July 3, 2011
The Philippine Air Force will have new six trainer jet fighters for interdiction missions against intruders into Philippine waters and air space, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Friday at the Air Force’s 64th anniversary celebrations.
The marching orders to acquire immediately new trainers came from President Benigno Aquino after Russian made Chinese SU-27 intruded into Philippine Airspace and harassed two PAF aircraft that were conducting reconnaissance patrol and another oil exploration team at least nine times off Palawan region.
A team from the Philippine Air Force recommended an initial six multi-role planes to be acquired within the term of President Benigno Aquino III says Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. The PAF will use it as advanced lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT).
He said the Air Force was looking at either Korea’s TA-50 Golden Eagle or Italy’s M-346, to be bidded out next year.
The TA-50 is a joint venture program of Korea Aerospace Industrie (KAI) and Lockheed Martin of the United States, with a price tag of USD $25 million, close to the F-16C/D variants valued at USD $27 million from US Air Force stocks. A brand new F-16 cost USD $55 million. The TA-50 Golden Eagle design was largely derived from the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, being similar on the use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons system.
Meanwhile, the Italian made Alenia Aermacchi M-346 of the Finmeccanica Group is a twin engine, two seat aircraft, a derivative of the Russian Yakovlev Yak-130. It has a price tag of USD$20 million.
The Aermacchi M-346 has a “Fly Away” price tag of about USD $15 million per plane, while the TA-50 settles at USD $21 million based on Singapore and Indonesia offer.
The T-50 and M-346 are considered to be among the best advanced trainer jets on the global market. Both Singapore and the UAE bought the M-346 for their training needs while Indonesia opted for the T-50.
The trainer aircraft is intended to ensure pilots to be properly trained to fly new generation fighters like the F-16 or F-18.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week to discuss military deals with US surplus hardware which include a fighter aircraft affordable to the Philippines.
Industry insider at the Department of Defense quoted the aircraft as either F-16 or F-18 which Del Rosario gave US defense officials depending upon the award of the trainer jets next year. The PAF is expected to have its first Multi Role Fighter (MRF) ready by 2016.