The Department of National Defense (DND) on Tuesday, Feb. 22, finally signed contract for the acquisition of 32 additional units of S70i Black Hawk helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
The choppers will be procured from Polish aircraft manufacturer, PZL Mielec, for US$624 million or P32 billion. The contract was signed by DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Janusz Zacrecki, President of PZL Mielec, in a ceremony held at the DND headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
“This is a continuing relationship between our countries. The Philippine Air Force is very happy with the Black Hawk helicopters,” Lorenzana said during the ceremony.
According to the Defense Chief, the acquisition of the additional 32 units of Black Hawk will be incorporated with a logistics support and training package for the PAF pilots and maintenance crew so they can learn how to fly these aircraft.
“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,” Lorenzana stated.
The DND approved the procurement of the 32 Black Hawk choppers just last month while the Notice of Award was issued to PZL Mielec on Dec. 28, 2021.
Lorenzana had said that the first batch of five units of the Black Hawk helicopters will be delivered in 2023. Meanwhile, 10 units will arrive in 2024; another 10 units will be transported in 2025; and the final seven units will come in 2026.
The acquisition came after the DND completed the purchase of 16 Black Hawks from PZL Mielec last year for P11.5 billion.
When Lorenzana announced the approval of the purchase of the Black Hawks back in January, he cited the crucial need for transport planes and helicopters amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and in the aftermath of typhoon “Odette.”
The national government heavily relied on military aircraft in transporting medical supplies, equipment, and personnel around the country since the onset of the pandemic. Military aircraft were also used to transport relief goods and personnel in areas that were devastated by typhoon Odette in December 2021.
Most of the heavy lifting during the said operations were shouldered by the existing Black Hawk squadron which replaced the ageing Huey choppers that were acquired in the 1970s.
The acquisition of the Black Hawks was part the second “Horizon” of the revised modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Lorenzana said various military assets were delivered and purchased under the Duterte administration.
These include 12 fighter aircraft that were bought by the Aquino administration and completely delivered under the present administration; three fixed air surveillance radars; eight 412 combat utility helicopters; two refurbished C-130 aircraft from the united States; and two anti-submarine helicopters with a combined price of P96.86 billion.
The DND also purchased two frigates; six Super Tucano aircraft; unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system from Israel; a C-295 medium lift aircraft; a Gulfstream G280 Command & Control aircraft; a Pohang-class corvette from Korea; two AH-1 Cobra helicopters from Jordan; three multi-purpose attack craft; 310 light truck troops carriers; 215 medium truck troops carriers; and various engineering with a combined price of P427 billion.