PH Air Force Black Hawk choppers sent to Mindanao
MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines has deployed S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters to Mindanao.
Four units were sent to the Eastern Mindanao Command on Thursday (Nov. 4). Two were stationed at Tactical Operations Wing-Eastern Mindanao in Davao City. Another two were at Tactical Operations Group 10 Headquarters, Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro City.
“The arrival of these Black Hawk choppers happened at a very opportune time to aid our hardworking troops in the pursuit of genuine peace and development in Eastern Mindanao,” said Eastmincom chief Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol.
Eastern Mindanao is a bailiwick of communist insurgents. Last week, top New People’s Army leader Jorge Madlos was killed in Bukidnon in what the military said was a clash but which communist rebels said was an ambush.
The Tactical Operations Wing-Western Mindanao in Zamboanga City received two helicopters on the same day. These will be used to support combat missions and humanitarian aid in Soccsksargen up to the Sulu archipelago.
“We are very grateful that the top brass considered the deployment of these air assets which will greatly contribute to the accomplishment of our missions here in Western Mindanao,” said Western Mindanao Command chief Maj. Gen. Alfredo Rosario Jr.
The Philippine government earlier procured 16 units of Black Hawk helicopters — built by Poland’s PZL Mielec, a subsidiary of American firm Lockheed Martin — for P12.1 billion, to replace the aging Vietnam-era Hueys (UH-1H) mainly used for transport tasks.
Eleven Black Hawk units have been delivered since last year but 10 are currently in service, after one crashed in June. Five units have yet to be delivered.
The PAF recently retired some of its aging Hueys as it seeks new helicopters. President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year approved the acquisition of additional helicopters after a spate of crashes since last year although it was unclear if funding is available.
The Philippines and Poland signed an agreement in April that would allow government-to-government deals on defense procurement, which could include additional Black Hawk helicopters.
Helicopters are crucial in the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, where transport is difficult especially during calamities. They are used in search and rescue missions, close air support, medical evacuation and disaster response.
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