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Philippines releases initial funds for maritime patrol aircraft procurement

The ATR 72MP, seen here in Italian Air Force livery, is one of the airframes that the Philippines is considering for its Long Range Patrol Aircraft programme. (Leonardo)

The Philippine government has released the initial funding needed for the country to finance its long-awaited Long Range Patrol Aircraft (LRPA) programme.

The funds, which will likely be deployed as a down payment once a supplier is appointed, were released under a scheme known as the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) by the Philippine Department of Budget and Management in August 2022.

It is worth PHP896.4 million (USD 15 million) and will cover the initial funding requirements of the Philippine Air Force's (PAF's) LRPA requirements, the department said in its register of national programmes, for which a SARO has been allocated.

The LRPA is a programme that seeks to enhance the PAF's maritime patrol capabilities by acquiring a fleet of two anti-submarine warfare (ASW)-capable airframes. It is a Horizon 1 project under the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Act.

A tender for the procurement was first issued in 2014, but the programme's bidding process was terminated because of vendor qualification and selection issues. The original budget for the programme was PHP6 billion.

Since then, the Philippine Department of National Defense has launched at least two more formal procurement attempts, but these too have failed to materialise into contracts.

The AFP's fixed-wing maritime patrol capabilities centre around the Philippine Navy's fleet of five Beechcraft TC‐90 King Air advanced trainer aircraft. These were transferred under a donation programme by Japan and the airframes arrived in the Philippines between 2017 and 2018. The TC-90s are not weaponised and have not been equipped with mission-specific sensors.

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