By Francis Wakefield
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza Tuesday said the Philippines plans to acquire several more C-130 cargo planes to further improve the operational readiness of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
In an interview, Lorenzana said one of the C-130s will be exclusively used for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
“Yes, we are acquiring several more C130s and it is our wish that we could have one C130 dedicated for this purpose only (surveillance). Iyun bang hindi gagamitin sa iba (it will not be use for other purposes) just for ISR.” Lorenzana said.
The Air Force has a fleet of five C-130s.
Lorenzana made the statement as he, United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, Air Force Chief Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Vice Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Salvador Melchor Mison Jr, and other Air Force officials, attended the turnover of the Special Airborne Mission Installation and Response (SABIR) system at the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing Fixed Hangar in Villamor Airbase, Pasay City.
The system, worth P340 million, and under the Southeast Asia Maritime Security of the United States, has been granted to the Air Force to increase the country’s maritime domain awareness, airborne command and control, counter-terrorism, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) capabilities.
The SABIR system is a “bolt-on”, “bolt-off” avionics module for the C-130 Hercules aircraft which will serve as the main Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance system.
Lorenzana said the installation of the system will give the plane advanced command and control , communications, computer and surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities without sacrificing its primary function as a cargo aircraft.
The system can be used in patrolling the West Philippine Sea and the country’s borders, he said.
Asked if the country is planning to acquire more SABIR systems, Lorenzana said he is not sure.
“I don’t know if we will get some more but this, I think, we will only use this once in a while. It’s not everyday we (will) use this because we have other assets like the drone, we have the Caravan Cessna also and then we have the TC90 of the Philippine Navy,” he said.
For his part, Kim assured that the US government is fully committed in supporting the Philippine military’s modernization efforts.
“We have an outstanding partnership with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). We have great respect for the Armed Forces of the Philippines so we want to do our part as friends, partners, allies to support the modernization in all sense particularly in the area of intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance ,” Kim said.
“It is a critical need for us to always and to be able to provide equipment like the SABIR. It is a very positive development,” he added.