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Combat Utility Helicopter (Phase 3) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force

As part of its continuing need to improve its mobility capabilities to address the lack of enough air assets and the ageing of existing air assets, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) raised the requirement for the acquisition of another batch of Combat Utility Helicopters (CUH) to complement the existing fleet of Bell UH-1H Huey, Bell-Dornier UH-1D Huey, PZL Swidnik W-3A Sokol, and Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters operated by the PAF's 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing.

This led to the Combat Utility Helicopter (Phase 3) Acquisition Project, which is being pursued as part of the Horizon 2 phase priority projects of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP).



Sikorsky S-70A42 Black Hawks of the Austrian Air Force. Photo for representation only.
Overview:

The Philippine Air Force has been using the Bell UH-1 Huey for decades, with the first units said to have entered service with the PAF in 1967 with the first four (4) UH-1D transferred from the United States. More than 100 more units arrived over the next 4 decades, mostly with the newer and improved UH-1H Huey. Despite the high number of units delivered, the PAF only has less than 40 units in service by 2010.


A PAF Bell UH-1H Huey during training exercises. Credits to original source of photo.

With the Philippine Air Force starting the modernization of its tactical helicopter assets and moving ahead with finding replacements for its venerable fleet of Bell UH-1H and Bell-Dornier UH-1D Huey combat utility helicopters, it has started the Combat Utility Helicopter (Phase 1) acquisition program during the last part of the AFP Modernization Program (AFPMP) Capability Upgrade Program (CUP).

This led the acquisition of the PZL Swidnik W-3A Sokol combat utility helicopters from Poland, eight (8) units of which were ordered in 2010 and delivered in 2012.



The PZL Swidnik W-3A Sokol combat utlity helicopters of the PAF. 8 units were delivered starting 2012. Credits to original source of photo.

According to several PAF sources, they were hoping to acquire the Bell 412EP, which are partly militarized civilian helicopters developed from descendants of the Bell UH-1H Huey, but due to the bidding process of the acquisition, PZL Swidnik came out on top due to lower price than the Bell 412EP.

But due to lack of budget and the severe lack of enough helicopters, the PAF decided to purchase used UH-1 Huey helicopters as a stop gap, or "band-aid" measure, with a small budget that was available at that time.

This led to the Twenty-One Refurbished UH-1 Helicopters Acquisition Project, which was also part of the PAF's AFPMP Capability Upgrade Program. The project pushed through in 2011, although severe delays pushed the deal to be signed in 2013. Delays have again been encountered during the project implementation, and deliveries of the Dornier-Bell UH-1D and UH-1D Super Delta Hueys only proceeded in 2014.

Further delays led to the cancellation of the project's contract in 2015, with only 13 UH-1D and UH-1D Super Deltas delivered. So far, 2 of the birds were involved in crashes.



The Dornier-Bell UH-1D helicopters of the PAF. Some of the helicopters are actually improved variants called the UH-1D Super Delta, which uses more powerful engines and better avionics similar to those found on the upgraded UH-1H Huey II and the Japanese Fuji-Bell UH-1J Huey. Credits to original source of photo.

With the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP) replacing the previous program, it was highly anticipated that another batch of Combat Utility Helicopters will be acquired as the previous acquisition was not enough in terms of numbers.

Due to several issues on the W-3A Sokol helicopters, the PAF still insisted of going for the Bell 412EP. This led to the Department of National Defense (DND) deciding against public bidding on the next helicopter acquisition, instead opting for direct negotiation with the manufacturer of choice as recommended by the PAF.

The Combat Utility Helicopter (Phase 2) Acquisition Project pushed through during the Horizon 1 phase of the RAFPMP, 
allowing the PAF to acquire eight (8) Bell 412EP helicopters. Although 8 were acquired, only 5 were configured for combat utility roles with the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing, as the other 3 units were configured for Very Very Important Person (VVIP) transport roles with the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing.


The PAF Bell 412EP CUH. Credits to original source of photo.

