US approves possible PAF acquisition of attack helicopters

Aviation Updates Philippines – The United States Department of State has approved the possible foreign military sale of attack helicopters to the Philippines on Thursday. The latest news release from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DCSA) confirmed that it has already notified the US Congress of the potential sale.
TIME TO DECIDE. This approval is a big opportunity for the Philippine Air Force, and time will come for the air force to decide. Photo from Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck, US Marine Corps.
"The Philippines is considering either the AH-1Z or the AH-64E," the State Department confirmed in a tweet. It clarified, however, that the Philippines will only be able to procure either one of the deals "but not both."

According to Philippine-based defense resource MaxDefense, the Philippine Air Force (PAF), which had previously decided to procure over six units of TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK helicopters, has now turned to US manufacturers Bell and Boeing, offering the AH-1Z and the AH-64E, respectively.

To review, the PAF had problems with the procurement of the T129 attack helicopters due to the US sanctions to Turkey over its acquisition of air defense systems from Russia. This has resulted in the inability of Turkey to deliver certain subsystems with its helicopters, which will be outsourced from the European Union and the US.

Based on two news releases from the DCSA, the US now offers two deals: a $450 million proposal for six units of Bell AH-1Z helicopters including other equipment, and a $1.5 billion proposal for six units of Boeing AH-64E Apache helicopters with a wider inclusion of aircraft systems, ground equipment, and other related items.

However, it is important to note that the huge price difference on these two proposals constitutes a far better, advanced option for the PAF on the billion-dollar price tag. MaxDefense clarified that these packages may be customized by the PAF, whichever deal it will take, to better fit its needs and budget.

For the $450 million deal, Bell will offer 12 installed T-700 GE 401C engines with two spares. Aside from other essential aircraft systems, the proposal includes "support equipment, spare engine containers, spare and repair parts, tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support."

On the other hand, Boeing's $1.5 billion deal encompasses more equipment and systems at a higher price. The AH-64E Apache attack helicopters will come equipped with 12 T-700 GE 701D engines with six to spare. In addition to Bell's offer, it will also include "training devices, communication systems, helmets, simulators, generators, transportation and organization equipment, spare and repair parts."

Both proposals include a large number of munitions and decoys such as AGM-114 Hellfire II Missiles and AGR-20A Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS). The Apache deal also covers M36E9 Hellfire Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM), FIM-92H Stinger Missiles, APKWS Guidance Section, among others.

The acquisition of this new equipment will significantly improve the Philippines' capability and defense especially in its counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism missions in crucial parts of the country. The DCSA said the PAF will not have any problems or difficulties in commissioning these attack helicopters into service.