MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) will complete its squadron of 12 FA-50 lead-in fighter trainers by May 2017, military spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said.
"By May, there will be a complete delivery of 12 with the arrival of 11th and 12th FA-50 aircraft. It is ahead of the scheduled completion of July 2017," Padilla said.
"It was a goodwill gesture of the manufacturer because their assembly line seems to have freed up for some orders. And they prioritized the Philippines," he added.
The 4th batch of two FA-50s – tail numbers 007 and 008 – that arrived in late March were formally received on Thursday, April 6, in a ceremony at the Air Force City inside Clark Air Base in Pampanga.
The remaining 4 FA-50s will arrive in two batches in April and in May.
The squadron of 12 FA-50s from South Korea was acquired by the previous Aquino administration for P18 billion, one of two big-ticket items in the country's modest military modernization program. The Philippine Navy procured two new frigates for P18 billion, also from South Korea.
The FA-50 is technically a fighter trainer but the PAF acquired it to perform multiple roles. The aircraft were acquired by the previous administration to boost the country's defenses in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) given China's aggressiveness in claiming maritime territories there.
The FA-50s are not known to have been deployed to the West Philippine Sea, however. Instead, they have been deployed for surgical airstrikes against local terrorists in Mindanao.
"The aircraft have been tested and employed against some armed groups and some evil elements. We have found it to be an efficient platform for close air support," Padilla said.
The acquisition of the FA-50s marked the PAF's return to the supersonic age a decade after retiring the last of its US-made F5 fighter jets in 2005. (READ: PH Air Force a joke no more, gets fighter jets)
The video below shows the formal transfer of the 3rd batch of FA-50s in February.