So far, the Bell 412EP were said to be the best helicopters in PAF service, being newer than most PAF helicopters, and this was further highlighted with the loss of 3 of the new W-3A Sokol helicopters to accidents over the course of 5 years.

As the RAFPMP program shifts to higher gear with the Horizon 2 phase, more funding was made available and this allowed the PAF to allocate more budget in acquiring another batch of Combat Utility Helicopters. For the Phase 3 program, they were able to allocate enough funds to allow the acquisition of 16 helicopters, enough to fill 1 squadron.

As expected, the CUH Phase 3 was designated by the DND to be a Negotiated Procurement rather than Public Bidding, and the PAF recommended the deal to be awarded to Bell Helicopters, which offered a newer variant called the Bell 412EPI. It has a more powerful engine, latest avionics, and other safety features compared to the Bell 412EP.

A Php12.1 billion contract was signed between the DND and Bell Helicopters under a Government-to-Government (G2G0 deal with the Canadian Government through the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) on December 2017, with the first deliveries expected by 2019 and contract completion by end of 2020. The deal was announced by Bell during the Singapore Airshow 2018.

Canada was involved despite Bell being an American company since the Bell 412 family of helicopters are all manufactured in Bell's facility in Mirabel, Canada.

But several sectors within the Canadian Government questioned the sale of the helicopters to the Philippines, with concerns of using them in human rights abuse by the Philippine military based on the perception of Pres. Duterte's government on being a perennial human rights abuser. Canada even threatened to stop deliveries should it be found that the Philippines used the helicopters to activities related to human rights abuse.

MaxDefense believe that Canada's accusations are being unfair considering the Armed Forces of the Philippines, most especially the Philippine Air Force which is the end user, has a very solid reputation of not conducting human rights abuse despite being an agency under the Philippine government.

This prompted Pres. Duterte to order the cancellation of the deal with Canada, and restarting the Combat Utilty Helicopter Acquisition project.


From 2018 to 2019, the PAF restudied their options while manufacturers tried their best to woo the PAF to win the selection process. Among those that worked for the project were Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) with the KUH-1 Surion, Sikorsky with the S-70i Black Hawk, Leonardo (AgustaWestland) with their AW139M, and Russian Helicopters through Rosoboronexport with the Mi-171 Hip helicopter.

Despite being cancelled, Bell Helicopters was still hopeful that changes in the government's stance could allow the contract to be re-signed with the Bell 412EPI.

Most of the activities that happen during those times can be found on the "Updates" section of this resource page.

After almost a year of selection process, the Philippine Air Force decided to go with the Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk, after Sikorsky with the help of the US government, pushed the prices down considering the Black Hawk was originally the most expensive among the offers.


A contract between the DND and Sikorsky Aircraft through their Polish subsidiary PZL Mielec was signed on March 2019, with deliveries expected to start by late 2019 and completed by 2021.

The Sikorsky PZL Mielec S-70i Black Hawk. Photo credited to PZL Mielec's website.

Summary:

Combat Utility Helicopter (Phase 3) Acquisition Project

Note: Edited as of 19 June 2020.


* End User: Philippine Air Force (205th Tactical Helicopter Wing)

Quantity: 16 helicopters


* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP


* Project ABC:
 Php12,100,000,000.00


Acquisition Mode: Negotiated Procurement (Government-to-Government) with Polish Government, with US Government approval

* SARO Release:
 SARO-BMB-D-17-0025076 dated 20 December 2017


* Winning Proponent:
 Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. (thorough its Polish subsidiary PZL Mielec)

Product for Delivery: Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk International


* Contract Price:
 
US$241.4 million (approx. Php12,556,008,368.00)

* First post by MaxDefense: 3 July 2016

Status: Contract signed 21 March 2019. Notice to Proceed released as of 16 April 2019. Awaiting delivery, first unit expected by 3rd quarter 2020, 5 other units expected by late 2020. 10 other units will be delivered by 2021.


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U P D A T E S:
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06 July 2017:

In our Facebook community page post, MaxDefense confirmed that aside from offers for brand new helicopters, the PAF also received offers from companies providing lease-to-own offers, with the Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk military helicopter.

