Saturday, July 25, 2009

Philippine Air Force to decide between MG-530 or AH-1

PRESIDENT Arroyo has ordered Defense and military officials to ensure the delivery of brand-new combat helicopters worth P3.2 billion is done before her presidency ends in 2010, officials said yesterday. The money for the purchase has already been approved under the 2009 budget that was appropriated for the Department of National Defense. Defense Undersecretary Antonio Romero told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo they are now waiting for the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) final decision on the type of helicopters they want delivered. Once the PAF has arrived at a decision, the department will immediately place an order with the appropriate company, according to Romero, who declined to name a specific company. “The ball is now in the hands of the Air Force because the President wants the aircrafts delivered before her term ends,” said Romero, a retired Army general who is now in charge of the department’s finance and military affairs. Romero said the Air Force had been given three options to consider within the bounds of the budget. They could keep the technical specifications of the helicopters, or reduce the number of aircrafts to match any change in technical specifications, or buy second-hand aircrafts. Should the PAF decide to change the technical specifications of the helicopters, then they would need the approval of Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. Should the PAF decide to refurbish the helicopters, they would need the approval of President Arroyo. But the last two options may not be feasible because the President wants brand-new attack helicopters, officials said. Romero said the Air Force was given the choice to either buy the MG-530—the upgraded version of the current MG-520 now used by the Philippine military—or the Super Cobra attack helicopter used by the US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fort Worth, Texas-based Bell Helicopter Textron is the supplier of the Super Cobra. In April 2006, an MG-520 crash-landed at the Zamboanga airport. None of the three military people on board were injured. Should the Air Force decide to buy the Super Cobra, Romero said the approved budget is good only for four to six aircrafts, equivalent to 12 units of the M-530. The planned purchase of attack helicopters was supposed to have been delivered last year but was temporarily shelved by Teodoro after the department’s awards and bidding committee found merits in the complaint of anomalous bidding by a losing bidder for an order that at that time was pegged at P1.2 billion for six night-capable attack helicopters. The department has called for a rebidding and the Office of the President raised the budget to P3.2 billion.

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