NC-212i Light Transport Aircraft of the Philippine Air Force

The Philippine Air Force's logistics fleet comes with multiple types of aircraft, ranging from light transport to medium and heavy-lift aircraft, all of which have its ultimate aim of transporting troops and military hardware across the country, whether it may be a rotational assignment, or a rapid military deployment in an event of a conflict, or the rapid delivery of essential goods when natural calamities ravage a portion of the country.

In this discussion, we will deal with light transport aircraft, in which this one has produced in the neighboring archipelagic nation of Indonesia.

Philippine Air Force, NC-212i, PT Dirgantara, C-212 Aviocar
Philippine Air Force's Light Transport Aircraft from Indonesia.
(c) Miguel Cenon, Flickr.

Just recently, the Department of Budget and Management or DBM has displayed its latest SARO releases on its website (you can check our FAQs link here), whereby the amount of around Php 624,000,000.00 or six hundred twenty-four million pesos Special Allotment Release Order has posted for covering the Department of National Defense's funding requirements for the Light Lift Wing Aircraft Acquisition Project.

This project, under the Philippine Air Force, is part of the ongoing implementation of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program or RAFPMP under the Republic Act 10349, in which we can see this as a project of potentially adding more aircraft of such type in the fleet, especially that the air service branch of the Philippine Military already has two units of NC-212i Light Transport Aircraft in the fleet.

The amount provided covers at least 15% of the total Allotted Budget for the Contract of around Php 4.16 Billion for the project, significantly higher than the US$19 Million price or Php 946 Million for the original project for two units, based on 2016 exchange rate of around US$1.00 equated to Php 48.90, which is not surprising given that the number of units ordered for this acquisition has increased to six (6) units plus ILS package, as opposed to the two units bought under the original acquisition project.

Under the 'Additional Light Lift Aircraft Acquisition Project' of the Philippine Air Force, the number of units for NC-212i Light Transport Aircraft will increase from only two  (2) units to eight (8) units all-in-all, adding up an array for airlift and logistical capabilities of the Philippine Air Force, as these small planes may cover tasks that only require short flight time and shorter distance to nearby airports, as opposed to the medium and larger cargo transport aircraft available like the C-295s and C-130s.

As the development of adding more Light Transport Aircraft in the Philippine Air Force lessens the stress of the two existing NC-212i, as well as improving the prospects of logistics chain involving the procurement of spare parts, maintenance, and operational use of these air assets, let us discuss further regarding the Indonesian manufacturer who made these units, the origins of the design as this is a license model of another aircraft, and the specifications of the aircraft as opposed to other assets within the organization.

PT Dirgantara Indonesia, Indonesian Aerospace, Bandung Indonesia
People taking a picture before PT Dirgantara Indonesia's license-built aircraft.
Image Source.

PT Dirgantara Indonesia is an Indonesian Aerospace company that specializes itself in producing license-built aircraft intended for the Indonesian Armed Forces and local Indonesian civilian users, along with its prospects of exporting their products abroad to countries like the Philippines, as this is the other Indonesian-built product used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the other being the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks.

On their website, the creation of the PT Dirgantara Indonesia as the current entity started upon the declaration of the Indonesian independence, although the concept of aircraft production within the country has started even way back the Dutch colonial era, when there was an aircraft production department that produced the Canadian AVRO-AL, with the fuselage made from wood available in the country during that time. 

The framework that set the foundation for the PT Dirgantara Indonesia as an entity started in the 1960s, when the Indonesian government, through the Indonesian Air Force, issued the Staff Decree No. 488, establishing the Aviation Industry Preparation Agency or Lembaga Persiapan Industri Penerbangan/ LAPIP in Indonesian, with its mandate being to prepare aviation industrial development that is capable to provide Indonesia its national aviation needs.

Its development, in local Philippine parlance, goes reminiscent of the formation of the Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation or PADC, although Indonesia's aerospace efforts go beyond the repair and maintenance capabilities as they show they produce license-built aircraft aside from providing maintenance and repair support, as this is the case for South Korea's Korea Aerospace Industries or KAI or the Turkish Aerospace equivalent.

In 1965, a Presidential Decree established the fundamentals of Indonesian aviation industries, as it founded the KOPELAPIP (Komando Pelaksana Industri Pesawat Terbang) or Executive Command for Preparation of Aviation Industry and PN. Industri Pesawat Terbang Berdikari or the Berdikari Aircraft Industry, state-owned and organized entities that pave the way to the eventual creation of what is today PT Dirgantara Indonesia.

