POSTSCRIPT / May 10, 2020 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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PHL buying attack choppers from US?

THE ROOM is getting stuffy. Let’s change the topic from the controversial ABS-CBN closure and the COVID-19 scourge to the acquisition of more helicopters for the Philippine air force.

The US Department of State has approved a possible sale to the Philippine government of six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and related equipment for an estimated cost of $1.5 billion, according to a Pentagon report last week.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency has delivered the required certification notifying Congress of the possible sale. The DSCA, as part of the Department of Defense, provides financial and technical assistance, transfer of defense matériel, training, and services to allies.

The notice of a potential sale is required by US law and does not mean the sale has been concluded. The Philippines is reportedly considering either the AH-64E or the AH-1Z to modernize its attack helicopter capabilities.

The proposed sale will require US government or contractor representatives to travel to the Philippines for six weeks of de-processing/fielding, training, and technical/logistics support.

The Philippine air force has around 97 helicopters of various types, including MD-500 “Defender” attack choppers and the MH-6 “Little Birds” used by US special operations teams. It also has seven Bell 412s for transporting VIPs.

With billions being spent rapidly to deal with the COVID-19 scourge that has dislocated millions of Filipinos and crippled the economy, does the government still have $1.5 billion to buy the whirlybirds? Sources said yes, funds have been set aside.

The Boeing AH-64 Apache is an American twin-turboshaft attack helicopter with a tailwheel-type landing gear arrangement and a tandem cockpit for a crew of two. It features a nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems.

The top speed of the 11,390-pound Apache is 227 mph (365 kph) with a range of 296 miles (476 km). Unit cost is: AH-64A, $20 million (2007); AH-64D, $33 million (2010); and AH-64E, $35.5 million (FY2014).

The DSCA certification says: The Philippine government has requested to buy six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters; 18 T700-GE-701D engines (12 installed, 6 spares); 15 Honeywell Embedded Global Positioning Systems/Inertial Navigation with Precise Positioning Service (12 installed, 3 spares); 200 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles; 12 M36E9 Hellfire Captive Air Training Missiles; 300 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System Kits; 1,700 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System Guidance Sections; six AN/ASQ-170 Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation Sight/AN/AAR-11 Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensors; six AN/APG-78 Fire Control Radars with Radar Electronic Units; six AN/APR-48B Modernized-Radar Frequency Interferometers; eight AAR-57 Common Missile Warning Systems (6 installed, 2 spares); 200 FIM-92H Stinger missiles; eight Manned-Unmanned Teaming-2 Video Receivers (6 installed, 2 spares); and eight Manned­Unmanned Teaming-2 Air-Air-Ground Kits (6 installed, 2 spares). Included are eight AN/AVR-2B Laser Detecting sets (6 installed, 2 spares); eight AN/APR-39C(V)l+ Radar Signal Detecting sets (6 installed, 2 spares); 14 Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems radios (12 installed, 2 spares); 14 UHF/VHF/LOS airborne radios (12 installed, 2 spares); eight AN/APX-123A (V) Common Transponders (6 installed, 2 spares); eight IDM-401 Improved Data Modems (6 new, 2 spares); eight AN/ARN-149 (V)3 Automatic Direction Finders (6 installed, 2 spares); eight Doppler ASN-157 Doppler Radar Velocity Sensors (6 installed, 2 spares); eight AN/APN-209 Radar Altimeters (6 installed, 2 spares); eight AN/ARN-153 Tactical Air Navigation sets (6 installed, 2 spares); four TACAN Ground Stations; eight Very High Frequency Omni-Directional Range/Instrument Landing Systems (6 installed, 2 spares); three AN/PYQ-10(C) Simple Key Loader (3 new); six M230El + M139 AWS Automatic Gun (6 new); 18 M261 rocket launchers (12 new, 6 spares); 18 M299 missile launchers (12 new, 6 spares); six rocket motor, 2.75-inch, MK66-4, Inert (6 new); six High Explosive Warhead for Airborne 2.75 Rocket, Inert (6 new); 18 Stinger air-to-air launchers (18 new); 12 Stinger Captive Flight Trainers (12 new); six Stinger Aerial Handling Trainers (6 new); 5,000 each 2.75-inch rockets (5,000 new); 80,000 30mm rounds (80,000 new), training devices, communication systems, helmets, simulators, generators, transportation and organization equipment, spare and repair parts, support equipment, tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, US government and contractor technical assistance, technical and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $1.5 billion.

Another report has it, however, that the Philippines was shopping for six AH-1Z helicopter gunships from the US. With training, accessories, weapons, spare parts and long-term tech support, each AH-1Z reportedly will cost $75 million.

The report describes the AH-1Z as the most recent model of the AH-1T/W attack helicopter. The production model AH-1Zs are newly built, rather than rebuilt, from older AH-1W gunships.

The AH-1Z has an airframe good for over 10,000 flight-hours and uses a new four-bladed composite rotor system, transmission, strengthened structural components, and modern digital cockpit avionics.

The 8.3-ton AH-1Z has two engines and is armed with a three-barrel 20mm Gatling gun (and 750 rounds) and up to eight Hellfire missiles or 28 similar but smaller APKWS missiles. It can also carry two Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.

The Bell AH-1Z Viper is an American twin-engine attack helicopter, based on the AH-1W SuperCobra, that was developed for the US Marine Corps as part of the H-1 upgrade program. It is powered by a General Electric T700.

It features a four-blade, bearingless, composite main rotor system, uprated transmission, and a new target sighting system. Top speed is 255 mph (410 kph) and range is 426 miles (685 km). Unit cost: $27,000,000 — $31,000,000 (2011 new built).

The AH-1Z is similar to the pair of helicopters given by Jordan to the Philippines after President Duterte visited in September 2018. Earlier, in February, Duterte cancelled a $300-million purchase of 16 Bell helicopters from Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau linked the deal to human rights concerns.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 10, 2020)

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