By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
American defense aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin is looking at opportunities of sourcing some of their requirements, particularly support services, from the Philippines once the government decides to tap their supply of fighter jets like F16 and Black Hawk helicopters.
Randall L. Howard, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company Integrated Fighter Group Director of Business Development, said in an interview with the Manila Business Bulletin they are prepared to support the government stressing that they have been working with country users of F16.
“Generally, Lockheed Martin has done and been doing it successfully… sources parts of F16 among user countries so we have to look at that if that becomes a requirement,” Howard said adding that this will depend on what comes out in the proposal and based on the requirements being lobbied by the Airforce and the Defense Department.
Jacob Sifers, regional manager business development of Lockheed Martin Global Inc., representing Sikorsky Aircraft, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin for helicopter such as the famous Black Hawk, also said that it has been its tradition to work with partners and countries from extreme collaboration to support services.
For instance, Sifers cited its co-production relationship with Mitsubishi of Japan and other support services in the Philippines whether in logistics partnership or establishing MRO or warehousing and different activities either in product or support services.
“There are all kinds of opportunities and we’re interested in talking with industry and seeking advice from operators and look at collaboration to enhance the product itself and support and our relationship with customers,” he added. At present, at least 80 percent of Black Hawk is US content.
In the Philippines, Lockheed Martin is positioning for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
At present, the Philippines has no F16 yet although its five neighbors Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and South Korea are already flying F16. In fact, there are roughly 300 of this combat aircraft flying in the region.
Globally, there are 4,600 F16 produced by Lockheed Martin so far and they are looking at 400 aircraft over the next five to 7 years. The increasing number of users of F16 will certainly drive down cost, he said.
Howard said this is the first time for them to put up a booth at the ongoing 3rd Asian Defense, Security & Crisis Management Exhibition & Conference at the World Trade Center as he cited opportunities in the country. Defense aircraft procurement is a government to government transaction, he said.
He stressed that F16 is certainly good for the security of the Philippines to provide defense needs given the huge archipelago.
“F16 is an ideal solution to the challenges we have here, we have a huge archipelago and F16 is designed for large combat as it can fly out 900 plus nautical mile combat radius to cover the whole island so it can provide you national security,” he said but stressed that it is for the Philippines to decide it own priorities.
Howard, however, stressed that this is the “best time” to procure this equipment.
He also cited that F16 is the best value for money with most of their customers becoming repeat customers. As the AFP pilots are also adept at the American technology for its existing helicopters and military aircraft, it would easier to transition to the latest technology in the F16. There are 5 C130s in the Philippines and 12 FA50s.
“The F16 is unmatched and proven performance and proven capabilities,” he said stressing it would be a strategic investment to secure the skies. Lockheed Martin provides a total package approach, including all the training to the pilots.
Sources, however, said that President Duterte is looking at Black Hawk because it is most suitable for search and rescue operations. The AFP has only one Black Hawk acquired several years ago.