These helicopters can be delivered in a short span of time, and are offered together with a ready air and ground crew which will also serve as trainers for PAF personnel and pilots, and will be operating based on a fixed amount for a specific number of flight hours. Also, the leasing company will include maintenance and sustainment costs while the helicopters are under contract, and eventually these helicopters will be passed on the to the PAF after the contract ends.

While the option is now cheap, the process of having the helicopters available would be quick and will be properly supported until the PAF takes over the helicopters.

Also, the PAF is still looking at the Bell 412EP and Bell412EPI, to be procured through Canadian Commercial Corporation, similar to how the initial batch of CUH bought during the Horizon 1 phase was made.


And while the KAI KUH-1 Surion appears to be the national government's preferred choice, the PAF is also looking at other options including the Leonardo AW139M, Airbus Helicopters H160, and Russia's Mil Mi-171 which is scheduled for demonstration to the PAF very soon.



The PAF is still looking at both the Russian Helicopters Mil Mi-171 (top) and Leonardo AW139M (above) despite news that the government prefers the KAI KUH-1 Surion from South Korea.

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27 September 2018:

MaxDefense posted in its Facebook community page that Lockheed Martin made a confirmation during ADAS 2018 that they are not just offering the F-16V Viper to the Philippine Air Force, but also the Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk helicopter, most likely to fill the Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition project.

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. is now part of Lockheed Martin.


Lockheed Martin's Randy Howard, director of Business Development at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. Integrated Fighter Group, during his interview with Business Mirror during ADAS 2018.
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28 September 2018:

MaxDefense posted on our Facebook community page on Leonardo's presence in ADAS 2018. Aside from marketing their fixed wing aircraft, they are also marketing the AW139M combat utility helicopter, as well as the AW109 for armed scout helicopter requirements.

The problem with Leonardo is that they are being confronted by the AFP for not being able to provide spare parts and support for the fleet of AW109E Power helicopters acquired by both the PAF and Philippine Navy. This would have a negative effect on the selection of the AW139M for the CUH requirements, out of feat that the issue on support and spares would spill over to the AW139M.



The AW139M scale model and poster as displayed during ADAS 2018 at Leonardo's booth. Photo provided by MaxDefense community members.

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01 October 2018:

Based on the ADAS Official Publication from Shephard Media
, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) confirmed that they offered pre-owned, refurbished, modernized Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters to the PAF as an alternative to brand new units.

IAI's Lahav Division specializes in aircraft refurbishing, life extension and upgrade works, and may have sufficient number of Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawks in their care. 

MaxDefense sources confirmed that IAI's offer is indeed cheaper than a brand new helicopter, and may be a cheaper alternative should PAF prefer quantity for their budget.
The article from ADAS 2018 official publication Day 3, as provided by Shephard Media.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is also present in ADAS 2018, as they continue to offer the KUH-1 Surion helicopter for the CUH Acquisition Project. But they are currently at a disadvantage after a recent fatal crash involving the type in South Korea, which is still under investigation but may have happened due to faulty parts from Airbus' subcontractor in France.

Airbus' is the technology provider to KAI that led to the development of the Surion, as it was derived from Airbus' Super Puma.



KAI's booth in ADAS 2018 features the KUH-1 Surion (left), and the still under development KAH-1 (right). Photo provided to MaxDefense by one of its community members.
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03 October 2018:

Philippine Air Force's Commanding General Lt.Gen. Kintanar confirmed in the Senate hearing on DND budget for 2019, that there are 4 helicopter models qualify for the PAF's acquisition of Combat Utility Helicopters to eventually replace the Bell UH-1 Huey, and after the cancelled deal to acquire Bell 412EPI helicopters from Canada:

1. Still the Bell 412EPI, but to be acquired directly from the US instead of going through Canada;


Bell 412EP of the PAF.

2. The Leonardo (AgustaWestland) AW139M helicopter from Italy;


Leonardo AW139M of the Italian Air Force.

3. Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk, which is expensive but the PAF will take a look at the totality of the offer;


A Sikorsky Black Hawk of the US Army.

4. Russia's Mil Mi-171 (which is an export version of the Mil Mi-17)


Mi-171 helicopter. Photo from Airplane Pictures.

Other offers were not mentioned after being cut by Sen. Ejercito, although there was mention of the Korean KAI KUH-1 Surion which recently was involved in a crash.

MaxDefense previously confirmed the PAF's interest in all 4 helicopter models, as well as other offers made to the PAF, with the latest being the S-70 Black Hawk being among those packaged by the US government in their offer to sell arms to the Philippines.

Some interesting notes:

The package offered by the US includes both Bell and Sikorsky offers, and it is up to the Philippines to determine which one it prefers. Bell USA has been in negotiations with the PAF and DND to directly acquire the Bell 412EPI from them instead of going though Canadian authorities. There are other equipment being offered to the AFP and DND which MaxDefense will discuss in future posts.

The Bell 412EPI remains to be the cheapest in the shortlisted models, although it is also the least militarized. So far, PAF helicopter pilots prefer it due to the several reasons including transition, doctrine, design, and closeness to the Bell UH-1 that it will eventually replace.

The Bell 412EPI recently got a boost after the Japan Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) chose it as basis for their UH-1 replacement, which they call the Subaru-Bell 412EPX.

The AW139M was originally what the PAF was looking for when they were to acquire Attack Helicopters from AgustaWestland, but found it to be expensive, so they settled with the smaller AW109E. Also, the US Air Force recently selected the MH-139 (American version of the AW139M) as their replacement for the UH-1N for nuclear silo security.

The Russian Mi-171 is an export version of the Mi-17, and is the largest among the offerings. Apparently it is the second cheapest, after the Bell 412EPI, but is said to be expensive to operate due to its larger size. MaxDefense was informed by PAF sources that they believe the Mi-171 will fit better in future acquisition of Medium Lift Helicopters, as it is too big for certain missions they make use of Combat Utility Helicopters.

The video from the hearing can be accessed HERE.

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17 October 2018:

After posting about the Airbus H225 Super Puma and the KAI KUH-1 Surion's mechanical issues this morning, MaxDefense received info from a source involved in the Philippine Air Force's Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition project.

Apparently the PAF TWG and PAF Senior Leaders are NOT IN FAVOR of acquiring the Korean made KUH-1 Surion despite the juicy offer they made recently, which is for PAF to acquire 10 brand new Surions for the Php12.1 billion budget allocated for the project, and it will receive 2 additional brand new Surions, 7 used MD500 Defender helicopters formerly used by the Republic of Korea Army, and a Pohang-class corvette for the Philippine Navy, as a grant from the Korean government.

Source said that if there is someone insisting on the Surions, definitely its not from the PAF's side, since they know that the Surion is still plagued by mechanical failures and design issues, including rotor and gearbox issues as the faulty H225 Super Puma made by Airbus, which share the same components as the Surion.


The PAF is concerned about the results of the recent crash of a KAI MUH-1 Marineon (Marine variant of KUH-1 Surion) which appears to be a failure on the rotor assembly.

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08 December 2018: 

MaxDefense received confirmation from at least 3 relevant sources that the Philippine Air Force has selected the Sikorsky PZL Mielec S-70i Black Hawk for its Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition project (Horizon 2).

This was also confirmed by Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana in an interview by the media. He also confirmed that the PAF is looking at finalizing the acquisition of the S-70i Black Hawk by next year.


It's good that Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana himself confirmed that the Philippines Air Force's Technical Working Group for the Attack Helicopter and Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition projects selected the Turkish-made T129 ATAK attack helicopter made by Turkish Aerospace Industries, and the US-made S-70 Black Hawk made by Sikorsky (Lockheed Martin), respectively. This means that the DND and the SND himself supports the decision of the PAF, and would back them up for this decision in getting the final approval by the president.

At least former Commanding General PAF Lt.Gen. Galileo Kintanar's sacrifices of being forced to step done from his position would not be in vain. 

