Philippines gets five Black Hawk helicopters from US, retires 10 Huey choppers

DEFENSE Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana led the turnover of five S-70i Black Hawks and four ScanEagles at Clark Air Base, Pampanga on Oct. 13. — DND FB PAGE

THE PHILIPPINES has taken delivery of five Black Hawk helicopters from the United States as part of efforts to replace its fleet of Vietnam War-era Huey helicopters, according to the Department of Defense.

The agency got the choppers during ceremonies at the Clark Air Base in Pampanga province on Oct. 13, during which 10 Huey helicopters were decommissioned, it said in a Facebook post.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte had approved the acquisition of more Polish-built Black Hawk helicopters to address helicopter lift deficiency, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said in February.

The latest batch of Black Hawk helicopters arrived more than three months after a C-130 plane of the military crashed, killing 50 people.

The July 4 accident happened two weeks after a Black Hawk helicopter carrying six soldiers crashed during a night-flying exercise in Tarlac province.

The US Embassy in Manila also said the US had delivered four units of ScanEagle unmanned aerial system to the Philippine Air Force.

The P200-million security system would boost the Southeast Asian nation’s unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, it said in a separate statement.

It would also be used for counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, it added.

“We remain committed to our promises on helping modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and we hope this will further strengthen our combined capabilities in working together towards a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Charge d’Affaires, ad interim Heather Variava said in the statement.

The Southeast Asian country already had 16 S-70i Black Hawks on order, with the first five delivered in Nov. 2020. These were ordered under a $241-million contract signed between the two governments in 2019, according to Defense News.

The helicopters are made by Poland’s PZL Mielec, a unit of Lockheed Martin, which also owns Sikorsky, the original manufacturer of the Black Hawk.

Acquiring more Black Hawks would allow the Philippines to retire its fleet of Bell UH-1 Huey helicopters, a design that dates back to the 1960s and that has suffered from a spate of crashes and accidents, the defense news website said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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