It took a lot of mergers and organizational restructuring until in 1976 that the IPTN or Industri Pesawat Terbang Nurtanio has founded, and it took until 1985 when it moved and became the Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara that still bear the IPTN acronym which it remained as it is until August 24,2000, when it is now named as the PT Dirgantara Indonesia or PTDI/Indonesian Aerospace.

From its foundation up to its current iteration, PT Dirgantara Indonesia has served a lot for the Indonesian Armed Forces, and it stands up as an Indonesian state-owned entity that produces license-built aircraft for the Indonesian government to use, so much that they have secured a license from Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm or MBB of Germany and EADS-CASA of Spain for the production of BO-105 helicopters and NC-212, the main topic of this article.

NC-212i, C-212 Aviocar, Philippine Air Force, EADS-CASA, Airbus Defense
Here is a C-212-200 Aviocar aircraft of the Spanish Air Force.
Via Wikimedia Commons.

While PT Dirgantara Indonesia manufactured the NC-212i Light Cargo Aircraft of the Philippine Air Force, the design origins of the aircraft traced back to the Spanish firm named EADS-CASA, which is currently known as a subsidiary of Airbus Defense that provided the Philippine Air Force its C-295 Medium Lift Aircraft that has the same logistical purpose as the NC-212i, only that the C-295 comes with larger capacity and longer range.

It started in the late 1960s when the Spanish Air Force needed replacement for their piston-powered cargo aircraft like the C-47 Douglas SkyTrain military transport, as they pushed their desire to modernize their fleet of aircraft into a more modern design that suits the Spanish's needs, such as having a twin-engine 18-seat cargo aircraft that EADS-CASA complied which led to the creation of the C-212 Aviocar. 

A prototype version of the aircraft first flew on March 26, 1971, where it replaced the older C-47 military transports since its introduction to the Spanish Air Force, whereby its design also introduced new features that are not available to the fleet of aircraft it replaces, such as a retractable rear ramp, while it comes with its own ease of maintenance features that the older aircraft also possesses.

Since then, around 292 C-212s have produced and are currently being used by both civilian and military organizations in 40 countries across the globe, of that includes the Philippine Air Force that now has the desire to get additional aircraft for its Light Lift Wing Aircraft Acquisition Project, with the current production of the aircraft now limited to Indonesia's PT Dirgantara (Indonesian Aerospace).

Apparently, there are four variants or "production forms" that defined the C-212 Aviocar, which are the series 100, series 200, series 300, and the series 400, whereby the first one served as the base production model that are intended for the Spanish Air Force's military aircraft, the second being a lengthened fuselage that Indonesia's PTDI also produced, while the latter two have increased capabilities and an improved engine output configuration, with the series 400 even offered as a maritime patrol aircraft.

Currently, PT Dirgantara Indonesia no longer produces the C-212-200 and the C-212-400 light cargo aircraft series and since then focuses their attention into the current NC-212i variant, itself a whole new improvement from the four presented variants or production forms that it is also the one that the Philippine Air Force currently uses and soon will have more upon the finalization and delivery of additional units.

Hence, the current light transport aircraft of the Philippine Air Force came as the result of the modernization program of the Spanish to replace their older C-47 aircraft with an equally reliable platform, and Indonesia's PTDI sought an opportunity to secure a license to produce, built, market, and improve the design of the aircraft, which is now known as the NC-212i aircraft that the air service branch fully enjoys in using for its operations.

NC-212i Specifications, NC-212i Features, Philippine Air Force NC-212i, PTDI, PT Dirgantara Indonesia
Features of the NC-212i Light Transport Aircraft. 
Via PT Dirgantara Indonesia Website.

Based on the information provided by PT Dirgantara Indonesia on their website, the aircraft's performance comprises the following - 

Maximum Take Off Weight - 8,100kg
Maximum Landing Weight - 8,100kg
Maximum Payload - 3,000kg
Fuel Capacity - 1,560kg

Take note that the final maximum payload depends on the final configuration selected by the customer, and the information given only pertains to the NC-212i product currently produced by the said Indonesian Aerospace company.

