The Philippine Air Force’s technical working group (TWG) has identified the combat utility and attack helicopters that have met its requirements to fulfill its capability demands. In an ambush interview on Friday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the TWG has recommended the U.S.-made Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Black Hawk for its combat utility helicopter acquisition project, while the T129 ATAK of the Turkish Aerospace Industries was selected for its attack helicopter project.
Early this year, President Rodrigo Duterte has called off the deal to acquire 16 Bell 412 EPI helicopters from Canadian Commercial Corporation after Ottawa ordered a review of the acquisition as the choppers might be used for offensive operations instead of transport missions. The defense chief said the Air Force wanted to replace the Bell 412 EPI deal with the same number of helicopters and it was the Black Hawk that fit their requirements.
“We only have limited money for that. We only have $240 million and the original pricing for these aircraft, with the Bell 412 we can get 16. Initially, with Surion we can get 10 because of the money. And it’s the same with Black Hawk but inakyat nila ang offer they will give us 16,” he told reporters.
Lorenzana said the choppers, which would likely be signed early 2019, may be armed with machine guns but it will be mainly used for transporting troops and supplies. For the attack helicopter project, Lorenzana said the Air Force TWG has expressed preference with the T129 ATAK, but they could only get “less than 10” units with their budget.