By Ben Cal
The Philippine Air Force (PAF) will get 25 more helicopters late this year to augment its depleting air assets.
This was announced during the Air Power Symposium 2012 held at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia in Pasay City on Friday as part of its preparation for the forthcoming 65th PAF anniversary celebration on July 6.
The symposium was hosted by Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino G. de la Cruz, PAF commanding general.
This year’s theme was “Mobilizing Air Power for the Nation’s Multi-Dimensional Challenges.”
De la Cruz said four of the helicopters will be the last of the eight brand-new combat utility Sokol choppers the Department of National Defense ordered from PZL Swidnik of Poland.
The arrival of the final four Sokol helicopters will boost the firepower of the PAF which is in dire need of air assets, particularly fighter jets.
PZL Swidnik is the largest helicopter manufacturer in Poland.
The Sokol helicopter can carry 14 persons, including the pilot and co-pilot and has a maximum speed of 260 kilometers per hour and a range of 745 kilometers non-stop.
Each Sokol is armed with a variety of weapons such as air-to-ground rockets, air-to-air missiles, M-60 machine guns and 20mm cannons and climbs to an altitude of 19,680 feet.
The contract price of the Sokol choppers was P3 billion.
On the other hand, 21 refurbished UH-1H “Huey” helicopters will also be delivered in December this year.
“Hueys” are not only the workhorse of the military’s counter-insurgency operations in ferrying troops to combat areas but are also used during disasters, carrying food, water and medicines for victims stranded in remote areas.
Some of the 21 “Huey” helicopters were refurbished in the United States and the others were done by PAF engineers and aircraft mechanics.
The acquisition of new combat helicopters is part of the Modernization Program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
During the day-long affair, De la Cruz said the symposium, which is an annual event of the Air Force since 1982, except for some broken years, “is designed primarily to discuss and promote the value of air power to a wider constituency.”
But for 2012, the forum was unique as it included the holding of “a 5-in-1 activity — an academic forum, an air power symposium, a defense exhibit, a historical photo display, and the first Youth LEAP or Youth Leader Exchange for Air Power gathering.”
“We are holding this event no longer to cater mainly to an internal audience or our friends in aviation, but to a greater multi-sectoral representation of national security stakeholders and partners.”
De la Cruz stressed the importance of air power in the country’s defense.
“Today we all live in a highly complex and unpredictable security environment, and that the threats we face demand from us no easy solutions.”
Taking advantage of today’s new technology, De la Cruz allowed questions asked via the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, or mobile phones.
The questions were flashed on the wide screen during the question-and-answer portion of the symposium that turned out to be more lively.