The Air Force received its latest batch of Black Hawk helicopters from Poland and decommissioned 10 UH1-D choppers, the Department of National Defense said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana led the turn-over, acceptance, and blessing of five S-70i Black Hawks at Clark Air Base, Pampanga, on Wednesday, the DND said.
The five are the last of 16 Black Hawks which the Philippines acquired from Polskie Zaklady Lotnicze Sp.z.o.o for U$ 241.461 million, or about P11.6 billion, through a government-to-government transaction with Poland.
The PAF now has 15 such units in its inventory. One of the Black Hawks crashed during a night-flying proficiency training last June 23, killing all six PAF personnel onboard.
In the same ceremony at Clark, 10 UH-1D helicopters were decommissioned.
Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano, PAF spokesperson, said the decommissioned “Huey” choppers are among those that were acquired from 2013 to 2014.
“Those were aircraft that already served their purpose. The purpose really of the ‘Deltas’ was more an interim solution for challenges before on relief transport,” Mariano told reporters.
The Philippines had acquired 21 units of refurbished UH-1D helicopters for P1.26 billion, through a deal signed with Rice Aircraft Services, Inc. in 2013.
Of those units, one crashed in Malapatan, Sarangani on 17 November 2015, leaving nine crew members injured. Another crashed in Tanay, Rizal, on 4 May 2017, leaving three persons dead and one injured.
Mariano said the decommissioning of UH-1Ds won’t leave the PAF short-handed, as the Black Hawks have all arrived and it still has other operational helicopters like the “Huey II” and Bell-412.
“Marami pa tayong in the pipeline na mga project to increase our heli lift capability. We’re looking into medium to heavy heli lift capability in the future,” he added.