The Philippine Air Force (PAF) bared Thursday its remaining sub-sonic SIAI Marchetti S-211 jet trainers are now being utilized for training and other support missions. This came after the delivery of the 12 units of the Mach 1.5 capable South Korean-made FA-50PH light jet fighters has been completed. The S-211s are now being utilized for) fighter pilot training, close-air support, and maritime patrol over the KIG (Kalayaan Island Ground). The Philippine News Agency reported that planning for a replacement, research is ongoing, and there will be a presentation of the possible aircraft models.
The Philippine Air Force acquired around 25 S-211 units in the 1990s, including one partially completed airframe for spare parts and 15 assembled locally by Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation but attrition and lack of spare parts have reduced the number of aircraft in service to about three to five units. These jets served as the Air Force’s sole fighter aircraft following the retirement of the PAF’s last seven F-5 aircraft, out of a total of 35, in 2005 due to airframe cracks, high fuel costs, and difficulty in finding spare parts. These were redesignated as AS-211s and nicknamed as “Warriors”.
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 (now Leonardo Company). 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. The S-211 can carry a crew of two, has a cruise speed of around 667 km/h (414 mph, 360 knots), and can carry guns, rockets, and unguided bombs for close-air support missions.