• Knowing the Philippine Army's BO-105 Helicopters

    These donated helicopters operated by the Philippine Army's Aviation Regiment provides much needed field support, especially on medevac-related evacuation and other logistical concerns.

  • Updates on the PAF's C-130J-30 Super Hercules Aircraft

    The Philippine Air Force, for the first time, sets to have at least three (3) brand new cargo aircraft from Lockheed Martin, which is done through a commercial deal between the two entities.

  • Phil. Army's Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge Project

    This AVLB with a Merkava IV chassis serves as the first platform of such type for the Philippine Army to use, and may set as a reference for the service branch’s future armored vehicle plans and programs later on.

  • Navantia's Submarine Offer to the Philippine Navy

    The Spanish shipbuilder has offered its submarine offer for the Philippine Navy's submarine project. How will it fare compare to its competitors like France's Naval Group and South Korea's Hanwha Ocean?

  • Knowing the AW-109 Helicopter of both PAF and PN

    Both the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy possess this type of helicopter that basically define as a first step towards a more capable Armed Forces, implemented during the First Horizon of the AFP Modernization Program.

  • The Phil. Army's Interest on the FGM-148 Javelin ATGM

    The Philippine Army is improving its firepower capabilities, and it witnessed the performance brought by this anti-tank missile during the Balikatan 2023 Exercises. Now they are considering it for their systems.

  • Know More About Us

    Just kindly click this link to understand more about our resolve of providing knowledge and perspective in relation to the Philippine defense and other related topics or discussions.

Additional S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters for the Philippine Air Force?

The last batch of the S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters has just arrived in the country from Poland's Sikorsky subsidiary plant of PZL Mielec. This completes the physical delivery of the Combat Utility Helicopters and will be part of the Air Force's desire to modernize its fleet of both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft in its inventory. What will it be with the leadership if it adds more of such type of helicopters to its operations?

One of two S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters assigned in Zamboanga City's Edwin Andrews Airbase.

The Philippine Air Force inventory of S-70i Blackhawk helicopters has just boosted to its completion as the last batch of five units of the Combat Utility Helicopter disembarked from the Antonov An-124 Ruslan cargo freighter aircraft which was operated by an Ukranian airline of the same name.

It comprises the 16-unit Combat Utility Helicopter Acquisition Project that the Philippine Air Force bought from Sikorsky Helicopters, made in Poland through a Sikorsky subsidiary known as PZL Mielec. Sikorsky Helicopters itself is a subsidiary of the American defense firm Lockheed Martin, the company that produces C-130 cargo aircraft and F-16 Fighters, both of which are currently being offered to the Philippine Air Force.

In relation to this, there were reports that the Philippine Government gave a go-signal to the procurement of additional S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters for the Philippine Air Force to use, although it was uncertain from that time whether to buy just 15 units of these Combat Utility Helicopters, or to buy 32 more units as what the Secretary of National Defense said on the report that might bring the total number of S-70i Blackhawk helicopters to 48 units.

As the geographical nature of the Philippines and its land area have shown, one can really say and with mere common sense that 16 Blackhawk Helicopters aren't enough to cover all the combat utility operations of the Philippine Air Force, at least if we limit it to this type of helicopters and not to account the other Combat Utility Helicopters that the air branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines possesses, such as the UH-1 Huey and Bell 412 Helicopters.

That being said, this topic will discuss the in-depth perspective of the viability of having additional S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters of the Philippine Air Force by gathering as much data as possible from multiple fully credible sources and to connect the dots from that point down to the tiny, significant detail which will give a glimpse on how will this idea go to the air branch, as far as its importance is concern.

The Philippine Air Force, aside from the S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters, also have both Bell 412s and Bell UH-1 Combat Utility Helicopters, each coming with its own capabilities and concerns. Image Source.

Before the S-70i Blackhawk Combat Utility Helicopters entered service within the Philippine Air Force, most of the asset that comprised this category are usually the Bell UH-1 Iroquois (Huey) Helicopters that were traced back from 1960s/1970s during the height of the Vietnam War, or the succeeding ones that derived from the original UH-1 Iroquois design, such as the Bell 412EP Helicopters (or the Canadian C-146 Griffon, as seen in the image above).

Just recently, last October 15, 2021, the Philippine Air Force decommissioned its 10 UH-1D Iroquois (Huey) Helicopters, effectively dropping them from active service. The primary attributes that have led to the decisions are the following - first, the Philippine Air Force saw another accident involving a helicopter of this type, and second is more of the S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters are entering the service, effectively replacing these UH-1Ds that the Philippine Air Force categorize as an "interim" service platform.

Currently, based on the information provided from Flightglobal website on world air force composition for the year 2021, the Philippine Air Force currently has at least eight (8) Bell 412EPs, twenty-three (23) UH-1H/D Huey Helicopters, and eight (8) Bell 205  (still basically counted as Bell UH-1H) Combat Utility Helicopters. This comes alongside the prospective number of S-70i Blackhawks of sixteen (16) units, totalling overall to 55 Combat Utility Helicopters, and this does not account for the 10 decommissioned UH-1Ds, along with the UH-1H crash that took place January 2021 (since the Flightglobal data was last updated from the year 2020), lowering it down to at least 44 units left.

The plan of buying 32 additional units of S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters, if pushed through, will give an overall number of Combat Utility Helicopter units in the Philippine Air Force up to the total of at least 76 unit helicopter fleet, a significant boost for the air branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its desire in boosting up the numbers of combat utility helicopters that are helpful in both combat and peacetime operations, especially in humanitarian help and disaster response.

