Friday, 24 July 2009

New choppers for Air Force by 2010

Zaff Solmerin
Business Mirror

WITH an approved budget of P3.2 billion, President Arroyo has ordered defense and military officials to hasten the acquisition of brand-new combat helicopters so that these would be delivered before she steps down in 2010.

Antonio Romero, defense undersecretary for finance and military affairs, told reporters that the Department of National Defense is just waiting for the final decision of the Air Force on which aircraft to buy.

“The ball is now in the hands of the Air Force because the President wants the helicopters to be delivered before her term ends,” Romero said.

Romero said the Air Force had been given three options to consider and should be within the bound of the approved budget: retain the technical specifications of the aircraft, reduce the number of aircrafts with change of specifications particularly the payload capacity, or buy second-hand aircraft.

But if the technical specifications would be changed, this needs the approval of Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and if the option is to purchase refurbished units, this should be approved by the President.

However, the last two options seemed unacceptable to the President since she wants brand-new attack helicopters, Romero said.

He said the Air Force has given the choice to either buy MG-530, the upgraded version of the current MG-520 already in use by the military, or the Super Cobra attack helicopters used by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I cannot give you for now details about the specifications of a Super Cobra but I can assure you this is a very powerful attack aircraft with multiple weapons,” Romero said.

If the Air Force opts for the Super Cobra, Romero said the approved budget is good only for four to six units, while if the MG-530 were chosen, 12 can be purchased.

The new attack helicopters were supposed to have been delivered last year but the acquisition was temporarily shelved by Teodoro in 2008 after a fact-finding committee found merits on the complaint of anomalous bidding by a losing bidder in the P1.2 billion six night-capable attack helicopters.

Romero was among those investigated in connection with the anomalous bidding.

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