Philippines confirms T/A-50 purchase

JDW Correspondent


The Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) has chosen the Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) T/A-50 to fulfill the Philippine Air Force's (PAF's) requirement for a light attack Trainer.

Philippine officials said they would like to have two of 12 T/A-50s in country immediately to begin pilot training.
  • The Philippines has announced the acquisition of 12 KAI T/A-50 light attack/ lead-in-fighter trainers in its first fast jet procurement in years

  • Manila is also in negotiations to buy second-hand Italian Navy frigates and corvettes and utility/light attack helicopters from France and Italy

The government has requested the delivery of 12 aircraft from KAI, the DND said in an announcement on 1 August in Manila. It also announced that negotiations had almost finished for the purchase of two Maestrale-class frigates from the Italian Navy and released details of plans to procure four Eurocopter AS 550 Fennecs for the PAF, with an option for a further six.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the Philippines would request the immediate delivery of two T/A-50s to expedite training.

"We plan to negotiate so we can get the immediate delivery of two airframes to start the long-overdue process for training so that when the rest of the 10 arrive, our pilots get out there and start training,"Gazmin said.

The T/A-50 is an armed version of the T-50 Golden Eagle lead-in fighter trainer.It is equipped with a General Dynamics M197 20mm three-barrel Gatling-type internal cannon and an ELTA EL/M-2032 fire control radar, and has achieved weapons certification for the Raytheon AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.

The terms of the deal were not announced. However, Indonesia signed a contract for 16 T/A-50s in May 2011 valued at approximately USD400 million.

Gazmin said the Maestrale-class frigates to be retired by Italy will boost Manila's ability to defend its territorial waters, particularly the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). The two Italian vessels, which would be the Philippines's first missile-armed and modern anti-submarine warfare (ASW)-capable ships, are expected to be part of the government-to-government agreement that is now being finalized. Gazmin said the frigates could arrive in the country after being refurbished in late 2013.

Officials are waiting for the enactment of the PHP75 billion (USD1.7 billion) Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization law -  which has already been passed by both houses of Congress and is now awaiting specific stem selection, Which Gazmin said is expected by the end of 2012 - to continue negotiations with Italy. Along with the two frigates, which are worth PHP 11.7 billion, negotiations are under way for two Minerva- class corvettes or other offshore patrol craft, which the Italians are also offering to Manila.
Employees work on a TA-50 trainer jet on the production line of the Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. plant in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province. (Bloomberg)

IHS Jane's has also learnt that the Philippine Navy is evaluating Oto Melara's advanced 76mm smart munitions, such as the DART (Driven Ammunition Reduced Time of Flight) guided projectile, for its fleet of former UK Royal Navy Peacock-class patrol vessels and its ex-US Coast Guard Hamilton-class cutter.

DND spokesman and Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Galvez said that due to availability issues with the preferred option - the AW109E Power Attack Helicopter - Manila had chosen to procure four AS 550 Fennecs this year. The Fennecs are reportedly part of a cancelled or reduced order from an unspecified Middle Eastern Country that IHS Jane's believes could be Libya. In 2007 Paris said it was in negotiations to sell 10 Fennecs to Tripoli as part of a EUR4 billion (USD4.8 billion) package that also included 14 Dassault Rafale multirole fighters, eight Eurocopter Tiger combat helicopters and 15 EC 725 transport helicopters.

Galvez said the Fennecs were needed urgently to provide air cover for Philippine forces conducting counter-terrorism and insurgency operations while the PAF's McDonnell Douglas MD530 Defender light attack helicopters are upgraded under a service-life extension programme (SLEP).

The commander of the PAF said the AW109s would be procured at a later date and would be operated by the Philippine Marines/Navy.

Gazmin said that 60 per cent of 140 contracts negotiated under the AFP's recapitalization programme have been agreed, with the rest dependent on the enactment of the AFP modernization law. According to the spokesman, by the end of 2012 Manila also expects the delivery of 21 refurbished UH-1H helicopters, "two to four"attack helicopters and two multipurpose assault craft.

A version of this article appeared August 8, 2012, on page 4 in the U.K. edition of IHS Jane's Defense Weekly, with the headline: Philippines confirms T/A-50 purchase.

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