Additional FA-50PH For the Philippine Air Force?

The Philippine Air Force already possesses a squadron of these sophisticated air assets, which has proven a lot of its performance since it entered service just half a decade ago. Now, there are plans to buy at least another squadron of such aircraft, which some believes to be an alternative to the one of the big ticket acquisition projects of this said service branch.

DETAILS IN THE NEWS
Two of the twelve (12) FA-50PH that the Philippine Air Force currently has.
Image Source.

The Philippine Air Force is modernizing its squadrons of aircraft under the Flight Plan that it pushes until 2028, in-line with the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program, which has three Horizons for its different branches to accomplish. At the time this article published, the modernization effort is now under Horizon 2, which spans from 2018 to 2022.

Currently, under this horizon, the Philippine Air Force is pushing for at least a squadron of Multirole Fighter Jet under the acquisition program that bears the same name, aiming on having a capability that is a step higher than the Lead-In Fighter Trainers that the FA-50PH of the air branch is currently has in its squadrons of different aircraft. The project's ABC or Allotted Budget for the Contract is at 61.2 Billion Philippine Pesos.

The Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project is currently competing between Lockheed Martin's F-16 Block 70/72 and SAAB's JAS-39 Block C/D, which are both capable fighters aiming to be the backbone of the Philippine Air Force's air interdiction wing as part of its PADIZ implementation. Each has its own sets of problems presented that the Philippine Air Force sees it as an obstacle for the project itself.

For the Lockheed Martin's F-16 Block 70/72 offer, the major problem presented is with the package provided by the United States Government, through a release for the approval of sale in DSCA or the Defense Security Cooperation Agency website. The amount specified for the package pertaining to the F-16s is at US$2.43 Billion or 121.5 Billion Philippine Pesos. 

As for the SAAB's JAS-39 Gripen C/D variant, there is the recent news coming from Sweden that talks about the issues surrounding the sale of the aircraft to the country, pointing more to the Philippines' Human Rights Concerns that there are some groups of people within the Swedish Government that are ill-informed, although there are confirmations that the Philippines is pushing for a deal with the Swedish for these Multirole Fighter Jets.

With these concerns in consideration, we cannot dismiss the possibility that there might be chances that the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project may derail if things will not go to plan, although the chances that the said project will push through is now getting more likely as the government is working to complete and seal the deal within the year 2022 between two competing aerospace companies. 

Given the possibility, it is nice to present an additional to the Multirole Fighter Jet Program as the government is keen on pushing it through, with an idea of adding more FA-50PH that the Philippine Air Force already has in its fleet of aircraft being in the pipeline in achieving a High-Low mix of aircraft serving the Air Force's 5th Fighter Wing for implementing the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone or PADIZ.

IN THE PIPELINE
Three FA-50PHs are in formation as they conduct a flyby for the country's 124th Independence Day Anniversary. (Joey O. Razon, Philippine News Agency)

Back to this article from the Philippine News Agency website, there were no specified details on how many units of the FA-50PH that the Philippine Air Force desires to add on its inventory of Lead-In Fighter Trainers or LIFT aircraft, although the original proposal for Surface Attack Aircraft/Lead-In Fighter Trainer aircraft under the original AFP Modernization Project (R.A. 7898) came with an idea of having at least 24 units for such type of aircraft in inventory.

Take note that for the Philippine Air Force, a single squadron of jets equates to have at least 12 units of aircraft in order to satisfy this requirement, so the original proposal under the Republic Act 7898 of the 1995 Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program should have at least two squadrons of such aircraft in its inventory, which in this case, is the FA-50PH that the air force currently has, with a single squadron currently in active service.

This means that following the said plans and proposals, the Philippine Air Force may need at least an additional 12 units of FA-50PH from South Korea's prime aerospace company 'Korea Aerospace Industries' or KAI in order to satisfy this requirement, which goes back to the article mentioned that PAF chief Lt. Gen. Connor Anthony Canlas Sr. said in his interview with the media on Monday about the proposal.

Other than that, the article mentioned Korea Aerospace Industries' plans to upgrade the capability of the FA-50s it currently produces, especially to increase its fuel capacity that increases its range especially on long-range operations and loitering time patrolling the airspace, while doing the same thing to its weapons carrying capacity, which makes it more formidable than it was when the Philippine Air Force first bought it from the South Korean aerospace company.

The said upgrade refers to the FA-50 Block 20 program started by Korea Aerospace Industries, which aims to improve capabilities of the aircraft, especially from the ones just mentioned regarding its carrying capacity, in what they aim to have fighter jet solution that is less expensive and seen as an alternative to multirole fighter jets like the F-16 Block 70 and JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D. See related article here.

