Last Batch of S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters Arrived; More to be Considered

The Combat Utility Helicopter Acquisition Project of 16 units is now getting closer to completion, as the last batch have arrived in the country. This begs the question: Now that the Philippine Air Force is this close in fulfilling the project, what will be their next plan to increase up its numbers, while putting older ones out of service for long-term planning sake?

S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters in EASTMINCOM.
(C) Philippine Air Force FB Page

These reports coming from multiple news websites detailed the delivery of the final batch of S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters from PZL Mielec, a Sikorsky Helicopters subsidiary in Poland that produces such helicopters for the Philippine Air Force as part of the Revised AFP Modernization Program - Flight Plan 2028 initiative of the air branch.

The last five units, transported through the Ukrainian-based Antonov Airlines An-124 transporter, was landed in Clark Air Base in Pampanga City for these soon-to-be helicopters of the Philippine Air Force to be disembarked from the aircraft fuselage just like the previous S-70i deliveries that came before it.

As part of standard operating procedure, the Philippine Air Force will undertake multiple test for these helicopters upon assembly of its parts in the country before getting commissioned into active service, as any defects and problems with the asset can be addressed to the manufacturer before any turn-over will take place.

To give you some idea, the helicopters arrived in the country is still counted as property of Sikorsky/PZL Mielec until a formal turn-over was made between them and the Philippine Air Force (end-user) after the number of tests and inspection was made to the helicopter to see that it complies with the specification that the end-user has for the project. Also, this came in accordance to the Procurement Law (Republic Act 9184).

Now that this project is closer to be considered as successful, one cannot prevent to think that there should be an idea that the Philippine Air Force needing to add the number of this type of helicopter in the long run, factoring the actual number of combat utility helicopters in inventory, along with the fact that older UH-1 Hueys might reach its serviceable life.

Two assigned S-70i Blackhawks in Edwin Andrews Airbase
with the Zamboanga International Airport terminal
in the background. (c) Western Mindanao Command FB Page

Just recently, the leadership within the Philippine Air Force decided to assign several of the S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters to multiple airbases in the country such as the Eastern Mindanao Command and Western Mindanao Command (see image above).

Two helicopters were assigned to the Edwin Andrews Airbase in Zamboanga City, the center of operations for the Philippine Air Force that covers most of Zamboanga Peninsula and areas such as Basilan and Sulu, areas that are known for radical Islamist-themed insurgency groups with its inhabitants now vying for peace.

While the additional two Blackhawk helicopters en la Ciudad Hermosa is a welcoming increase of capabilities for the Philippine Air Force covering this jurisdiction, one might say that its numbers are still counted as insufficient, given that deployment of troops especially in skirmishes in the region may not always be covered by the number of troops these helicopters are capable of carrying (13 personnel plus 2 crew), not to mention that ZAMBASULTA area covers a large part of territory.


The government promised that they will add 32 more Blackhawk helicopters for the Philippine Air Force to have, although this wasn't seen materialized currently as the reasons might range from budgeting re-allocated to mitigate the pandemic itself to concerns of the country's economic performance that affect the government's tax collection.

This promise is something that the government needs to materialize, even in multi-year terms that can help bringing down the burden of financing the project itself as a percentage of the annual General Appropriations Act be allotted to the funding of the project. Or its procurement will be divided in different lots or phases as the way project implementation goes with the Revised AFP Modernization Program that it was divided to 3 Horizons, each with its own budget allocation and material needs.

While these words reflect more of the grounded thoughts of a PMAU writer, the leadership within the Philippine Air Force might already take heed on considering additional assets since these plans are already in the pipeline and these considerations are in place, complying procurement, budgeting, and accounting laws that are in place.

One only looks forward for the eventual implementation, aside from the current acquisition program, that more will be added as the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines will continue to modernize its whole structure by introducing new doctrine, recruiting more potential personnel, and adding new assets like the one discussed in this article.

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