Black Hawk choppers vital in rescue ops: DND

By Priam Nepomuceno

February 6, 2021, 12:44 pm

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – Helicopters such as the S-70i Black Hawk, which are capable of transporting relief personnel and aid, are a necessity in disaster-prone countries like the Philippines, an official of the Department of National Defense (DND) said on Saturday.

"For a country constantly beset by calamities and currently battling a pandemic, transport helicopters like the 'Black Hawks' are an absolutely necessary asset in our inventory that will allow the Armed Forces to respond efficiently and effectively to critical situations," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.

He added that the DND aims to address the need to upgrade and expand the helicopter fleet of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), by acquiring more of the Black Hawk transport helicopters, which are versatile workhorses that are capable of performing various functions in a variety of situations.

"For instance, they can and will be used in airlifting relief goods and first responders during disasters, as well as ferry supplies such as perishable vaccines and medicines to far-flung areas that are difficult to reach by land. The 'Black Hawk' transport helicopters will evacuate people during emergencies, and can fly critically-ill or injured patients to medical facilities when time is of the essence," Andolong said.

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the acquisition of 15 Black Hawk helicopters to address the growing heli-lift deficiency of the PAF, Cabinet Secretary Karlos Nograles announced on Thursday.

Duterte gave his nod during the 51st Cabinet meeting held at Malacañan Palace on Wednesday, Nograles said in a virtual presser.

Nograles said Duterte has also ordered the decommissioning of all the PAF’s UH-1H Huey combat utility aircraft helicopters following the January 16 crash in Bukidnon.

The PAF received six modern S-70i Black Hawks late last year, which is part of the 16 units ordered from Polish company Polskie Zaklady Lotnicze Sp.z.o.o. and manufactured under license from Sikorsky USA.

The entire order is worth USD241 million or about PHP11.5 billion. The remaining 10 S-70is are expected to be delivered by the first quarter of 2021.

The Black Hawk helicopters were procured through a government-to-government transaction with Poland. The negotiations were completed in 2019.

The acquisition of the S-70i combat utility helicopters is as part of Horizon 2 of the AFP Modernization Program. (PNA)