The upgrade pushed by Korea Aerospace Industries makes sense, especially that the number of users of the T-50 Golden Eagle family has increased through time, with fellow countries in Southeast Asia like Indonesia and Thailand use them as fighter trainer aircraft for pilots in these said countries, given that they have the Multirole Fighter aircraft such as F-16 Falcon.

This consideration may become more relevant as more countries may get onboard the purchase of the Korean-made aircraft that has the same DNA as the Lockheed Martin F-16 Multirole Fighter and the South Korea's indigenous KF-21 Boramae 4.5th Generation Fighter Jet, which has started its first flight tests recently in a South Korean Air Force base in the southern city of Sacheon, in cooperation with South Korea's DAPA.

THE POLISH DEAL
Poland is one country that recently signed a deal for FA-50s from South Korea's Korean Aerospace Industries or KAI. Image Source.

The FA-50 Light Combat Fighter Trainer jets of the Korean Aerospace Industries recently came with an interesting twist, especially regarding its customers that are currently having them in their respective inventories or in obtaining such type of jets, whereby they recently struck a deal with an Eastern European country and also a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO, the first one since the jet's inception.

The country we are referring to is the Eastern European country of Poland, in which its inventory currently has F-16 Falcon, aside from others such as the F-35 Lightning II Fighter Jets that the country ordered and its legendary Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29 Fighter jets that the Polish Air Force has the intention of replacing on, as these aircraft are increasingly difficult to maintain as spare parts became scarce.

Poland's contract process South Korea comes alongside the additional acquisition of at nearly a thousand (1,000) units of K2 Main Battle Tanks, whereby 180 units of it will produce in South Korea while the rest, at around 800 units, will get produced in Polish weapons factories at the second phase of the deal starting 2026, effectively giving the Polish Armed Forces the largest acquisition deal to date regarding armored units.

This deal does not cease here, as Poland also has an acquisition deal involving K9 Thunder Self-Propelled Howitzer by Hanwha Defense, in which 648 pieces of such military hardware have ordered by the aforementioned Eastern European country, benefiting both Poland and South Korea in the process as the former now fielding more weapons than ever and the latter getting significant gains at the sales point of view.

Effectively, additional sales for the FA-50 fighter trainer jets help increase the source of spare parts needed in maintenance that ensures that such platforms are operational, especially in the likes of the Philippine Air Force that currently has at least 12 of such FA-50 LIFTs in its inventory, as well as the prospects of getting an improved variant of the jets (Blocks 10 and 20) like what the Polish FA-50s may get along the way.

Speaking of the FA-50PL, the Block 10 comes with the British IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) Mark XIIA Mod 5/S, whilst the Block 20 comes with an AESA or airborne electronically scanned array radar, Sniper targeting pod, and Link 16 Datalink that makes it more of a capable fighter than the ones that the Philippine Air Force currently fielding, making the idea of adding more FA-50s a viable option on its own.

This makes sense as the leadership within the Philippine Air Force expressed its interest in having at least 24 FA-50 Lead-in Fighter Trainer Jets in its inventory, whilst keeping an assertion on finalizing the decision for the acquisition of Multirole Fighter Jets, which is an entirely separate acquisition project of the Philippine Air Force that is now competing between F-16 Block 70/72 and JAS-39 Gripen C/D jets.

ALMOST "MULTI-ROLE"
South Korean FA-50s dropping unguided munitions. Image Source.

One thing that the chief of the Philippine Air Force said in this interview in relation to the plans of adding more advanced variants of FA-50PH in their inventory, especially for its sub-units like the 5th Fighter Wing to use, is that these South Korean-made lead-in fighter trainer jets have an "almost multi-role" capability, whereby it can conduct air-to-ground operations, as well as it can conduct air-to-air operations.

While it has the capability that may mimic the Multirole Fighter Jets, the Philippine Air Force is seeking advanced dedicated multirole fighters like the F-16 Block 70/72 and the JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D of Lockheed Martin and SAAB, respectively, clearly showing that these light combat jets have intended for pilots to train and familiarize a system that may get introduced later on, through a separate acquisition project.

This comes similarly with Poland, wherein they opt to buy FA-50s for its air force, as the FA-50s they purchased from South Korea has similarities with the F-16 Fighting Falcons that the Polish Air Force already has in its inventory, and the upcoming F-35 Lightning II Fighter Jets the Polish Armed Forces purchased from Lockheed Martin, as the first units ordered may get delivered on the first batches by the year 2024.

