The Joneses…More Blackhawks For The Philippines

Five PAF Sikorsky S-70i Blackhawks which was received in December, 2021. PAF

SHAH ALAM: The Joneses… More Blackhawks for the Philippines. The Philippines government in Manila signed a contract for 32 Sikorsky S70i Blackhawk helicopters for $624 million (RM2.6 billion) today (February 22, 2022). The deal for helicopters will also include an integrated logistics support and training package for pilots and maintenance crew, GMA newspaper reported.

A combo of pictures showing a PAF S-70i Blackhawk transporting relief goods. PAF

It further reported that

“The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is very happy with the Black Hawk helicopters,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said during the signing ceremony held at the DND building in Camp Aguinaldo.

“Hopefully, the delivery of these new utility helicopters will start soon. I think we will not be here anymore to receive these helicopters, but nonetheless, we will be happy to see the improvement of the capability of the Philippine Air Force,” he added.

Lorenzana signed on behalf of the DND, while Mr. Janusz Zakrecki, PZL Mielec President represented the Polish company during the ceremony.The PAF also previously purchased 16 Black Hawk helicopters from PZL Mielec of Poland, with the final batch delivered and received in November 2021.

The first batch of six units was delivered in November 2020, followed by the second batch of five units in June 2021.

“Unfortunately we lost one in July due to accident. That is acceptable risk of flying helicopters at night during bad weather,” the Lorenzana said.

A PAF Bell 412EP conducting a relief mission. PAF

When the new batch of Blackhawks are delivered by 2026, PAF will have a fleet of 47 Blackhawks, allowing it to retire the remaining Vietnam era Bell UH1-Huey helicopters from service. PAF also operates up to eight Bell 412EP helicopters purchased in 2014 which would be supplemented by 16 more examples in 2018 but canceled after Canadian politician express opposition to the purchase. The Philippines then purchased the 16 Blackhawks in 2019.

— Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam

24 Comments

  1. It’s not that they have a plenty of money [yes the economy is improving] but there is political will and an acute need to replace the PAF’s aged rotary fleet. The PAF has always had a relatively large fleet, due to geography, many hard to access areas and operational requirements.

    Look at things in perspective, despite all the buys in recent years the bulk of the AFP is still in urgent need of modernisation.

  2. Some of the UH-1H’s are ex-RSAF aircraft transferred in the 2000’s.

    Beyond getting word of various acquisitions, it would be interesting to know what the AFP’s objective orbat is and the order of priority for these developments.

    It is reasonable to assume a country as large and geographically challenging as the Philippines would have requirements for a large utility helicopter fleet and a number of heavy lift assets.

  3. PAF is going the right direction of standardising their utility chopper to only 1 type. There is a thing or two we could learn from them in that aspect.

  4. ‘on the same day

    something has arrived in Malaysia’
    @gonggok
    Saw the news too. The birds are finally here. Interesting that a YouTube channel is still insisting the birds are going east to Sabah…

  5. AM – objective orbat is and the order of priority for these developments

    Priority is to gradually modernise the AFP which has been under resourced for decades, by acquiring some level of deterrence against external threats [Brahmos comes to mind], maintaining or improving the ability to deal with ever present internal threats [not confined to a specific area]-and a replacing stuff which are way overdue for retirement. Whist they would like to focus on the PN and PAF, they also have to ensure the PA gets the needed attention. Various more things they would like to be doing but can’t at present.

    AM – ‘It is reasonable to assume a country as large”

    Size wise it’s slightly smaller than us [East Malaysia included of course]. The country is much more spread out. The PAF has always had a large rotary fleet, goo g back to the days of the civil war in the 1990’s. Even today,At any one time troops could be engaged simultaneously in northern Luzon, the central BiSayas and in Tawi Tawi area, requiring rotary support.

