The Philippines have taken a step away from leasing some of the 100 Lockheed-designed by Kawasaki produced P-3 Orions from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). In stead Manilla will lease five Beechcraft King Air TC-90s from the JMSDF.
Although the announcement was made by Philippine president Benigno Aquino on Wednesday, no details have been released on the time frame of when the aircraft will start operations.
The JMSDF operates 34 TC-90s as trainers, mostly for P-3 crews, while it retains an additional five LC-90 transport versions and one UC-90 for photoreconnaissance. The Philippines are in desperate need for a capable aircraft for patrolling the island and seas of the much spread-out nation, while big China is increasingly military active close by in the Spratly Islands archipelago.
As expected the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has started to arm their new FA-50PH light fighter and close-air support aircraft with the purchase of 93,600 rounds of ammunition for the onboard General Dynamics A-50 3-barrel 20-mm rotary cannon.
Although only two of the twelve ordered fast jets from Korean Aerospace Industries have arrived, Manilla seems eager to get them up and running. Apart from the gun ammo chaffs and flares are being procured from Israeli Elbit Systems.
The FA-50s are also capable of carrying up to 8,250 lbs (3,740 kg) of payload on 4 underwing, 2 wingtip and one centreline pylons. Plans exist to equip the PAF’s FA-50 with at least AIM-9 Sidewinders and free-fall bombs, but at this stage it is not known yet if those weapons will be newly bought or come from existing stock.
The Philippine Air Force used to have combat jets with air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons until 2005, when the last of the Northrop F-5A/B Freedom Fighters were retired. The nation required 37 of those jets between 1965 and 1998. With China projecting its military might and tensions rising over the Spratly Island, the Philippines have restarted a re-weaponizing program, but with limited funds.
The Philippines Air Force Airbus C295M fleet is complete. The third and final tactical airlifter landed at Clark Airbase on 11 December 2015, the country’s military confirmed.
Having the third C295M considerably boosts the Philippine Air Force’s (Pilipinas Hukbong Himpapawid; PHH) transport capability. Each of the C295M can carry up to 71 troops. It the airborne role it can carry 48 paratroopers. As medevac aircraft it accommodates up to 27 stretchers. Moreover, with the C295M the PHH has the ability to quickly move around three light vehicles or other cargo.
C295M vs C-130
The big advantage of the three C295Ms compared to the three larger Lockheed C-130 Hercules planes on strength is the smaller size of the Airbus aircraft. Both planes have a good record for relatively short take-off and landing, but tinier airfields are a better option with the two-engine C295M than the larger four engine C-130. The Airbus C295M needs 2,200 feet (670m) of runway to take off, and 1,050 feet (320m) to land. The C-130 normally keeps a safety take-off length of 3,600 feet (1,100 m), although empty it can run from as short as 1,400 feet.
The PHH is likely to use the C295Ms also to patrol and (re-)supply the Kalayaan islands, part of the Spratly Islands that many nations in Asia claim as theirs. The main island, called Pagasa or Thitu island, has been expanded with a short runway and was solely a military installation until 2002. Moreover, the Philippines military needs to move troops around to combat rebel groups in several parts of the country.
220th Airlift Wing
For now the PHH has no reserve crews for the C295Ms, but six pilots (2 for each plane) and a 19-people strong maintenance crew did train in Spain at the Airbus plant in Sevilla for their new job. The C295Ms are part of the new 220th Airlift Wing, which has Mactan-Benito Ebuen Airbase in the central part of the island nation as its main location.
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 first of twelve Korea Aircraft Industries (KAI) FA-50PH attack aircraft for the Philippines Air Force took to the air last week from KAI’s factory airfield in Sacheon in South-Korea. the Philippines. The deal is worth 420 million USD and makes the Philippines the third T-50/FA-50 operator following South-Korea and Indonesia.
KAI says it expects to deliver the first two aircraft before the end of the year. For the Philippines, the delivery means its air force once again is able to use fast jets. The FA-50’s predecessor – the F-5 Tiger – was retired years ago, leaving the air force without any respectable fighter aircraft.