Speaking of the capabilities that the Philippine Air Force FA-50PH Lead-In Fighter Trainers possess, these said light fighter trainer jets have used in an actual conflict such as the 2018 Marawi siege, whereby it has coined by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Gen. Carlito Galvez as a 'game-changer' when the exchange of gunfire between the government forces and the radical group took place, providing that highly needed close air support to the troops on the ground.

Aside from utilizing the FA-50s in an actual conflict such as the 2018 Marawi siege, the Philippine Air Force also used them in conducting bilateral exercises with the United States Air Force, such as the Bilateral Air Contingent Exchange-Philippines (BACE-P), whereby these lead-in fighter trainers, along with the pilots onboard are going head-on with the modern F-16s that their U.S. counterparts brought along.

Add to this is the desire of the current Marcos administration to keep on pushing and pursuing the Modernization of the Philippine Armed Forces under the Republic Act 10349 that has started by his two predecessors, especially that he expressed his support on equipping the Philippine Air Force with the "state-of-the-art" fighter jets, of which the FA-50PHs counts as under this category alongside Multirole Fighter Jets awaiting award to the preferable bidder.

Hence, the possibility of the plans for acquiring additional FA-50PH for the Philippine Air Force is not that far, with newer variants providing additional capabilities for this branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to do, albeit not enough for it to be considered as an alternative of the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, whereby this program is still ongoing at the time this article's publishing.

TO SURMISE THIS UP
FA-50PH of the Philippine Air Force taking off from an airbase. (c) PAF, via Image Source.

The Philippine Air Force, along with other service branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, such as the Philippine Army and the Philippine Navy, are working and pursuing in all of their effort to push the desire of further Modernizing the capabilities of each mentioned, ranging from reorganizing their respective their sub-units to the acquisition of large ticket military assets like the FA-50PH Lead-in Fighter Trainer.

Speaking of the FA-50PH of the Philippine Air Force, it marked as the jet that helped the organization returning to the jet age, after a decade that the last of the F-5 A/B has decommissioned from service in 2005, whereby it served the 5th Fighter Wing for 40 years, when it was first entered service in 1965 and has served as the primary platform for the Blue Diamond aerobatic team.

Currently, the Philippine Air Force has at least 12 units of FA-50PH, whereby it comprises as a single squadron by this service branch, with their current desire to add at least 12 more units, or another squadron of FA-50PH that came as an advanced variant that the Korean Aerospace Industries or KAI currently markets to different countries, with Poland, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, being its latest customer.

Apparently, with Poland, one reason they opt the South Korean made FA-50s for replenishing their inventory of fighter aircraft after decommissioning their MiG-29s is the increasing waiting orders for the F-16 Viper Block 70/72 Multirole Fighter Jet that could have been to increase the number of the existing F-16s Poland currently have, a concern also shared by the planners within the Philippine Air Force when they talk about the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, itself an entirely different project than the one about additional FA-50s.

Despite the long queues, Lockheed Martin and the United States government are still pitching their F-16 Block 70/72 offer to the Philippine Air Force, as it competes with the JAS-39 Gripen C/D Multirole Fighter Jet from Swedish Aerospace Manufacturer SAAB, whereby there is an argument that both the F-16 Fighter Jets and the FA-50s that the Philippine Air Force currently has shared commonalities on its ecosystem.

And to take note, the Philippine Air Force are both pursuing for a Multirole Fighter Jet and additional FA-50s on its inventory, with each having 12 units or what is to be equivalent to a single squadron within the air service branch, whereby the former may serve as a dedicated platform that secure the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone or PADIZ, while the latter primarily serve as a training platform, doubling as a light combat aircraft, a force multiplier to the Multirole Fighter Jet.

In the end, it would be at the discretion of the leadership within the Philippine Air Force, together with those within the Department of National Defense, whether the acquisition plan to purchase more FA-50PH may push through, as the government may get to prepare to what the Third Horizon may bring by year 2023, with itself coming with larger big ticket projects intended for the improvement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its overall capabilities until the year 2028.


(c) 2022 PDA.
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3 comments:

  1. Mas maganda kung ang gagamit ng FA50PH natin ay ang ating Naval Air Wing lalo na ang Blk 20 at ilipat na din sa 15th Strike Wing un naunang squadron para makapag concentrate na ang PAF sa MRF para sa ating 5th Fighter Wing

    ReplyDelete
  2. Philippine officials are too slow in deciding what MRFs they want. Time is of the essence. China is becoming more aggressive in all fronts.

    ReplyDelete
  3. 48 unit ng F-16 block 70 para ma satisfy tech group, if you had a budget + amo at fuel depot.

    ReplyDelete

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