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Philippine Air Force (PAF) Modernization - Helicopters

The Philippines recieved its first batch of UH-1s from the United States, 6 UH-1Ds, between 1968 and 1969. Between 1970 and 1989, the Philippines recieved approximately 108 additional UH-1 types: 28 UH-1Hs in 1971, 17 UH-1Hs in 1977, 18 UH-1Hs in 1980, 27 UH-1Hs in 1983, 8 UH-1Hs in 1985, and 10 UH-1Hs in 1987. Some of these may have been commercial Bell 205A/A-1 variants (UH-1H equivalent).

The IISS Military Balance for the 1990 and 1995-1996 time periods also reported the precense of short-fuselage UH-1Ms, but this is unconfirmed and likely in error. The Philippines did recieve a reported additional 10 Bell 205/UH-1H types between 1992 and 1993, however. Attrition to the fleet was a notable problem and the purchase and overhaul of Bell 205/UH-1 fleet helicopters from the United States, the Philippines' historic and principal military supplier, was included as part of the AFP Modernization Program.

The Secretary of National Defense approved the UH-1H Acquisition (Commercial) contract on 30 January 2004. The Department of Budget and Management issued Notice of Cash Allocation on 1 July 2004 while LC was opened on 21 July 2004. The first batch of 3 aircraft arrived at Clark Air Base on 8 August 2004, while the Integrated Logistics Support package was partially delivered to Headquarters, Philippine Air Force on 23 September 2004. Thereafter, the Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee conducted inspection. Test flights and acceptance of second batch of 3 aircraft started on 13 October 2004 and these aircraft were formally turned-over to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on 25 October 2004. Another batch of 4 aircraft were turned-over to the AFP on 1 December 2004 and another 2 on 17 December 2004. The full acquisition was completed by 2005.

At the same time, the Notice of Cash Allocation for the UH-1H Refurbishment was issued on 06 February 2004. The Letter of Acceptance had been signed by the Secretary of National Defense as early as 14 December 2003. JVI was conducted at Temple, Texas between 28 March and 05 April 2004. The contract, initially to refurbish 10 aircraft (later possibly reduced to 6 aircraft or a separate contract for an additional 6 aircraft was issued), had been solicited through the US Government as part of a military assistance package. The components had been designated as Excess Defense Articles (EDA). Despite this assistance, funds from the AFP's Modernization Program were reportedly used. DynCorp won the bidding conducted by the US and the delivery of first batch of 3 aircraft was scheduled on February 2005 as of 2004. The refurbishment program was reported to have been completed by 2007. Five of the helicopters were delivered on 15 August 2006. The sixth and final UH-1H helicopter was delivered on 9 May 2007. This delivery reportedly came along with an additional 10 UH-1H pledged by the US President George W. Bush.

The complex acquisition and refurbishment of the UH-1H fleet, which in some cases appeared to have meant the refurbishment of new acquisitions rather than existing aircraft, created a complex assort of configurations. In addition, the Philippine Air Force had previously operated Bell 212 types, and continued to operate Bell 412 types by the 2000s. Between 2000 and 2010, the Philippines reportedly received a total of 46 UH-1 types: 8 UH-1H delivered between 2001 and 2003, 7 UH-1Hs delivered between 2004 and 2005, 6 UH-1Hs delivered between 2006 and 2007, 20 UH-1Hs delivered between 2007 and 2008 (valued at $22 million), and 5 delivered in 2010. The aircraft delivered between 2004 and 2005 were reportedly delivered through Singapore Technologies Aerospace. The helicopters were ex-US, but had been sufficiently overhauled to have their air frames zero-timed. They also featured cockpit lighting compatible with night vision goggles. In the end as many as 20 aircraft were reported to have been acquired via Singapore Technologies Aerospace with these upgrades. Some number of aircraft (generally reported as 2 by 2012) were also upgraded to the Huey II standard, which involved the installation of more powerful and efficient engines and tail rotors, and the installation of the more aerodynamic nose originally found on twin engined Bell 212 types. These aircraft were upgraded in the Philippines from kits.

In January 2008, the Philippine government also cancelled a $29 million contract to buy 6 night-capable MD 530F helicopters due to corruption in the bidding process. The Department of National Defense decided to scrap the bidding to acquire 6 night-capable attack helicopters for P1.2 billion for the Philippine Air Force following the results of the investigation on complaints of alleged irregularities in the bidding. In a memorandum dated 24 January 2008, Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. declared the bidding process for the Night Capable Attack Helicopter (NCAH) Acquisition Project null and void. Asian Aerospace Corporation, acting as the representative of the manufacturer McDonnell Douglas in the Philippines, was the only bidder that pre-qualified in the bidding process. However, it did not meet the technical specification of the minimum requirement of the 3,000 lbs. payload as required by the Philippine Air Force.

The MD 530F Attack Helicopter, the helicopter being offered for sale by Asian Aerospace Corporation, which was declared by the Bids and Awards Committee as the sole pre-qualified bidder, did not meet the 3,000-pound minimum payload requirement for the NCAH. This finding of the Committee was based on a previous communication of an officer of Asian Aerospace Corporation to the Chairman of the BAC, as well as on the performance specifications of the MD530F Helicopter posted on the website of McDonnell Douglas, the manufacturer of the MD 530F. Asian Aerospace Corporation was aware of the inability of the MD530F attack helicopter to meet the 3,000-pound minimum payload requirement. Yet, in its bidding documents, it declared that the MD 530F was compliant with that requirement.