  6. We too faced the same question on how to replace our 30-40 odd Vietnam era Nuris, and while PAF forges ahead with clear direction, we still hem & haw the cost of buying pricey but well proven & reliable choppers such as Blackhawk. Sigh…

  7. There was no clear direction for the Blackhawks; it was bought after the human rights issue by Canada. PAF wanted to buy the Bell 412EPI actually as they already operated the older 412EP. The government wanted to buy Mi-17s after they cancelled the 412EPI order. However, as the Blackhawks made in Poland was available, they managed to persuade President Duterte to buy those instead. Money, by the way, was already available as their Congress had already allocated for it in 2014.

  8. They had clear directions for the mass replacement of their antiquated Hueys, and yes it was originally intended to get 412EPIs until Trudeau muddled things with politics but just because that deal was cancelled, they did not fall back to cheaper choppers. There is a clear price gap between 412s and Blackhawks but that didn’t stop Pinoy from allocating the additional funding needed to procure sufficient Blackhawk numbers.

    Here we can’t even decide on a single brand or even single type of chopper and when we have made a decision to buy, money is not there. Hence the leasing option. The path to permanently replace Nuri fleet is simple, we just need to spend USD $600mil as Pinoy did.

  9. When the new batch of Blackhawks are delivered by 2026, PAF will have a fleet of 47 Blackhawks

    Meanwhile new utility helicopters for the RMAF will only be funded in 2026. Expect a few more years for them to arrive. Even then the numbers will be half of what RMAF requested.

  10. Marhalim Abas same issue with MRF swedish opposed the sale of gripen to Philippines bec. Of Human Right’s….They have no choice but go for F-16v

  11. It was not Trudeau per se, it was the MPs. The people around Duterte had initially persuaded the President to buy something cheaper, the Mi-17s, which they say with the money allocated would be around 60 or 70 helicopters. But the Department of Defense and it secretary and the Philippines military all came around to persuade the government not to buy the Mi-17s, the deal was almost secured actually. But scuttled politely by the Philippines military after they insisted that all of the documentation, spares and training be done in English which the Russian cannot do. It was only after this foray into national interest and Trump entreaties with Duterte that he (Duterte) agreed to a compromise to buy the Blackhawks but from Poland and a Polish company. The funding was for around 50 helicopters but in two batches (they budgeted it around the Bell 412EPI). Unlike MY, the Philippines allocated funding as part of its law, so it will be there only need to be used for its purpose. Here, its according to the pleasure of the government.

  12. I won’t go into the politics much but here’s the story about the Blackhawks. The PAF actually identified it as the most suitable type years and years ago but the financing was not there and a high level decision was made to go for an alternative. As it stands a combination of political and financial factors led to.conditions being more conducive for a Blackhawk buy.

    We faced the same issue with Russian manuals/booklets. That’s where the IAF team which was based here for about 2 years came in handy as everything needed for the Su-30 [with the exception of stuff specific to us] had already been translated by the IAF and was made available to us. We also got the same assistance for the Fulcrums.

    Things don’t happen in a vacuum. It has been a long drawn out affair but as indicted above a combination of political and financial factors led to the Blackhawks, which the PAF always wanted/preferred. Also note that despite decades of neglecting the AFP it was always a priority on the part of the government to have a elatively large rotary fleet. It was something they absolutely couldn’t/can’t do without.

  13. Marhalim Abbas.The budget for MI-17 Qty. 17+1 still there and not use for Blackhawk the only obstacle till now is the CAATSA if it did not push through during Duterte admin. Next electected President will use the budget to buy either Bell 412 EPI or another order of Black Hawk qty 17 units…if they opted for Blackhawk Phil will have 64 units of Blackhawk..

  14. Actually PZL Mielec is not only the maker but also a codistributor for S70i variant of Blackhawk, the same variant PAF ordered. Those who do not want to go thru Sikorsky, which might trigger US Congress, can make a deal with PZL. This unlike the outright militarised UH60 variant which is made in USA.

    Compared to UH60, the civvie specced S70i is much cheaper to buy yet having the proven reliability & versatility of the Blackhawk family. The reason why I pushed for us to get S70i rather than UH60 type.

