MANILA, Philippines - Ten attack helicopters will be purchased from Italy for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
The PAF will also get 21 Huey helicopters, three medium-lift fixed-wing aircraft and 12 lead-in jet fighters before yearend as part of the P75-billion Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.
Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino de la Cruz said the Philippines preferred the Italian helicopters as they are cheaper compared to those made in the United States.
“I was in Italy to look at some of the attack helicopters that were offered and hopefully, we will have them by the end of the year,” he said.
De la Cruz arrived Monday after participating in the Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom.
“I was able to take a first-hand look at some of the industry participants, talk to some of them and would now report to senior leaders in the AFP on the best options available for the country,” he said.
De la Cruz said the government is planning to get 12 jet fighters that are not so sophisticated for the pilots to easily adjust from lead-in to multi-role fighter jets.
The four contenders to sell the jet fighters are Italy, South Korea, Russia and the UK, he added.
The attack helicopters would replace the aging OV-10 Bronco and MG520 attack helicopters, and the three fixed-wing aircraft will augment the C-130 plane, he added.
De la Cruz said the acquisitions would be purely for defense purposes.
“The Armed Forces had concentrated on dealing with internal insurgency, until we realized the need for credible defense following the row with China over the Spratlys,” he said.
The Air Force has been given the authority to purchase medium- and light-lift aircraft as replacement for the C-130 Hercules troop and transport carrier, long-range patrol aircraft, radar, the SAA/LIFT and the attack helicopters, according to spokesman Col. Miguel Okol.
The Department of National Defense and the AFP are working to fast-track the approval of a total of 138 contracts mostly aimed at boosting air and naval assets.