New PAF attack choppers eyed for airstrikes vs Abus PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 11:44

Some of the eight modern attack helicopters recently acquired by the Philipines military may soon be used for airstrikes against the al-qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf playing cat-and-mouse with security forces in the country’s south, an official said Tuesday.

Philippine Air Force chief-of-air staff Major Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar said  the newly-acquired AgustaWestland AW-109 “Power” attack helicopters could be deployed for military operations against the militant group that is holding foreign and local hostages in Jolo island near the border with Malaysia.

Kintanar said the new attack helicopters could do the role of MG-520s, older attack aircraft in the Philippines’s list of air assets, that have been used in then campaigns against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), one time largest Muslim rebel group, and are still being utilized in airstrikes against the Abu Sayyaf and communist insurgents.

“If the operation will call for it, yes we will do the same role that the MG-520s are doing in Mindanao,” Kintanar told the state-run Philippine New Agency (PNA).

The AW-109 choppers are set to be deployed in Mindanao island by the second quarter of 2016.

Kintanar said initially the six new attack helicopters will be based at Danilo Atienza Air Base, Cavite province in nothern Philippines and are intended for internal security operations (ISO).

The airbase is the headquarters of the PAF’s 15th Strike Wing, the Air Force’s primary ground attack unit.

“Some of them will be deployed in Mindanao. That is where the aircraft is needed for ISO and hopefully all of them will be deployed by early 2017, so in 2016 we see the initial deployment of a couple of them by the second quarter and as we train more pilot to operate and fly them, all of them will be flying in deployment area by 2017,” Kintanar said.

The first two AW-109s were commissioned on Aug. 17 while the remaining six were formally accepted by the Air Force on Dec. 5.

The Philippines has signed an eight-unit attack AW-109E order with AgustaWestland in 2013 for P3.44 billion.

Kintanar said the eight attack AW-109s will cover the dwindling number of MG-520 attack helicopters primarily used for close-air support missions.

“Definitely it will significantly increase our capability for close-air support as the (PAF) commanding general (Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado) said we only have a dozen of the MG-520s so this is a welcome addition of capabilities, what is important is it has more capabilities to speak of, it will be able to carry more and it can operate at night,” he added.

The new attack helicopters can be armed with pintle-mounted 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm machine guns at each of the two cabin doors.