MANILA — The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) Black Eagles performed over the Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga on Monday, the first time in over 3 decades an international aerobatic team held an air show in the Philippines.
The aerobatic performance showcased eight T-50Bs, South Korea’s first indigenous supersonic aircraft.
“The last time we had an international (aerobatic) team in the country was 33 years ago—the Red Arrows (UK) that were hosted at the Villamor Air Base. We’re glad we have the Black Eagles coming in,” Philippine Air Force spokesperson Col. Maynard Mariano told the media in Pampanga.
Various passes in formation were done by the Black Eagles, delighting Filipino air enthusiasts and residents of nearby towns.
“Magaling po sila… Lagi lang kami sa labas na nakikita (ang mga eroplano) lang sa malayo. Ito po, personal na nakita nang malapitan. Ginising ko talaga mga anak ko para makita nila,” Jasmine Lozano, who is from San Nicolas town, said. She watched the air show with her children at the Basa Air Base.
“Mas maganda siya sa malapitan. Pag sa malayo ka, iba eh. Iba na malakas ang tunog ng jets. Ang formations makita mo pa na malinaw,” her son, Paolo, added. “Pangarap ko talaga maging sundalo at piloto.”
However, the aerobatic team was unable to showcase some maneuvers such as loops, turns and barrel rolls due to bad weather.
ROKAF Black Eagles Squadron Commander Kyu-Yong Shim said they performed only 8 of 24 formations and maneuvers originally planned.
“Due to the diverse weather in the Philippines, it was quite difficult for us to perform our full display today. We changed a little bit our plan, but we were still able to show you multiple fly-pass with our various formations,” he said.
“It is our honor to be able to show our full display to the Filipino people. It was really good.”
Before the nearly one-hour long air show concluded, four PAF FA-50PH Fighting Eagles joined the Black Eagles in a "friendship flight."
The aircraft are part of the twelve FA-50s the Philippines acquired from South Korea during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III. The delivery of the aircraft began in November 2015 and was completed in May 2017.
“The friendly flight, even though this might be their [PAF] first opportunity to perform with other display teams, they did a great job. I think it was very successful,” Shim said.
The aerobatic team had also performed in the United Kingdom, Poland and Egypt this year. The Philippines is the last stop in their world tour before they are set to return to South Korea.
“I’m very honored to bring T-50 Black Eagle to Philippine Basa Air Base to show their performance in the sky. Black Eagles has been on a long journey departing from the UK,” Vice President and General Manager of the Korea Aerospace Industries’ International Business Division Bong Keun Lee said.
He went on, “As a representative of KAI, manufacturer of FA-50PH aircraft, we have big plans to sell more than 1,000 units of FA-50 in the world. PAF is our valued customer, first to sell in the world.”
In a speech during the air show, PAF chief Lt. Gen. Connor Anthony Canlas Sr. said the aerobatic performance highlighted the strong relations between the Philippines and South Korea.
“Our alliance with South Korea is one of our most enduring relationships in the Asia-Pacific Region… Our friendship continues to become closer and stronger,” Canlas said.
Ties between the two countries have been good since Manila deployed a sizable contingent to help Seoul in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.
Mariano noted the Philippines used to have its own aerobatic team—the Blue Diamonds. The team’s last performance was in 1999.
“We used to have our own aerobatic team—Blue Diamonds and Red Aces. Because of logistics considerations and events that transpired in the past, we were not able to maintain the Blue Diamonds and Red Aces. Hopefully, in the future, we might see another Blue Diamonds and Red Aces flying in our skies,” he said.
The PAF is also eyeing to acquire more advanced versions of the FA-50 light combat aircraft, as well as multi-role fighter (MRF) aircraft, Mariano added.
“This is all part of the planning we are doing. We are planning for additional FA-50s and multi-role fighter. The KF-21 is definitely within the picture of consideration natin for an MRF for the PAF. But, of course, we’re also looking into other platforms… like the F-16 and Gripen,” the PAF spokesperson said.