Philippines Leans Towards Black Hawk and T129

 - December 11, 2018, 4:01 AM
The Philippines could become the second international customer for the Turkish Aerospace T129, following Pakistan. (photo: Turkish Aerospace)

The Philippines Air Force (PAF) has down-selected the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and the Turkish Aerospace Industries T129 ATAK for, respectively, its Combat Utility Helicopter (CUH) and attack helicopter programs. They were recommended by the Technical Working Group (TWG) set up by the PAF. However, the recommendation by the TWG is not an order confirmation and would require approvals by the Department of Defense.

The preference for the T129 was first made public in a speech by the PAF’s commanding general Lieutenant General Galileo Kintanar in late November. Speaking to Philippines media at a local event on December 7, Defense Secretary Delfin Loranzana confirmed that the PAF is looking at “ten, maybe eight’’ ATAK helicopters. The requirement to replace aging MD 520s was originally to be met with a new armed light helicopter, but recently the requirement changed to that for a dedicated attack helicopter.

Loranzana added that the TWG had also recommended the Black Hawk to replace the deal for 16 Canadian-built Bell 412s that was canceled in February. He said that the country has a budget of only $240 million for helicopters under its Horizon 2 project and was looking at buying 10 Korean Aerospace Industries Surion or Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters, but revealed that the manufacturer of the Black Hawk changed its offer to 16 airframes. He hopes to ink the deal for the CUH by next year.

The Russian Helicopters Mi-171 was also one of the contenders but due to the CAATSA export sanctions placed by the United States on Russia, Loranzana said it would be hard to get hold of and pay for them.

A similar technical working group was also set up to study the Saab JAS 39 Gripen, and Saab said it has responded to the request For information issued by the PAF. AIN understands that PAF pilots visited Thailand’s Gripen base at Surat Thani to study the aircraft and facilities. Loranzana said in October that the Philippines is “most likely to buy” the Gripen based on its unit and maintenance costs.