Sec. Lorenzana's statement was recorded in the footage, which can be accessed HERE.

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08 December 2018:

MaxDefense released this guide for its readers in the Facebook community page. This is after several fake defense pages are tollerating the proliferation of fake news or incorrect information in their pages, which is confusing readers into believing wrong information.

For those who still do not understand the helicopter acquisitions of the Philippine Air Force especially those who do not see the differences, here's a summary for you:

There are currently 2 different and separate helicopter acquisitions of the PAF:

1. Attack Helicopter (AH) acquisition project - this is for armed helicopters capable of attacking ground or sea targets using guns, rockets, and even missiles, and providing close air support to ground forces. The winner for this is expected to replace the ageing McDonnell Douglas MD-520MG Defender helicopter fleet.


The PAF's TWG and leadership selected the TAI T129 ATAK attack helicopter for the PAF's Attack Helicopter acquisition project. Credits to original source of photo.
2. Combat Utility Helicopter (CUH) acquisition project - this is for utility helicopters that can be utilized during combat operations, and are used to move troops to and from the combat zone, bring in supplies, and can also be used during disaster relief operations and for search & rescue. The winner in the project is expected to eventually replace the ageing Bell UH-1D/H Huey helicopters.


The PAF's TWG and leadership selected the Sikorsky PZL Mielec S-70i Black Hawk for the PAF's Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition project. Credits to original source of photo.

The PAF's Technical Working Groups chose the following, according to our sources from PAF, as well as from Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana himself:

For Attack Helicopter, the PAF chose the Turkish-made T129 ATAK made by Turkish Aerospace Industries (left photo below).

For Combat Utility Helicopter, the PAF chose the American S-70 Black Hawk made by Lockheed Martin Sikorsky (right photo below).

The botched deal with Canada for Bell 412EPI helicopters is also under the Combat Utility Helicopter project. But that don't matter anymore.

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09 December 2018:

KAI, one of the competitors for the Combat Utility Helicopter (CUH) project of the Philippine Air Force, also confirmed in their Company President's speech recently that they acknowledge Lockheed Martin (owner of Sikorsky) as offering low price dumping for their CUH (obviously talking about the Black Hawk) in the Philippines.

This corroborates with Defense Sec. Delfin Lorezana's announcement that Lockheed Martin Sikorsky did offer their Black Hawks lower than expected. The SND mentioned that Sikorsky will indeed supply 16 Black Hawks for the same budget originally allocated for 16 smaller, cheaper Bell 412EPI helicopters, although originally Sikorsky offered to sell only less than 16 units for the same budget.

Recent reports also confirmed that KAI can only provide 10 helicopters in the same budget, which makes Sikorsky's offer very enticing to the PAF.

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11 December 2018:

The Department of National Defense (DND) needs to hurry the acquisition of the Combat Utility Helicopter (CUH) acquisition project of the Philippine Air Force. MaxDefense received a bleak info from some of its defense and government sources that the SARO (fund allocation) for the CUH acquisition project worth Php12.1 billion is EXPIRING THIS MONTH, and has been denied extension by the Department of Budget & Management (DBM) since this has already been extended last time. Once expired, the allocation will be cancelled, and the DND would need to do the request for funding allocation again next year, and this might take several months again, numerous meetings and document signing before getting re-approval.


There are only few solutions that the DND can do, and all of them require the DND Bids and Awards Committee as well as the DND Negotiating team to convene and work fast. Government to Government Deal (G2G), including US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) won’t be possible as it normally takes months before a deal can be reached.

One of the options is to work fast and award the project to Lockheed Martin – Sikorsky Helicopters within this month. But this may require the DND to pass a new Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) in favour of a Commercial Contract with Lockheed Martin – Sikorsky, instead of a G2G or FMS deal with Poland or US, respectively. The current ADM approved by the DND is said to be in favour of G2G or FMS with a foreign country.

