Procurement: January 18, 2004

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The Philippines military is looking for hand-outs. A major factor,  contributing to the inability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to combat insurgents and terrorists based in the Southern Philippines, is the almost total obsolesce of its Air Force and Navy. This has led to poor training standards and low readiness. In general, the AFP is in a terrible shape, with very few operational aircraft or ships, and army units with morale so low that one small special forces unit actually staged a short, thankfully bloodless, failed mutiny to protest perceived bureaucratic graft and corruption. This is partly the reason why US Special Forces were brought in to help train the Army units involved in the counter-insurgency war.

While American training has significantly improved the combat effectiveness of Army units, mainly special force and light infantry units, these units have very little in the way of Air Force and Navy support. The Philippines Air Force (PAF) has only eight F-5E Tiger IIs warplanes left. These were all grounded two years ago due to fatigue and poor maintenance, which had led to an F-5E crashing. In a famous incident during the 1986 overthrow of then President Marcos, an F-5E making a bombing run on military supporters of Marcos actually broke up in mid-air when the pilot pulled up from his dive.

The Philippines Navy (PN) is in a worse situation, with virtually no ability to patrol territorial waters, much less chase the speedboats smuggling for the Abu Sayaff, the Peoples National Army (NPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The majority of the Philippine Navy's fleet were made in the late 1940s, and there are now very few combat capable ships.

In an attempt to address these problems, and upgrade its Armed Forces, the Philippines government has made available more than one billion Filipino pesos for new acquisitions. This may seem a lot, until you realize that 1 billion pesos is equivalent to $18 million. So to get in new equipment, the AFP has to look for donations. On the shopping list are a squadron of ground attack aircraft and 40 UH-1 helicopters, at least ten of which are being donated by the USA.

The PN will also get a critical boost, with the arrival of three second hand patrol ships in a few months, two from South Korea, and a Cyclone Class fast attack craft from the US. The Cyclone will, if properly employed, finally give the PN the ability to chase down and destroy the pesky speedboats of the insurgents. --Shawn Chung

 


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