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Philippine Air Force enhancing counterinsurgency, anti-terrorism capabilities with attack helicopters

Maria T. Reyes

As part of its ongoing defense modernization, the Philippines is scheduled to receive two additional Turkish-made T129 ATAK helicopters in early 2023. The U.S. $269 million contract, which included the delivery of four T129s in 2022, is intended to strengthen the nation’s internal security measures against insurgencies and terrorism, as well as contribute to its external defense activities.

“The T129’s roles range from close air support, precision strike, deep strike, suppression of enemy air defense, security/urban warfare and air-to-air warfare,” Philippine Air Force (PAF) spokesperson Col. Maria Consuelo Castillo told FORUM. “Notably, it is an all-weather platform and is designed for advanced attack and reconnaissance missions … in both day and night conditions.”

The procurement package includes training and logistics support, Castillo said, and an initial group of PAF pilots has undergone basic training and instruction on the T129s in Turkey, with more to follow.

“As it is in any case of procurement of new and sophisticated platforms, the integration or phasing-in posts possible challenges in manpower, training and sustainment,” Castillo said. “This new acquisition requires the PAF to dedicate more pilots and maintenance crew to fly and maintain the platforms for its day and night operations. Aside from the initial training of aircrew, recurrent training will have to be programmed on a regular basis. Sustainment of operations will also have to be ensured through efficient service and logistical support.”

The six-helicopter acquisition is part of the Horizon 2 component of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) modernization program, according to the country’s National Defense Department. The T129s will be a force multiplier in the battlefield, supporting ground and maritime operations as assets of the PAF’s 15th Strike Wing. They will supplement the PAF’s fleet of armed, light observation and transport helicopters, as well as two Bell AH-1S Cobra attack helicopters from Jordan that were recently upgraded.

“This fleet of T129 ATAK helicopters, which is one of the best and most advanced systems procured so far, is significant in the attainment of the AFP’s goal of achieving a credible defense posture,” Castillo said.

The T129s will be deployed to address domestic and foreign threats, including extremist and separatist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the communist New People’s Army, which have conducted bombings, kidnappings and other violence.

“For both internal and external security threats, the T129 attack helicopter is capable of doing air reconnaissance and providing firepower to give advantage to government troops and neutralize enemy forces as needed,” Castillo said.

Maria T. Reyes is a FORUM contributor reporting from Manila, Philippines.



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