Flying new fighter jets ‘like driving Ferrari’–Air Force pilot
CLARK AIR BASE—“It’s like driving a Ferrari.”
This was how Lt. Col. Rolando Pena III, one of the first three Philippine Air Force pilots trained to fly FA-50 fighter jets, described how it was like to fly their newest asset on Saturday.
“This is really like a Ferrari because it is a fly-by-wire aircraft and it’s a 4 to 4.5 generation type of aircraft. It is comparable to an F16 (though) a little weak on some parameters, but it is the best that the Air Force has acquired at the moment,” he told reporters after the delivery of the jets from Korea to Clark Air Base.
It is the first time in 10 years that the Air Force makes a bid to return to its supersonic age. The military, one of the weakest in Asia, is building a minimum credible defense amid rising external threats, such as China’s expansion in the South China Sea.
“We have very high morale and the fighter pilot corps is looking forward to flying this aircraft,” Pena said.
The Philippines signed a contract of P18.9 billion for 12 brand new fighter jets with Korea Aerospace Industries in March 2014. Ten more fighter jets are expected to arrive until 2017.
The planes will undergo acceptance and test flights before being commissioned to the Air Force. Training for the three Filipino pilots took about six and a half months in Korea.
“We had instructors who are some of the best fighter pilots in Korea. The training was tough because we had to learn the system of the aircraft because … it is really different from what we used to fly,” Pena said.
They need around a hundred flying hours before they can train a new set of pilots.
According to Pena, the FA-50 fighter jet, a light attack aircraft, can do multi-role missions. The jets would be used for defense of territorial waters, he added, but didn’t say whether it’s for South China Sea.
“It’s very significant because it adds up to the capability … we have to contend with the subsonic aircraft … now that we have a supersonic aircraft, our reaction time will be faster and we are more capable,” he said.
Another project is in the pipeline for the weapons of the new fighter jets, Pena said.
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