  15. “Compared to UH60, the civvie specced S70i is much cheaper to buy yet having the proven reliability & versatility of the Blackhawk family. The reason why I pushed for us to get S70i rather than UH60 type.”

    The H225M is also a proven and reliable design, based on the Cougar and Super Puma family. Being larger than the UH-60, there is a significant difference and it is up to air arms to decide which is appropriate for them.

    We have the H225M and ideally we should standardize our utility helo type. But if the RMAF or army were to recommend switching to the UH-60 as a mainstay, I don’t think having 12 airframes is the strongest reason to stick with something we don’t want in future decades.

  16. @AM
    The Cougar family had gearbox-related accidents that grounded the world’s Cougar fleet for a time. The Blackhawk family meanwhile has virtually bulletproof reliability.

    TDM & TUDM are looking for medium utility chopper, so both Blackhawk & Caracal fits the bill but whether there is a need for the slightly extra carrying capacity of Caracal. Also Sikorsky has the slightly larger & better carrying S-92 if carrying load is a huge factor plus it has a rear ramp, all driven by the same super reliable Blackhawk powertrain.

    But as another pointed out, our Caracals are like an SUV doing job of a car, it is overspecced for most cases which is better filled by dedicated medium lift utility chopper. To keep cost down, I proposed civvie specced S70i without all the military specific gadgets other than secured comms.

  17. “The Cougar family had gearbox-related accidents that grounded the world’s Cougar fleet for a time. The Blackhawk family meanwhile has virtually bulletproof reliability. Also Sikorsky has the slightly larger & better carrying S-92 if carrying load is a huge factor plus it has a rear ramp, all driven by the same super reliable Blackhawk powertrain. ”

    I wouldn’t say the H225M is less reliable. In the five years since the accidents it has been ordered by additional users and been operated safetly.

    The S-92 powertrain is not the same as the Blackhawk’s and it does have vibration issues of its own. This is not to say that it is less reliable or problem-free, just as the H225M is not less “reliable”.

    “our Caracals are like an SUV doing job of a car, it is overspecced for most cases which is better filled by dedicated medium lift utility chopper.”

    Some countries like Singapore go for larger helicopters because they need fewer aircraft and aircrew to move the same number of troops or amount of cargo. Of course quantity has a quality of its own and an aircraft can only be in one place at a time. And there are issues with having two fleets instead of one- Singapore could have replaced its outgoing Super Pumas with Blackhawks and gained commonality with its Seahawks but it chose not to. It really is up for users to decide what suits them.

  18. @AM
    Different operational usage requirements. SG also sees the need to have a fleet of Chinooks but for us it is overkill. What we need is dedicated medium utility chopper platform that is versatile, reliable, and meets the needs for all 3 services in various configs.

  19. “Different operational usage requirements.”

    We can entertain the idea- if you can support it. I didn’t say that Blackhawk or Cougar is better for us. I said there are tradeoffs inherent in both possible ways, and Singapore has chosen one way. If you believe the other way is better for us, go ahead and show us.

  20. @AM
    So why bring SG into this discussion? As I said, they have their own operational reasons to choose certain platforms, that doesn’t have any bearing with ours. What TDM & TUDM requested are medium utility choppers. End of story.

  21. “What TDM & TUDM requested are medium utility choppers.”

    The definition of “medium utility choppers” does not exclude the Cougar. The definition even includes the Mi-17 which is heavier than the Cougar.

    You are not even right to say the RMAF “requested” a “medium utility choppers” because the RMAF wants to get out of the utilty helicopter business. It wants to operate a single type for CSAR/SAR.

    “they have their own operational reasons to choose certain platforms, that doesn’t have any bearing with ours.”

    And yet you are claiming the Blackhawk will suit OUR operational requirements. You’re the one making this claim, you’re the one who should support it. Your words: “I proposed civvie specced S70i without all the military specific gadgets other than secured comms.”

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