The Philippine air force has cancelled plans to acquire four Lockheed Martin C-130Ks and is again delaying other new aircraft procurements.

But the service is finally moving ahead with plans to reactivate parked aircraft and is hoping expanded ties with the USA could result in grants for more secondhand aircraft.

The air force has been trying to push a modernisation plan over the last decade, but budget constraints have continually led to procurement delays and the shrinking of its ageing fleet. The service's Maj Restituto Padilla acknowledges that about 150 of its 220 aircraft remain parked and the only acquisition deal that was on the cards - a four-aircraft C-130K transaction signed in 2001 - has gone "sour".

"It has been superseded. I don't think it will be pushed again," he says.

The deal covered four ex-UK Royal Air Force C-130Ks and the establishment of a C-130 maintenance centre at a former US air base. Only two of the air force's 13 C-130s are in operation, but two are to be reactivated by the end of 2004. Another 20-25 aircraft - including Fokker F-27s, Rockwell OV-10s, McDonnell Douglas MD-520s, Agusta SF260s and Bell UH-1s - also will be reactivated later this year if an air force request for 700 million pesos ($13 million) in supplemental funding is approved.

But budget constraints have forced the service to put on the backburner long-delayed plans to replace its fleet of parked Northrop F-5s. Instead the air force is in talks with several foreign countries for assistance in reactivating a handful of these aircraft or providing replacements.

Philippine president Gloria Arroyo's meeting next month with US President George Bush could also lead to the supply of surplus aircraft and military aid beyond the $135 million the USA is already providing the Philippines this year to help with anti-terrorism efforts.

Source: Flight International