Duterte green lights purchase of 15 Black Hawk helicopters
Shows one of five Sikorsky S70-i Blackhawk helicopters for the Philippine Air Force that arrived at Clark Air Base on Nov. 9.
Department of National Defense

Duterte green lights purchase of 15 Black Hawk helicopters

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - February 4, 2021 - 1:29pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the acquisition of 15 Black Hawk helicopters for the Philippine Air Force, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles announced Thursday.

Nograles during a virtual briefing said the move forms "part of plans to slowly address the growing heli-lift deficiency of our armed forces and [to] decommission all Huey helicopters."

According to its manufacturer, the Sikorsky Black Hawk is a multirole helicopter utilized by the US military and the armed forces of 28 other nations.

Its functions include internal and external lift, combat assault, medical evacuation, aerial firefighting, search and rescue, special operations and VIP transport. It can also be armed.

During a camp visit in Jolo, Sulu last January 22, Duterte said he wanted all Huey helicopters in the PAF's inventory to be decommissioned owing to their frequent involvement in fatal crash landings. Earlier that week, a PAF Huey helicopter crashed on the mountains of Bukidnon province, killing five military personnel and two members of the local militia.

Referring to the same incident, Nograles noted that it was "the fourth such crash since July of last year and the president wants to end all these tragic deaths."

He added that the Department of National Defense requested 76 new helicopters but the number was first trimmed down to 55 by Duterte and ultimately further reduced to 15 owing to the challenges presented by the pandemic and the lack of time left with the president's term ending in 2022.

The military previously ordered 16 Sikorsky S70-i Blackhawk helicopters, a combat utility configuration, from Polish company PZL Mielec — the first batch of which was delivered in November last year. The contract price, DND said, was $241.46 million.

Public Affairs Service chief Director Arsenio Andolong said the project was procured through a government-to-government transaction with Poland. — with reports from The STAR

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