UPDATED 28 November | The first two FA-50 Golden Hawks for the the Philippine Air Force left South Korea on Friday 27 November according to Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). The jets are expected to arrive in the Philippines later today, marking the end of a period that left the Philippine Air Force without any credible combat assets.
Update | The two Golden Hawks arrived in the Philippines on Saturday 28 November at 10.23 am local time. Pics are here.
Until 2005, the Philippines operated F-5A/B Freedom Fighters to protect its skies. Afterwards, Aermacchi S-211 trainer jets were modified for that role, but in reality these were insufficient to provide a credible air-to-air and air-to-ground capability.
The Philippine Air Force joins the air forces of South Korea and Indonesia in operating the type. Iraq has 24 Golden Hawks on order for F-16 pilot training. The first of those are now performing test flights from Sacheon.
The South Korean airbase of Cheongju for the next two weeks is the stage of a large Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) biannual exercise called Soaring Eagle. Taking part is the old and the ROKAF stuff, from nearly obsolete F-4E Phantoms to new indigenous Korea Aerospace Industries FA-50 Golden Hawks.
In the ROKAF’s words, the aim of the large-scale aerial exercise aims is to boost capabilities of blocking enemies’ surprise infiltration and destroying key military assets – in other words, to block any effort of South Korea’s northern neighbour. The air force also wants to evaluate and improve the strategic and light attack combat capabilities of the FA-50. Two Golden Hawks take part in the exercise.
Cheongju, visited by Airheadsfly.com editors in 2004, is located about 140 kilometers south of Seoul. The airbase is home to South Korea’s remaining F-4E Phantoms, and also provides ’Top Gun’ training for fighter pilots.
Next to FA-50s and F-4Es, also taking part in Soaring Eagle are F-5E, F-15K and KF-16 fighters. In total, forty aircraft are involved, as well as 320 personnel.
Thirteen Mil Mi-28NE Night Hunters (NATO-name Havoc) attack helicopters have been delivered to Iraq so far, Iraqi and Russian media reported this weekend. In 2012, a contract for 36 Mi-28NE Havocs and other military hardware was signed between Iraq and Russia, worth 4.2 billion USD
Iraq will use the attack helicopters for counter-terrorism operation. On Saturday 4 January, it was already reported that Iraq is attacking apparent terrorists in the west of the country, using Cessna/ATK AC-208B Combat Caravans. Last November, it was reported that Iraq started receiving the first four Mi-35M Hind-Es. Last autumn, the Iraqi pilots and technicians finalized their training in Russia.
Meanwhile, Iraqi pilots are also training in the US to fly the Lockheed Martin F-16 block 52 Fighting Falcon. The country is expecting delivery of the first of 36 F-16s it ordered in the US. The first 4.3 billion USD-contract for this order was signed in December 2011, and first deliveries are expected by September 2014. Procedures for forming the first squadron started roughly four months ago at Balad airbase in northern Baghdad.
Only last month, the Iraqi Air Force ordered 24 KAI T-50 supersonic advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft on 12 December 2013. Iraq will use the Korea Aerospace Industries machines mainly as lead-in trainer for their 36 new F-16 Fighting Falcon multi-role fighters. The aircraft are designated T-50IQ
All in all, Iraq is building some serious airborne muscle.