MANY PEOPLE have seen this review of mine in the Modernize the Philippine Air Force Facebook Page. But I will be making a revised review of one of the most popular acquisition of our DND and AFP to date.
June 09, 2012 marks the historic day in the Philippine Defense, when our Department of National Defense announced that they had chosen the T/A-50 Lead-in Fighter Trainer (a variant of T-50 Golden Eagle) of South Korea as the best choice for the Advanced Supersonic Lead-in Fighter Trainer requirement of the Philippine Air Force. This is the first time in decades that we will be getting Brand New Fast Jets since we bought our F-5s in the 1960s.
The TA-50 (formerly A-50) is a supersonic advanced jet trainer jointly developed by Korean Aerospace Industries Ltd. (South Korea) and Lockheed Martin (United States of America). Highly derived from the F-16 Fighting Falcon, this aircraft was made because of the experience of KAI on building KF-16s and for the preparation on building their 5th generation aircraft, the KF-X.
During the Scarborough Shoal standoff between the Philippine and Chinese Vessels, it was realized by the Filipino people how their Armed Forces is poorly equipped. Before the standoff, there were only two Philippine Naval Ships that patrols Scarborough Shoal. The WWII vintage BRP Rajah Humabon PF-11 Frigate (former USS Atherton) and the newly acquired 55 year old BRP Gregorio del Pilar PF-15 Frigate (former USCGC Hamilton) which is poorly armed because it only has a 76mm Oto Melara Naval Gun (as seen on the image). And the Navy is also patrolling the Shoal using only their propeller-driven and defenseless BN-2 Islander Aircraft. There was also an instance that there was a Unknown Aircraft intruding our airspace during the stand off. It was detected by the radar commissioned by the government for Civilian Passenger Aircrafts. The officials said that the aircraft was traveling a HIGH SPEEDS and they just turned on their transponder when they were near the Chinese Ships in the Shoal. The Philippine Air Force were so frustrated after this incident happened. Because they know that someone is intruding our airspace and they cannot do anything but watch. Our Air Force has only one Combat Aircraft, the S-211 Basic Jet Trainer, that can only go no more than 360 knots or 414 mph.
Concerned Filipinos were worried about the safety of our soldiers/sailors/airmen who are patrolling the area because they are VULNERABLE to attacks. Patrolling the Chinese Warship infested waters, using only a propeller-driven aircraft and Digital Cameras on taking photos of the Vessels intruding our waters, is very dangerous. Because you need fly low and to fly near the Chinese ships to take photos. If a missile is fired at the Islander Aircraft of the Navy, the pilot and its crew will be history! Because the Aircraft is slow, cant make hard turns, and they don’t have Missile Countermeasures like Chaff and Flares. The Air Force cannot intercept Fighter Aircraft that are intruding our territory because they know for sure that if they go near 150 meters, they are absolutely dead.
Because of these circumstances, the Government realized the needs of the Military. One of them is an aircraft that can fly faster than speed of sound, intercept any intruders, can fire Air-to-Air and Air-to-Surface Missiles, and to dogfight with any flying thing that stands in its path. So we turned into our oldest and mightiest ally, the United States. We asked for 2 squadrons of F-16 But the U.S. knows that if they will arm us right now, this will anger China. The U.S. owes China for about Trillions of Dollars, and they cannot afford to anger the Dragon right as of this moment. They WILL fight the Dragon, but not now. So the U.S. refused our request for F-16s (not publicly because they don’t want their allies to think that the U.S. doesn’t have a Word of Honor).
But they didn’t actually refused our request on helping us arm our Military. Using the U.S. influence on other countries, they asked countries that is not fully relying in China to arm us instead (This part is just an observation on what really happened). Then here goes Italy, South Korea, Russia, Czech Republic and even U.K. that bids to our needs for Lead-in Fighter Trainer.
But wait, there were so many Netizens complaining about the Lead-in Fighter Trainer. They said, why are we getting a LIFT? Why don’t we just get a true Multi-Role Fighter? The answer is simple, we lost our ability on flying fast jets. There was a comment that I have seen in a forum saying, “Once you stop flying fighter planes, it is not easy to get that skill back. You need to go back to basics.”. On my own opinion, he is right. Most of our F-5 Fighter Pilots were now holding high ranks in the Military and some of them were already retired. We can’t just put them back into the cockpit of a Fast-moving Jet. Aside from flying a Fighter Jet, there are so many things to learn as well like Dogfighting since you need to learn how to do Air Combat Maneuvering, the pilots need to be familiarize themselves with the new and high-tech Avionics of a modern aircraft, learn to restrain G-Forces, and to Manage and Fire its Modern Armaments. The facilities needs to be upgraded as well like the Hangars, and the ground crew needs to be trained on handling sophisticated Jets. So that is why we need to get a LIFT first and then once our pilots mastered the art of aerial warfare, then we can move into the MRFs.
The contenders for the Lead-in Fighter Trainer are:
The DND selected the South Korean Aircraft because it met the requirements of the Air Force for the LIFT. One of the primary reason why this baby was selected is because it can go Supersonic while retaining the Armaments that the aircraft’s co-contenders have as well, like firing Air-to-Air Missiles, Rockets, Dumb and Cluster Bombs and Air-to-Surface Missile.
Length 43.1 ft /13.14 m
Height 16.2 ft /4.94 m
Wingspan 31 ft /9.45 m
Weight empty 14,00 lb /6,354 kg
Maximum weight 29,700 lb /13,500 kg
Speed Mach 1.5
Engine thrust 17.700 lb /8,045 kg
Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) General Dynamics A-50 3-barreled rotary cannon
Hardpoints: Total: 7
Rockets: Hydra 70, LOGIR
Missiles: Air-to-air: AIM-9 Sidewinder
Air-to-ground: AGM-65 Maverick
Bombs: Mk 82, Mk 83, and Mk 84 general purpose bombs; CBU-97/105 sensor fuzed weapons.
CONCLUSION: On a final note, this is the best solution to the military’s needs, especially the Air Force needs. It provides the quality training for the future MRFs, but at the same time giving us an Interception Capability because of its Speed and Air-to-Air Missile firing features. But it still lacks something, the capability to dispense Missile Countermeasures like Chaff for Radar-guided Missiles AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-7 Sparrow, and Flares for Heat-seeking Infrared Missiles like the AIM-9 Sidewinder. But in general, this is still a bad-ass aircraft. I do hope though, that we wont stick with this. Just like what happened to the earlier version of the AFP Modernization Law when we bought the S-211s, after buying those aircraft, it stopped there and no further acquisition followed to augment the current Air Force fleet and to replace the F-5s.
So again, lets hope that the history wont repeat itself. It will be possible for us to get an MRF, but without your support our dear countrymen, it will not happen! As I have said on my last post, support your Armed Forces. No funds or modern equipment can match the support of your own countrymen.