But while Manila is pledged $1bn in defence aid, manufacturers rule out order boom

The Philippines' elevation last week to non-NATO ally status with the USA will advance its long-delayed defence modernisation programme, but is not expected to lead to any big-ticket procurements.

The Philippines air force expects to receive significant numbers of surplus US aircraft as well as the spares required to reactivate grounded aircraft. The USA has pledged $1 billion of defence aid to Manila, comprising excess equipment, foreign military sales financing, anti-terrorism security force enhancements and joint training.

Philippine defence officials say firm details on aid and aircraft types will be determined in follow-up discussions to last week's meeting between the two countries' presidents. But the defence ministry says granting of non-NATO ally status "will definitely have a big impact on the armed forces".

The aid could help to meet a long-standing air force requirement for 140 utility helicopters. The service operates only 27 Bell UH-1Hs and they have airworthiness problems because of spares shortages. The USA has agreed to provide 20 excess UH-1s as well as enough spare parts to reactivate at least 10 parked machines.

The air force says it is also seeking 18-24 used Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks, but in the near term only UH-1s seem to be available. The service hopes the US aid package will include additional used Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules and new smaller aircraft for maritime patrol, such as Beech King Airs.

The air force needs to boost its maritime patrol and surveillance capability to support the Philippines' recently enhanced anti-terrorist programme.

The Philippines navy hopes the US aid package will advance a long-delayed attempt to procure anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface vessel warfare helicopters.

US manufacturers, however, do not expect a boom in business from Manila. Most aircraft and parts will be supplied from US military depots, with only minimal manufacturer support required. Philippine industry officials expect it could be several months before the aid arrives and that the badly needed funds will be spread across several agencies, making large procurements impossible.

Source: Flight International