MANILA – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) had its attack and tactical transport capabilities boosted with the formal acceptance of two brand-new Turkish made T129 "ATAK" helicopters and an Airbus Defense and Space C-295 medium lift aircraft Wednesday.
In a statement, PAF spokesperson Col. Maynard Mariano said the formal acceptance, turnover and blessing of the two attack helicopters and a transport aircraft was at the 250th Presidential Air Wing Hangar, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.
He said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was the event's guest-of-honor.
“For us, these new aircraft will not just beef up our capabilities but, in deep retrospect, carry the hopes and aspirations of what we want as an air force, to become a more agile and dependable organization," PAF chief Lt. Gen. Connor Anthony D. Canlas Sr. said.
Aside from Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) vice chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Erickson Gloria and Jorge Moragas Sanchez; Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain; and Dr. Ismail Demir, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey also attended the event.
The first two T129 attack helicopters, out of six units ordered, were delivered to the PAF last March 9 aboard two A-400M transport of the Turkish Air Force.
One of the A-400Ms carried the two helicopters while the other aircraft transported the initial logistics requirement of the two T129s.
Mariano earlier said the Turkish-made attack helicopters are expected to enhance the "surface strike system" of the Air Force.
The six T129s were acquired by the PAF from the Turkish Aerospace Industries in line with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Plan - Horizon 2.
Mariano said the PAF's 15th Strike Wing would operate the T129s, which will be used for close-air support for ground troops and armed surveillance and reconnaissance.
"The T129 is a dedicated attack helicopter, much like the (Bell) AH-1S Cobra. This new system will complement the several surface strike systems of the Air Force and will be another game-changer in support to the numerous missions of the AFP," he added.
The first two units were supposed to be delivered in December but this did not push through for still unknown reasons.
"This is the total contract price for the six units of T129 helicopters -- PHP13,727,248,240. This is to include the logistics support and training of pilots and crew in Turkey," he added.
The T129 is a twin-engine, tandem seat, multi-role, all-weather attack helicopter based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta platform and is designed for advanced attack and reconnaissance missions in hot and high environments and rough geography in both day and night conditions.
Lorenzana signed the contract for the acquisition of the Turkish attack helicopters in July 2020.
The PAF is looking at acquiring dedicated but affordable attack helicopters to beef up its fleets of lightly-armed helicopters, such as the MG-520 and AW-109E that are being used for counter-terror and ground support missions.
Meanwhile, the C-295 arrived last March 28.
It is the first out of three C-295s ordered from Airbus Defense and Space under a new contract.
"(It is) a part (of the) Modernization Program, which was approved by the current administration. This project will fill in our gap in airlift requirements," Mariano said.
The contract for the three aircraft, which was signed in 2019, is worth PHP5.288 billion.
"Three C-295 aircraft were acquired under the Medium Lift Aircraft Acquisition Project pursuant to the Republic Act (Number) 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act," Mariano said.
He added the PAF's 220th Airlift Wing of the Air Mobility Command will operate these aircraft which will be utilized to transport troops and equipment to various parts of the country.
These planes will augment the four C-295 aircraft previously acquired by the PAF in 2015 and 2019. (PNA)