Air Force: 34 acquired aircraft since 2014
The Philippine Air Force has acquired 34 aircraft—new and old—in the past two years, a 100 percent increase of their operational air assets.
Outgoing Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado said that this was their “biggest haul.”
When he assumed office in April 2014, there were only about 40 aircraft in the Air Force inventory. As he retires on Wednesday, he will leave the service with almost 90 air assets.
He did not fully credit the big acquisitions to his leadership as Air Force chief, however.
“We have been working on this since the president assumed office in 2010, and we continued the pursuit of this. It just so happened that most of the items programmed have arrived on my time,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
During his command, he saw the delivery of brand new Agusta 109 helicopters, Bell 412 choppers, C295 transport planes, refurbished UH-1D choppers, and the biggest upgrade of all, the FA-50 fighter jets.
They were also able to recover 13 aircraft from the existing fleet under his watch. Another eight aircraft are in the process of being recovered, he said.
‘I’ve waited 20 years’
Delgado said the delivery of the first two of 12 FA-50s last November was his best day as Air Force chief.
“I’ve waited 20 years. In 1995, we’re working on that. I was already at the AFP modernization office, planning for that. So after 20 years, naluluha rin kami eh. Twenty years is a long time. In 1995, we were envisioning the replacement for the F-5,” he said.
The squadron of FA-50s is the biggest military capability upgrade at P18.9 billion. The rest of the jets are expected to be delivered in batches until 2017.
A seasoned combat pilot, Delgado was a survivor of two chopper crashes in 1989 and 1990. When he was a captain, the T-28, known as “tora-tora,” that he was maneuvering crashed over Manila Bay in 1989.
“It was a practice flight. Doon ko lang nakita malumot pala sa ilalim ng Manila Bay. Naawa ako sa sarili ko so lumangoy ako pataas,” he recalled with a laugh.
His co-pilot turned out to be looking for him at sea. They saw a fisherman who gave them a ride on his boat.
In 1990, the same type of plane he was flying crashed at Sangley Airport.
Delgado, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1982, will bow down from service to where he started out his career — Fernando Air Base in Lipa, Batangas.
He said it was his “personal choice” to retire a few days ahead of his March 20 retirement to allow President Benigno Aquino III to name his replacement before the election ban on appointments.
Delgado piloted his last flight two weeks ago using a T-41 plane, an aircraft similar to a Cessna.
“They gave me a champagne flight. I chose the T-41 because it is the aircraft that I first flew in the Air Force. I wanted it to be the last aircraft I will be flying,” he said.
Delgado will turn over the 20,000 strong Air Force to Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina, the deputy chief of staff of the armed forces.
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