MaxDefense also received fresh confirmation that Polish government officials, as well as representatives from Lockheed Martin – Sikorsky are currently in the Philippines to discuss the deal and try to find ways to speed up the awarding. Polish officials are needed since Lockheed Martin – Sikorsky will be sourcing their helicopters from Sikorsky’s subsidiary PZL Mielec in Poland. But here’s the problem: even if G2G can be done quickly, the Philippines doesn’t have a Defense Cooperation Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Poland that would allow G2G between the 2 countries. Even if the DND tries to, it may take months before a MOA between the DND and its Polish counterpart can be made, approved and signed for implementation.

Thus the only way to go is a quick awarding of a contract in favour of Lockheed Martin – Sikorsky under a Commercial Contract with the DND.

Poland’s participation in the project also support MaxDefense’s information posted these past few days that Sikorsky’s offer is based on the S-70i International Black Hawk made by PZL Mielec in Poland, rather than the UH-60M Black Hawk made in the US by Sikorsky. Only the S-70i can possibly meet the budget requirements of the Philippines, considering that Php12.1 billion is only worth US$228.3 million in today’s exchange rate, which in turn means 16 Black Hawks could translate to only US$14.3 million each, still far too low compared to the recent contracts Sikorsky made in 2018 alone for Black Hawks in the global amrket.

Normally US made UH-60M Black Hawks would cost north of US$20 million each, and even the Polish built S-70i normally cost upward of US$15 million.

Nonetheless, the DND should work fast and complete this deal within this year. Otherwise, the last remaining solution is for Pres. Duterte to intervene and instruct the DBM to allow the SARO extension until next year.

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12 December 2018:

In a MaxDefense post we made on our Facebook community page, we posted Korean News Chosun Ilbo's report confirming that the prospect that the Philippine Air Force will choose the KUH-1 Surion as its next Combat Utility Helicopter is fading with the PAF's selection of the Sikorsky Black Hawk.

It also confirmed that the Black Hawk had a better score that the Surion during the evaluation that led to the PAF picking the tried and tested US-designed helicopter. This is in addition to Sikorsky's being able to offer 16 Black Hawks for the price of 10 Surions.

But it looks like they are not giving up yet. 

Dismal indeed for the Korean defense aerospace industries after KAI's big loss to Saab-Boeing JV for the USAF Future Trainer (TX) project.

While hopes fade for KAI to export the KUH-1 Surion to the Philippines, they seem to believe that they still have a chance.
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14 December 2018:

In this news report from Poland, Lockheed Martin's Director of Communications in Europe, Middle East and Asia Mr. John Nielson confirmed that the Black Hawks that were offered to the Philippines are those made in PZL Mielec's plant in Poland, which means these are S-70i International Black Hawks, contrary to reports by other pages that the offer was the US-spec UH-60M Black Hawk.

Excerpt from the news report:
"We note information about the selection of Black Hawk helicopters produced in Poland by the Philippines. Every sale of S-70i Black Hawk helicopters is excellent news in the context of employment in the Polish aviation sector. This applies to both production and engineering sites, including 1,700 people employed at PZL Mielec, the largest Lockheed Martin production plant located outside the United States" - says John Neilson, head of Lockheed Martin communication in Europe.

MaxDefense earlier doubted the news on offering the UH-60M to the PAF, since this variant is expensive and illogical, considering it is unreasonable for Lockheed Martin Sikorsky to offer it based on the PAF's budget. The S-70i variant is the same standard Black Hawk model but is cheaper since it is produced using lower Polish labour and production costs, and has less bells and whistles than it's American counterpart.

Based on information released in the past 2 weeks, the PAF selected the Sikorsky Black Hawk, with 16 units said to have been offered to the PAF with the budget it allocated, approx at US$240 million. Even based on previous Black Hawk acquisition by other countries, US$240 million isn't enough to allow for the acquisition of 16 brand new Black Hawks, even the cheapest variant. This deal is actually a bargain for the PAF, so it's interesting to see what are the inclusions should a deal be finalized between the DND and LM Sikorsky.


