New fighter jets ‘the real thing’ for PAF pilots
BUSAN, South Korea—Nothing beats hands-on training.
Military pilots will no longer have to resort to theoretical exercises but will be honing their aviation skills in actual fighter jets, which their South Korean maker is expected to start delivering next year.
Philippine Air Force (PAF) pilots will not have to make do with “table-top exercises” anymore, said President Benigno Aquino III as he touted the advantages for the Philippines of acquiring 12 South Korean-made fighter jets during his just-concluded visit here last week.
The Philippines purchased the jets from the Korea Aerospace Industries for P18.9 billion. Delivery will start next year, with two of the jets expected by December 2015. Final delivery will be completed in 2017.
Mr. Aquino inspected a model of the FA-50 at the Gimhae Air Base in Busan before leaving for home last Friday.
The President was in Busan with other heads of state and government of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to attend the two-day Asean-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit in celebration of 25 years of relations between Asean and South Korea.
The last time the Philippine military had a fighter jet in its inventory was in 2005, Mr. Aquino noted.
With these new aircraft, the country’s military pilots will be able to hone their skills and have the means to bring back quick results from their surveillance of the country’s waters, he said.
“Just because you’re a pilot doesn’t mean you can already be a fighter pilot,” the President said.
He said the pilots could do tabletop exercises and simulation flying, but that’s not as good as the real thing.
“It’s still a different matter if your radar gets used to plotting this, and your air controllers learn how to guide this. We could lose those abilities,” Mr. Aquino said.
“So the purpose of these planes is to retain those abilities. They call this the lead-in. It’s like these are the trainers for that [core of] fighters,” he added.
Mr. Aquino noted that at present, if the military wanted to check something from the air, all it had were “ancient planes” like the Nomad and the Islander. A round trip on one of those planes could take about nine hours, he said.
With the swifter fighter jets, the job of surveillance will be made quicker, he said.
The Philippine acquisition of fighter jets comes at a time of increasing tensions with China over territories in the West Philippine Sea, or the South China Sea, which China claims almost in its entirety.
The Philippines has taken the issue to a United Nations arbitration tribunal, but Beijing has refused to participate or recognize the tribunal’s jurisdiction.