20 Maret 2010

Italian Firm to Supply PAF with New Training Planes

20 Maret 2010

SF-260 trainer aircraft (photo : Alenia Aermacchi)

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga, Philippines—The government has decided to proceed with a $13.1-million Italian contract that would supply the Armed Forces of the Philippines with 18 new training planes by year end.

The contract of Italian aircraft manufacturer Alenia Aermacchi S.p.A was approved in 2008, but the firm began assembling SF-260 planes only late last year due to undisclosed complications.

Teresa Parian, chief operating officer of the Aerotech Industries Philippines Inc. (AIPI), Aermacchi's local partner, said the Department of National Defense had agreed to reconstitute the project and to obtain a fresh mandate from government in late 2009.

"We're fast-tracking the assembly of these aircraft to meet the needs of the military," Parian said.

"These are training aircraft and we are trying to satisfy the [country's] medium-lift requirement, meaning we [should be able to] transport troops when needed especially in times of conflict and disaster," said Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales.

Gonzales inspected a set of trainer jets being assembled here that Aermacchi claimed were 40 percent complete.

He said Congress should be thanked for allowing the military to proceed with the multi-year obligation contract when it released military funds far earlier than expected.

"We are trying to do what we need for the next 10 years [because] we are in a stage [when] we have to take care of both internal and a little bit [of the] external defense [of the country]," he said.

"We are discussing a few contracts which I hope will be seen in the next 100 days… about some requirements [for] our combat capabilities."

When asked to clarify, Gonzales said details about the proposed equipment build-up are a "secret for now," although it would be useful in curbing smuggling and illegal lumber activities.

Aside from the new planes that Gonzales said would boost training of pilots, combat helicopters, medium lift capabilities and surveillance equipment in the air will be given to the military.

The Aermacchi contract requires the firm to provide the military with a complete training support package, which includes pilots, technical and maintenance training and spare-parts guarantees.

Each aircraft costs government $700,000. The manufacturer will hand over the planes in batches of four beginning July.

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