The Philippines is looking to procure American-produced attack helicopters through the U.S. government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) channel, and on April 30 the State Department sent official notice of clearance to Congress via the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).
The two FMS requests placed by the Philippines cover a potential buy of six AH-64E Apaches at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion and six Bell Helicopters AH-1Z Vipers with an estimated price tag of $450 million. The differential in price is partially due to the more extensive list of weaponry and quantity of weapons on the Apaches.
Earlier it appeared that the Philippines was leaning toward a procurement of 8-10 Turkish T129 ATAK helicopters, which are a derivative of the AgustaWestland-designed A-129 Mangusta attack helicopter. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed the Philippines’ interest in securing a contract for the T129s on December 7, 2018.
But the potential deal appeared 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 the Russian S-400 Triumf air defense missile system. T129 producer 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 will choose between the Apache and the Viper alternatives, but will not procure both.
.@StateDept authorizes a proposed Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to #Philippines for Apache AH-64E Attack Helicopters worth $1.5 billion. The Philippines is considering either the AH-1Z or the AH-64E but not both. @USAsiaPacific #FMSUpdate–https://t.co/550FJXmBCc (1/2)
— Political-Military Affairs, US Dept of State (@StateDeptPM) April 30, 2020
The broad upgrade and modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippine’s helicopter fleet is considered a crucial – and long overdue – component of the 15-year AFP Modernization Act. Most importantly, bolstering and modernizing the helicopter fleet is seen as crucial in the country’s effort to reinforce its claims against China over sovereignty of the Scarborough Shoal, a group of islands in the South China Sea.
But under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, a greater emphasis has been placed on internal security as a means of combatting drug traffickers, terrorists, and local insurgents, therefore making an attack helicopter acquisition a priority.