First 2 F/A-50s to be mission ready upon arrival

11:54:00 PM
MANILA, -- Come December this year, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) will be flying and using two South Korean-made F/A-50 "Fighting Eagle" to defend the country's airspace.

The fighter jets would be part of the 12 F/A-50 bought for Php 18.9 billion by the Philippines under a purchase deal with Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI), signed in March 2013.

The two jet fighters are expected to be delivered by December while the rest of the 10 F/A-50s by 2016.

"We are looking at the early delivery of two F/A-50s. They will be combat and mission ready upon their arrival this December," Department of National Defense (DND) undersecretary for finance, modernization and materiel Fernando Manalo said on Monday in an interview with the PNA.

Mission ready means that the aircraft can fly immediately and do patrol and interception missions if needed.

Earlier, Philippine Air Force spokesperson Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya said that the soon-to-be commissioned F/A-50s, with relatively updated radar systems onboard, would do autonomous air patrols without relying too much on ground based surveillance systems.

"(The F/A-50s) has its own onboard radar systems so it can detect (any hostile air threats) while on patrol," he said.

Canaya declined to give the specifics of the F/A-50's radar systems for security reasons but stressed that it is quite adequate for air patrol work.

This feature of the South Korean made jet fighter has greatly boosted the air defense capabilities of the PAF which was greatly reduced with the decommissioning of its Northrop F-5 "Tiger" jet fighter squadrons and Vought F-8 "Crusader" fleet, in 2005 and 1988, respectively.

This was done due to air frame aging and lack of spare parts to keep the two planes on operational status.

WIth the deactivation of its two premier supersonic jet fighters, the PAF was forced to convert the SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet trainers for an air defense role.

However, the S-211s are ill-suited for air defense work due to their slow speeds.

The DND earlier said that the radar systems onboard the F/A-50s was one of the many pluses why the Philippines opted to acquire 12 units of the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) made jet fighter over its many competitors.

The F/A-50 has a top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and a half times the speed of sound and is capable of being fitted air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.

The F/A-50 will act as the country's interim fighter until the Philippines get enough experience of operating fast jet assets and money to fund the acquisition of more capable fighter aircraft.

The F/A-50 design is largely derived from the F-16 "Fighting Falcon", and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.

KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the F/A-50.

The aircraft can carry two pilots in tandem seating. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots.

The altitude limit is 14,600 meters (48,000 feet), and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service.

There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 liters (701 US gallons), five in the fuselage and two in the wings.

An additional 1,710 liters (452 US gallons) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.

Trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.

The F/A-50 uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a full authority digital engine control system jointly developed by General Electric and Korean Aerospace Industries.

The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner.

Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kilonewton (17,700 pound force) of thrust with afterburner.

A Two Republic Of Korea Air Force FA-50 fighter jets in combat training operation for first time.

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