Only 27% of Air Force assets operational
MANILA -- It’s a reality that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) doesn’t have a fighter jet. But did you know that PAF has to depend on 71 aircraft to defend the country’s territorial rights?
This is a measly 27% operational out of the 265 total aircraft, said PAF’s number two man, Air Force vice commander Maj. Gen. Raul Dimatatac. In fact, the country should have at least 370 in the Table of Organization and Equipment.
Of the 265, 95 assets are beyond repair and should already be disposed. The remaining can be “recoverable or serviceable” depending on funds available.
“We have a gap of 200 (aircraft). If we only have enough money, we'll fill the gap of 200 at once but we are lacking in resources. We have to fit ourselves in a small blanket," he said.
The government has already promised the modernization of military assets in an attempt to provide soldiers the means to secure the country,
A budget of P18 billion has been allotted for the acquisition of 12 brand new F/A-50 fighter jets from South Korea.
The Air Force also purchased earlier eight Sokol helicopters, bought for P2.8 billion from PZL Swidnik of Poland. However, one malfunctioned last July, five months after the firm completed the delivery.
The government is also trying to acquire 21 refurbished combat utility UH-1H or Huey helicopters for P1.26 billion.
The public bidding failed on Friday, however, with only one bid for the contract, the US-based Rice Aircraft Services Inc. in partnership with Eagle Copter. The joint partnership also did not satisfy documentary requirements.
Dimatatac said the country currently has 79 Hueys, of which 21 are operational, 33 are beyond repair and 25 are serviceable.
“That’s how important these 21 UH1H helicopters that we are procuring," he said, adding that the ideal number of Hueys should be 96.
He said it is practical to buy refurbished ones, since many countries such as the US are still using them. Air Force pilots are also knowledgeable in flying the Hueys.
DND Undersecretary Fernando Manalo, who chairs a special committee in charge of acquiring the aircraft, said the Hueys will still be effective in the next 20 years.
Dimatatac added that the materials and spare parts will also still be available by then.
"Many countries are still using them and they're very effective," Manalo said.
The government also wants to buy new Hueys but the refurbished ones will do “to augment immediately those in the present inventory,” he said.