FOUR of the eight utility helicopters that were bought by the previous administration under the Armed Forces Modernization Program are already in the country, military officials said on Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, Armed Forces deputy chief of staff for plans and programs (J-5), said four of the eight Sokol (Falcon) helicopters from Polish-Italian defense supplier Augusta PZL Swidnik have arrived at Clark Field in Pampanga.
“The four utility helicopters are being assembled and will soon be inspected by the Air Force. These are a great addition to our capability, and we hope to use them soon,” Deveraturda said.
He said the remaining four are being expected to be delivered at the third quarter of this year.
Since they are multipurpose, Deveraturda said the delivered helicopters can be used to transport troops and for air evacuation, disaster response and even relief missions.
The procurement of the eight helicopters was done through a negotiated bidding during the term of then-Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales. The P2.8-billion contract was sealed in August 2009.
The Air Force said in a statement that the Sokols can be fitted with equipment that make them ideal as utility helicopters. They are night-vision capable and are equipped with the SN-350 autopilot system.
It said that while a Huey helicopter can only carry seven passengers, a Sokol can accommodate 10 passengers.
The Polish-made helicopter also has a maximum takeoff weight of 14,110 pounds and a maximum range of 402 nautical miles in a single flight with airspeed of 140.5 knots.
“A Sokol is fitted with gun mounts for the M-60D MG [7.62mm machinegun] on both sides and when utilized during search and rescue or over water operations, it can be equipped with pilot-controlled Emergency Floatation Gear attached to the lowest portion of the aircraft,” the Air Force said.
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