By Francis Wakefield
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Tuesday said that the turn-over of two NC212i Light Lift Fixed-Wing Aircrafts from Indonesia to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) signified the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to a level where it can more effectively and fully perform its constitutional mandate to uphold the sovereignty and preserve the patrimony of our country.
Lorenzana made the remarks in a speech he delivered during the formal acceptance, blessing and turn-over to the PAF of the two aircrafts in a simple ceremony held at Haribon Hangar, Air Force City, Clark Air Base, Pampanga.
The aircrafts, it was recalled, were acquired by the Department of National Defense from PT Dirgantara Indonesia as part of the Light Lift Fixed-Wing Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force under the AFP Modernization Program.
Lorenzana said since the passage of Republic Act 7879 or the AFP Modernization Act in 1995, the accomplishment of the law’s mandate has encountered several setbacks especially during the Asian economic crisis when modernization efforts in the military were stalled momentarily due to financial constraints.
“But I am happy to note that we have surpassed all those challenges and finally made it to this day,” Lorenzana said.
“These aircrafts in front of us will offer our military, the Air Force in particular, a long list of contributions in the areas of internal security operations, territorial defense, and national development,” he added
Lorenzana said specifically, these (aircrafts) will develop the military’s capacity in securing our national sovereignty and territory, in fulfilling its mandate of protecting the Filipino people from both man-made and natural threats and calamities, in enhancing its capability to fulfill the country’s international commitments, among others.
“We are thankful to the Indonesian government, through their very distinguished Ambassador Lumintang, for their enduring concern for our security and welfare. The emerging security challenges in our region have made it all the more necessary for neighboring countries and allies like us to collaborate further and combine together our potentials and resources in facing these security challenges,” Lorenzana said.
“It is my sincere hope that our nations will remain great friends today and in the years ahead of us,” he added.
Prior to the delivery of the aircrafts,, PAF pilots received all the trainings needed about the instruments and technical conditions at PT Dirgantara Indonesia (DI).
PT DI commerce and restructuring director Budiman Saleh earlier revealed that the purchasing contract of the two NC212i aircrafts, including their spare parts, was worth US$19 million.
PAF said the NC212i aircrafts can be used strategically for producing artificial rain, maritime patrol, and coast guard patrol. They can also be utilized for the following missions: passenger and troop transport, cargo/logistic transport, anti-smuggling control, immigration control, search and rescue, paratroop dropping, and medical evacuation.
Compared to the previous NC212, the new model has a carrying capacity of 28 passengers, a digital avionic and next generation autopilot. It features a ramp access, next-generation navigation, and communication system, as well as, cheaper operational cost. Moreover, the aircraft is capable of taking-off and landing on unpaved runway.
Although the Philippines and several countries such as Thailand, South Africa, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Chile, and Mexico have been using the previous generation aircraft which is the C212, this multipurpose plane is the first Indonesian aircraft ordered by the Philippines and is the latest generation of the NC212.
The NC212i is fully made by PTDI, which also means that the latter is the only company that produces this aircraft. All the process of producing the aircraft is done in Bandung because the Indonesian airplane manufacturer’s partner, the Airbus Defence a, d Space, has handed over all of the production facility to PTDI, which was initially located in Spain. Every ord of the NC212i received by the European company would be made by PTDI in Indonesia.
The acquisition of the NC212i is part of the PAF’s Modernization Program aimed at enhancing the PAF’s humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) and security efforts..