Faring the Airbus Military Helicopter Offer to the Philippine Government

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, as well as other agencies, are opting for additional helicopters whether it may be for utility use or as light attack gunship, where Airbus recently offers its products. With regard to the offer, one may ask: "How will this fare with the ones the military obtains, especially of those in Philippine Air Force inventory?"

Airbus H-135 Attack Helicopter, a military equivalent of
EC-135 helicopter.
For Reference Only. Source: Airbus Helicopters
The Philippine Government through its Defense Department which its scope includes the Armed Forces of the Philippines are opting to procure helicopters which are considered useful in conflicts especially the one that is recently happening in Mindanao where the battle in Marawi is slowly coming to its end as the ground troops are on its final push and military assets being used thoroughly

In line with this, there comes the possibility that additional AW-109s from Leonardo may not happen soon given the shortcoming of its capabilities in a sense where, coincidentally speaking, coincides with this report obtained from GMA News which came just several hours after a certain defense outlet posts about the AW-109s. The said report pertains to the offer given by Airbus Helicopters for the AFP and agencies like the PCG of helicopters like the H-145s and H-135s fitted for light attack configuration. This may be just as promising to obtain, but various matters are needed to clarify to fare these helicopters out in terms of performance and other technicalities with the ones AFP obtains such as the Bell 412s and AW-109s Philippine Air Force presently obtain.

Assessing the offer will aim to understand as to the feasibility of it as well as to give insights into whether it will be good to procure or not. Just as so, the points given will be stated with facts and references from various reputable sources to give a clear image as well as the potential approaches that will take on the offer.

It is the larger H-145 helicopter and the H-135s
that are being offered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Source
The offer given by the Airbus Helicopters is primarily focused on covering the requirements of having helicopters by the Armed Forces through the Philippine Navy and Air Force as well as notable agencies like the Philippine Coast Guard. Hence, the said helicopters being offered by Airbus are the H-135 and H-145 military helicopters. The details of the said helicopters are given below.

More information is provided for this link.

According to Airbus, the H-145M is a military equivalent of multi-role EC-145 which can be opted either as a light attack gunship or a light combat utility helicopter where according to the requirements given by the Department of National Defense (DND), the Philippine Air Force is opting for helicopters having such roles.

Aside from the things pointed out, it can also opt for special operations, surveillance, intelligence gathering as well as for Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response or HADR in the event of any calamities that are ravaging the country. To add it up further, this, if procured, may help the nation in its maritime security and operations where it can be used for ship replenishment, maritime counter-terrorism, and search and rescue operations. Taking up notes, it is known that the Philippine Coast Guard is seeking more helicopters for such purposes especially in terms of rescue operation should any vessel at sea within Philippine Territory is in distress. If the deal is at any doubt given the chances where the offer is accepted presumably, then it may complement the existing MBB Bo-105 PCG obtains. Also unto that, this helicopter, being the one offered, is also considered by the Philippine Air Force aside from additional AW-109s and MD-900 Explorer series according to this recent report.

Being the prime helicopter that Airbus markets to the Philippine Government, it goes with the hopes that this offer will be grabbed upon where the H-145M obtains the capabilities it possesses. It may be the government's call to accept the offer or not, but lest to say, it can get to any mission an archipelagic nation like the Philippines needs for a helicopter. More unto this, there is another helicopter in Airbus where it is the H-145M minus 10 in designation, it is just as promising as this rotary-blade aircraft.

More information is provided for this link.

Just like the H-145M, this helicopter is capable of Combat Utility Helicopter. However, its capability may not be as sufficient as H-145M as a light attack helicopter where its firepower may appropriate more for armed scout or ground support operations just like Philippine Air Force's MD-520 or the U.S. MD-530 Scout Attack Helicopter.

If given the role as either a Combat Utility Helicopter or as an armed scout one, it may be redundant where the Philippine Air Force already obtains MD-520s/AW-109s and Bell 412s that are doing such roles respectively. Add to that, it is capable of Medical and Casualty Evacuation which is usually what air ambulance do just in the case of Philippine Air Force's Sikorsky S-76 and PZL Sokol Helicopters where it may come in handy in the case of Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response matters just like pulling casualties and injured troops out of the battlefield.

With the requirements of the Philippine Government seeking more helicopters, Airbus without a doubt is showcasing these offers as it would mean a better deal that will benefit both sides. Notwithstanding, as being mentioned here before, it is at best for the parties involved especially the end user to assess it which will make the best decisions there is for the best outcome which clearly enhances the existing capabilities of the armed forces and other agencies.

Aside from this, this helicopter will be less likely to be the one offer where the H-145M is the one that is presently marketed by the company. These in which, remain to be seen as there are sudden changes that may happen as time goes by.

Bell 412. From Getty Images.
Knowing the helicopters Airbus offer and the capabilities it can promise to give such as in the case of the Philippines is only one thing. In this matter, it is worthy to consider that there are several workhorses within the Philippine Air Force which may serve as an obstacle whereby nature, decreasing the chance of grabbing up this offer so as to highlight the streamlining of spare logistics and interoperability, among others.

As an attack helicopter
Leonardo (Formerly AugustaWestland) AW-109e Power
See Details from Manufacturer here. Philippine-related details can be seen here.