The Sikorsky PZL Mielec S-70i Black Hawk. Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.
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23 December 2018:

During the change of command ceremonies for the Philippine Air Force, outgoing chief Lt.Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar highlighted the expected deliveries for the PAF for 2019. All of the flying assets highlighted in the list were already discussed by MaxDefense in the past, considering our accurate monitoring of RAFPMP projects based directly from AFP and DND records.

Among those he mentioned and listed was the 1
6 Black Hawk helicopters, which he  described as “the best combat utility helicopter in the world”.

Report from Philippine Daily Inquirer can be accessed HERE.

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16 January 2019:

The report from Asia Pacific Defense Journal 
confirmed the validity of all our earlier posts regarding the planned acquisition of Black Hawk helicopters for the Philippine Air Force’s Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition project. We previously insisted that the offer made by Sikorsky were the S-70i Black Hawk made by its Polish subsidiary PZL Mielec, as confirmed to us by our sources. This contrasts with claims or reports by other pages that the offer made by Sikorsky was the US-made UH-60 Black Hawk.

This also supports MaxDefense’s exclusive report last month confirming the presence of Polish officials in the Philippines for talks with the DND and PAF as part of negotiations between the two sides.

With the aggressive offer made by Sikorsky despite the low budget allocated by the Philippine Air Force, common sense alone shows that it is impossible for Sikorsky to achieve a reasonable offer using US-made UH-60 Black Hawks, which are more expensive that their Polish-made version due to having a more complicated avionics system and significantly higher production costs.

Since the helicopters will be sourced from Poland, technically they are not US made helicopters, allowing both sides to skirt Pres. Duterte’s recent rants of not purchasing US arms due to threats of sanctions for buying Russia arms under CAATSA, and in support of his growing friendship with Russia and China.

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17 January 2019:
According to Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, he got the approval of Pres. Duterte to proceed with the acquisition of the Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk from Poland.


This despite the president's earlier pronouncements that he won't agree for the AFP to buy weapons from the US because of his disagreement on CAATSA.

Here's the report from GMA News regarding the above matter:

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PHL to purchase Black Hawk helicopters from Poland —Lorenzana
Published January 17, 2019 5:21pm
By ANNA FELICIA BAJO, GMA News

The Philippine government will purchase Black Hawk helicopters from Poland, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Thursday.

Lorenzana told reporters that President Rodrigo Duterte already approved the procurement for the helicopters.

“We talked to him sometime na, ‘Sir this might be in violation with your pronouncement that you are not going to buy from US (United States) but the Air Force wants that,’ Sabi niya, ‘Yan ba talaga ang gusto niyo?’ Nandoon ‘yung air force chief e, ‘yan ba talaga ang gusto niyo?’ ‘Yes, Sir.’ ‘Okay, go ahead,” Lorenzana recalled.

“Ang sabi ko sa kanya anyway this aircraft is coming from Poland. Gagawin sa Poland ‘yan... there is a factory in Poland making Black Hawk under Lockheed Martin at saka Sikorsky. I think he approves that, this is an exception siguro because maganda doon na,” he added.

Last January 11, Duterte said the Philippines would not buy military equipment from the US, adding that the country “criticized heavily” his war on illegal drugs.

Duterte bared that he has looked to Israel and South Korea as potential arms suppliers. — MDM, GMA News

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24 March 2019:

After releasing our blog on Sikorsky PZL Mielec winning the Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition project (Horizon 2) of the Philippine Air Force, we received confirmation from both DND and PAF sources that the Contract Signing between the DND and PZL Mielec happened on 21 March 2019.

The Contract value is the same as indicated in the Notice of Award (NOA) which is US$241.4 million. So far MaxDefense has not receive the actual value in Philippine Pesos (Php) which depends on the agreed exchange rate between the two parties.

While contract was already signed, Sikorsky PZL Mielec can only prepare for the implementation of the contract once the Notice to Proceed (NTP) is released by the DND, backed by the Opening of Letter of Credit (LOC) to support the financial requirements of the deal.

