Duterte grounding “Huey” choppers for good

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FREQUENT accidents of the “Huey” helicopters seemed enough
reason for President Rodrigo Duterte to completely decommission all of
it in the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) inventory.

In a speech delivered during his visit to Camp Teodulfo Bautista in
Jolo, Sulu, the President hinted on the need to retire all of the
PAF’s Huey helicopters and replace them with new ones.

“Marami pa ba ‘yang Huey na ‘yan? Naiwan? Hindi, palitan ko na sana.
Wala ng… Maano na talaga ‘yan, luma na. Maski na sabihin mong —
maintenance,” Duterte said.

“Bibili ako ng mga helicopters —para sa mga… Sayang ang buhay. At
saka puwede pa naman natin remedyohan sa Bisaya. Eh kung may remedyo diyan, if it can be remedied, we will. I am not making any hard
promises. But you can rest assured, I will try my best to look for
money para palitan ko ‘yung mga luma na,” he added.

Duterte said that he is planning to make an initial purchase of six or
seven new helicopters for the PAF following an incident that saw seven
members of the security forces killed in an air accident involving a
Huey chopper in Bukidnon last week.

“Masaktan ka talaga. Kung wala kang koneksyon sa gobyerno, okay lang.
But sa kagaya ko, ako ‘yung parang administrador ng bayan tapos ganoon
ang nangyari, masakit para sa akin,” Duterte said. “You just don’t
know the pain that I suffer every time.”

The PAF has since grounded all of its Huey helicopters following the
crash in Bukidnon.

The UH-1H and UH-1D models, or Hueys, are Vietnam War-era helicopters
that have been refurbished to serve as the PAF’s main workhorses.

The Bukidnon incident was the fourth Air Force rotorcraft to go down
in six months, three involving Huey helicopters.

Even before the President’s pronouncement, the Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) had an existing procurement program to modernize
the PAF’s fleet of helicopters.

Recently, it commissioned the first six of 16 Polish-made Sikorsky
S-70i Black Hawk helicopters ordered in 2019.

The remaining 10 units are expected to be delivered within the first
quarter of 2021, defense officials said.

The brand-new Black Hawk helicopters, manufactured by PZL Mielec, a
Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky company in Poland, will provide the PAF with
sustained day-and-night tactical lift, transport, and
search-and-rescue capabilities.

The helicopters are being procured by the Philippine government under
a $241.5 million government-to-government contract to meet the Horizon
2 phase of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization
Program (RAFPMP).

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