New PAF fighter jets escort presidential plane
Hail to the Chief.
Two newly acquired FA-50 supersonic trainer fighter jets showed themselves off to President Benigno Aquino III on Friday by escorting the presidential plane flying him back to Manila after he had attended summit talks in the United States.
From the window of his plane, the Commander in Chief watched the fighter jets fly beside the Philippine Airlines Airbus 373 as the presidential aircraft flew over Polillo Island in the northeastern region.
It was a sight no one thought they would see again and cheers broke inside the presidential plane. It has been more than 10 years since the Philippine Air Force decommissioned its last fighter jets.
“Everyone was swelling with pride,” a source told the Inquirer, describing the reaction of Mr. Aquino when he saw the jets.
Mr. Aquino congratulated Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for being able to implement the Armed Forces modernization program.
Mr. Aquino arrived on Friday from the United States where he attended a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United States on the security situation in the region in the face of China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., who was with the President, said the FA-50 jets escorted PR 001 carrying Mr. Aquino “from the airspace above Polillo Island as (it) made its approach” before it landed at the airport.
“The fighter jets took off from Clark Field Air Base. They made contact with the presidential flight at 6:37 a.m. (and it) eventually landed at 7:05 a.m.,” said Coloma.
The two jets were delivered by Korea Aerospace Industries last November, the first of 12 fighter jets the PAF acquired as part of the military’s modernization program.
The delivery of the rest of the full squadron, worth P18.9 billion, will be completed in 2017.
The two brand-new supersonic fighter jets were piloted by airmen from the Air Defense Wing.
Air Force spokesperson Col. Enrico Canaya said the traditional role of escorting heads of state traveling through the country’s airspace was previously done by the F-5 Tiger fighter jets.
The F-5 jets were decommissioned in 2005.
Canaya said the last time the Air Force escorted a Philippine head of state was in 2005 when its F-5 fighters were still operational. TVJ
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