MANILA — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año confirmed that the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50PH “Fighting Eagle” jet fighters were blooded in combat during the surgical air and artillery strike that wounded Abu Sayyaf Group commander Isnilon Hapilon last January 26.
The said attack concentrated on the lair of the bandit leader located in Butig, Lanao Del Sur.
Aside from severely wounding Hapilon, the AFP chief said around 15 ASG and Maute Group terrorists were also killed.
He said the ASG leader’s wounds required immediate blood transfusion and is said to be bedridden and being carried by four men as of this posting.
However, Año did not give the exact role the FA-50PHs played in the surgical strike for security and operational reasons.
The KAI made jet aircraft is armed with 20mm cannons and can carry a variety of air-to-air missiles, rockets and bombs.
“I cannot discussed the specific role (the FA-50PHs) did in the (Butig strike) but we can say that the FA-50PHs were among the aircraft utilized for (that) operation and even the succeeding ones. What we can say is that the FA-50PHs are very good and efficient (in their assigned role),” the AFP chief said in Filipino.
Año added that the excellent performance of the above-mentioned aircraft belies earlier claims that the FA-50PHs are only good for ceremonial fly-bys.
“The aircraft can also be used internal security operations and is a good justification for procuring it,” he stressed.
Currently, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has four units of the FA-50PHs with another eight units to be delivered this year and the next.
The PAF has 12-plane order from KAI is worth PHP18.9 billion.
The FA-50PHs has a top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and a half times the speed of sound and is capable of being fitted air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 “Sidewinder” air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.
It will act as the country’s interim fighter until the Philippines get enough experience of operating fast jet assets and money to fund the acquisition of more capable fighter aircraft.
The FA-50PH design is largely derived from the F-16 “Fighting Falcon”, and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.
KAI’s previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the FA-50PHs.
The aircraft can carry two pilots in tandem seating. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots.
The altitude limit is 14,600 meters (48,000 feet), and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service.
There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 liters (701 US gallons), five in the fuselage and two in the wings.
An additional 1,710 liters (452 US gallons) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.
Trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.
The FA-50PHs uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a full authority digital engine control system jointly developed by General Electric and KAI.
The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner.
Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf) of thrust with afterburner. PNA-northboundasia.com