Without support from the Philippine Air Force (PAF), especially its brand-new Mach 1.5 capable FA-50PH jet fighters, government losses in the five-month battle to liberate Marawi City from control of the Maute-ISIS Group terrorists would have been much higher, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of staff Gen. Carlito Galvez said Friday.
“The roar of the FA-50(PH) is the roar to victory. The PAF is the ‘game changer’ during the Marawi campaign. I’m impressed with the air warriors for flying day and night just to provide all the needed support of our troops on the ground during the entire campaign. Without our very skilled, focused and hard working pilots, air crew and air controllers, our casualties could have been more,” Galvez said during the Marawi Air Campaign Commemoration at the Edwin Andrews Airbase, Zamboanga City.
Around 165 soldiers and police officers were killed in the fighting, which started May 23, 2017 and ended on October of that year. Around 1,000 Maute-ISIS Group terrorists, including then ISIS Emir in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, and Maute co-founder, Omar Maute, were killed in the government offensive.
Galvez also thanked the PAF for saving his life some 31 years ago when he was wounded-in-action. At that time, an Air Force helicopter picked him up and transported him to the nearest hospital for treatment.
The FA-50PHs had its baptism of fire in the Marawi City campaign, where it was heavily used for close-air support mission roles along with the OV-10 “Bronco” turbo-prop attack aircraft, SF-260 light bombers and PAF’s various attack helicopters.
The FA-50PHs have top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and a half times the speed of sound and are capable of being fitted with air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 “Sidewinder” air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.
Twelve of such aircraft were acquired from Korea Aerospaces Industries for PHP18.9 billion. Deliveries commenced on November 2015 and were completed in May 2017. (By Priam Nepomuceno, Philippine News Agency)