterte approved the purchase of 15 Black Hawk helicopters according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles at a press briefing last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said 32 Black Hawk helicopters were actually approved.
“From our meeting, I understood, as do other Cabinet secretaries, that 32 were approved,” he said.
“We are aiming for 32 more Black Hawks that would replace all our existing helicopters including the Hueys. These will cost P32 billion or a billion pesos apiece,” he added.
Lorenzana said “the yearly payment can be easily covered by the AFP modernization fund and the funds from the BCDA.”
“Upon contract signing 15 percent of the total cost will be paid or P4.8 billion. Succeeding payments will be upon delivery which will extend up to 3 to 5 years,” he said.
The defense secretary said the military intends to acquire 32 more because “the total will bring our inventory helicopters to 48 which is sufficient to fill in the AFP needs for humanitarian assistance and disaster response, supply and personnel transport.”
Lorenzana said other reasons Black Hawks were preferred were easy maintenance of procurement of parts, maximum use of maintenance crew and the Black Hawk’s bigger lift capacity.
It’s not clear when the acquisition process will officially begin but Lorenzana said he hoped to sign a contract “within the year.”
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