Understanding the Philippine Navy's Beechcraft TC-12 "Huron" Aircraft Acquisition Plan

The Philippine Navy obtain its own aviation unit which aims to enhance its duties and responsibilities of protecting the country's maritime domain from any threats that are taking place within the jurisdiction, augmenting the branch's surface vessels that conducting patrols and other maritime defense-related operations conducted therein.

Given their instilled duties and responsibilities, it is worth noting that the Philippines as a country consists of multiple islands spanning from Luzon to the north all the way to Mindanao in the south in which bodies of water surround these islands, rendering the needed boost in capabilities that solutions may get provided in the form of adding more air platforms into its array of tools to enhance the Navy's coverage in patrolling the country's waters.

The United States Navy has said to have this fleet of Beechcraft TC-12 Hurons retired from service.
Image courtesy of King Air Nation.
On a Friday of November 20, 2020, the Philippine Navy is checking on the possibility of acquiring eight units of Beechcraft TC-12 Huron military turboprop aircraft which will increase the capabilities of its own aviation unit which is the Naval Air Wing or NAW as which has been reported in detail by the country's state-owned news outlet Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Take note that the Philippine Navy's Naval Air Wing as a unit is an expanded organization after its status as a unit was raised from what it was once called the "Naval Air Group" or NAG in 2019 which operates AW-109 Power utility helicopters, the newer and more-capable AW-159 "Wildcat" Anti-submarine helicopters, and the donated C-90 (or also known as the TC-90) King Air utility aircraft from Japan.

Given the provided report, it is said that the procurement of these assets will be done through the United States Excess Defense Articles, a program of the United States government through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency or DSCA which aims to provide excess defense equipment, as what its name says, to foreign governments especially to countries that are seen as partners of the United States such as the Republic of the Philippines.

This move is seen as one of the examples of the United States giving military aid that helps the Philippines modernize its Armed Forces under the current Revised AFP Modernization Program or R.A. 10349, a strong signal in the sense of affirmed, a fully-bonded friendship between allies since the Philippines' independence from the United States in 1946, alongside the commitments instilled on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

In this discussion, the details will be tackling this platform as well as its development as well as the company that manufactures it, as well as its specifications which may go hand in hand with the other assets that the Naval Air Group obtains in its inventory, especially with the donated C-90s given that this platform shares similarity to this topic since it is also produced by the same manufacturer.

Beechcraft is an entity of Textron Aviation that specializes more in small, rotary aircraft.
Screengrab Source.
Beechcraft is a subsidiary of Textron Aviation which specializes in these smaller-sized aircraft such as the King Air Aircraft that the Philippine Navy currently uses and is also the future platform that the service branch will be based on with regards to its design cue which will be covered along with this discussion.

Given its current corporate setup, Beechcraft became what it is today as a subsidiary of a company that holds other aviation segments like Cessna and Bell Helicopters in which the company was acquired by Textron, Inc. from Beech Holdings, LLC six years ago on March 14, 2014, when they announced that development wherein it formed the backbone of Textron Aviation Business Segment.

While Textron's acquisition of Beechcraft was recent news, the history of the company traces back to the early 1930s when Walter and Olive Ann Beech established it as a small aviation company named Beech Aircraft Company with Walter having prior experiences involving aircraft construction as he built planes on a prior-established company forged in partnerships which was the Travel Air Manufacturing Company together with Lloyd Stearman and Clyde Cessna.

The company grew a lot especially during the Second World War and the Korean War wherein aircraft orders were increased as the military-industrial complex of that time increases the output of various assets with multiple uses that are essential for the war effort, until they produce multiple variants of small turboprop aircraft like the King Air, catering both military and civilian sectors.

Beechcraft was then acquired by the Raytheon Company on February 8, 1980, in which the company produced aircraft like the T-6 Texan II Trainer Aircraft which are used as a primary training platform for end-users such as the United States Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Mexican Air Force. 

Before Textron's sale of the company, it was taken note that Raytheon at one point sold the company to Goldman Sachs along with Onex Corp in a 2006 deal which was formed into the Hawker Beechcraft Company until it declared bankruptcy in 2013 which it was replaced by a resurgent Beechcraft Corporation that produces primary products like the T-6 Texan Trainer Aircraft and King Air Utility Aircraft.

To sum it up, there was the original Beech Aircraft Company that produces both civilian and military-lenient aircraft wherein it grew with the wars and improved further under Olive Ann's leadership until it went under multiple ownerships which ended up to the current status as the subsidiary of the larger Textron Aviation segment, defining its ups and downs as a company and is still operational as a business unit up to the present date.

This is one of the donated TC-90 King Air aircraft that the Philippine Navy received from Japan.
(c) Ryu Guji, Jetphotos.
In connection to the plans of the Philippine Navy to pursue the plans of procuring the Beechcraft TC-12 Hurons into its inventory under the Naval Air Wing from the United States, this discussion for the Japanese-donated Beechcraft TC-90 King Air aircraft (as seen on the image above) goes with relevance as it shares the design, manufacturer, and intended purpose within the military unit.

