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Philippines gets fighter jets from Korea

SUPERSONIC AGE: Two Philippine Air Force FA-50PH fighter jets taxi on the runway upon landing at Clark Air Base in Pampanga yesterday. The first two of the 12 brand new fighter jets from South Korea arrived as part of the country’s modernization program. Inset shows Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri during the welcome ceremony. KRIZ JOHN ROSALES

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines yesterday took delivery of two Korean-made fighter jets – the country’s first supersonic combat aircraft in a decade – as it strengthens its underfunded military amid an escalating territorial feud with China.

Amid applause from Philippine defense officials, the FA-50 jets touched down at Clark Freeport, a former US Air Force base in Pampanga, where fire trucks sprayed water as a traditional welcome salute for the still-unarmed aircraft. Bad weather delayed the delivery of the jet last Friday.

The Philippines bought 12 FA-50s, which are primarily trainer jets that the military converted to also serve as multi-role combat aircraft, from Korea Aerospace Industries at a cost of P18.9 billion ($402 million). The other jets would be delivered in batches until 2017.

Weapons that include bombs and rockets for the FA-50s will be purchased later.

“We’re glad we’re finally back to the supersonic age,“ Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

The Philippine military decommissioned its last fleet of supersonic combat aircraft, the F-5, in 2005.

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Defense public affairs chief Arsenio Andolog said the jets would be stationed at the Subic freeport facing the West Philippine Sea where China has ramped up its presence by deploying more vessels and building artificial islands.

A military modernization program that included plans for the purchase of at least a squadron of fighter jets and naval frigates didn’t happen for several years largely because of a lack of funds.

Over the years, the military has deteriorated to become one of Asia’s weakest.

Under President Aquino, however, territorial spats with China over islands in the South China Sea escalated and resulted in the Chinese seizure of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in 2012, prompting the military to scramble to acquire new navy ships and air force planes with the help of its long-time defense treaty ally, the United States.

Lt. Col. Rolando Condrad Peña III, one of three Filipino air force pilots who received training in South Korea to fly the FA-50s, said that the jets could carry enough munitions payload and could be used in air-to-air and air-to-ground combat.

“Now that we have a supersonic aircraft our reaction time will be faster,” Pena told reporters.

“The arrival of the aircraft is very significant because it adds up to the capability,” Peña said.

“We have to contend with the subsonic aircraft, now that we have a supersonic aircraft our reaction time will be faster and we are more capable with this type of aircraft,” he added.

‘Ferrari,’ F16

Pena likened the newly delivered aircraft to a “Ferrari.”

He said it’s a “fly by wire aircraft” comparable to an F16 “but a little bit weak on some parameters.”

He also recalled the rigorous training he underwent to fly the plane.

“The training was tough because we have to learn the system of the aircraft. It is a fly by wire aircraft so it’s really different from what use to fly,” said Pena.

“It is not a push pull cable so there was an adjustment on the head up display, the avionics a little bit complicated but once you get used to it, flying is very much manageable,” he added.

“It is capable air to air, for air to air mission, air to ground, it can, it has maximum payload capacity of 10 thousand pounds so its very much capable but of course there are limitations but lets not talk about the limitations,” he said.

“I think we bought the best lead in fighter trainer,” he added.

“The FA-50, which is based on the T-50 supersonic advanced trainer platform, is offered as an affordable and efficient supersonic advanced light attack platform,” airforce-technology.com said.

“The combat aircraft is intended to meet the light fighter requirements of air forces around the world. The advanced radar provides the FA-50 with detection capability which is similar to that of the KF-16 fighter,” it said. -AP

 

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