Comparing this to the EADS-CASA C-212-200 Aviocar specifications regarding weight, the NC-212i comes with a slightly better capability of carrying heavier cargo, as the former comes with 7,700 kg maximum takeoff weight and even near to the maximum payload of the NC-212i at around 8,000kg in military overload conditions. 

Getting further, the NC-212i as a final product really sees itself as an improvement over the original C-212-100 production model, as the cargo compartment of the former comes with 26 passengers plus 2 crew onboard, while the latter only comes with 18 passengers and their luggage, or only 16 fully equipped paratroopers for its launch customer, the Spanish Air Force.

Another specification to take note is its performance, whereby the NC-212i possesses the following attributes:

Maximum Cruise Speed (MTOW, ISA, 1,000ft) - 195kts
Long-Range Cruise Speed - 163kts
Range with Maximum Payload (3,000kg) - 207NM
Range with Maximum Usable Fuel with 2,060kg payload - 806NM
Service Ceiling (All Engine Operative) - 23,000ft
Service Ceiling (One Engine Inoperative) - 7,000ft
Long Range Fuel Flow - 647lb/hr
Takeoff Distance - 740meters
Landing Distance - 527meters

Completing it up, the aircraft's engines primarily comprises by two (2) Honeywell TPE-331-12JR-701C Turboprop engines with Maximum Continuous 970 SHP (Shaft Horsepower) rating.

The performance and specifications of the NC-212i Light Transport Aircraft fit its intended design specification, as its intended replacement in the Spanish Armed Forces, the C-47 SkyTrain (or DC-3 for civilian configuration) comes with varying specifications, with an almost similar speed, service ceiling, and quick maintenance fix, although the latter comes with a better weight capacity and range.

From its specifications, the NC-212i Light Transport Aircraft comes with its design purpose of having an aircraft that deploys on shorter range flights like on conducting cloud seeding or maritime patrol , or on airports and airbases designed with shorter runways while being more economically operated and maintained as opposed to its larger peers in the Philippine Air Force such as the C-2195s and C-130s, both designed for medium lift and heavy-lift operations.

Completing it up, the Philippine Air Force's decision to get more of these Light Transport Aircraft like the NC-212i comes to get an aircraft with differing capabilities and purposes in mind, as having these platforms really augment the existing two units of NC-212i aircraft in the inventory, doing its shorter flights and smaller cargo and troop configuration, while getting larger cargo aircraft assigned to a cross-country flight that transports troops and equipment in bulk.

A Philippine Air Force NC-212i on its final approach in Clark International Airport.
(c) John Andrei Policarpio, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Philippine Air Force may be about to get its contract for Light Lift Wing Aircraft Acquisition Project sealed soon, as the Department of Budget and Management or DBM has released a Special Release Order or SARO, enabling the project to push through as there is already the financial release intended for securing a 15% down payment, getting through the process that completes the terms and eventually starting the production of the units.

It goes to show that the Philippine Air Force is so far satisfied with its current two units of NC-212i delivered from Indonesia by PT Dirgantara Indonesia, and their desire of getting additional units gives relief to the ones currently in service as it may undergo its repair and maintenance schedule eventually that keeps it operational without disruptions as there are other aircraft of similar type that takes over its intended functions and duties.

This also shows Indonesia’s defense industries getting more involved than ever in providing the Armed Forces of the Philippines the military hardware it needs, as it is worthy to take note that the Philippine Navy secured another additional orders for its Landing Docks Acquisition Project, supplementing its two Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks that are both produced by Indonesia’s PT PAL Persero.

The development and production phase of the C-212 Aviocar ‌is astounding, as it accrues several users aside from the Spanish Air Force and it gives incentive to the likes of PT Dirgantara Indonesia in securing its foothold in the market for military and civilian aviation, as they secured the license from EADS-CASA, as the latter’s production lines no longer produces such type of aircraft and focuses on its production of the likes of the C-295 Medium Lift Aircraft that the Philippine Air Force also benefits on.

To end this up, the Philippine Air Force sees a promising prospect in adding its Light Lift Wing Aircraft in inventory, which is an attribute of its entire effort and of those of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in striving to fully modernize its forces, ranging from its organization to military units and composition, as well as rehabilitating and building new facilities and buying new military hardware, pursuing the ultimate desire of getting the minimum credible defense posture, and in the steps that making sure that the country is safe from both domestic and foreign threats.

(c) 2023 PDA.

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