MANILA – The Philippines may acquire another 16 S-70i "Black Hawk" combat utility helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF), Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Thursday.
Lorenzana said PAF chief, Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes told him that it would be more advantageous for the Air Force to be operating a single specific type of helicopter as it would be easier for them in terms of maintenance and training.
"Hindi ko masabi kung bakit (I cannot exactly say the reason) but we actually still (have) funds remaining to procure helicopters sa ibang mga, ibang (from different) companies, sabi niya (Paredes) mas maganda na yung pareho para yung maintenance and pilot, hindi na mag-aaral (ulit) saka yung ano mo, yung supplies yung spare parts pareho-pareho lang, mas madaling i-maintain yung fleet ng lahat 'Black Hawk' kesa yung halo-halo di ba (He told me that it would be better to just have the same type of helicopter because of the maintenance and pilot training aspect. You won't have to study again and your supplies and spare parts would just be the same. It would be easier to maintain a Black Hawk fleet instead of different aircraft types)," Lorenzana told reporters at Clark Air Base, Angeles City, Pampanga during the acceptance, blessing and turnover of the first six Polish-made helicopters delivered last month.
Lorenzana said Paredes told him that the PAF wants another 16 Black Hawk choppers to beef up its helicopter fleet.
"The chances of that being fulfilled are very big actually, so we'll see. These brand-new combat utility helicopters will be used for missions such as transport of cargoes and personnel, medical evacuation, casualty evacuation, aerial reconnaissance, disaster relief operations, troop insertion and extrication, combat resupply, combat search-and-rescue, and limited close air support," he added.
Lorenzana said the newly acquired helicopters would help the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in its operations.
"Equipped with the Black Hawk our Air Force can now provide prompt and sustained day and night tactical lift as well as combat and non-combat search-and-rescue operations," he added.
The first five S-70is were delivered via the Antonov An-124 heavy cargo aircraft to Clark Air Base last November 9 while the sixth unit arrived aboard a ship on November 27. The remaining 10 are set to be delivered to the country next year.
The helicopters were acquired from Polish company Polskie Zaklady Lotnicze Sp.z.o.o and manufactured under license from Sikorsky USA for USD241 million (around PHP11.5 billion)
The helicopters were procured through a government-to-government transaction with Poland. The negotiations were completed in 2019. The acquisition of the Polish-made S-70i Black Hawk combat helicopters is part of Horizon 2 of the AFP Modernization Program.
The Philippines shifted into the purchase of the Polish-made helicopters after the contract for the acquisition of 16 combat helicopters from Canada was scrapped when it was about to be implemented in February 2018.
"The cancellation of that contract brought us back to square one. we have to start with the procurement process again and we were racing against time before we lose the money to other projects. Today, I feel the exact opposite. I'm so happy and proud to have with our possession six of the 16 units of S-70i Black Hawk helicopters we ordered from PZL (Mielec) of Poland. the remaining 10 Black hawks will be delivered early next year. All helicopters will come with the initial integrated logistics support package," Lorenzana added.
He said the cancellation of the PHP12 billion contract for the Bell 412 combat utility helicopters was a blessing in disguise as the S-70is are the more capable aircraft due to its greater payload, longer range, and cheaper.
Aside from that, the DND chief said the Black Hawks were delivered ahead of time. (PNA)