The proposal for the Japanese to provide these platforms for the Armed Forces of the Philippines started in 2015 wherein they are looking forward to donating their TC-90 King Air aircraft which was considered at that time as a primary training platform for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces or JSDF to use, with the similar intention providing into the Philippine Navy's desire of improving its capability of maritime patrol by familiarizing the platform before proceeding into more sophisticated ones like the P-3C Orion.

Then it goes along through the year 2016 wherein the Philippine Government under the then-Aquino administration and their Japanese counterparts finalize a deal that involves the "lease" of five Beechcraft TC-90s from Japan for the Philippine Navy's then Air Naval Group or NAG to use, in which the first two platforms were received by the Philippine Navy a year later on March 27, 2017.

After the delivery of the first two platforms, there was an amendment with the Japanese law that allows donations of military assets to other countries such as the Republic of the Philippines which render the original "leased" Beechcraft TC-90s as "newly-donated assets" in which it significantly provides the Philippine Navy its maritime surveillance capabilities, highlighting the good relations between the Philippines and Japan with regards to this area of development.

In the same year that the first two platforms were delivered to the country, the Philippine Navy activated the first unit of the once-leased, newly-donated TC-90 King Air surveillance aircraft from Japan months later in November of 2017 as it bears the tail number 390, paving the way for more aircraft of a similar type to enter in active service within the Philippine Navy.

In completing the agreed number of units of five (5) Beechcraft TC-90 King Air planes from Japan, the delivery of the remaining three (3) units of this platform took place a year later on March 26, 2018, wherein the transfer was formalized when it took place in the Philippine Navy main base in Sangley Point, Cavite, completing up the numbers of such aircraft in the inventory with one of those delivered was activated two months later in May of 2018, bearing tail number 394 (as imaged above).

With the similarities that may share between the Beechcraft TC-90 King Air patrol aircraft donated from Japan and its TC-12 Huron cousin, it is worth noting that the pool of Pilots and Maintenance Personnel were sufficient enough for the Philippine Navy's then Naval Air Group (now named as Naval Air Wing) as they took extensive training on repair, maintenance, and operations of the aircraft which are deemed useful shall this acquisition push through.

The aircraft was first introduced when Beechcraft was still an independent aerospace company before the Raytheon Company decided to acquire it in 1980. Screengrab source.
Additional information: Crew onboard comes with 1 to 2 personnel.
Supplementary references for the specifications can be seen here.

The table seen above provides the information with regards to the TC-12 Huron aircraft produced by Beechcraft which is still being produced and in service to several civilian customers and five military operators as provided in the details with the United States being the largest user base of these aircraft, qualifying it at the Philippine procurement level which will not be a concern here since the deal involves a government-to-government approach through the U.S. Excess Defense Articles Program or EDA.

As expected for non-combative platforms like the TC-12 Huron, it does not come with military weaponry onboard although it may be fitted with sensors at the discretion of the Philippine Navy since it may get opted for ISR or Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance operations which goes alongside its other roles such as Search and Rescue and small cargo platform at times of natural calamity through its Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response.

As for its design, it is well understood that the donated Beechcraft TC-90s from Japan to the Philippine Navy and the planned TC-12 Huron Acquisition sees similarities in its structure since the latter is basically a variant of the Model 200 Super King Air which in itself is a stretched version of the TC-90 King Air that the Naval Air Wing currently operates which is seen as advantageous from the commonality on operations, skills and spare parts point of view.

Knowing the TC-12 Huron's development design is also knowing TC-90's historical development wherein both share the very history of its primary creation which has started in the early 1960s when Beechcraft,  still the Beech Aircraft Corporation, started test flights on what is seen as its development of a twin-turboprop aircraft that may help propel their prospective sales as this platform helps the company grow much like its other products that have produced since its inception up until the present, spanning multiple ownerships.

The first test flight of a Model 90 King Air took place on January 20 of year 1964 which has set the precedent for Beechcraft to introduce this aircraft to the market several months later, starting with the Type Certificate it received from FAA on May 7, 1964,  and its initial price set by Beechcraft on June 8, 1964, at $320,000 per unit or $2,665,612.05 in today's money, adjusted for inflation.

As for the Model 200 of this family of aircraft made by Beechcraft that later became the C-12 Hurons of different variants, the development started in the late 1960s down to the early 1970s wherein the first flight of such aircraft took place on October 27, 1972, of which this T-designed tail King Air (as opposed to the original TC-90 design) went on as the best-selling version of King Airs throughout Beechcraft's operations.

The variants of C-12s came in two forms - the C-12A variant which was utilized by the United States Air Force and the United States Army which was entered active service in the year 1974 - two years after its first flight, and the C-12B variant which was used by the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps as personnel and utility aircraft and is definitely the one that the Philippine Navy may end up obtaining through this possible acquisition.

