(File photo courtesy of Philippine Air Force)

MANILA – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Wednesday said that its non-operational FA-50PH light jet fighters are undergoing scheduled mandatory maintenance.

"While it is true that we have FA-50 aircraft that are currently on non-operational status, most of them are just ongoing scheduled maintenance which are mandatory precautionary checks and they will be back in the air soon," said Air Force spokesperson, Col. Ma Consuelo Castillo, in a message to the Philippine News Agency.

This came after reports said only three FA-50PHs are operational as this time due to sustainability issues.

"Some are also awaiting spares which are coming from abroad. These parts are mostly what we call Time Change Items (TCI) and they need to be replaced after certain hours of use to ensure safety of flight operations," Castillo said.

She added that the delays in deliveries of these parts are largely affected by the slowdown of the supply chain due to recent global events.

"But rest assured that constant and close follow-ups are being done. As soon as we get the needed parts, the rest of our fighter jets will be flying soon," the PAF spokesperson said.

And despite the limited number of its operational fighter aircraft, Castillo said that the PAF is still able to perform its mandate as needed with commendable response time.

"Furthermore, with the prospects of additional aircraft as part of our modernization plans, our Air Force can even be so much better, " she added.

The South Korea-made FA-50PH is considered the PAF's premier air combat aircraft and is used extensively for air defense, attack, and other support missions.

The FA-50PHs had its baptism of fire in the Marawi City campaign where it was heavily used for close-air support mission roles along with the venerable OV-10 "Bronco" turbo-prop attack aircraft, SF-260 light bombers and various attack helicopters of the PAF.

The FA-50PHs have a top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and a half times the speed of sound and is capable of being fitted with air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons and bombs.

A total of 12 FA-50s were acquired from Korea Aerospace Industries for PHP18. 9 billion.

The deliveries commenced in November 2015 and were completed in May 2017. (PNA)