Philippines receives final batch of S-70i Black Hawk helos

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has taken delivery of five more Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk utility helicopters, the service announced on 9 November. The new helicopters were delivered via an Antonov An-124 heavy airlifter to Clark Air Base the day before.

Manila ordered 16 new multirole Black Hawk S-70i helicopters worth around US$240 million, manufactured in Poland by Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky subsidiary PZL Mielec, to meet the PAF’s combat utility helicopter (CUH) requirement under Horizon 2 of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program (RAFPMP).

A second batch of five helicopters arrived at Clark Air Base on 7 June, following the initial delivery of six helicopters in December 2020.

Several S-70i helicopters have been earmarked to perform close-air support, troops insertion and evacuation, search-and-rescue, tactical airlift, and logistics duties with the PAF’s 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing. However, one of the newly delivered helicopters from the second batch operated by the unit crashed during a night training flight a few kilometres from Colonel Ernesto Rabina Air Base in Capas, Tarlac on 23 June.

Four S-70is have been assigned to the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command to boost its ability to mount combat and humanitarian assistance operations, two helos have each been deployed to Davao Air Station and Lumbia Airport respectively to support ongoing operations against the communist insurgency spearheaded by the New People’s Army.

In February, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte approved the acquisition of at least 15 more Black Hawks for the PAF to enable the decommissioning of the service’s ageing Bell UH-1 Huey utility helicopters following a spate of fatal accidents, including one on 16 January which resulted in seven deaths.

It has not been announced which Black Hawk variant is to be acquired for the PAF, but it is expected that Manila will seek a follow-on order for more S-70i models.

by Jr Ng