MANILA –-– Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is open to acquiring six more Embraer Defense and Security A-29B "Super Tucano" close-air support aircraft to boost the six that are now in the Philippine Air Force's (PAF) inventory.
"I was discussing with the Commanding General (PAF chief Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes) a while ago (that) having six Super Tucano is good but another six more would be better," Lorenzana said in his speech during the turnover and blessing ceremony of the six aircraft at Clark Air Base, Angeles City, Pampanga on Tuesday.
Other attendees to the event were Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Gilbert Gapay and Brazilian Ambassador to Manila Rodrigo do Amaral Souza.
Lorenzana also thanked representatives of Brazilian defense manufacturer Embraer Defense and Security for their support in delivering the aircraft and expressed hope that the country will have more business with the company in the future.
Four of the Super Tucano close-support attack aircraft arrived last Sept. 19 while the remaining two arrived on Oct. 1.
"The challenge now upon the PAF to effectively utilize, maintain and maximize the utilization," Lorenzana said.
He said the arrival of the Super Tucano is a reminder of the "indispensability of airpower" in national defense and security.
Embraer company pilots flew the aircraft from the company airfield in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and made fueling stops in the Canary Islands, Portugal, Malta, Egypt, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, India, Thailand, and Vietnam before landing in the Philippines.
In an interview with the Philippine News Agency on Wednesday, PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Aristides Galang said the pilot pool for the A-29B aircraft will come from Air Force pilots qualified in the operations of the SIAI-Marchetti SF-260 and North American Rockwell OV-10 "Bronco" attack aircraft.
DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong earlier said Embraer pilots will train PAF pilots selected to fly the Super Tucano for two months as part of the agreement under the Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee.
The A-29B aircraft were earlier scheduled to be delivered by the end of July but the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic and subsequent travel bans have skewed the delivery timetables.
The aircraft, which will be part of the PAF's 15th Strike Wing, will beef up the remaining SF-260 and OV-10 attack aircraft used by the Air Force in strike missions.
"They are a welcome and much-needed replacement for the PAF's aged, close air support aircraft, and their mission versatility and capability to carry a variety of ordnance will be very useful in the field," Andolong said.
The Super Tucano is a turboprop aircraft designed for light attack, counter-insurgency, close air support, aerial reconnaissance missions in low threat environments, as well as providing pilot training. The contract for the six aircraft is worth PHP4.97 billion and was issued in late 2017.