The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in a bid to enhance the operational capabilities of its frontline units, assigned four new S-70i Blackhawk helicopters to Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) which are expected to amplify its air capabilities especially in conducting intensified military combat operations, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response during calamities. This came a week after the death of Jorge Madlos alias “Ka Oris,” a notorious Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) leader, in a legitimate encounter with the security forces of EastMinCom in the hinterland of Impasug-ong, Bukidnon on October 30, 2021.
The four new air assets, two of which are stationed at Tactical Operations Wing Eastern Mindanao (TOW-EM), Davao Air Station, Barangay Sasa, Davao City and another two at Tactical Operations Group 10 Headquarters, Lumbia Airport, Cagayan de Oro, City, were formally received by BGen. Maurito L. Licudine, the Deputy Commander of EastMinCom, and LtCol. Omar FridzKhan S. Alpa, the Officer-in-Charge of TOW-EM/Group Commander of Tactical Operations Group 11 on November 4. These new air assets will enhance the troops’ mobility in the fight against the CTG including the ability to conduct Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations.
The S-70i Black Hawk helicopter is the latest in the family of Black Hawk multi-mission aircraft built by Poland-based Sikorsky Aircraft subsidiary PZL Mielec. These air assets can be configured according to specific missions including troops transport and air assault, command and control, border patrol, search and rescue, disaster response, cargo lift, and VIP transport. These new air assets will enhance the troops’ mobility in the fight against the CTG including the ability to conduct Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations especially that troops in Eastern Mindanao have always been on the frontlines during natural calamities and disasters.
The Philippines purchased the helicopters amounting to $241.46 million (P11 billion) from Polish company Polskie Zaklady Lotnicze. The Black Hawk choppers will come in three batches. The first batch of five helicopters arrived in November 2020, succeeded by one chopper in December the same year. The third and last batch of choppers are expected to arrive this year. The Black Hawk helicopters are important air assets of the military because they function for multi-mission workhorses, which are used for border patrol, search and rescue operations, and cargo lifts. With five more Black Hawks, the Philippine Air Force can now better provide prompt sustained operations.