Nolcom wants more capable planes for PH Rise patrol

MANILA — To ensure better monitoring of the Philippine Rise (formerly known as Benham Rise), the Tarlac-based Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) is requesting the use of more capable aircraft in its maritime patrol missions.

This despite the availability of aircraft from the Air Force’s Tactical Operations Group 2 and 3, which Nolcom spokesperson Lt. Col. Isagani Nato said was also utilized for air support missions against other security threats.

Aircraft being requested by Nolcom for air patrol missions over the Benham Rise and other maritime areas under its control include the long range Lockheed C-130 “Hercules” cargo aircraft, Airbus Military C-295 medium transport, which also doubles as a recon plane, and the speedy Mach 1.5 capable KAI FA-50PHs.

“But we (are also) ask(ing) the HHQS (Armed Forces higher headquarters) for the utilization of fixed-wing air assets and bigger planes like C-130 and C-295 incl FA-50 (aircraft, which are) capable (of) stable and long-range maritime air patrol,” Nato added.

Earlier, the Nolcom spokesperson said air patrol missions off maritime areas under their jurisdiction are a regular affair with three to four missions a month. Last Jan. 31, a Japanese-donated TC-90 conducted its first maiden patrol over the Bajo De Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), Zambales and other areas under Nolcom supervision.

“Given the task, the (T)C-90 plane, with a tail number of 390, made its maiden flight at 9:45 a.m. of January 31, 2018, in the area of Bajo De Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), Masinloc, Zambales. It has flown around the shoal for about 800 feet above sea level sighting four Filipino fishing boats, together with nine Chinese vessels comprising of four Chinese Coast Guard vessels, four unknown Chinese vessels and a Chinese fishing vessel. Moreover, the Filipino pilots heard no challenge from the Chinese Coast Guard,” Nato earlier said.

TC-90 with tail number 390, one of the two Japanese aircraft donated to the Philippines last March 27, was activated during short ceremonies at Naval Base Heracleo Alano, Sangley Point, Cavite City last Nov. 21.

The TC-90s have a range of over 1,000 nautical miles, and a cruising speed of 260 knots and capable of carrying eight passengers along with the pilots.

As of this time, the Navy is operating around six Norman Britten “Islander” patrol aircraft, four GAF “Nomad” planes, five AgustaWestland combat utility helicopters and one Robinson R-22 training helicopter.

The TC-90, which was part of the Beechcraft King Air aircraft family, was offered by Japan shortly after the Agreement Concerning the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology was finalized last Feb. 29, 2016.

Two of the TC-90s were delivered to Sangley Point, Cavite last March 27 with the remaining three to be delivered in the first quarter of 2018.