Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project
Super Cobra Deal
The Philippine Air Force will be adding 6-8 brand new Bell AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters to its fleet next year in a defense deal worth $68 million (3.2 billion pesos) as part of a negotiated deal with the United States Government.
President Gloria Arroyo has ordered the Defense Department headed by Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. to expedite the acquisition of brand-new attack helicopters after meeting with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, so that these could be delivered before she steps down in 2010.
He said the Air Force was given the choice to either buy MG-530, the upgraded version of the current MG-520 already in use by the military, or the Super Cobra attack helicopters used by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I cannot give you for now details about the specifications of a Super Cobra but I can assure you this is a very powerful attack aircraft with multiple weapons,” Romero said.
The Bell attack helicopter is worth $10 million dollars at list price. But a Defense official privy to the deal but doesn't have the permission to speak on the transaction said that the Philippines will received 8 export equipment should the government decides for its procurement. Inside sources diclosed that the procurement plan will be included in the agenda between President's Arroyo and Obama discussion in July 30 on her state visit to Washington to seal the deal.
The Air Force had been given three options to consider, the first of which is whether to retain the technical specifications of what they want for an attack helicopter, or reduce the number of aircraft they need to half, or buy second-hand MG-530 aircraft.
The choice was made apparent after the failed bidding on the AHAP procurements.
But if the technical specifications would be changed, this needs the approval of Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro which is unlikely after the scandal that rigged its bidding committee, which led to the cancellations of NCAP procurments, and if the option is to purchase refurbished units, this should be approved by the President.
The last two options however appeared to be a close door to the President having manifested the purchase of brand new attack equipments for the Air Force after getting support from Secretary Gates.
The planned purchase of 1.2 Billion attack helicopters was supposed to have been delivered last year but was temporarily shelved by Secretary Teodoro and the previous award subsequently nullified after the Department’s awards and bidding committee (BAC) found merits in the complaint by a losing bidder, Poland's PZL-Swidnik, of anomalous bidding for an order that was pegged at that time at P1.2 billion ($30 million) for six night-capable attack helicopters. Investigators later found credence of the complaint to be not in accordance with approved Air Force Specifications .
At the heart of the issue is a requirement for the selected helicopter to have a payload of at least 1,360kg (3,000lb). PZL-Swidnik, which had offered its Kania design has a Max takeoff weight of 3,550 kg (7,826 lb) more than the minimum specifications but the MG530F offered by Asian Aerospace which had a Max takeoff weight of 1,361 kg (3,000 lbs) won despite shortcomings in MDHI's bid. The MG530F - a military version of the MD530F - has a payload of only about 680kg which is too light as compared to the competition.
Ariston delos Reyes, an undersecretary at the Philippines Department of Defense who is leading the investigation found the allegations of corruption in the selection of the MD Helicopters MG530F true in a report submitted to Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. on the first week of February 2009. Asian Aerospace was also banned from participating in government projects for at least one year with a warning of permanentcy on the next infraction.
The selection committee members, comprising of both DND and PAF officials appeared to extrapolate the MG530 capacity by projecting higher payloads but cannot ascertained when asked how "they exactly arrived at that conclusion" which appears to be without basis at all.
Administrative and criminal charges were readied and filed against those responsible. General Romero was among those investigated in connection with the anomalous bidding. Several officials of the Department of National Defense are now facing graft and falsification charges before the Ombudsman over the scrapped bidding.
NCAP and AHAP purposely made failures?
Under the NCAP procurement, the Air Force should have acquired six (6) night capable attack helicopters but its bidding failed due to incompetence and machinations of some of its technical evaluation committee with inclination to a local supplier affiliated with local agent of Douglas Company.
While under the AHAP procurement plan, The Air Force is to acquire fourteen (14) brand-new Attack Helicopters as part of the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) No. D-07-06412 for FY-2007 and SARO No. D-07-05905, in accordance with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program.
These helicopters is supposed to be capable of performing Close Air Support (CAS) during day and night, and navigate safely during inadvertent Instrument Meteorological Condition (IMC). Furthermore, they shall be equipped with armaments and avionics systems suitable for said flying conditions.
Second failed bidding and options.
On March 10, 2009, the second bidding for the night-capable attack helicopters failed again for lack of qualified bidders to the proposed specifications.
For this reason, Teodoro hinted that following the failure of the procurement process, they are considering the purchase of second-hand helicopters with the same night capability to provide the air force with the same number of units it needs for its operations and that means entering into a negotiated deal with foreign governments.
“If the President approves it, we could buy second hand helicopters instead of new ones with the P3.2 billion that we have for that,”says Secretary Teodoro.
Another option, Teodoro said, is to recommend for the lowering of the lot requirement for the said aircraft to make the budget fit the new price in the market, which he did not specify.
“One option is to adjust the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO), and lessen the required number of units because of the budget that we have,” he said.
Teodoro said the air force needs the helicopters for firepower platform that could withstand the rigors of operations as well as in transporting troops and essential equipment needed in the frontlines.
Teodoro said further that a top-of-the-line attack helicopter presently costs around $83 million, which is about P3.7 billion. The best choice would probably be the Cobra helicopter pegged at $10 million. The President also has made her mind on what is to be bought.
The PAF has 24 Nomads, 18 OV-10 “Bronco,” 12 MG-520 attack helicopters, four C-130 “Hercules” transports and three squadrons of UH-1H helicopters.
He said there really is a present need for the AFP to procure helicopters and cargo planes, especially now that the air force only has two C-130 cargo plane working after the other one crashed in Davao last year.
The multi-billion peso Capability Upgrade Program (CUP) is a component of the Philippine Defense Reform Program instituted in 2003 as a comprehensive project aimed at enhancing the equipment and capability of the AFP within a period of five years, starting from 2005 to 2010.
AH-1W Super Cobra
The AH-1W is a twin-engined upgraded and improved AH-1 flown by the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Super Cobras are also in service the Tawainese and Turkish militaries. The AH-1 'Whiskey Cobra' has enhanced avionics and can carry a wider range of weapons than the standard AH-1.
The AH-1W has been in service with the USMC since 1985. 4 Squadrons of Super Cobras accompianed the USMC's push into Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War where they proved highly effective in the anti-armor role. 1 sortie alone resulted in 60 iraqi tanks destroyed.
It's projected that the Super Cobra will stay in service for another 10 years until it is completely replaced by the AH-1Z (a further set of upgrades to the AH-1, including 5-blade rotors, advanced sensors and countermeasures)
USMC AH-1W super cobra
|AH-1W FEATURES |
AH-1W Super Cobra Specifications
|Crew||2 - With Pilot seated above and behind Gunner|
|Engines||2 1212-kW General Electric T700-GE-401 turboshafts |
|Dimensions||L - 58 ft |
W (wingspan) - 10ft 7inches
H - 14ft 2 inches
|Weights||4627 kg (empty) |
6691 kg (max loudout)
|Max Speed||352 kph|
|Armament||M197 three barrel 20 mm cannon (750 rounds) @ 650 rounds per minute |
TOW wire guided missiles
Hellfire laser-guided anti-tank missiles
Sidewinder air-to-air missiles
|Avionics||Night Targeting System (NTS) (FLIR, laser-designator) |
AN/APR-39(V)2 Radar Warning Receiver
AN/ALE-39 chaff and flare dispensor