November 05, 2012
Credit: Photo Credit: Korean Aerospace Industries
Leithen Francis Singapore
China's increased assertiveness over territorial claims to the South China Sea is leading the Philippines to embark on the biggest military procurement program it has ever undertaken.
Both houses of the Philippine congress have approved the budget and acquisition process for the acquisition of 12 jet trainer/surface-attack aircraft; six close-air support aircraft; two long-range maritime patrol aircraft; two light-lift and three medium-lift fixed-wing military transports; three ground-based radars; and 10 attack helicopters. All will be assigned to the Philippine air force, says one of its officials.
The country's assistant secretary of defense in charge of acquisitions, installations and logistics, Patrick Velez, says all these procurements are high-priority and that the defense department hopes to begin taking deliveries next year. Congress has approved these specific acquisitions under the first five years (2012-17) of a 15-year military modernization bill. The budget allocated for 2012-17 is at least 75 billion pesos ($1.8 billion).
The Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 is the front-runner to meet the requirement for the jet trainer/surface attack aircraft, Velez says. No contract has been signed yet because the T-50 acquisition must be approved by the Philippine government procurement policy board. He also says the T-50 has yet to achieve certification for medium-range operations—since it was initially developed as a jet trainer—and if it fails to achieve that, then “we may need to look at another platform.”
Velez says that for the close-air-support requirement, “at this stage, the Number One in the rankings is the Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano.” Second is the Hawker Beechcraft T-6 Texan II, he says, followed by the Korea Aerospace Industries KT-1 and Aero Vodochody L-159.
In terms of maritime patrol, Philippine air force officials say the Indonesian Aerospace CN235 is a strong contender. It uses the Airbus Military Fully Integrated Tactical System, a series of displays and computers for processing the data and information from the aircraft's sensors. The main issue with this competition is the sensor suite, according to Velez. Besides the CN235, it is understood the other main contender is Raytheon, but it is unclear which platform it is proposing.
Indonesian Aerospace is the most likely candidate to meet the light, fixed-wing military transport aircraft requirement with its C212, Velez says. As for the medium-lift requirement, “it is a close competition between the Alenia C-27J and C295, although we already have approval from the president for the C-27J,” he says. Both congress and the president must approve military procurements.