Philippine Air Force used to operating supersonic fighters
The South Korean F/A-50 "Golden Eagle" may regenerate the supersonic capability of the Philippine Air Force upon its arrival by 2015 but the former jet aircraft is not the fastest plane to be operated by the PAF.
Instead, this honor belongs to the Chance Vought F-8 "Crusader" jet fighter which has a maximum speed of Mach 1.8, PAF spokesperson Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said.
The Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) jet aircraft is capable of speeds of up to Mach 1.5.
Around 12 F/A-50s are expected to be in service in the PAF by 2016.
The F-8 is a single-engine, supersonic, carrier-based air superiority jet aircraft built for the United States Navy and the US Marine Corps.
"The fastest jet aircraft we have operated is the Mach 1.8 capable F-8H 'Crusader' of which 36 units were acquired in 1980s," he added.
Okol said that F-8s acted as the primary interceptor aircraft of the PAF, due to its longer range and night flying capability, ably supporting the only day capable 37 Northrop F-5A and B models acquired in 1967.
The PAF spokesperson also added that the "Crusader" was a fast climbing and a more maneuverable aircraft than the "Tiger".
These F-5s have a top speed of Mach 1.4, Okol pointed out.
The F-8Hs only served until 1988 as the PAF was having difficulties in finding spare parts and fueling the "Crusader".
These factors prompted the Philippines to ground the F-8Hs by 1988.
The aircraft was finally withdrawn from service in 1991 after they were badly damaged by the Mount Pinatubo eruption, and have since been offered for sale as scrap.
Department of National Defense (DND) undersecretary Fernando Manalo earlier said that with the conclusion of negotiations with KAI for the F/A 50s last Feb. 21, the country is now on its way to regenerate its supersonic capability.
"We are now back in the supersonic age," he added.
The F/A-50 has a top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and 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.
Manalo said that the F/A-50 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.
High speed is essential for tracking, pursuing and if necessary, eliminating possible air threats detected in Philippine airspace.
The PAF's air defense capabilities virtually went out of the window in 2005 when it retired its remaining Northrop F-5 "Freedom Fighter" interceptor aircraft due airframe aging and lack of spare parts.
It was forced to use its remaining Marchetti S-211 trainer jet planes in an air defense role while waiting for its next generation fighter.
However, the number of S-211, estimated to be around 14, in PAF service was slowly whittled down due to a series of crashes attributed to airframe aging and pilot errors. As of this writing only three to six S-211 are believed to be in service.
In the Feb. 21 final negotiations, the DND and KAI ironed out the two remaining kinks of the P18.9 billion project – namely the Buyer’s Furnish Equipment (BFE) and the cost of the spares for the 12 aircraft.
The South Korean manufacturer agreed to shoulder any increase in the BFE cost, projected to be USD5.93 million and the corresponding increment cost. The BFE includes navigational systems which will be bought from US. The DND also agreed to the position of the South Koreans to reduce the amount of spares for the aircraft by USD500,000.
Manalo said the reduction is “negligible” but did not say the final amount of the spares.
The DND official stated that they are just awaiting the Multi-Year Obligational Authority (MYOA) to be issued by the Department of Budget and Management before the issuance of notice of award.
The MYOA is a government guarantee that it will pay the contract cost. After the issuance of the notice of award, the contract signing will follow, then the Notice to Proceed with the contract. Manalo said they are targeting to sign the contract within the month or before March 15.
Manalo said that F/A-50 purchase aims to provide the Philippines with " a minimum credible defense (posture).”
Two of the jet aircraft is expected to be deliver within 18 months of the signing of the contract.
Earlier, DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the delivery of the jets could start in June 2015.
He added that both parties have reached a compromise on the delivery of spare parts to 60 days.
The F/A-50 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 F/A-50.
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 F/A-50 "Golden Eagle" 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.
The aircraft has a maximum speed of Mach 1.4-1.5.
Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf) of thrust with afterburner. (PNA)
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