MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) said they will be acquiring fighter jets in the next two years.
Twelve surface attack aircraft lead-in fighters or TA-50s from South Korea are expected to be delivered by 2013.
Each jet costs P1.25 billion for a total of P25 billion for the dozen jets.
The TA-50 is a supersonic aircraft that requires more experienced pilots.
Authorities said bulk of the P70 billion allocated for the modernization of the Armed Forces under the Aquino administration will go to the Air Force.
“Dati hindi natin pinapansin ang territorial defense dahil wala nga tayong capability gaya ngayon. ‘Yung bangka ‘yung atin, ‘yung kalaban natin napakalaking platform. Ngayon, tumaas ang rating ng problema natin sa territorial defense. Hindi pala natin pwedeng isantabi,” said Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin.
The Air Force currently has two trainer jets, which are now nearly 25 years old.
The S-211s were originally meant for training purposes but the military was forced to use them in actual operations.
The PAF admits that this is the current image of the air power of the Philippines, which has been left behind by its neighbors.
The country's lone fighter jet, an F-5, was sidelined in 2005 and has yet to be replaced.
“At that time, the leadership decided that we didn’t need this because there's no threat in that area kaya nag-concentrate tayo sa mga ginagamit nating aircraft para sa internal security operations,” said Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol, spokesman of the PAF.
But the current tensions at the Scarborough Shoal have placed a spotlight on the country's air inferiority.
Last week, a suspected Chinese fighter jet flew over the disputed shoal.
Gazmin says President Aquino is serious in beefing up the military so as not to be ignored by foreign powers. -- Reports from Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News; ANC