Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Philippines nearing contract award for acquisition of Bell 412 combat utility helicopters


Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters of the PAF. Photo c/o PAF.

The Philippines’ Department of National Defense (DND) is preparing to finalize a deal for the acquisition of 8 Bell 412 utility helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

This is after the country’s Department of Budget and Management has released the initial funding worth Php958.9 million (US$17.4 million) last 03 August 2023 for the project to proceed to contracting phase.

It is still undetermined which company will supply the helicopters or what variant of the Bell 412 will be procured, but it is highly expected to be Bell Helicopters, possibly through the Canadian Commercial Corporation which already supplied the Philippine Air Force with Bell 412EP helicopters between 2013 to 2015.

It is also expected that the Bell 412EPI or the more advanced Bell 412EPX variant will be delivered.

According to Philippine Defense Resource, the Bell 412 fleet is being expanded to provide the PAF with an alternative fleet of combat utility helicopters to operate beside the larger Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk which has become the PAF’s standard model for such roles.

This will allow the PAF to have redundancy in case the Black Hawk fleet gets grounded due to incidents, while also providing a smaller platform when mission does not require the Black Hawk’s capacity.

The Bell 412 was originally eyed as the eventual successor to the venerable UH-1 Huey, but a second batch order in 2018 was cancelled after former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte found it unacceptable for Canadian officials to limit the Bell 412 helicopter’s use against counter-insurgency and anti-narcotics operations

Since then, the Philippine DND acquired 16 Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters through its Polish subsidiary PZL Mielec, while placing another order for 32 more units in 2020.

The PAF currently has 5 Bell 412EP used as combat utility helicopters, and 8 Bell 412HP and EP variants in VVIP roles. Philippine defense page MaxDefense Philippines reported that the PAF plans to repurpose some if not all of the VVIP Bell 412s to combat utility helicopters as it plans to order a new fleet of VVIP/Command & Control helicopters to replace them.

[1] Philippine Defense Resource

[2] MaxDefense Philippines

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