MANILA — The Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) first two FA-50PH “Fighting Eagle” light-interim fighter aircraft will be participating in this year’s Balikatan exercises.
“(Our) FA-50s will take part in ‘Balikatan’ for the first time,” PAF spokesperson Col. Enrico Canaya said in a text message to PNA.
Canaya said FA-50PH pilots will be taught airborne intercept techniques, air combat maneuvers, interdiction and close-air support by their American counterparts.
This is the first time the PAF will be fielding supersonic aircraft to the Balikatan exercises since the decommissioning of its Northrop F-5 “Tiger” jet fighter fleet in 2005.
Prior to the delivery of the first two FA-50PHs last Nov. 28, PAF presence in Balikatan air maneuvers consist of its sub-sonic Marchetti-SIAI S-211 jet trainers along with its Rockwell OV-10 “Bronco” attack aircraft and various models of the UH-IH “Huey” combat utility helicopters and MG-520 attack choppers.
The Philippines has a 12-plane order from Korea Aerospace Industries worth PHP18.9 billion. Deliveries of the remaining 10 aircraft are expected by 2017.
Opening ceremonies for Balikatan 2016 are slated for April 4, followed by several training events throughout the 12-day exercise while closing ceremony is scheduled to be held April 15, said Balikatan 2016 spokesperson Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson.
“Balikatan” is an annual Philippine-US military bilateral training exercise that is a signature element of the Filipino-American alliance focused on a variety of missions to include humanitarian assistance, maritime law enforcement, and environmental protection. Priam Nepomuceno/PNA / northboundasia.com