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AFP presents new helicopters

A UH-1D military helicopter conducts a demo flight carrying members of media from Villamor Air Base to Camp Aguinaldo yesterday. Six helicopters flew in formation to demonstrate the capability of the aircraft amid controversy surrounding a P1.2-billion deal with an American firm. Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines - The military yesterday showed off its newly acquired helicopters to prove they are mission capable.

Seven UH 1H and two UH 1D helicopters flew in eagle formation before landing on the parade grounds of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) general headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo.

Defense and Air Force officials initiated the demonstration of the Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters, popularly known as Hueys, before the media in the effort to show they are mission capable.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin expressed optimism the demonstration will finally put to rest doubts on the capability and worthiness of the aircraft.

“We want to clarify certain issues coming out in the media. So we thought of bringing these seven UH 1H helicopters and two UH 1D to show their capabilities,” Gazmin said.

Philippine Air Force (PAF) chief Maj. Gen. Galileo Gerald Kintanar Jr. said the six helicopters flew from Villamor Air Base to Camp Aguinaldo.

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Some members of media were later allowed to ride the aircraft to feel its airworthiness and functionality.

The demonstration flight lasted less than 30 minutes, with six helicopters going around the airspace of Camp Aguinaldo. The PAF has been trying to boost its capability.

The PAF was supposed to acquire 21 helicopters as part of the P1.2-billion deal with an American firm. However, the defense department terminated the contract for failure to deliver the units on time.

After the termination of contract, reports also had it that aircraft supplied by the Rice Aircraft Services, an American firm, were “defective.”

The DND went on to a purchase contract with the joint venture of Rice Aircraft Services and Eagle Copters, Ltd. sometime in December 2013.

The procurement, presently hounded by allegations of corruption, is under investigation by Congress for being allegedly a “supplier-friendly” deal.

Former senator Panfilo Lacson led critics in calling on President Aquino and Gazmin to review the helicopter procurement to preserve the integrity of the entire AFP Modernization Program.

Lacson earlier aired concern over the emerging trend of making government procurement processes supplier-friendly, which ultimately leads to allegations of graft and corruption and the purchase of poor quality equipment.

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