New Air Force chief: Territorial defense more pressing concern
LIPA CITY, Batangas – The new Philippines Air Force chief Major General Jeffrey Delgado crashed his plane twice. He almost died, too, but his plane fortunately crashed into the water and he swam until a fisherman found him.
President Benigno Aquino III revealed these in his speech during the change of command ceremony at the Fernando Air Base here on Friday, April 25.
The incidents were caused by engine failure and not by lack of skill, added Aquino. It was actually Delgado's skills that impressed him, the President said – the "solid basis" for his move to appoint a former member of his mother Corazon Aquino's Presidential Security Group (PSG) who later became his aide.
"Ang lawak ng karanasan at kaalaman nga po sa Hukbong Himpapawid ang isang matibay na batayan sa pagpili natin kay Major General Delgado bilang inyong bagong hepe," Aquino said. (Experience and knowledge in the Air Force was one solid basis for choosing Major General Delgado as your new chief.)
The new commanding general of the 17,500-strong Philippine Air Force flew a combination of fixed and rotary wing aircraft. He was qualified to fly combat aircraft T-28D at MG520, trainer aircraft T-41D and SF-260, and multi-engine passenger aircraft BN Islander.
Aquino's generous praises came with a tall order: for Delgado to double the efforts of his predecessor, Lieutenant General Lauro Catalino "Larry" Dela Cruz.
"Kaya naman, Jeff, sa tagal nga, at ikaw nga ay talagang kakilala ko – si Larry na hindi ko kakilala eh talagang ang husay ng performance – palagay ko alam mo na inaasahan ko sa 'yo, doble lang," Aquino teased.
(So, Jeff, since I've known you for so long – consider that Larry, whom I didn't know personally, performed well – I think you already know what I expect from you, to double his efforts.)
New chief, new toys
As maritime disputes escalate in the region, Delgado underscored the need to shift the military's focus from internal security to the "more pressing concerns of territorial defense" and acquire "new weapon systems of higher technology and sophistication."
"The clarion call is to have a credible defense posture, to pursue the ends of policy, and protect our core interest," Delgado said in his speech.
"As the new pilot in command, I will increase back pressure and add more thrusts to propel the organization instep with the defense establishment, the national government, and our valued stakeholders," Delgado added.
Delgado also assumes the post as PAF looks forward to its return to the supersonic age with the FA-50 fighter jets from South Korea's Korean Aerospace Industry (KAI). It has been almost a decade since it retired the last of its US-designed F-5 fighters in 2005. (READ: PH Air Force a joke no more, gets fighter jets)
The first two are expected to be delivered next year.
New toys for new challenges
Aside from the acquisition of the figher jets, Aquino boasted of PAF's recently acquired 8 Sokol combat utility helicopters and 18 basic trainer aircraft.
The following are also in the pipeline: 8 more combat utility helicopters, 6 close air support aircraft, 2 long range patrol aircraft, radar systems, and full motion flight simulator.
The series of disasters in 2013 – the Zamboanga City standoff in September, the Bohol earthquake in October, and Typhoon Haiyan in November – underscored the need to upgrade PAF's assets particularly its cargo planes.
PAF's C130 cargo planes brought in necessary troops in Zamboanga City and supplies to the disaster-stricken areas when the commercial planes could not fly in. With only 3 operational C130 planes, PAF pilots had to do several sorties to try to meet the demands.
But it was not enough. Haiyan exposed the military's vulnerabilities because of limited resources. Complicated by politics, relief operations was heavily criticized. (READ: Politics, lack of command hound Tacloban)
The military previously announced it is acquiring more C130 planes. – Rappler.com