SIAI-Marchetti AS-211 Warrior
SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet trainers were first delivered to the Philippine Air Force during the late 1980s and early 1990s. These aircraft served in a training role with a secondary attack function during the 1990s and into the 2000s. These aircraft were locally referred to as AS-211s and nicknamed "Warriors." In 1997 SIAI-Marchetti was acquired by Aermacchi, who continued to work the Philippine Air Force in relation to its AS-211 fleet.
With the final retirement of the F-5 fleet in October 2005, the AS-211s filled their role in the external Philippine air defense mission. Air Force officials stated that the arrangement was merely a stopgap measure, and that a new fighter model would be selected for purchase by 2011 to reestablish credible air deterrence and projection capabilities.
To help the AS-211 fit the role, a project was initiated to reclaim the optical sighting systems and heads up displays from retired F-5s. For many years the ISIS D-211 optical sight of the AS-211 was demonstrated to be inefficient. Though modern in many respects, the sight units were often found to have defective or otherwise poorly functioning gyros. This had precluded the AS-211 from performing many air-to-ground missions and would have prevented it from performing the air-to-air mission.
Lieutenant Colonel Enrique Dela Cruz, the Group Commander of the 5th Tactical Fighter Group, ordered the Squadron Commander of the 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron to explore the possibility of utilizing equipment from the decommissioned F-5s and for the group to form a project team. Project Piranha was the original name adopted by the group to evaluate the F-5A/B optical sights. However, the Group Commander thought it wise to use Falcon instead as it was more indicative of the proposed program, the falcon being a a formidable bird. Project Falcon officially began in October 2005 with the retirement of the F-5 fleet.
The first step of the project was to install the F-5 optical sights and harmonize the system with the AS-211. The task involved computing the zero sight line of the Warriors with the old sights as the base line and using data from the F-5 A/B. The sight was evaluated using live and inert ammunition to validate computations. The Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force, Lieutenant General Jose L. Reyes, flew the last day of the evaluation. The AS-211 had proven to be a formidable weapon system.
Project Falcon did not stop there. As part of Project Falcon Uniform, the AS-211s were repainted in a more effective tactical paint scheme. The 2 tone paint design with low visibility markings was intended to reduce the over all visibility signature of the AS-211. Studies have shown that unlike the common belief that the sky is blue, the predominant hue is actually a gray. Light and dark ghost gray, the 2 colors used in the new scheme, blended well with the over all atmospheric conditions, regardless of weather. The 2-tone gray made it hard to see from the ground and from the air.
Project Falcon Hear saw the optimizing of air-ground communications on the AS-211 by upgrading and installing UHF radios from the F-5A/B. Project Falcon SIM was a program conducted by the 432nd Technical Training Squadron to rehabilitate and improve the existing Cockpits Procedures Trainers (CPT), which had been supplied by Augusta for the AS-211. This was intended to put the Philippine Air Force on par with other countries in the region. Another program though not directly related to Falcon was the improvement of the pilots' personal equipment by the purchase of the LPU-21 and the SV-2 survival vest.
Project Falcon Push was to explore the possibility of installing a 20m gun pod system to the aircraft. This was a collaboration between the 431st Field Maintenance Squadron of the 5th Tactical Fighter Group and the PAF's Air Research and Development Center. These gun pods were fabricated using weapons taken from the retired F-5 fleet. The gun pods had already been fitted to OV-10 aircraft in PAF service. Another option explored was giving the AS-211 a 5" Zuni rocket launcher capability.
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