MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has 18 brand new SF-260 training aircraft now being assembled at the Clark Freeport to augment the present trainer aircraft based at the Air Education Command in Lipa City, Batangas.
The whole package, which is equivalent to one squadron, would cost the government P661 million.
The Italian-made SF-260 is a propeller-driven, two-seater plane that has been the backbone of the PAF training schools for the past decades.
Only six of the old SF-260s remain in the two squadrons of the original batch, but some of them are still serviceable and could be repaired or upgraded, according to PAF chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena.
Rabena attended the turnover ceremony at Villamor Air Base yesterday where he announced the change of command of the Public Information Office (PIO), the Office of Special Studies and the Modernization Project Management Office.
Outgoing PIO director Lt. Col. Gerry Zamudio was replaced by Lt. Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol; Office of Special Studies former head Lt. Col. Aristotle Gonzales was replaced by Lt. Col. Connor Anthony Canlas.
Col. Dino Diño, on the other hand, is replacing the former head of the Air Force Modernization and Project Management Office Col. Jose Tanjaun Jr.
Rabena said the 18 trainer aircraft will be seen before the Air Force Day celebration on July 2 this year.
He said the purchase of the combat helicopters is just waiting for the signature of Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales.
“We’re getting eight combat helicopters at a cost of P3 billion,” Rabena said, adding that the new choppers are capable of higher payload, and have better maneuverable capability.
The new choppers are made in Sokol, Poland, and would replace some of the ageing UH-IH Hueys in the PAF’s inventory.
At the moment, the PAF has an existing fleet of seven UH-IH dedicated for search and rescue missions. Another 34 units are posted in PAF centers all over the country, ready for various missions.
“The country will pay for all these hardware over a period of several years,” Rabena said, admitting that the price is quite high, but still within the country’s capability.
The PAF still has six of the S-211 jet trainers, which would soon be replaced by similar jet trainers of a generic kind.
Rabena said they are now choosing from among models from Europe, the United States and even Asia, and following evaluation, the Department of National Defense would open bidding for the purchase of such air assets.