With primary information coming from Francis Karem Elazegui Neri (reference here)
Here show different naval aviation assets that the Naval Air Wing of the Philippine Navy currently uses in its operations. Image Courtesy of the Naval Air Wing Facebook Page.
The Naval Air Wing once called the Naval Air Section, was founded on October 7, 1947, as a unit within the Philippine Air Force, which was then called the Offshore Patrol in which its personnel primarily consisted of Philippine Air Force and Philippine Naval Patrol personnel led by-then Air Force CAPTAIN CONDRADO C CHUIDIAN JR, setting the foundation into this unit that still operates up to this day.

A Stinson L-5 Sentinel (may be mistaken by the referenced author as the Piper L-5), was the first aircraft served in this newly-formed group and is worthy to be noted that such aircraft was first deployed in 1941 - a year when the United States started its full involvement in the Second World War which it went operational a year later, serving the Armed Forces fully until right after the war and serve in the United States Air Force more until 1955.

The second aircraft that the Naval Air Group obtained after the L-5 Sentinel is the Boeing PT-13 Stearman Biplane which was designed in 1934 primarily as a training plane and like the L-5 Sentinel before it serves much as a trainer aircraft in the Second World War, training aspiring pilots as the United States war effort pursued on during that time. Both platforms were said to have been modified into seaplanes with the help of the then-COLONEL BLAKE LAMBERT of the US Air Force.

While these first two aircraft were primarily utilized back then for anti-smuggling, recon, air evacuation, and mercy and admin flights in support of operating task forces as the referenced author detailed, it was not until the De Havilland L-20 (U-6A) Beaver was introduced wherein three units were procured as part of the reorganization of the then-Naval Air Section into the Naval Air Unit or NAU in the December of 1960 in which the said line of aircraft was utilized in high-risk missions coupled with the lack of funds of maintenance have inflicted the toll on the platforms which in turn affected the operations of the Philippine Navy's air unit component.

The Naval Air Unit was once again reorganized into the Naval Air Group in the September of 1975 wherein it primarily consists of Bitten Norman BN-2 Islander which is apparently still in service up to the present (as indicated on the image above alongside current active units of the Naval Air Wing) that may get eventually replaced by both the TC-90 King Air and the platform discussed here later on, and the MBB-BO 105-C which are said to have provided by the Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation or PADC.

The current structure of the Naval Air Wing from its older "Naval Air Group" status was reorganized in the first quarter of 2019 in which the current composition includes the old Bitten Norman BN-2 Islander along with the newly-procured ones such as the AW-159 Wildcat Antisubmarine Helicopter, the AW-109 Power Light Helicopters, and TC-90 King Air aircraft that was donated by Japan.

Adding more platforms like the TC-12 Huron into this Philippine Navy aviation sub-component may improve and enhance more its capabilities that go in line with its duties and responsibilities as well as the ever-increasing importance of external defense in which the Naval Air Wing plays a significant role that may go alongside other units of the Philippine Navy in ensuring the safety and security of its maritime domain, both in territorial waters and in the exclusive economic zone.

The United States Marine Corps C-12B Huron. This variant is also utilized by the United States Navy.
Obtained from Fokker Aircraft via Jetphotos.net website
As this procurement plan ensues, it may help the Philippine Navy improve its capabilities further as added assets are helpful to cover more area in its maritime patrol operations as threats from the sea get increased especially with the recent incursions that China inflicts on the country's waters.

The plans of getting C-12 Hurons from the United States Navy was reinforced further by the fact that the Philippine Navy already obtain a handful of C-90 King Air utility aircraft which was donated from Japan wherein there are logistical advantages in terms of interoperability, maintenance, repairs, and outsourcing of spare parts that keep it operational and in tip-top shape.

Aside from the logistical advantages, its credibility is also indisputable as it is operational across multiple Armed Forces of different nations of the world, of which it included all of the branches under the United States military with the Navy variants preferable the ones that the Philippine Navy seeks on its acquisition under the terms provided by the United States' Excess Defense Articles.

Produced by a renowned company such as Beechcraft Aircraft which was founded in the early 1930s and is still operational as a subsidiary of Textron Aviation, their aircraft production benefited both its military and civilian customers which ensure and reinforces its reputation up to the present in a way that the Philippine Navy sees potential in utilizing these platforms on maritime use.

It remains to be seen as to how far this possibility of acquisition goes as there may be further decisions to be made in the future that may render the plans out of the picture, depending on how favorable the environment is to be for this platform to be considered upon. Nevertheless, it may still come with one's hopes, dreams, and aspirations that such a plan like this pushes through amidst the challenges that the nation faces in fighting another battle, one that involves the health and economic welfare of the Filipino people.

(c) 2020 PDA.

1 comment:

simfront said...

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