Barely two weeks after an announcement that government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) requests by the Philippines to Washington for potential buys of U.S.-sourced attack helicopters had been cleared by the State Department, it appears the price tags involved are bigger than Manila’s budget.
Defense Secretary for the Philippines, Delfin Lorenzana, has stated the money ring-fenced for the potential acquisition amounts to PHP13 billion ($257 million), whereas the two offers of six AH-64E Apaches and six Bell Helicopters AH-1Z Vipers come with estimated price tags of $1.5 billion and $450 million, respectively. The difference in price is partially due to the more extensive list of weaponry and quantity of weapons.
The Philippines would also like to procure at least six Turkish T129 ATAK helicopters, which are a derivative of the AgustaWestland-designed A-129 Mangusta attack helicopter. Defense Secretary Lorenzana confirmed the Philippines’ interest in securing a contract for the T129s on December 7, 2018.
But the potential deal appears to have hit a roadblock due to the U.S. CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), which unfolded as a result of Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 Triumf air defense missile system. The producer of the T129, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), reportedly could not get clearance to import the LHTEC T800-4A turboshaft engine that powers the helicopter. LHTEC is a joint venture between the U.K.’s Rolls-Royce and U.S. firm Honeywell.
The Philippines has maintained it will choose just one of the two U.S. attack helicopter alternatives, but not both, which obviously makes sense in light of the financial straight jacket the Philippines Department of National Defense finds itself in as the country deals with the economic effects of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). But the Philippines will ultimately need to negotiate down a final price closer to its financial means in order to finalize a deal, which will likely mean less associated parts, weaponry, and/or logistical support post-sale.