US made defense radar to be operational next year

As PAF adds nine more aircraft to its inventory

June 22, 2012

The Philippine Air Force will add another six  fixed-wing aircraft from Brazil on top of the 12 Lead-in/ Fighter Trainers (LIFT) jets from Korea to their inventory, reports from DND said.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that these aircraft are needed to protect Philippine airspace and they will be procured through Government to Government (G2G) contracts.

Gazmin said that G2G transactions will eliminate middlemen, thereby resulting in cheaper acquisition prices for the planes.

Another two light lifts and one special mission aircraft from Italy will also be procured using the same G2G deals.

Gazmin  said the government will end up saving money due to their decision to turn the purchase of military hardware into a government to government transaction.

“There is no longer middleman in government-to-government, so the price will not be padded because there is no more need for the commission of the middleman,” says Gazmin.

Gazmin made the statement amid concerns of corruption aired by Bayan-Representative Teddy Casino in the purchase of jet fighters from South Korea since the procurement will no longer undergo the normal bidding process.

The state of the art defense radar system from the United States will also start operating next year.

"The acquisition of this plane, and the operation of the new and state of the art radar system furnished by the US is expected to be announced on July 2012" PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said.

The defense department plans to sign other military contracts by July 31 to implement 138 military modernization projects over the next five years.

Recent announcement from the Pentagon during President Aquino's visit to Washington, said the US will provide a powerful land-based radar to the Philippines. 

The radar system dubbed as “watch center” will track ships and aircraft off the Philippine archipelago’s coastline, and is connected to US servers in real time,  according to a Pentagon spokesperson.

“We are in the initial planning stages of assisting the Philippines with a National Coast Watch Center,”  says Major Catherine Wilkinson.

The United States will be funding the construction of the National Coast Watch Center, and share surveillance and intelligence data with the Philippines.

Felix K. Chang, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, called a radar “a significant step in improving the Philippines’ situational awareness off its coasts.” He said Manila’s defenses are so poor that often it has “only learned about foreign activities after the fact.”

Rick Fisher, an Asian security expert at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Alexandria, said a powerful land-based radar could be used jointly by the Philippines, the United States and other allies to quickly detect Chinese military movements in the region. That would fill a void that has existed since the U.S. military was evicted from Subic Bay and Clark two decades ago.

Such a radar could provide “an almost instant way of keeping the Chinese honest,” Fisher said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, stated in her public remarks at the conclusion of President Aquino's meeting in Washington that while “the United States does not take a position on the competing territorial claims in the South China Sea” dispute, in practice however, Washington has been actively undermining Chinese claims. 

“We are also working closely together to increase information and intelligence exchanges and coordination on maritime domain issues. And in this context, I’m pleased to announce today that the United States will support the construction, outfitting, and training of a new National Coast Watch Center in the Philippines.”

Zhongyong Long, a military expert from China's Nanjing Army Command College said in an interview with the Global Times, a Beijing-based newspaper, that the U.S. military, although not yet disclosing the specific model for the radar intended for the Philippines, would be the ITT Coastal Defense Radar systems, or the LCR-2020, capable of electronic counter-countermeasures. ITT (International Telephone & Telegraph) is a company based in New York engaged in military defense.

The LCR-2020 radar is not subject to inclement weather or low visibility, and in a very short period of time to cover the broad waters, and thus is a particularly effective strengthening of offshore intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capability means.

Incorporating Doppler filtering to mitigate clutter returns and provide velocity estimates for all targets, the system offers three alternative scan modes – normal, sea and extended range – and can achieve (using frequency diversity gates) tracking out to a maximum instrumented range of 185km.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian-made Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano, also named ALX or A-29 has been chosen to replace a fleet of OV-10 Broncos, due to its flexibility to perform a broad range of missions, including light attack, surveillance, air-to-air interception, and counter insurgency(COIN). 

Indonesia, an ASEAN country, recently ordered 12 aircraft from the same manufacturer for light attack, counter insurgency , close air support, and aerial reconnaissance missions in low threat environments. It also ordered the same set of jets from South Korea.

Okol said the PAF will use the A-29 for close air support and aerial reconnaissance platforms. 

"Super Tucano is purposely built for counter-insurgency and light air support missions," says the spokesman.

