The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has deployed three SIAIâ€Marchetti S.211 trainer aircraft for Maritime Air Patrol (MARPAT) duties over the South China Sea. The deployments are to support wider operations undertaken by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP’s) Western Command (WESCOM) over the body of water body that Manila refers to as the ‘West Philippine Sea’ as well as the Malampaya Deep Water Gas to Power Project.. For the patrols, which began on 24 February, the aircraft will operate out of the Antonio Bautista Air Base on the island of Palawan.
Since the 1990s, the Philippine Air Force had 25 SIAIâ€Marchetti S.211 trainer aircraft, including one partially completed airframe for spare parts and 15 assembled locally by Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation. These were redesignated as AS-211s and nicknamed as “Warriors”. Due to accidents, 13 remain in inventory, 5 in active service as of September 2013 (Tail numbers 001,002,021,801 and 802). Another aircraft with tail number 008 is planned to be overhauled and brought back to service in 2014.
With the retirement of the F-5 fighters in 2005, the additional task of air defense was assigned to it as well. Because of this, the Philippine Air Force initiated some improvements to the AS-211s to improve its combat capability through a series of programs and innovations. The first program was called “Project Falcon” which installed the Norsight Optical Sight from retired F-5s into the AS-211. These aircraft were also fitted with a Belly Gun Pod designed, developed and manufactured by Philippine company Aerotech Industries Philippines, Inc. (AIPI). Each Pod is equipped with an M3 .50 cal Machine Gun, an automatic charger and approximately 240 rounds of .50 cal ammunition
The SIAI-Marchetti S.211 (later Aermacchi S-211) is a turbofan-powered military trainer aircraft designed and originally marketed by Italian aviation manufacturer SIAI-Marchetti. SIAI-Marchetti started to develop the S-211 in 1976 as a private venture initiative, announcing its existence during the following year. On 10 April 1981, the first prototype performed its maiden flight. Some 60 aircraft have been sold to air forces around the world. Following Aermacchi’s purchase of SIAI-Marchetti in 1997, the former has held the production rights to the type.