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Medium Lift Aircraft Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force

To further improve its airlift capabilities as a follow-on to previous improvements made in the previous years, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is embarking on the acquisition of additional medium tactical transport aircraft for the 220th Airlift Wing.

Under the Horizon 2 priority projects phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP), the Philippine Air Force has received approval to pursue the Medium Lift Aircraft Acquisition Project, which eyes the purchase of three (3) new medium lift tactical transport aircraft.

Currently, the PAF already has the Airbus-CASA C-295M medium lift transport aircraft, and its very highly likely that the same aircraft would be acquired under this project. But that is being challenged by several proponents, with Indonesia's PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) being among the most aggressive with their CN-235-220 aircraft.

A PAF C-295M during delivery flight from Europe. Credits to original source of photo.

One of the PAF's C-295M aircraft. Photo credits to Miguel Cenon.

Project Summary:

Medium Lift Aircraft Acquisition Project

Note: edit as of 07 June 2020

* End User: Philippine Air Force (220th Airlift Wing)

Quantity: 3 aircraft

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php5,288,609,984.00

Acquisition Mode: Negotiated Procurement (Government-to-Government) with still unidentified country.

* Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund, to be paid via Multi-Year Obligatory Allocations (MYOA).

* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: TBA

Product for Delivery: TBA

* Contract Price: TBA

* First post by MaxDefense: 

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag/s: #PAFMediumLiftAircraftAcqisition 

Status: Scheduled for negotiations by 2020. Initial funding for project allocated under AFP Modernization Funding for 2020. Currently Airbus-CASA's C-295 and PTDI's CN-235-220 under consideration.


The PAF has received three (3) Airbus-CASA C-295M medium tactical transport aircraft under the Capability Upgrade Project (CUP) projects of the AFP Modernization Program's Medium Lift Fixed-Wing Aircraft Acquisition Project. This was after beating Italy's Alenia Aerospace with the C-27J Spartan.

Based on the old specifications used for the abovementioned project, it is closely based on the Airbus C-295M's specs, although pricewise MaxDefense received info from sources several years ago that the C-295M was also cheaper than the C-27J.

The C-27J Spartan once competed against the Airbus C-295M under the PAF's Medium Lift Fixed-Wing Aircraft Acquisition Project a few years ago. It lost to the C-295M. Photo from Military Machines website.

These aircraft started to replace the Fokker F-27 Friendship which have been in service with the PAF since the late 1950s. The surviving units, were relegated to troop transport duties or have undergone major maintenance work. The ability of the C-295M to carry pallets also allowed it to take some of the missions that are usually carried out by the PAF's small fleet of Lockheed C-130 Hercules heavy tactical transport aircraft.

More medium lift aircraft means the PAF can relegate the ageing Fokker F-27 Friendship fleet to other roles, or even retire them permanently. Credits to original source of photo.

As the PAF continues to grow in terms on ability to maintain a larger fleet, as well as giving more importance on the ability of the PAF to respond to emergencies, the PAF has requested for the acquisition of additional transport aircraft under the Horizon 2 phase of the RAFPMP.

So far MaxDefense has not seen the specifications as of this writing, all those we learned that the Department of National Defense (DND) has already released a Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) with a decision that involves direct negotiation with the preferred proponent.

The C-295 as compared to the C-27J, C-130 and C-130J-30 on cabin length. Photo from Airbus Military.

Competing Proponents:

As of this writing, the proponents vying for the project are Airbus-CASA with the C-295, and PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) with the smaller CN-235-220.

While PTDI's CN-235-220 is smaller than the C-295, it is also cheaper. Sources confirmed that PTDI intends to offset the size difference by including an offer on top of 3 CN-235-220 aircraft. MaxDefense believes that it would be an NC-212i Aviocar small tactical transport aircraft, which is already in service with the PAF.

PTDI's CN-235-220M is also being offered to the PAF for the Medium Lift Aircraft project. Top photo from Asia Pacific Defense Journal, bottom photo from SouthAsia.com.

MaxDefense believes though, that Airbus-CASA may win this project, due to commonality issues with the existing C-295Ms in the PAF's fleet, which is now 4-aircraft strong.

As of early 2020, the PAF's Medium Lift Aircraft Acquisition is among those planned for implementation and initial funding this year. And being an asset that would be useful not just for military operations but also to support the government's Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) capabilities during emergencies, it is highly likely that the government will give priority to it even if funding will become scarce due to the negative economic and social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government intends to pay for the project under a Multi-Year Obligatory Allocations (MYOA), in 3 payments starting 2020. This would enable the DND and AFP to start procuring the project even when they do not have the full project contract amount yet, and maximizing the Philippines' limited budget.


23 July 2020:
The Department of National Defense through Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana
 has mentioned in an interview that the Medium Lift Aircraft Acquisition Project is among the Php9.4 billion worth of projects for FY2020 whose budget was diverted to government's response to COVID-19, and this will push the project to implemented at a later date.

Sec. Lorenzana did not confirm if the project will be refunded under FY2021, although that will depend on the fiscal situation of the country considering COVID-19 appears to be an issue even beyond 2020.

Under the AFP Modernization Projects for 2020 approved in May 2020, the Medium Lift Aircraft Acquisition Project worth Php5,288,608,984.00 would be funded through Multi-Year Capital Allowance (MYCA) from 2020 to 2022, and that the DND and the Philippine Air Force was suppose to receive the initial 5% for the project worth Php264,430,499.20 this year.


02 August 2020:MaxDefense received new information from sources involved in the project, saying that despite the DND saying that the initial funding for the project was diverted to fund the government's response to COVID-19, it appears that this would not be the case, after the Philippine government was able to secure loans from foreign sources to fund for the COVID-19 response.

The project is now being negotiated with certain governments and is planned to be acquired through Government-to-Government (G2G) process.

So far, while Airbus Defense and Space appears to be the most possible company to win the project since the PAF is already an existing user of the Airbus-CASA C-295M medium tactical aircraft, other proponents like PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) appears to still be trying to push the DND and PAF to consider the smaller PTID-CASA CN-235M-220 aircraft.

The Aitbus-CASA C-295M (top) and the PTDI-CASA CN-235M-220 (above). Photos credited to original sources

Both the CN-235 and C-295 were actually developed by Spain's Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA), thus the similarities in design. PTDI was involved in the development of the CN-235 with CASA, while the C-295 was CASA's own product and is now part of Airbus' portfolio after CASA became part of Airbus.

First edit and release: 10 June 2020 @ MaxDefense Philippines
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines / Philippine Defense Resource

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