The rising price of oil has forced yet another military force to curtail
operations. The Philippines Air Force will sharply cut back maritime patrol
flights by its five Italian made S211 jets. These five aircraft also serve as the only fighter aircraft the
Philippines has. Three years ago, the Philippines removed from service its
eight F-5 fighters. These 1960s era aircraft were not much of a match for any
more recent warplanes, and were expensive to maintain. The Philippines bought
more helicopters, which were very useful in fighting Moslem and communist
rebels. The Philippines also kept in service five S211 jet trainers, which can
be used for ground attack, or air-to-air operations (like against terrorists
who have hijacked an aircraft.) The Philippines originally bought 25 S211s in
the 1980s, but due to accidents and lack of maintenance, only about five are
available for service most of the time.
Philippines really has no practical need for a jet fighter force. While this is
dicey, because of possible clashes with China, the Filipinos are being
practical. They could never afford to buy and maintain warplanes sufficient to
deal with a Chinese air threat. The Philippines depends on its friendship with
the United States for protection. American warplanes provide better protection
than any jet fighters the Philippines could put in the air.
The 2.7 ton
S211s have a max speed of 665 kilometers an hour, and can stay in the air for
about five hours per sortie. The S211s were not really doing much with the
maritime reconnaissance flights, as the aircraft lacks a search radar, and must
depend on the eyes of the two pilots to spot anything.