The Philippine Air Force (PAF) welcomed its first batch of brand new combat utility helicopters as it commissioned six Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk choppers in a ceremony. The 16 Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters — costing a total of P12.1 billion — replaced the canceled contract of 16 Bell 412EP helicopters from Canada. The helicopters formally entered into service after being delivered by Polish contractor PZL Mielec, a subsidiary of the American defense company Lockheed Martin. Ten more units are expected in early 2021.
A chartered Ukrainian Antonov An-124 transport aircraft delivered five helicopters to Clark Air Base north of the Philippine capital Manila, according to the government news agency. It added that the Antonov had arrived on Nov. 9 after departing from Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport in Poland two days earlier. A sixth Black Hawk is being transported by sea and will arrive in the Philippines in early December, according to the country’s Department of National Defense, or DND.
In 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte called off a deal to buy Bell 412EPI combat utility helicopters from Canada, which expressed concern that the helicopters could be used in counterinsurgency operations in the Philippines. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted he was unhappy with the cancellation of the contract at the beginning. Lorenzana said the PAF has expressed interest in acquiring 16 more units of Black Hawk helicopters. The new Black Hawk helicopters would boost the aging Huey choppers and a handful of Bell 412 helicopters of the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing.
Transport helicopters are a vital part of the Philippine armed forces. The country is an archipelagic nation made up of over 7,000 islands and has to contend with a number of ongoing insurgencies as well as regular natural disasters, with helicopters frequently used to transport troops cargo, medical evacuation, resupply, search and rescue, limited close air support, and for disaster relief. The Department of National Defense (DND) also seeks to purchase Bell UH-1 utility helicopters recently retired by South Korea,