PAF’s Air Defense Wing chief Col. Ernesto Okol said that aside from three fighter pilots, they are also sending 32 support personnel to South Korea in March for the much-needed flight and maintenance transition training.
“PAF is sending three of our most skilled instructor-pilots with the highest flying time with relative years (in military service) under their belt, to South Korea to undergo a six to seven months’ training,” Okol said.
He said the three pilots have been flying S-211 jets.
Following his trip to South Korea last week where he personally inspected an FA-50 model at the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), President Aquino announced the country would be receiving first delivery of the brand new supersonic fighter jets starting next year.
Under the military’s modernization program, the government purchased a squadron of these brand new lead-in fighter jets through a P18.9-billion defense contract with KAI.
“Our pilots will first undergo basic flying training with their South Korean Air Force counterparts for about two to three months, then they will transition to the jets,” Okol said.
The purchase of the FA-50 fighter jets is seen as a major defense procurement of the government to bring the Air Force back to the sky, which for now is basically lacking in air defense capabilities with the retirement of the last seven F5 fighter jets in 2005.
At present, PAF has only three S-211s trainer jets refitted into fighter planes in its inventory.
During their transition training, the Filipino pilots will be flying the FA-50 jets, which rake the sky with speeds of up to 1.5 Mach, compared to the S-211s that only fly at a maximum 667 kilometers per hour.
“Suffice it to say, we’ll be back to supersonic again,” said Okol, himself an F5 fighter pilot.
He added another package worth about P5 billion for the procurement and installation of avionics and armaments will fully categorize the F50-A lead-in fighter jets into a full combat-capable aircraft.
Aside from the three pilots, a team of two officers and 32 crew will also be sent to South Korea to train in order to handle the maintenance aspect of the fighter jets when in full operation in the country.
On top of this, Okol said PAF is also expecting delivery of a squadron of OV-10 Bronco bombers also next year to augment PAF’s current OV-10 Broncos in its inventory as well as brand-new combat AugustaWestland attack helicopters the government purchased from Italy.
KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle Light Attack Aircraft.