Saturday, May 26, 2012

Philippine Air Force "Blue Diamonds" Squadron revival seen if new aircraft will be acquired soonest

PASAY CITY, May 25 (PIA) -- The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is planning to revive the famed "Blue Diamond" Squadron as soon as it acquires new aircraft capable of defending the country's airspace and humanitarian missions.

This was learned Monday from PAF spokesman Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol at the sidelines of the bloodletting activity here at the gymnasium.

Blue Diamonds Squadron, the country's aerobatics team, disbanded because of the aging F-5 precision jets.

“We have identified our needs through our capability upgrade program (CUP) and Defense Acquisition System (DAS) as identified by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin,” Okol told the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

Okol said the highest priority is the revival of the country’s Air Defense System (ADS) which is in the form of Lead-in Fighter Trainers (LIFT)-Surface Attack Aircraft (SAA) role to be used for territorial defense as well as infrastructure.

He said the PAF is expected to acquire new planes July 2012. These include TA-50 Golden Eagle (Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) of South Korea; M-346 Master - Alenia Aermacchi (Italy); Yak-130 Mitten - Yakovlev Design Bureau (Russia); and L-159B ALCA - Aero Vodochody (Czech Republic).

Okol said the PAF is also looking to replace its entire OV-10 Bronco fleet which is currently used for close air support and aerial reconnaissance platforms.

Being considered are the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6B Texan II, Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano, KAI KA-1 Woongbi, and, reportedly, the Air Tractor Air Tractor AT-802U.

Hawker Beechcraft demonstrated their AT-6B Texan II, together with their other aircraft line, on April 2012 with a display at Clark Air Base

PAF retired its fleet of Northrop F-5A/B Freedom Fighter with a ceremony on October 1, 2005. The F-5s were used by the PAF's Blue Diamonds aerobatics team and have appeared in several films and television programs shot in the Philippines.

Okol said PAF is prioritizing the resurgence of its capability by acquiring leading multi-role fighter jets and other aircraft with disaster response capability. “If we already have a hundred fighter planes then we can revive the Blue Diamonds,” he said.

In June 2010, the Department of National Defense (DND) was also looking at Canada for used CF-18s or France for its used Mirage F1s, although no decision or purchase came up

The PAF official said a country’s precision aerobatics team carries the type of a combat aircraft of a nation.

The United States has the “Thunderbirds” for the Air Force and “Blue Angels” for the Navy.

Recently, PAF acquired multi-role helicopters worth P 2.8 billion which the Philippines received as part of its modernization program.

The new W-3 Sokol (Falcon) helicopters are used for combat support as well as disaster relief missions.

“Our pilots are already training for the use of four of these newly acquired aircraft in time for the rainy season,” Okol said.

On December 2009, the DND issued a notice of award worth P 2.8 billion to PZL Swidnik S.A. of Poland, as the winner of the Combat Utility Helicopter (CUH) program for eight PZL W-3 Sokol helicopters. The first batch of four helicopters was delivered in February 2012.

From being the best in Southeast Asia after World War II until the 1960s, the PAF saw its squadrons of fighter jets become obsolete without being replaced despite modernization plans.

The PAF deeply felt its decline when the last of its F5 “Blue Diamond” fighter jets was officially decommissioned in 2005, leaving the military incapable of intercepting intruders in the country’s airspace.

The PAF currently has 40 UH-1H helicopters, 18 MG-520 helicopter gunships, two Italian S211 jets with three undergoing repairs, plus about a dozen tuboprop OV-10 attack and observation planes, Okol said.

One C-130 transport aircraft is in service and two are undergoing repairs expected to be completed this year, he added.

The Blue Diamond team was formed in 1953 by First Lieutenant Jose Gonzalez and his air group.

It first used P-51D Mustangs before jet aircraft were acquired. As the Air Force grew in popularity and strength, so did the team.

The move into the jet age started in 1959, when the F-86D Sabre was acquired by the air force during its modernization.

Lieutenant Lino C. Abadia was the commander at the time. It performed in the country every Aviation Week.

Smoke was introduced in 1958; in 1959, the team performed with the Republic of China Air Force on and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds on August 1. In 1963, the team did not perform, because most of the team's pilots were members of the 6th Tactical Fighter or Limbas Squadron.

They were called to the Congo for a United Nations peacekeeping deployment. The team first used the F-5 Freedom Fighter in 1968.

In the 1970s, crisis came to the Philippines. But in 1971, the sister team of the Blue Diamonds, the Red Aces was formed. In 1976, the team was disbanded because of the problems that came about.

In 1986, it was reformed, when military problems were eased. In 2005, when the Air Force phased out their F-5s, the team was temporarily disbanded. At present, the Red Aces are dormant, awaiting the acquisition of modern aircraft.

Among the types under consideration is the American F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet , the Israeli Kfir, the French Mirage 2000 and the Swedish JAS 39 Gripen. (PIA-NCR/RJB/JCA) 

 Jose Rafael Cesar Atencio | Philippine Information Agency | May 25, 2012 | Article Link

1 comment:

  1. Can you please give us details regarding your short-lived project at Mt. Banderahan, Anini-y, Antique dubbed as 580th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron"

    late 1980s