Philippines FIGHTERS | Air Force has limited operational fighters due to logistics woes

Isa Khan

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By Manny Mogato, News5 editor-at-large

(September 21, 2022) – The Philippine Air Force’s capability to defend the country’s airspace has been seriously affected by the lack of spare parts to operate the squadron of South Korean-made FA-50 light fighters even after two of the aircraft were seen escorting the president’s plane enroute to New York on Sunday.

Only three of the 12 light fighters remained operational, according to an air force official who declined to be named for security reasons, because of logistics problems which make it hard for the air force maintenance staff to replace broken parts.

“The story here is logistics flow and the maintenance that’s not catching up,” the unnamed air force official said, adding most of the FA-50s were sidelined due to periodic maintenance. “It’s not about the skills of the maintenance crew but it’s about the logistics that are needed to maintain the aircraft. It’s like in cars, some components fail so we have to replace them, we call these ‘Time Change Items’. They’re scheduled for repair and we already requested for the spare parts but our order has yet to arrive.”

Hopefully, he said two aircraft will be brought back to operational status by November. The fighters were sidelined as early as the second quarter of 2022.

The limited number of fighters has affected air defense operations, said an air force spokeswoman, Colonel Maria Consuelo Castillo, but assured the Air Force can still perform its mandated mission.

“We are able to perform external defense operations but our capability is really limited,” Castillo said, adding the number of fighters even at full strength is not enough.

She said some FA-50s were grounded due to maintenance work but she could not say when the aircraft would be returned to “operational” status.

Castillo said it will depend on when the spare parts will arrive from the aircraft manufacturer, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), in South Korea.

“There is a slowdown in the global supply chain so, the delivery of the spare parts from our proponent is definitely affected,” said Castillo, blaming the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We cannot say when they will be back to operational status but from our end, from the end of the defense department and from the end of the Air Force, we already communicated the spares that are needed and we’re just waiting for the delivery,” she added.

She also declined to say how many FA-50s are currently on operational status for security reasons. “I don’t have clearance to divulge the exact number,” she said. “Definitely, the operational is more than that,” said Castillo, referring to the reports that only three FA-50s are operational.

The South Korean FA-50s were acquired during the time of the late president Benigno Aquino at P18.9 billion. The aircraft were delivered in 2015 until 2017 and were designed for training pilots transitioned to much faster multi-role fighters, like the F16 which the US offered to sell for $2.4 billion.

Air Force officials did not plan well for the sustainability of the aircraft, causing the maintenance problem for the fighters.

 

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