The nine new aircraft are intended for domestic threats. Additional details of the new air assets were not disclosed.

Meanwhile, two refurbished C-130 plane (from the US) will join the Air Force in July (Serial No. 4704), while another one repaired in Clark (Serial No. 3633) will be back for active duty in October.

By November, another set of 4 brand-new Sokol combat utility helicopters from PZL Swidnik SA.are expected to arrive in November.

There are only 95 full-mission capable aircraft in the PAF inventory out of the total 334, with 81 needing repairs, and 167 are up for scraps.

CAA Chief Axed

Hotchkiss in!

June 21, 2012

The Director General of Civil Aviation Authority (CAAP) was sacked last week by President Aquino after failing to address long-standing safety oversight issues amidst FAA audit fiasco .

Ramon S. Gutierrez will be replaced by William K. Hotchkiss III effective June 30. Hotchkiss, 69, served as commanding general of the Philippine Air Force from 1996 to 1999.

DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas previously walked out in disgust during an exit conference on January 27, 2012 by Operations Inspector Specialist Jacques Astre, head of the FAA technical team, when he was mislead by CAAP officials as to its readiness to take on the FAA audit. 

Secretary Roxas was infuriated with the results presented by Astre, berating the CAAP for failing to adequately prepare for the FAA review before walking out of the meeting. He labeled CAAP management incompetent for failure to address the  Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) deficiencies.

Secretary Roxas said Hotchkiss’ possess excellent record in public service as well as in the private sector and they hoped that he would spell difference in the reforms to be undertaken at CAAP.

“Hotchkiss brings to CAAP his comprehensive air operations experience and proven people management skills,” Roxas said.

“A staunch advocate of discipline, good work ethic, and prioritizing safety in air flights, he fits the bill in overseeing the operations of CAAP.” adds Roxas.
The International Aviation Safety Assessment Program (IASA Program) is a program established by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 1992 designed to appreciate a country's ability to adhere to standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance. 

Its TA-50 For PAF

As Korea approved Soft Loans valued at $560 Millions for PAF jets

June 20, 2012

Manila - The Philippine Air Force (PAF) will be flying 12 lead-in fighter trainers (LIFT) from South Korea in two years time, says Voltaire Gazmin, Secretary of National Defense (DND) amidst tension in the South China Sea.

The TA-50s is expected to be delivered by 2013 valued at half -billion US dollars, funded mostly from Korean grants.

The Philippines has been asking the Korean government if they can provide soft loans for jet aircraft procurement as the country doesn't have enough cash to acquire multi-role trainer jets for the PAF.

Mr. Aquino and Lee previously discussed during his visit in November 2011 how Korea could help the Philippines in establishing the minimum defense capability buildup of the country.

“I expressed to President Lee the interest of the Philippines to gain some specific defense articles such as military-grade helicopters, boats and aircraft,” Mr. Aquino said during a joint news conference held on November 21.

In the press conference, Lee did not disclose what specific request were made, but the South Korean government representative at the meeting confirmed that TA-50 was indeed offered for Aquino's consideration, with the Korean government shouldering the cost of procurement for the jets of the Philippine Air Force.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak spoke  in MalacaƱang recently during a three-day state visit. JOAN BONDOC
It is now confirmed that during the visit, South Korea did signed an agreement to provide soft loans of up to $500 million to the Philippines. The diplomatic communique was received by Office of the President last week. No further details were immediately known until they were announced yesterday.

The concessional loans would come from the Economic Development Cooperation Fund and disbursed through the Export-Import Bank of Korea from this year until 2013, the two countries said.

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 a piece. Those offered to the Philippines has a price tag of USD $28 Million.

The Philippine Air Force shopped for at least six brand new trainer jet fighters and shortlisted the lists to either Korea’s TA-50 Golden Eagle or Italy’s M-346. It received an immediate boost in the arm when it got a dozen instead.

Z2, 5J told only PAL has rights to fly Middle East

June 15, 2012

The Civil Aeronautics Board has told Zest Airways and Cebu Pacific that flight entitlements to the Middle East are closed, and unless a new bilateral agreements are open they cannot fly there, says CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla.

The rights to fly between destinations in the Philippines and Middle East belong to Philippine Airlines (PAL) and all the flight entitlements were taken by them and their airline partners.

