Air Force puts up show for 4 new fighter jets
CLARK FREEPORT—Flying in a diamond formation, four brand new Philippine Air Force (PAF) combat and trainer jets purchased from South Korea put up a show before landing at the PAF Haribon Complex on Thursday during the ceremonial turnover to the Philippine government.
The four jets are part of the 12 FA-50PH fighter aircraft bought for P18.9 billion in 2014 by the Aquino administration from the Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI).
But the jets will not be immediately deployed to patrol areas in the disputed West Philippine Sea, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Asked by reporters to elaborate, Lorenzana said: “Perhaps not now because we don’t have a series of radars capable of detecting intrusions into our territory.”
He welcomed the arrival of the FA-50PH, also called “Fighting Eagles,” or “Fighter/Surfac Attack/Lead-in Fighters Trainer Aircraft (F/SA/LIFTA).”
Lorenzana said the jets could also be used to deliver missiles and ammunition to soldiers.
Purchased for $30 million apiece as part of the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the jets will be used to train more pilots and maintenance crews, Lorenzana said.
The first two jets arrived at PAF’s Haribon Complex here on Nov. 28. Two more jets were flown in on Thursday. The remaining eight jets will be delivered next year.
The arrival of the fighter jets restored PAF to the supersonic age after it retired in 2005 its F-5 fighter jets. Still in active duty are five AS-211 trainer jets that were bought in 1989.
In a briefer, PAF described the FA-50PH as a “multifighter variant of KAI T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic advanced jet trainer.”
The plane is capable of “carrying short-range air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles with countermeasures such as chaffs and infrared flares,” said PAF.
KAI pilots Dongkyu Lee, Cheol Kahng, Donghak Shin and Huiman Kwon flew in the second batch of jets. The first two planes were piloted by Lt. Colonels Thomas Ryan Seguin, Maynard Mariano, Rolando Conrad Peña and Fabian Pedregosa.
Seguin, Mariano and Peña trained in Korea for seven months to fly FA-50PH jets.
These aircraft will be assigned to the 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron, also called the “Bulldogs,” based in Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga, one of the facilities that are slated to be used under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.
It is the first time that the Philippines bought military aircraft from Korea. The aircraft’s life span is good for 25 to 30 years, Lorenzana said.
“I would call these our modest beginnings into beefing up our minimum defense capabilities,” he said, referring to the need to protect the country’s long coastlines.
Lorenzana said the 5-month-old Duterte administration, for its part, had prioritized the purchase of boats for the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.