PH to acquire more combat planes and choppers

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The government’s plan to buy 32 more Black Hawk helicopters for the Air Force and six offshore patrol vessels (OPV) for the Navy has made significant progress, and plans to acquire more attack planes and choppers are in the works, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

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“Last night, I received a notice from the Department of Budget and Management for the funding for 32 Black Hawk helicopters, additional,” Lorenzana said at the Air Force’s change of command ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

Lorenzana later told reporters that the DBM had approved P32 billion for the additional Black Hawk helicopters that the government hopes to purchase from Polish aerospace manufacturer PZL Mielec.

He also revealed that P30 billion has been approved for the purchase of six OPVs, which will most likely be built by the Australian shipbuilder Austal.

“No contracts yet. Still under negotiation,” Lorenzana clarified.

At the ceremony, the defense chief announced that President Rodrigo Duterte had approved the plan to purchase more Black Hawk helicopters to replace the Philippine Air Force’s fleet of UH-1s, or “Hueys.”

“Sabi niya (President Duterte), bumili na lang tayo ng marami para ma-retire na natin yung mga Huey kasi marami na tayong namamatay na mga crew diyan sa Hueys. So that’s the plan, actually,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana stated that with the DBM’s notice, his office can now hope to sign the contract for the 32 additional Black Hawks before the President’s term expires in June of next year.

The planned Black Hawks will be in addition to the PAF’s existing 15 units.

The government had purchased 16 Black Hawk helicopters from Poland for US$ 241.461 million, or approximately P11.6 billion, but one of them crashed last June 23 during a night-flying proficiency training, killing all six PAF personnel onboard.

Lorenzana also stated that the government will soon make a down payment on heavy lift helicopters.

He stated that the government will purchase Mi-17 heavy lift helicopters from Russia.

At the same time, the defense chief revealed that the PAF is planning to purchase more Super Tucano light attack planes and attack helicopters.

“We have six Super Tucanos and six attack helicopters coming, and we also plan to buy six more of those platforms para maging dose-dose,” he said.

Turkish Aerospace Industries sold the government six T129 attack helicopters for $269,388,862, or about P12.9 billion. Two of those units are expected to arrive this month, according to reports.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Connor Anthony Canlas took over as commanding general of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) at a ceremony in Manila on Tuesday. Canlas, a member of Philippine Military Class of 1989, presented a framework of his leadership’s thrusts, which are collectively called “LIPAD”.

The thrusts aim to improve leadership at various levels, harden infrastructure and bases, enhance personnel capability and well-being.