PH wish: Regain status as leading air force in the region
MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Air Force chief Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado vowed to improve the country's airpower as it faces threats of losing territories to an aggressive China.
"Our determination to regain our rightful place as a leading air force in the region is stronger than ever. With unstinting support from our national leadership, the fruits of the long years of labor are already being seen," Delgado said in his speech during the 68th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Air Force on Wednesday, July 1.
President Benigno Aquino III, the guest of honor, recalled the how the country used to have one of the most capable air force in the region.
The Philippines was the first to have fighter jets that made it famous for the 1962 Congo mission. Philippine fighter jets – upon the request of the United Nations – helped secure the airspace of Congo and deal with secessionists.
"Kung babalikan nga ang kasaysayan, nakakalungkot isipin na ang ating Hukbong Himpapawid, na isa sa unang naabot ang “jet age” sa ating rehiyon at nakilala sa mga operasyong tulad ng Bali at Congo Missions, ay naiwang “grounded” dahil sa sistema ng katiwalian, transaksiyonalismo, at maling pamamalakad na namayani sa ating bansa nang mahabang panahon," Aquino said in his speech.
(If we recall history, it is disheartening to think that our Air Force was the first to reach the jet age and became famous for the Bali and Congo missions. But it was left grounded because of corruption, transactionalism, and misguided leadership prevailed in the country for a long time.)
In 1963, the Philippine Air Force also sent its men to Bali, Indonesia, after the eruption of Mount Agung affected thousands.
The country also hosted a US Air Force base in Clark, Pampanga, until the Senate voted to evict US bases in a historic vote in 1991.
The Philippine Air Force has since deteriorated. It retired the last of its US-designed F-5 fighter jets in 2005.
Return to supersonic age
Under the Aquino administration, it was able to acquire new air assets as the threat of China taking its territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) emerged. (READ: Aquino: Stick with 'Daang Matuwid' after 2016)
PAF deploys regular patrol flights over the disputed seas to gather information. "Our sorties in the western borders help strengthen the arm of our diplomats by providing them with critical information," Delgado said.
The Philippine Air Force will return to the supersonic age as two of its 12 FA-50 lead-in fighter trainers are expected to be delivered in December.
It laid out Flight Plan 2028, aiming to improve the country's defense posture in the next 12 years.
The first of its 3 CASA C-295 medium lift transport planes and two new Bell 412s have also been delivered.
"We are reorganizing to prepare for new capabilities to create a complete integrated air defense system," Delgado said.
"These new aircraft and the others that will be arriving in the coming years will significantly improve the Philippine Air Force's capabilities to accomplish its mandated mission," Delgado added. – Rappler.com