Air Force returns to supersonic jet age
The military is planning to utilize its newly acquired FA-50 fighter jets in several air bases in the country in a bid to bring back the “supersonic jet age” of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said they are eyeing air bases in Pampanga, Zambales and Palawan where the new FA-50 lead-in fighter trainer jets from South Korea will be making their home.
These are the Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga, in Subic Bay, Zambales, and the Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
Two FA-50 lead-in fighter trainer jets bought from the Korea Aerospace Industries will be arriving on Saturday at Clark Air Base, officially becoming a property of the PAF.
Gazmin and PAF commanding general Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado are expected to welcome the arrival of the jets at the Air Force City Park in Clark Air Base, Pampanga.
Two Korean pilots will be bringing the jets in from South Korea, after which there will be an acceptance flight. Later on, these will be turned over to the PAF.
The military has readied funds for the maintenance of the FA-50 fighter jets as part of its procurement program.
Three PAF pilots who went to South Korea for several months to train in piloting the FA-50 fighter jets will be returning soon to the Philippines.
“The jets will undergo an acceptance process, and then upon completion, our pilots will be the one to pilot these jets,” Gazmin said.
The two jets are the first of the PAF’s 12 fighter jets ordered from Korea Aerospace Industries worth P18.9 billion.
The rest of the fighter trainer jets are set to be delivered by 2017 and is said to be the biggest military upgrade so far undertaken by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The FA-50 has a top speed of Mach 1.5, or one and a half times the speed of sound. It can be fitted with air-to-air missiles, heat-seeking missiles and light automatic cannons.
It may be recalled that in 2005, the PAF retired its seven remaining Northrop F-5 Tiger jet fighters because of aging airframes and lack of spare parts.
For 40 years, the F-5 jets used to act as the country’s sole interceptor aircraft, aided briefly by the Mach 2 capable Vought F-8 “Crusader” in the 1980s.
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