“For example, in the UAE, we have total of 14 weekly flights from Dubai and Manila (7 for PAL and 7 for Emirates), even if PAL is not flying their plane in Dubai, they have code share agreements with Emirates effectively covering the 14 flights. If you noticed, Emirates is flying twice daily with PAL tags on them, so PAL is actually using those entitlements” says Arcilla.

“Its the same reason for the other Gulf States where PAL and their foreign partners owned all the rights. Thats why we denied their request because all the entitlements were awarded. You cannot just revoke the entitlements like that because the other foreign airline will be affected.” Arcilla adds.

Spirit of Manila, an airline based in Clark, wasn't able to launch flight to the middle east either because of the same reason, lack of authority to transport passengers.

Cebu Pacific and Zest Air earlier requested CAB to re-allocate to it some of the flight entitlements the government has negotiated with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which was awarded to PAL saying that they never used the entitlements given to them.

Arcilla said that while flights to Saudi Arabia are not presently code-shared, PAL isn't giving up on them as shown on their recent flights which was temporarily suspended in April 2 last year due to aircraft shortage problem.

PAL said that Saudi Aviation authorities allowed them to use only three aircraft registries, a Boeing 747 and two Airbus 330s, which is a logistical nightmare to the airline which frequently interchange aircraft to maximise efficiency.

According to the airline, the B747 assigned for the middle east sometimes cover flights to north America when one B747 is down on maintenance issues, while another assigned A330s sometimes cover flight to Japan and Korea to relieve another A330 or A340 which has maintenance issues or being used for by the President on long haul flights.

The airline said they are addressing the problem with the introduction of two new Boeing 777 on their fleet this year.

DOTC to finish upgrade of 8 provincial airports

Earmarks 370 Million for project completion

June 14, 2012

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is set to complete airport development projects in the Cities of Butuan, Cotabato, Pagadian and Dipolog, including developments for San Vicente airport in Palawan, Sanga-Sanga airport in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi and Maasin airport in Southern Leyte with project cost estimating P370.4 million.

"The government is committed to improve the airports in these areas where trade and tourism have been in an upswing for the past year," Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas said.

DOTC is allocating P63.9 million for the Sanga-Sanga airport, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi for site development (2,970 sq.m.) and construction of new passenger terminal building (one storey, 1,110 sq.m. PTB), expansion of apron (8,000 sq.m.), and construction of drainage system (94 l.m.). The airport serves A320 and A319 flights from Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines to Zamboanga transporting 21,500 passengers in 2011.

San Vicente airport will also receive P62.7-million for construction of passenger terminal building (1,350 sq. m.), runway extension with slope protection (6,030 sq. m.), hill obstruction removal (32,954 cu.m.), construction of fire station building (155 sq. m.), and construction of elevated 2,500-gallon water tank.

Meanwhile, Cotabato airport was allocated P58.1-million for widening of its taxiway (3,263 sq.m.) and runway (7,700 sq.m.) to ICAO standards, as well as construction of new perimeter fence (2,190 l.m.).

In Dipolog airport, another P55.2 million will be allocated for the completion of new passenger terminal building (one storey PTB, 2,111 sq.m.), while P45.5 million is allocated for Butuan airport for apron expansion (5,000 sq.m.), improvement and expansion of vehicle parking area (6,200 sq.m.), construction of concrete hollow block fence (2,730 l.m.), and construction of  runway drainage system (420 l.m.). Butuan Airport registered 385,000 passengers and Dipolog airport handled 166,000 passengers in 2011, respectively.

Pagadian Airport will also receive P42 million for rehabilitation and improvement of passenger terminal building (one storey PTB, 977 sq.m.), runway extension (1,584 sq.m.), widening of taxiway (2,100 sq.m.), improvement and expansion of vehicle parking area (5,337 sq.m.), construction of perimeter fence (2,160 l.m.), and construction of drainage system (398 l.m.), while the airport in Maasin will have P43.4 million for construction of runway subgrade extension (320 meters long by 30 meters wide) and runway strip pavement (32,000 sq.m.) to enable it to handle bigger turboprop aircraft for passenger traffic. Pagadian airport which recently opened in 2010 is being served by Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines for flights to Cebu and Manila handling 118,000 passengers in 2011, while there exist no passenger flights to Maasin.

