AMERICAN fighter pilots will be training Filipino jet pilots beginning with the annual Balikatan military exercises next month, the military said Thursday.
For the first time, the two FA50 “Golden Eagle” jets that the country purchased from South Korea will be used in air maneuvers exercises with US Air Force A10 “Thunderbolts” and British Hawker Hunter, said Philippine Air Force spokesman Colonel Enrico Canaya.
“But first our pilots will be trained inside the classroom. This is definitely a good opportunity for us to increase and enhance our training, especially with our counterparts. This will further increase our training experience. This is a good development on our side,” Canaya said.
“They will also do the theoretical aspect and the practical exercises,” Canaya said, noting that the training will involve air interceptions, combat manuevers and close air support.
Canaya also said all the country’s Aermacchi S211 trainer jets will also participate in the maneuvers with the Golden Eagle, Thunderbolt and Hawker Hunter.
He said the jet fighter training will be in Luzon, but he declined to specify the areas. Traditionally, however, air strike exercises have usually been held in Crow Valley in Tarlac.
Another air force source part of the maneuvers may also be held in the northern part of the West Philippine Sea, but “I don’t know if it includes the vicinity of the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Masinloc, Zambales.”
This is the first time the PAF will be fielding supersonic aircraft to the Balikatan exercises since the decommissioning of its Northrop F-5 “Tiger” jet fighter fleet in 2005. The Philippines and the US have been holding the Balikatan exercises since 2002.
Prior to the delivery of the first two FA-50PHs last Nov. 28, PAF presence in Balikatan air maneuvers consist of its sub-sonic Marchetti-SIAI S-211 jet trainers along with its Rockwell OV-10 “Bronco” attack aircraft and various models of the UH-IH “Huey” combat utility helicopters and MG-520 attack choppers.
The Philippines has a 12-plane order from Korea Aerospace Industries worth PHP18.9 billion. Deliveries of the remaining 10 aircraft are expected by 2017.
Opening ceremonies for Balikatan 2016 are slated for April 4, followed by several training events throughout the 12-day exercise while closing ceremony is scheduled to be held April 15, said Balikatan 2016 spokesperson Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson.
“Balikatan” is an annual Philippine-US military bilateral training exercise that is a signature element of the Filipino-American alliance focused on a variety of missions to include humanitarian assistance, maritime law enforcement, and environmental protection.