The Philippine Air Force’s technical working group (TWG) has identified Sikorsky UH60 (Blackhawk) as the combat utility helicopter that would replace the mothballed Bell 412 EPIs, while the selection of the T129 ATAK of the Turkish Aerospace Industries may be reconsidered for its attack helicopter project choice due to power-plant problems.
“The Air Force TWG has come up with the recommendation for Black Hawk and T129 but I think we have problems with the T129,” says Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The Defense Minister said that 16 units of the blackhawk helicopters will be provided by Sikorsky for $240 million, the same amount earmarked for the Bell 412s.
Lorenzana explained that Sikorsky originally offered 9 frames for the latest UH-60M variant while South Korea’s Surion helicopter offered 10 for the same money, but the United States (US) through the U.S. Department of Defense’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program offered to finance the balance of the purchase price for the remaining six for a total of 16.
Lorenzana added that while the PAF wanted Bell 412s possibly made in America, they still requires an engine build in Canada so the problem would still be there as what is now happening with the Pratt & Whitney PT6T engine parts of existing 412s. He said the T129 selected by TWG is heading in the same direction of the 412s if it pushes through as selections were made prior to events leading to export ban of T129s engine outside of Turkey.
Lorenzana said the contract for the Blackhawk choppers would be signed early 2019, while that of the T129 attack helicopter project would be deliberated further considering that they already received warnings from their US counterpart.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has called off the deal to acquire 16 Bell 412 EPI helicopters from Canadian Commercial Corporation earlier this year after Canadian Parliament ordered a review of the government’s acquisition for its use for offensive operations instead of transport missions.