Procurement: Old Gold From Japan

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August 22, 2017: Facing a common threat (China) Japan and the Philippines have become allies. Japan has responded by donating used military equipment (patrol boats and aircraft) to its new ally. The latest such donation is the stock of 40,000 spare parts Japan put in storage after it began retiring the last of its 150 locally built (under license) UH-1H helicopters in 2012. The Philippines is still a heavy user of the UH-1, which still has six percent of the world market and has been much upgraded and is no longer manufactured. But many firms specialize in refurbishing UH-1s and Huey will be around for a few decades more. Those spares a extremely valuable to the Philippines.

Most Filipino UH-1s were bought used, but not always. In 2014 the Philippines ordered eight Bell 412 helicopters for $13.6 million each. Manufactured in Canada, the 412s are called CH-146s in the Canadian military and several have served in Afghanistan as armed escorts for Canadian CH-47 transports. The Bell 412 is an updated version of the Bell 212, which is a civilian version of the 1960s era U.S. Army UH-1 ("Huey") transport. The 5.3 ton 412s normally carry twelve passengers, and no weapons. But such helicopters can be equipped with machine-guns and rockets. The CH-146s were so equipped, along with sensors that made it easier to operate at night and in bad weather.

The Philippines has been using the UH-1 for decades and often arms them. Mostly the Philippines uses UH-1s as transports. In early 2014 the Philippines bought another 21 refurbished UH-1 (“Huey”) helicopters, for $1.34 million each. The Philippines has received over 150 UH-1s since 1969 and is frequently seeking more. Many of these UH-1s have been lost to accidents and hostile fire or have just worn out. About 45 are still in service. Only about half of these are operational. The Filipinos have been pleased with the performance of these aircraft.

The UH-1s are relatively inexpensive to operate, costing over a thousand dollars per hour in the air. While the Philippines pays its crews and maintenance people less, fuel and spare parts cost the same as they do in the United States. Thus the high value placed on the Japanese donation of UH-1 parts.

The U.S. Army retired all its UH-1s during the first decade of the 21st century and gave many away. While the U.S. Army has phased out this Vietnam era design completely, many police, fire, and other governmental organizations were glad to get their hands on these retired helicopters. Even with the refurb cost, of about $1-2 million each, the UH-1s are still effective and a bargain at the price (free from the government, plus refurb expense). The Philippines for some of these.

Over 16,000 UH-1s (and variants like the gunship and Bell 204 civilian model) were manufactured between 1956 and 1991. Despite over 5,000 being destroyed in Vietnam, several thousand are still in use worldwide. Many firms specialize in refurbishing and maintaining them. For the early 2014 Philippines order an American and Canadian firm supplied the UH-1s and refurbishment services. A refurbished UH-1 is good for about ten years of service. The Bell 204 evolved into the Bell 212 and 412. The 412 is more capable and reliable and will last for decades. Introduced in 1981, nearly a thousand 412s have been built so far.

The Philippines has used its UH-1s to fight Communist and Islamic rebels, as well as for disaster relief. The Philippines would like to shift to a fleet of new helicopters and that may happen. But new helicopters cost 5-10 times as much as refurbs. The latest refurb version is the UH-1H and is also called the "Huey II" by the manufacturer. It’s a 4.7 ton aircraft, with a max range of 469 kilometers, max endurance of 2.8 hours, and the ability to carry over two tons of cargo. The UH-1 design is half a century old and is considered the first "modern" (gas-turbine engine) helicopter design. The basic UH-1 is a 4.3 ton aircraft with a max speed of 217 kilometers an hour and range of 500 kilometers. Max sortie length is 2.5 hours. One can carry 14 troops, six stretchers or 1.7 tons of cargo.

 

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