Military acquiring 12 more fighter jets, other weapons
The government is finalizing the purchase of more aircraft and weapons for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to boost its capacity to guard the nation’s territory and conduct search and rescue operations.
At the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduation rites in Baguio City, President Aquino announced that the government is set to purchase 12 lead-in fighter trainer jets for “territorial defense operation.”
The FA-50 trainer jets would reportedly be acquired from South Korea for P18.9 billion as part of the Armed Forces modernization program. The contract is expected to be signed this month.
At least 63,000 new rifles will likewise be distributed to the country’s soldiers in the coming months, the President said. The new weapons, Aquino said, will replace the units dating back to the Vietnam War years.
“With these new weapons, we can finally retire the weapons used by our soldiers before the Siklab-Diwa class was born,” he said in Filipino.
The President said the government also plans to procure an additional eight combat utility helicopters “that will fly our skies for search and rescue and disaster relief missions by 2016.”
Public bidding for the purchase of two twin-engine naval anti-submarine helicopters will also start soon, according to the President.
The imminent purchase of military equipment will be on top of the new modern ships, eight Sokol helicopters, three Navy helicopters and other vessels already being used by the Armed Forces, the President said.
Aquino assured that the government will continue to equip the AFP with better weapons and vessels as well as improve their benefits.
Housing for Soldiers
Apart from the modernization program, the President said the government is also pursuing the housing program for the country’s soldiers.
To date, Aquino said around 54,449 affordable housing units have been constructed for the members of the uniformed forces.
With Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense working together, Aquino said a livelihood program for active and retired soldiers is underway.
Under this project, the lands in three military camps, namely Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Camp Kibaritan in Bukidnon, and Camp Peralta in Capiz would be open for plantation for bamboo, coffee, cacao and palm oil.
Aquino said these programs seeking to improve the welfare of soldiers are in appreciation for their sacrifices to defend the country from threats.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the Philippines will sign this week the contract for the acquisition of 12 lead-in fighter trainer jets from South Korea and combat helicopters from Canada.
He also revealed that bidding for two anti-submarine helicopters for the Navy will start soon.
“Starting Monday, within the week magkakaroon tayo ng pirmahan ng contract, yun FA-50 with the South Korean government saka yun combat utility helicopters with Canada,” said Gazmin.
The government will be spending P18.9 billion for the acquisition of the 12 fighter jets from Korea to boost the Air Force’s defense capabilities.
“We are considering it as not just an ordinary lead in fighter because it can deliver short range missile and there is a potential for these to be classified as beyond the short range fighter aircraft,” said Defense Undersecretary for Finance Fernando Manalo in February.
Gazmin said once the contract is signed, the PAF could receive its first F/A-50s within 18 months time.
Light Combat Aircraft
The F/A-50 is a light combat aircraft equipped with state-of-the-art systems and weapons. It can fly at a maximum speed of Mach 1.5 or one and half times the speed of sound. It has a wide range of weapon systems aboard, allowing it to counter multiple threats.
F/A-50s are capable of being fitted with air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 “Sidewinder” air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles, aside from light automatic cannons.
Aside from the FA-50s and the combat utility helicopters, the military will also soon have its first anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters.
The government is allotting P5.4-billion budget for the two ASW helicopters.
Navy spokesman Lt. Cdr. Gregory Fabic said the two ASW helicopters are primarily ship-based helicopters with mission essential equipment.
“They will enhance our maritime security that could be rapidly deployed to safeguard our nation’s rich maritime resources,” said Fabic. (With a report from Elena L. Aben)