Duterte OKs acquisition of 15 Black Hawk choppers

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    PRESIDENT Duterte has approved the acquisition of 15 Black Hawk helicopters to improve the capability of the Armed Forces, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said yesterday.

    Nograles said the President gave the approval during the Cabinet meeting in Malacañang on Wednesday night.

    He said the acquisition is “part of plans to slowly address the growing heli-lift deficiency of our Armed Forces and decommission all Huey helicopters”

    The President, last month, ordered the decommissioning of all Huey helicopters after a January 16 crash in Bukidnon that killed all seven persons onboard.

    Nograles said it was the fourth crash since July last year “and the President wants to end all these tragic deaths.”

    “Our servicemen and their families deserve better,” he said adding that the Huey helicopters in the country are older than he is, with one even taking its first flight 64 years ago. Nograles is in his 40s.

    Nograles said the country needs at least 76 helicopters to cover the over 7,000 islands and over 300,000 square kilometers of land area but the President approved the acquisition of only 55, then later reduced to 15, “owing to the challenges that we currently face.”

    He said discussions are ongoing as to how the new air assets would be purchased and where the funding would be sourced.

    The Armed Forces received from November to December 2020 six of 6 Black Hawk helicopters bought from Polish company Polskie Zaklady Lotnicze for about P11 billion. The 10 remaining helicopters are expected to be delivered this year.