DND proceeds with helicopter acquisition program with Russia despite invasion

The Department of National Defense’s (DND) procurement of 17 units of Russian-made Mil Mi-17 heavy lift helicopters will push through even amid the latter’s ongoing military invasion in Ukraine.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (Photo courtesy of Department of National Defense)

DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday night, March 9, that the contract for the procurement of the choppers was signed in November 2020 and the downpayment was given in January of this year.

“The heavy lift helicopter procurement project with Russia is on track. The contract was signed and the down payment done before the Ukraine crisis happened,” Lorenzana told reporters.

“No, we do not see any likelihood of being scrapped as of this moment,” he added.

The heavy-lift helicopter acquisition is a multi-year procurement contract between the Philippine government and Russia. The budget for the project is $12.7 billion and the first batch of the choppers will be delivered in 24 months.

Concerns as to the status of the project were raised after Russia was slapped with economic sanctions by the European Union because of its military invasion in Ukraine.

Lorenzana also expressed confidence that the Philippines will not be affected by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a United States law which imposes sanctions against countries buying military and defense materials from hostile countries with US, including Russia.

“Mukhang hindi kasi nakabayad naman tayo ng first payment (It appears that we’re not because we have already paid the downpayment),” he said.

Although Lorenzana remains optimistic that the conflict will not have an immediate impact on the helicopter purchase, he said he could not determine whether it will be the same in the coming months.

“Will the Ukraine crisis affect the project? Only time will tell,” the Defense Chief said.

“We hope the Ukraine crisis is resolved soon,” he added.

The procurement of the heavy-lift helicopters was part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program to beef up the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

The MilMi-17 is a Soviet-designed military helicopter that is mostly used as a medium twin-turbine transport helicopter but it also has an armed gunship version.