The Philippine navy aims to open a competition for one new medium transport helicopter in the third quarter of this year, pending budgetary approval after this week's presidential elections. Bell's Model 412 is considered the favourite, as the type is in Philippine air force use as a VIP transport.

The navy's operational helicopter fleet consists of one Eurocopter BO105 used for anti-piracy and border-patrol missions. A planned contract with Eurocopter to refurbish up to seven stored BO105s is also on hold until after the elections.

Meanwhile, the Philippine air force is moving forward with plans to boost its fleet of Bell UH-1H Huey transport helicopters from 30 to about 70, and plans to receive its first four of 20 upgraded aircraft from Singapore Technologies Aerospace this month. The service says it will receive four aircraft a month, with 16 sourced from the US Air Force and four from the Singapore air force.

The USA has also pledged to supply the Philippines with an additional 40 surplus UH-1s from 2005. Thirty of these will be refurbished in the USA before being placed into service, with the other 10 to be used for spare parts.

The air force has completed a Huey 2 upgrade on one aircraft. This included introducing a more powerful engine and wider rotor blades.

Source: Flight International