The government’s plan to buy 32 more Black Hawk helicopters for the Air Force and six offshore patrol vessels (OPV) for the Navy made significant headway, while plans are afoot to acquire more attack planes and choppers, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
“Last night, I received a notice from the Department of Budget and Management for the funding for 32 Black Hawk helicopters, additional,” Lorenzana said at the Air Force’s change of command ceremony Tuesday afternoon.
In a later message to reporters, Lorenzana said the DBM approved P32 billion for the additional Black Hawks which the government hopes to acquire from Polish aerospace manufacturer PZL Mielec.
He also revealed that P30 billion was approved to buy six OPVs, hopefully from Australian shipbuilder Austal.
“No contracts yet. Still under negotiation,” Lorenzana clarified.
At the ceremony, the defense chief said President Rodrigo Duterte had approved of the plan to buy more Black Hawks to replace the PAF’s fleet of UH-1s or “Hueys.”
“Sabi niya (President Duterte), bumili na lang tayo ng marami para ma-retire na natin yung mga Huey kasi marami na tayong namamatay na mga crew diyan sa Hueys. So that’s the plan, actually,” Lorenzana said.
With the DBM’s notice, Lorenzana said his office can now hope to sign the contract for the 32 additional Black Hawks before the President’s term ends in June next year.
The planned Black Hawks will come in addition to the 15 units already in the PAF’s inventory.
The government had acquired 16 Black Hawks from Poland for U$ 241.461 million, or about P11.6 billion, but one crashed during a night-flying proficiency training last June 23, killing all six PAF personnel onboard.
Lorenzana also announced that the government will soon be paying the down payment for heavy lift helicopters.
The government will be acquiring Mi-17 heavy lift helicopters from Russia, he said.
At the same time, the defense chief disclosed that plans are afoot to buy more Super Tucano light attack planes and more attack helicopters for the PAF.
“We have six Super Tucanos and six attack helicopters coming, and we also plan to buy six more of those platforms para maging dose-dose,” he said.
The government had acquired six T129 attack helicopters for U$ 269,388,862, or about P12.9 billion, from the Turkish Aerospace Industries. Two of those units are reportedly set to arrive this month.
Canlas takes over PAF helm
At Tuesday’s ceremony, Maj. Gen. Connor Anthony Canlas took over as commanding general of the PAF following the mandatory retirement of Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes.
Canlas, a member of Philippine Military Class of 1989, came to the helm after serving as head of the Air Force Reserve Command and chief of the Air Defense Command.
“My ultimate goal is to achieve the Flight Plan crafted by my predecessors,” Canlas said, referring to the plan to modernize the PAF and enhance its personnel’s capabilities.
Canlas, in his speech, presented a framework of his leadership’s thrusts, which are collectively called “LIPAD” and are aimed at making the PAF more “agile and dependable.”
In a nutshell, the thrusts aim to improve leadership at various levels, harden infrastructure and bases, enhance personnel capability and well-being, continue the modernization of air assets and prime equipment, and develop doctrines and policies to boost the PAF’s responsiveness.