DN - Defence Notes

ADAS 2016: Vendors wait for Philippine CAS relaunch

28th September 2016 - 04:09 GMT | by Gordon Arthur in Manila

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A requirement for six close air support aircraft (CAS) for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is in limbo right now, but vendors hope a competition might kick off again in the not too distant future.

RfIs for a CAS platform have been launched three times in recent years but with no result. Aircraft manufacturers are now waiting for a fourth tender. The PAF currently relies mainly on the Rockwell OV-10 Bronco and Alenia Aermacchi SF-260TP for this role.

Reflections at the ADAS 2016 exhibition in Manila were that the PAF set its specifications too high, which ruled out some contenders and resulted in bids that were more expensive than the air force could afford. 

The requirement currently seems tied up in bureaucracy, although the PAF may be adjusting its requirements to a more realistic level. President Rodrigo Duterte has prioritised this CAS requirement, which may give the project greater impetus.

Embraer’s EMB 314 Super Tucano is considered by many to be the frontrunner. Embaer demonstrated its offering to the PAF in the Philippines earlier this year. 

Philip Windsor, Embraer’s business development manager in Asia-Pacific, said his company’s offering is a ‘fully compliant solution’, More than 250 examples have been purchased by 13 different air forces, including 16 by neighbouring Indonesia.

Air Tractor is offering its AT-802U, which has 11 hardpoints, strengthened wings, armour protection for the cockpit and self-sealing fuel tanks. 

Chuck Miller, Air Tractor’s VP of business development, noted that Air Tractor’s offering is probably a third cheaper than its main competitor’s. Original specifications listed a pressurised cockpit, ejector seat and retractable landing gear, for example, but Air Tractor hopes the Philippines might reduce its specifications and thus give the AT-802U a better chance.

The AT-802U has been acquired by the UAE, Jordan, Egypt and Kenya.

The other primary contender is the Beechcraft AT-6B Texan II. However, the AT-6 has not been purchased by any nation to date, which could be problematic given that Philippine procurement regulations require the winning platform to be in use by either the manufacturing nation’s military, or at least two other foreign militaries.

Tom Webster, Beechcraft Defense’s VP of business development Asia-Pacific, deemed this not to be an obstacle. He noted that the T-6 trainer, on which the AT-6 is based, is in widespread service.

Webster said there were ‘a handful and a half’ potential customers for the AT-6.

The AT-6B has seven hardpoints, with the centreline hardpoint usually accommodating a sensor ball for ISR purposes. Lockheed Martin performs mission integration on the AT-6B, with its mission computer the same as that used on the A-10. 

At ADAS 2016, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) also showed a scale model of its armed KT-1C available for export. In South Korean service it is known as the KA-1. KAI could be another contender depending on the specifications that the Philippines issues in the next round of bidding.

Some company representatives suggested the Philippines may relaunch the CAS project before the end of the year.

For more information about the ADAS exhibition please visit the dedicated website here.

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