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04 June 2019:

The Sikorsky Black Hawk was among those featured by Lockheed Martin during the Air Power Symposium held at the Marriott Hotel in Manila.

The S-70i Black Hawk was selected for the PAF's Combat Utility Helicopter Acquisition Project, while Sikorsky is also offering the S-70i Battlehawk for the PAF's Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project, and offering the a MEDEVAC version to the Philippine Army.

Photo from the Air Power Sympsium showing the S-70i Black Hawk. Photo shared exclusively to MaxDefense by a community member.
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15 June 2020:

Last week, the Polish Ambassador to the Philippines Jarosław Szczepankiewicz confirmed two things:

1. The first 6 of 16 Sikorsky-PZL Mielec S-70i Black Hawk helicopters ordered by the Philippine Air Force would be delivered before yearend.

2 Sikorsky is still offering the armed version of the S-70i Black Hawk. While he did not mentioned specifics, he did mention "meeting PAF's budget" which means this was offered for the PAF's Attack Helicopter acquisition project.

The delivery of 6 Black Hawks by yearend will definitely have a huge impact on the PAF's overall capabilities, considering PAF's heavy reliance on its rotary utility assets.

The contract-to-delivery period can also be considered as quick enough considering the contract was signed only last year.

As for the offer of armed Black Hawk offer, this is just a proof that the PAF, and in extension the DND, are indeed still open to shift their selection from the TAI T129 ATAK which has not confirmed until now if they can secure the needed engines, avionics and other subsystems from American and European suppliers.

Anyway, MaxDefense has news coming up from the US that is related to this post, so keep posted on our page.

More on the Polish Ambassador's statement on the link below:

"Poland stands with PHL in defense, development" - posted on 10 June 2020 by Business Mirror Philippines, authored by Polish Amb. Jarosław Szczepankiewicz

The S-70i Black Hawk, both in armed and unarmed variants. Photo credited to PZL Mielec.
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19 June 2020:

With Sikorsky confirming their offer of the S-70i Armed Black Hawk to the PAF's Attack Helicopter Acquisition Program, may we remind readers that we will be separating discussions related to the Attack Helicopter Project offer from this discussion on the S-70i Black Hawk for Combat Utility Helicopter Acquisition project. 


This is to avoid confusion considering Sikorsky's chances of also bagging the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project is "very high".

Please refer to the link below for discussions regarding the S-70i Armed Black Hawk.

"Attack Helicopter (Phase 2) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force"- posted on Philippine Defense Resource.


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20 June 2020:

While an exact delivery date is still unavailable, MaxDefense believes that they will start arriving by August 2020, based on the availability of photos of the helicopters conducting flight tests in Poland. Also as seen on the photo below, it appears that at least one of the helicopters has already been completely painted and most likely completed flight tests, and was readied for delivery.


One of the 6 S-70i Blackhawk helicopters for delivery this year, appears to be ready for delivery. Photo credits to Polish planespotting group EPRZ.
So far MaxDefense has not heard of any issues regarding the deliveries, which is actually good news. 

MaxDefense would like to take this opportunity to post photos of shared by Polish aviation photographer Marcin Bobro, which were exclusively shared to MaxDefense Philippines. The aircraft involved is one of the incoming 6 units for delivery this year.






S-70i Blackhawk bound for the Philippine Air Force with temporary serial number SP-YVC conducting flight tests in Mielec, Poland. All photos credited to Polish planespotter Marcin Bobro, who is a MaxDefense Philippines community member.
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02 August 2020:
MaxDefense received word that, while the first batch of 6 helicopters will be arriving soon, most likely within August 2020, the actual delivery to the Philippine Air Force after re-assembly, checking, testing, and inspections will be made on November 2020.


But even after accepting, we expect the helicopters to still enter operationalization phase for at least 6 months to 1 year, as 1 year is the standard duration of the PAF, since this is a new asset, and cannot be said as similar to the 30-year old S-70A-5 Black Hawk that the PAF currently has in service.

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First post and edit: 29 June 2019 @ MaxDefense Philippines
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines / Philippine Defense Resource




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