The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is set to receive the first two of 12 Korean-made trainer jet fighters worth P18.9 billion ordered by the government from manufacturer Korean Aerospace Inc. (KAI), which developed the aircraft with the American aerospace company Lockheed Martin.
According to PAF spokesman Colonel Enrico Canaya, the jets, however, are not combat-ready and only capable of patrolling the country’s airspace.
“This is before the end of the year,” Canaya said, but declined to give an exact date because, he explained, the schedule of delivery might change any time.
Canaya said that PAF chief Lt Gen. Jeffrey Delgado had himself experienced the test flight last November 6 in South Korea.
The two-seater jet’s test flight was piloted by an officer of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) with Delgado at the rear seat as “co-pilot”.
Canaya said Air Force officials are excited about the arrival of the jets, which could bring PAF back again into the air with “speed” after the decommissioning of its F5 fleet several years ago.
“Of course we’re excited, because we will be having a new kind of jets with MAC 1.2 speed capability in our inventory. MAC 1.2 is faster than the speed of sound so that’s supersonic flight and we have not had this kind of aircraft in our inventory after the decommissioning of our F5. It’s the comeback of the jet and supersonic age of the Air Force,” he said.
As stipulated in the contract, KAI will complete the delivery of the 12 jets by 2017.
Canaya said the first two jets will be delivered at “touchdown” on Philippine soil.
“They will be refueled somewhere, I don’t know yet where, before their final leg to touch down on our airstrip,” he said.
He still can’t tell, however, if the jets will be piloted by PAF men.
The addition of the trainer jet fighters will be a big boost to the country’s air domain patrol, especially over the West Philippine Sea.