Philippines to receive eight Sokols, looks to upgrade MD 520s

Singapore
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AgustaWestland subsidiary PZL Swidnik will deliver four W-3A Sokol transport helicopters to the Philippines by November this year, with another four in the second quarter of 2012.

The eight aircraft were purchased under a Ps2.8 billion ($64.4 million) deal. The Philippine air force says the Sokols will be used in the combat utility role, working closely with the nation's fleet of Bell UH-1 Hueys.

The Sokols will be tied in with the UH-1s and will "probably take over some of their roles", said the air force.

PZL Swidnik says the W-3A is a 6t twin-engined helicopter capable of carrying up to two pilots and 12 passengers.

The air force is also contemplating major avionics upgrades to its MD 520 light attack helicopters. It is particularly interested in configuring the MD 520s for night operations. It also plans to review a broad range of key systems including the helicopters' engines.

The Sokol purchase is significant as it represents the Philippines' first purchase of non-US helicopters. The Philippines has flown the Huey since the 1970s, and its air force has an active fleet of more than 80 UH-1H/Vs.

Earlier this year, the Philippine air force received five used UH-1s under a deal facilitated by the US Army Security Assistance Command.