Supplementing the planned NACH acqusition was, as of 30 September 2008, a plan to overhaul the engines in the Philippine Air Force's MD 520MG fleet (20 aircraft) was being conducted through the US Foreign Military Sales program at a cost of Php240 million. This program had reportedly started in 2007. The first engines were delivered to the Philippine Air Force via the US Army Security Assistance Command (USASAC) and US Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command's (AMCOM) Security Assistance Management Directorate (SAMD) in August 2010 and the rest of the engines, supplied by Rolls Royce in Oakland, California, were reported to have been delivered or pending delivery by the end of 2010. The Philippines acquired 22 MD 520MG light attack helicopters from the US between 1990 and 1992 to enhance its ground support capabilities. It reportedly acquired another 11 between 1992 and 1995. Regular attrition and other problems claimed a number of the aircraft. The MD 520MG attack helicopters were all sold to the Philippines unarmed, but were equipped with rocket and guns pods. Indigenous developments in both of these areas were reportedly also in service. The new engines would be used to both overhaul active helicopter and rehabilitate airframes that had been previously rendered not operational. As of June 2010, the Philippine Air Force was said to have 30 MD 520MG airframes on hand, of which 3 had been completely written off.

In addition, as of 30 September 2008, the UH-1 Acquisition Project and the Combat Utility Helicopter program were said to be continuing. The UH-1 Acquisition Project was valued at Php400 million, while the Philippines was interested in obtaining a total of 8 combat utility helicopters for P3 billion. The Combat Utility Helicopter program subsequently became part of a larger helicopter modernization effort that also expected to see the purchase of 7 attack helicopters. The planned attack helicopter contract was valued at P3.2 billion.

On 26 November 2009, the Department of National Defense announced that it had accepted PZL Swidnik of Italy and Poland's bid in the Combat Utility Helicopter program. The contract award was for 8 helicopters for just over Php2.8 billion. In December 2010, however, it was announced that the bidding for the 7 attack helicopters had failed due to irregularities in the process. The Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force said that the service still expected to recieve the total number of helicopters it had sought by 2011. A proposal to award the attack helicopter contract to PZL Swidnik for an armed version of the WZ-3 "Sokol" (falcon in Polish) also reportedly failed due to irregulariries.

In February 2012 Philippines received 4 new WZ-3 Sokol combat utility helicopters, which it purchased as part of its military modernization program. Four more helicopters were to arrive in the last quarter of 2012, which would be the last batch for a total 8 choppers. The final cost was of the helicopters was reported to be about $50 million.

On 03 August 2010 the DND/AFP invited Bids from eligible Bidders for the Acquisition of Attack Helicopter. The Department of National Defense / Armed Forces of the Philippines (DND/AFP), through the General Appropriations Act and the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund 2000, announced plans under Project Nr: AFPMP-PAF-00-06-04Z to apply the sum of PHP 3,213,040,000 [about US$74,000,000] being the Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) to payments under the contract for the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project. Bids received in excess of the ABC shall be automatically rejected at Bid opening. The project involved the acquisition of seven (7) brand new Attack Helicopters (AH) with Full Night Operation Capability and complete Weapons System and Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package. These helicopters were to be capable of performing Close Air Support (CAS) during day and night, and navigate safely during Inadvertent Instrument Meteorological Condition (IMC). Furthermore, they shall be equipped with armaments and avionics system highly suitable for said ?ying operation conditions. The guiding principles for this project shall be based on affordability and sustainability while conforming to the requirements of the Air Force in furtherance of accomplishing its mission. Delivery was required within a period of seven hundred thirty (730) calendar days from the opening of letter of credit. Bidders should have completed within Three (3) years before the date of submission and receipt of bids, a contract similar to the Project.

On 10 March 2012 the first four of the eight Sokol combat utility helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) were turned over to Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin in a ceremony held yesterday in this freeport. Todays ceremony is a very welcome event for the enhancement of the operational readiness of the Philippine Air Force. Our acquisition of these brand-new airbuses shall certainly boost the fire-fighting capabilities of our air force in accordance with armed defenses certain goals, Gazmin said, who was the guest of honor during the blessing and turn-over rites for the air defense assets.

Gazmin explained that the placement of the aircrafts in the air force inventory will boost its development of mission essentials and capabilities, mobility, firepower and accuracy, communications and survival mobility, and the ability to detect threat elements. Meanwhile, the other four Sokol helicopters would arrive in the country in November. This undertaking was part of P2.8-billion contract signed between PZL-Swidnik SA and PAF in 2010, which includes a total of eight Sokol helicopters plus ground support equipment, spare parts, support services, and training for aircrew and maintainers.

PAFs Sokols or Falcon in Polish are equipped with the latest navigation and avionics systems including a night vision goggle compatible cockpit, allowing it to operate day and night in all weather conditions. This 6-ton class helicopter can transport up to 11 troops in the cabin or can lift up to 2,100 kilograms using its external cargo hook. The aircraft can also be fitted with a M60D machine gun on each side of the cabin.

In March 2012, it was reported that the Department of National Defense would again attempt to solicit bids for a total of 10 attack helicopters for the Philippine Air Force. By May 2012, these aircraft were reported to be expected to be delivered by the end of the year, even though no contract award had been formally announced. During an interview on 4 June 2012 at the Brigadier General-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Lapu-Lapu City the Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force indicated that the attack helicopters would be sourced from France.

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