As operating an older fleet of aircraft comes with increasing expenses on maintenance, repair, and operations itself, it is just logical to go after newer assets, provided that there are budgetary resources that will allow a procurement of that large scale to happen. With this, it is interesting to see the recent actions from the people in the Department of National Defense, as well as within the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in the development that represents an idea of adding more S-70i Blackhawks in the Air Force.

A batch of five (5) S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters of the Philippine Air Force delivered in the country.
Image Source.

In this latest video, as the Department of National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana reported before President Duterte dated November 15, 2021, he detailed his visit to Poland and his itinerary being related to the S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters, which he provided information that the Philippine Air Force, through the Department of National Defense, has set a new order for 32 additional said Polish-made, American-designed Combat Utility Helicopters, alongside the 16 units that were recently delivered.

This has seen as a good news, following-up the report from February that the Philippine Government has given a go-signal on the purchase of these additional Blackhawk Helicopters, allowing the boost of the number of Combat Utility Helicopters in the Philippine Air Force inventory, effectively making the S-70i Blackhawks as the mainstay Combat Utility Helicopter platform of the air branch with an overall number of 48 units.

The numbers provided may simply replace the UH-1H/D Iroquois (Huey) Helicopters as the most commonly used Combat Utility Helicopter platform in the Philippine Air Force once pushed through, and as this trend continues, it may help the air branch to replace the older Helicopter platforms eventually, while boosting its capabilities up that effectively helps deploy troops, supplies, and services in times of conflict and natural calamities.

While the announcement made by the Secretary of National Defense counts as good news, it remains to be seen on how far will this push through, as the process of documentation, budgeting, U.S. Government approval, and other factors can still determine the outcome and there may be changes along the way without notice such as any sudden cancellation of the project, or reduction of the number of units bought.

It is interesting to see how far the project will go, especially with the Secretary of National Defense reported that a new order for additional S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters has set up, although additional details related to financing and other important indicators for this development may go provided in a future update of added information.

Two (2) assigned S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters flying over Zamboanga International Airport Terminal.
(c) Western Mindanao Command, FB Page

Just recently, the Philippine Air Force assigned these newly purchased Combat Utility Helicopters in some of its air bases scattered across the country, four of which are currently deployed under the area of responsibility (AOR) of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM). 

These are in both the Tactical Operations Wing-Eastern Mindanao Davao Air Station in Barangay Sasa, Davao City and the Tactical Operations Group regional headquarters at Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro. Both of the Philippine Air Force installations get two S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters each, forming the four-unit composition under the Eastern Mindanao Command's AOR.

Another pair of S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters is also being deployed in Western Mindanao Command's area of responsibility, particularly in Zamboanga City's Edwin Andrews Airbase (EAAB, see image above). This means that there are at least six (6) out of sixteen (16) units of the newly purchased Blackhawk Helicopters that are put into different units of the Philippine Air Force assigned to the country's southernmost island group of Mindanao.

Just as with any other air assets deployed in these airbases that the Philippine Air Force has scattered in the country, the S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters will become a common sight for people, in the same manner that the UH-1 Huey Helicopters being a common sight as it operates routinely. This, although, comes with a hope that more may get added in these respective airbases for the years to come, especially with plans now on the pipeline.

This comes with a realization and a fact that having 16 units of Blackhawk Helicopters is still insufficient, with the plans of having 32 more Blackhawk Helicopters being a much-needed commitment for the current administration to carry, especially that having these newer platforms may allow the retirement of the older UH-1 Huey Combat Utility Helicopters that are still in service today.

Some of the S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters sitting in an airbase. Image Source.

It is an achievement for both the Philippine Air Force and the Department of National Defense that all S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters purchased under the Combat Utility Helicopter Acquisition Project have gotten delivered successfully, despite that there was one unit that involved in a nighttime testing mission crashed near Capas, Tarlac, leaving no survivors at all and it resulted to the temporary grounding of the rest of the Blackhawks.

Aside from the 32-unit acquisition that the Philippine Air Force and the Department of National Defense recently discussed with the representatives of the Sikorsky subsidiary in Poland (PZL Mielec), there is an alternative plan, wherein the national security advisor of the current administration way back February 2021 discussed an acquisition of at least 15 units of S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters, almost half of the recent numbers provided.

Either the 32-unit acquisition or the 15-unit alternative that the national security advisor provided will improve the number of Combat Utility Helicopters that the Philippine Air Force is having, especially that it needs a lot of this rotary air platforms not only in deploying troops in areas of combat in the name of national defense, but also on humanitarian help and disaster response into areas affected by natural calamities in which such helicopters are very useful.

With this, it is interesting to see the outcome of the proposal, especially with the 32-unit proposal now setting into motion, as documentation and paperwork is still to be written for this plan to be materialized, and the eventual agreements of both sides for the project is still to be seen as there are still changes that might happen along the way as a way for both the seller and the buyer to benefit from the deal.

In the end, it will still be at the table of both the Philippine Air Force and the Department of National Defense regarding how far this project will go as far as planning and materialization is concern, although the numerical data provided still presents the fact that air assets like the Combat Utility Helicopters needs to be added more, as the air force's logistical requirements for both HADR and troops/supplies deployment increases.

(c) 2021 PDA.



Total Pageviews To-Date

Webpage Visitors

Free counters!