24 April 2013

Acquisition of 21 Choppers for Election Support Stalls

24 April 2013

Acquisition of 21 refurbished Huey choppers for the Philippine Air Force has been stalled, but officers insist this would not hinder PAF's ability to support the Comelec airlift of poll materials to far-flung, risky areas.(photo : Rice Aircraft)

MANILA, Philippines – Delivery of 21 refurbished Huey helicopters meant to augment the air assets of the Philippine Air Force in helping Comelec airlift materials to far-flung, risky territory has stalled, but Department of National Defense (DND) officials insist this will not hinder the PAF’s work.

A check with PAF on the status of the acquisition revealed there was no update yet about the reported acquisition of the choppers. This, even though Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin had earlier said the acquisition of the choppers can be done before the May 13 polls.

Despite the stalled acquisition, PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said there are enough choppers for the lift requirement, and the absence of the 21 choppers would not disrupt the military’s capability to support Comelec’s requirements.

Okol noted, “the term is augment,” so non-delivery of the 21 will not unduly impact operations. “Of course, if the units will come on time, this will make it easier and better for us. But we assure you that with or without the additional 21 choppers this will not impede or hold or stop our operations especially the requirements that will be needed for that activity (election).”

PAF now has 16 operational Hueys, or 51 units fewer than the ideal number of units.

Still, Okol stressed that other air assets from the 505th Search-And-Rescue (SAR) and 205th Helicopter Wing may be used in case of emergency.

PAF chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz earlier directed key officers and units to prepare the needed air assets to support the Comelec in ferrying election materials. According to Okol, “our air assets are being used to transport election materials especially to far-flung places where land transportation is bogged down.”

Poland-based PZL Swidnik recently completed the delivery of 8 brand-new Sokol helicopters to PAF. The choppers are also ready anytime for Comelec’s use.

‘Issues’ with Korean-made lead jets

As this developed, the Philippine and South Korean governments are still threshing out “issues” involved in Manila’s acquisition of two squadron of T50 South Korean-made lead jets, said Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo.

He said Manila is “waiting for some requirements that should be provided by South Korea,” but did not elaborate on what he called other issues that must also be resolved including the Terms of Preferences (TOR).

Manalo is confident such issues could be resolved by end-April and the contract for the acquisition could be signed in May.


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