By Genalyn Kabiling
More combat utility aircraft and drones will be forthcoming to boost the country’s military air fleet.
President Duterte has announced the planned acquisition of additional military aircraft to help the country address the challenges of terrorism and external security.
“I assure you that we will build on our past gains to further strengthen the Philippine Air Force,” the President said during the 70th anniversary of the Philippine Air Force in Clark, Pampanga.
Apart from aircraft and drones, the Department of National Defense has acquired rockets and munitions for the stockpile of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said a Philippine Air Force (PAF) C-130 “Hercules” cargo plane recently arrived from Tuczon, Arizona, in the United States with the rockets and munitions.
“We will continue the ongoing modernization program by procuring additional attack and combat utility vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs to complement our already existing air assets,” he said at the PAF anniversary.
The President made the promise as he paid tribute to the Air Force for its contributions to preserving the country’s security.
Apart from providing air support in counter-insurgency and law enforcement operations, Duterte recognized the Air Force’s crucial role in the operations against terrorists in Marawi City.
“As our country faces the current challenges of terrorism and external security, I call upon the men and women of the Philippine Air Force to live up to your oath with the highest degree of professionalism and competence,” he said.
Duterte opted to read his prepared short speech after seeing Air Force troops standing under heavy rain at the Clark Airfield.
He said he usually prefers to deliver impromptu remarks in public engagements but will make a rare exception in the Air Force event.
“Babasahin ko na lang ito at para madali na ang seremonya natin at umuulan [I’ll read the speech to quickly end the ceremony since it’s raining hard] I find it very unsettling sitting there and looking at you all wet,” he said.
At the PAF anniversary rites, the President also witnessed the presentation of the certificate of complete delivery of 12 FA-50PH aircraft by Korea Aerospace Industries of South Korea.
The previous government earlier acquired a dozen of the Korean-made aircraft for P18.9 billion. The final batch of the fighter jets was delivered last May.
FIGHTER JETS IN MARAWI
The FA-50PH fighter jets are currently being used in the government’s effort to flush out Islamist militants in Marawi City.
Aside from the newly acquired fighter jets from South Korea, PAF aircraft currently being use in bombing Maute controlled buildings and facilities include a Rockwell OV-10 Bronco attack aircraft, an SIAI-Marchetti SF-260 light attack plane, and the Agusta Westland AW-109 and MG-520 attack helicopters.
Meanwhile, Lorenzana said the Australian AP-3Cs Orion is currently conducting flights in Marawi City in the fight against the Maute Group.
Lorenzana said Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) flights of the Australians started June 30 and will last for two weeks.
The Australian Defense Forces (ADF) had earlier said that two AP-3Cs will conduct ISR missions in Marawi City to help the AFP defeat the Maute Group. (With a report from Francis T. Wakefield)