Philippines eyes buying attack helicopters from Turkey

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday said the government is eyeing to buy attack helicopters from Turkey.

Lorenzana said in a television interview that attack helicopters from the United States are expensive, reiterating that the country could not afford them, especially at this time of COVID-19 crisis. 

Gov't eyes buying attack helicopters from Turkey
The Philippines eyes buying attack helicopters (in the photo is ATAK T129) from Turkey. (Image from Defense News)

“I don’t know if we can afford that (US attack helicopters) now because of this pandemic. We’re channeling a lot of funds to fight COVID…” Lorenzana told CNN-Philippines.

“We are looking at the Turkey’s attack helicopters… It is under negotiation, and we have not yet signed any contract with them because we are looking at their equipment further to ensure that what we have is what we need,” he added. reported that “in December 2019, Filipino Defense Secretary Lorenzana announced that the (PAF) has chosen the ATAK T129, adding that their budget for attack helicopters (estimated at US$250 million) could afford eight to 10 units.”

“A memorandum of understanding (MoU) had been singed then to pursue negotiations. However, there has been no development since the MoU,” the report added.

The report further explained that the reason why the country let go of of the Turkish ATAK 129 (Advanced Attack and Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter) deal at that time is said to be “American denial of export permission to sell the LHTEC T800-4A engine made by Rolls-Royce and Honeywell which has US-made components in it.”

Turkey, however, did not give up on the deal and explored other engine options- including developing one on its own or with help from a foreign source.

“A deal to sell 30 helicopters to Pakistan for an estimated $750 Million could not proceed due to lack of export license for the engine,” added.

On May 14, Lorenzana announced the Philippines rejected the United States’ offer on selling its attack helicopters because of budget issues. 

Lorenzana clarified that the rejection had nothing to do with the administration’s termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.

Also read: Philippines suspends VFA termination upon Duterte’s instruction

The 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement gives a legal framework for the entry and stay of US forces in the Philippines.

“We cannot afford [them]. We only set aside P13 billion. If we buy attack helicopters at those prices, we can only get one or two [from the US]. We are shopping around … [so] we can buy more aircraft [within the budget],” Lorenzana said.