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Philippines inks deal to acquire fighter jets, helicopters

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The FA-50 fighter. A KAI photo

MANILA/SEOUL (BNS): The Philippines, in a move to strengthen its air force, has inked a deal with South Korea to acquire a dozen fighter jets, as also a deal with Canada to buy eight military helicopters.

Manila awarded a contract worth US$420 million to the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) on March 28 to buy 12 of the FA-50 light attack aircraft.

The contact entails training and delivery of the warplanes within 38 months after the deal goes into effect, KAI said.

A variant of the T-50 family of supersonic aircraft, jointly built by KAI and Lockheed Martin, the FA-50 serves as jet trainer, lead-in fighter and multipurpose fighter.

The warplane measures 13.13m in length, 9.45m in width and 4.85m in height and is able to fly with a max speed of Mach 1.5 with up to 4,500kg armed weapons loaded in it, according to KAI.

The Philippines had agreed to buy 12 of the fighters in October last year.

Meanwhile, in another deal with Canadian Commercial Corp., the Philippines Air Force will receive eight specialised helicopters manufactured by Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Ltd.

The deal is worth US$105-million.

The Philippines Air Force at present does not possess any new-generation combat aircraft. It retired its US-built F-5A/B Freedom Fighter warplanes in 2005 and since then, has not acquired any new fighters.

The two new deals are part of the Philippines' effort to upgrade its armed forces amidst escalating tensions over territorial claims in the South China Sea and increasing assertiveness of Beijing over the region.

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