DOTC recently released P370 million for Daraga international airport project and has completed bidding for Catarman Airport PTB expansion project and Borongan airport runway concreting project valued at P15 million respectively.

Its A330 for Zest Air. Drops triple seven bid

To fly Australia an Saudi Arabia by 2013

June 8, 2012 
Philippine budget carrier Zest Airways will offer flights to Australia and Saudi Arabia next year as it awaits delivery of four (4) Airbus A330-300 from aircraft lessors by summer next year, documents from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) showed.

The airline’s new chief marketing and sales officer Alfredo Herrera said they hoped to fly by July next year.

The carrier intends to fly to Melbourne five times a week, preempting Cebu Pacific flights by three months, and thrice weekly flight to Riyadh and Dammam in Saudi Arabia, and Manama, Bahrain.

Herrera said more direct international flights from Manila are scheduled this year as they introduce Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore routes to their network.  

He said the carrier is set to start flights from Manila to Incheon, South Korea on June 28, and to launch flights from Manila to Shanghai in China on July 25 (originally slated for June 22), with Manila to Kuala Lumpur sometime in October. 

Zest Airways currently operates a fleet 14 aircraft comprising four Xian MA-60 turboprops, nine Airbus A320 and one Airbus A319 for domestic and international flights, which include services to Incheon, South Korea; Jinjiang,Quanzhou and Shanghai, China; and Taipei, Taiwan from points in Kalibo and Cebu. They have two more A320 orders for delivery in 2012.

Zest Air carried 2.1 million domestic passengers and 220,000 international passengers in 2011 with gross revenue of $140 million dollars.

“This year we are looking at roughly about 500,000 international passengers and around 2.7 million in domestic” says Herrera who aims for its total number of passengers to reach between three to 3.5 million.

Zest Air started operations in 1996 as Asian Spirit and was renamed Zest Airways in September 2008. It is the fourth largest carrier in the Philippines.

Tiger adds 3 A320's for Domestic Operations

As SEAIR Expands

June 6, 2012

Singapore - Low-cost carrier Tiger Airways Holdings Ltd. (Tiger) is adding three (3) Airbus 320's to Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAIR) for its operation in the Philippines as it finalise a sale and purchase agreement to acquire 40% of the airline for USD7 million. The investment will be held through Tiger’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Roar Aviation II Pte Ltd.

In a statement, the airline said that its new plane will start arriving by the fourth week of July and third week of August, and will be operated by Southeast Asia Airlines (SEAIR) for its domestic and international operations.

"The investment in SEAir is in-line with our strategy to develop the business into a pan-Asian one, one that will enable us to leverage on the strength of our Singapore base and scale up the size of our business across the region," said Tiger's chief executive officer Chin Yau Seng, in a statement. 

SEAIR will fly the new A320 jets to major domestic points in the Philippines. It recently announced the commencement of flight to Cebu starting July 31 followed by Tacloban, Kalibo, Iloilo and Puerto Princesa out of Ninoy Aquino International Airport's Terminal 4. It will also fly to Bacolod, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Tagbilaran before yearends.

"This is SEAIR’s largest network expansion" says airline President Avelino Zapanta who added that they were not affected by the moratorium of new flights out of NAIA because the route they applied was suspended in 2010 due to cabotage complaints by other carriers. The ban was lifted in 2011 but it is only now that they are using the landing rights out of NAIA because of delay in regulatory approvals.

"That is one advantage our competitor never got" says Zapanta, referring to Air Asia Philippines.

"We expect these new routes to contribute one million passengers annually as we add new seven domestic destinations," he added.

SEAir carried 210,670 passengers on international flights and 124,468 for domestic flights in 2011. However, its domestic market share has been dwindling fast standing at the first quarter of 2012 at 10,037 passengers, down by 78.59% from last year’s figure of 46,879.

Meanwhile, its international passenger traffic is up by 80.67% from last year’s figure of 35,509 recording 64,157 international passengers from January to March this year.

The airline operates flights to Batanes, Caticlan, and Tablas using 4 dornier 328 Turboprops. It also fly to Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Kota Kinabalu from Clark Airport using 2 Airbus A319s under the Tiger Partner Airline programme.

Tiger’s investment in the Philippines is the second joint venture it entered in Asia, following its acquisition of a 33% stake in Indonesia’s Mandala Airlines in January 2012.