One thing that needs to be considered with regards to the challenge Airbus Helicopter can encounter is this helicopter gunship procured four years ago from another helicopter company AugustaWestland which is now presently called Leonardo Helicopters.

Awarded October 2013, the Philippine Air Force successfully procured 8 units of these said helicopters which were all considered as attack helicopters as far as the air force is concerned. These things, however, do not dismiss the fact that these units, primarily designed as multi-purpose civilian design much like what Airbus offered, cannot sustain heavy gunfire unlike its fully-fledged counterparts but it is still sufficient enough to do its job against insurgent groups like in Marawi City. To add it up, there is actually the bit armored military version of such helicopter which is the AW-109 LUH which is also a bit more expensive and heavier.

Giving the details further with regards to the additional Attack Helicopter Project, Leonardo may still opt to push this helicopter aside from Airbus and McDonnell Douglas MD 901 Explorer. The expected budget cost that can be given in this project will be at around 11.8 billion pesos to 12.3 billion depending on the details that will come up months from now.

The bid opening for this project presents the opportunity for both Airbus and Leonardo where the offers can be fared up as to which suppliers, together of those with McDonnell Douglas, bags the deal. 

McDonnell Douglas MD-900/901/902 Explorer
The civilian version and its details (for 902) can be seen here.

It goes with some surprise so this helicopter is considered by the Philippine Air Force considering that as per research, this aircraft has primarily opted for civilian purposes. Not to dig in further, it is worth to wait until the first bid opening is out so as to understand further about this offer. To take note, this is the same supplier that made the MD-520s Philippine Air Force also obtains. This thing remains to be seen and updates will be made once it is on the roll.

As a utility helicopter

The Airbus Helicopters may have a helicopter offer where it may include the capability of having as a combat utility, but this is something worth pondering with regards to this portion that pertains to a troop transport.

To take some notes, the Philippine Air Force is inching closer to have a deal with Canadian Commercial Corp or CCC with regards to additional Combat Utility Helicopters such as the Bell 412s which will be done through a Government-to-Government deal or G2G.

Several Bell 412s are already in service with the Philippine Air Force as well as its Presidential Aircraft Wing which serves as a transport for the President. Additional units of the same aircraft will increase the transport capabilities of the air force as well as streamlining spare parts stash that will make it an ideal workforce aside from UH-1 Hueys.

Despite this thing, Airbus still has the chance especially on the attack helicopter procurement deal which there is the potential that they will bag the contract if they are up to the specifications, terms, and the laws the procurement program specifies. 


Inline to the product Airbus Helicopters offered to the Philippine Air Force, they recently reported that pertains to the marketed H-145M's first flight with HForce Generic Weapons System which it can sweeten up the offer a bit as this system may mean improving its capabilities even further.

This development comes from Airbus' experience in Tiger Attack Helicopters where, these systems come with the integration of any kind of weapons such as air-to-air, air-to-ground, ballistic or guided rounds wherein to be specific, the HForce consists of one central “core” unit which can be used regardless of the aircraft type, monocular HMSD and EOS, gunner armament grips and weapon pods that can choose either ballistic such as cannons, machine guns, and rocket or missiles. These things though are helpful for internal operations against counterinsurgencies where this system is flexible to have weapons as a choice in a given mission and its nature which, increases helicopters like H-145's adaptability if it is given a task that enforces the mandate of defense. With regards to weapons, here are the operational spectrum the HForce Weapons System covers:

- Tanks, armored vehicles, troops, fire support to troops in contact

- Aircraft, drones, attack helicopters

- Maritime counter-terrorism and counter-piracy speedboats

- Cannon 20mm

- Machine gun 12.7mm

- Rocket 68 and 70mm

- Laser-guided rocket

- Air-to-ground missile

- Air-to-air missile

This increase in comprehensive weapons capability is something Airbus can offer together with its helicopter unit like the H-145M where the Philippine Government may consider in its attack helicopter requirement through upcoming bidding together with other suppliers aforementioned. This opportunity is for them like any other supplier to prove and to supplement equipment that is up to the specifications given that satisfies the end user like the Philippine Air Force.


With the offer Airbus Helicopters give for end users like the Philippine Air Force, it is somewhat promising now that the products they offer become much capable as it gets integrated with its comprehensive, reflexive weapons system that enhances the adaptability of these helicopters. 

What remains to be seen is whether it can make it along the way depending on its offer, the specifications given as well as the offers given by other suppliers. It is still uncertain at present though, but with the offer Airbus Helicopters give, it is a welcoming thing to see where a supplier is willing to supply the needs of the local Philippine Market where it may benefit all of those involved especially the end-user. These will all up to the planners with regards to the assessment of these units.

The main point is that this offer goes the promising capabilities it offers which enhances the military's mandate of protecting the nation should this helicopter is considered or those of other suppliers. All of these in which goes to aim that it will increase firepower that requires in needing close air support for the troops on the ground. These in which are part of the Modernization program that keeps on rolling at present with the second horizon coming from the distance, signifying a bright future up ahead.


Nicky said...

What the Philippines are looking at getting is similar to what the US Army National Guard units have called the Eurocopter UH-72 Lakota

Pitz Orpiano said...

Yes. It really is like UH-72 Lakota since Eurocopter and Airbus Helicopter is one and the same. Add to that that all of these are derived from EC-145, which is a civilian version.

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