MANILA, Philippines - Contracts for two big-ticket items under the military’s upgrade program will be signed Friday, bringing the Philippines closer to its aim of achieving minimum credible defense.
The contracts, which have a total amount of P23.7-billion, involve the acquisition of 12 lead-in fighter trainer jets worth P18.9-billion from South Korea and eight combat utility helicopters worth P4.8-billion from Canada.
Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista will sign the contracts in behalf of the Philippine government. South Korean Ambassador Lee Hye-min and Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder are expected to witness the event.
The 12 FA-50 jets will be purchased from the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). The acquisition is so far the most costly military upgrade project to be sealed by the government.
“This (project) would signal the start of our territorial defense initiatives. This brings us closer to what we plan to achieve - to become credible defense capable,” Air Force spokesman Col. Miguel Okol said in an interview Thursday.
The contract for the jets is a product of about half a year-long negotiations between the Philippine security officials and KAI.
FA-50s have fighter capabilities but possess some features that are different from more advanced fighter jets. The FA-50’s design was drafted from Lockheed F-16 fighter jet.
The F-16 has a long list of weapons that are certified for use while the FA-50’s weapon capabilities are limited to low-cost missile systems. Lead-in trainer jets can be used to prepare pilots for more advanced air assets.
Meanwhile, the eight combat utility helicopters will be acquired from the Canadian Commercial Corp. through a government-to-government transaction.
Three of the eight helicopters will be configured as VIP helicopters. They are expected to be delivered in time for the hosting by the Philippines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation next year.
The rest will replace the ageing Bell 412 helicopters purchased during the Ramos administration.
“This is a positive sign that we are not just getting old ones but the systems that we're getting now are relatively brand new,” Okol said.
“These (helicopters) are more capable because they're twin engine; they have more up to date avionics, so they are night vision capable. They will definitely complement the existing ones (in the inventory),” he added.