Air Force gains credibility with Sokor light attack jets

Filed under: Air Force |

BASA AIR BASE, Floridablanca, Pampanga— Not too long ago, the Philippines Air Force was frequently ribbed as being all air with no force, but PAF chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino de la Cruz hopes the snickering will soon stop with the looming acquisition of 12 TA-50 light attack jets from South Korea.

“There’s an ongoing top-level discussion at the Department of National Defense for the acquisition of the much needed air assets,” De la Cruz said during the 51st anniversary of PAF Air Defense Wing stationed at this air base.

The defense department announced the selection of the South Korean jets last Aug. 1 and officials expect the signing of the purchase contract within the next few months.

De la Cruz said top defense officials want to request the immediate delivery of two TA-f0 jets so that PAF pilots can begin training and be ready for the delivery of entire order of 24 jets by 2016.

“This is a realization of the dream we have dreamt a long, long time ago,” De la Cruz said. “That is why many of our personnel will be sent to schooling abroad for air traffic control and related courses.”

Aside from the jets, De la Cruz said the PAF will also construct three radar stations at Lubang Island, Palawan and Zamboanga next year, boosting the air force’s ability to monitor all aircraft entering Philippine territory.

“We will make sure that the proposed facilities and aircraft are tailored-fit to our requirement,” De la Cruz said, noting that even the choice of the South Korean jet was based on the advantages it offered to the military in consideration of the situation in the West Philippine Sea.

The TA-50 is the light attack version of the T-50 Golden Eagle, South Korea’s first indigenous supersonic aircraft and one of the world’s few supersonic trainers, built by Korea Aerospace Industries and Lockheed Martin of the United States.

The jet’s design is largely derived from the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.

The TA-50 mounts a M197 20mm three-barrel cannon and a fire control radar system. It can accommodate the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile and a variety of additional weapons can be mounted to underwing hardpoints.

Compatible air-to-surface weapons include the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile, Hydra 70 rocket launchers, CBU-58 and Mk-20 cluster bombs, and Mk-82, ?83, and ?84 general purpose bombs.

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