MaxDefense noted that one of our regular community members has posted in another known Philippine defense page about the impending arrival of Cobra helicopters from the Kingdom of Jordan. MaxDefense has been asked several times through our community page and through private messages if this information is true, and so far we haven't come back with a definite answer to the general group members.
Also, a lot of our readers were asking MaxDefense when we posted a phrase on our previous blog entry regarding the acquisition of Elbit Systems Hermes 900 medium altitude long endurance UAVs from Israel, wherein we mentioned "another (attack) helicopter model that will arrive early next year". Did this point to the Cobras?
So the question is, is the Philippines getting Cobras?
|One of Jordan's AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters.|
Photo from TheAviationist.com.
It should be noted that this is not the first time the Philippine military made interest on acquiring Cobra single-engine attack helicopters.
Among the earliest attempts was in the late 1980s when the Philippine Air Force made a requirement for attack helicopters as part of its fleet re-capitalization plans during the term of former Pres. Corazon Aquino, wherein the Bell AH-1F was eyed for acquisition. This did not materialize and instead the Philippine Air Force acquired the McDonnell Douglas (now Hughes) MD-520MG armed helicopters that the PAF continues to use to this day.
The last one was in 2009 during the time of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, wherein the requirement for the Philippine Air Force's attack helicopter project included the acquisition of ex-Israel Defense Forces AF-1S Tzefa attack helicopters under the PAF's then Night Capable Attack Helicopter project, which are to be refurbished before delivery. The project proceeded with a requirement for brand new helicopters wherein Asian Helicopters won with their MD-530F
Being second hand, it drew flak from several groups due to allegations of being a "midnight deal" that is being pushed in the final days of the Arroyo administration. It did not get traction during the term of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, until the PAF decided to go on a brand new route, which led to the project's awarding to AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) for their AW-109E Power armed helicopters.
There were also interests made on the twin-engine Super Cobra, the last one was back in 2006 when the defense department tried to negotiate with the US government for four to six ex-US Marine Corps AW-1W Super Cobra helicopters, which was competing with another option of larger number of second-hand MD-520. The project was also scrapped later on.
Its best to take note that the PAF's Attack Helicopter project were the Leonardo AW-109E was acquired was not a Horizon 1 phase project under the 2013-2028 Revised AFP Modernization Program, but was actually part of the older 1995-2010 AFP Modernization Program. This is because it was actually an evolution of the Night Capable Attack Helicopter and the earlier Attack Helicopter Acquisition Projects.
|Filipino and American airmen around an AH-1W Super Cobra during Balikatan 2014. The PAF actually showed interest on twin-engined AH-1W Super Cobras in the past.|
Photo taken from Aiirsource Military's Youtube page.
The Jordanian Donation Offer: AF-1F Cobra:
MaxDefense was initially informed by one of our community members about the possible arrival of Cobra helicopters last July 2017. The initial info is that the Kingdom of Jordan offered to donate 2 used Bell AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters to the Philippines, and Philippine Air Force officers/technical team and defense officials were able to check out the Cobras in Jordan last June 2017. MaxDefense has a photo to support the PAF inspection but has not yet receive approval to post the photo through any of our public pages.
Succeeding information that MaxDefense received from its sources confirmed that the Jordanian offer was originally for four units, but was reduced to two. The Philippine Air Force is still finalizing the acceptance of the helicopters, while defense officials are said to be negotiating with Jordanian defense officials toincrease it back to four helicopters. It still remains to be seen if this request could be approved.
It is still for clarification if the Jordanian AH-1F Cobras being offered are among those new builds they obtained in the late 1980s from the US, or ex-US Army units transferred in 2001. While Jordan received former Israeli AH-1F Tzefas a few years ago, it is highly unlikely that the units offered to the Philippines are from this batch of helicopters from Israel.
The Philippines is also not the first country to receive AH-1F Cobras as donation from Jordan. Earlier this year Kenya was reported to have received at least one and probably more AH-1F Cobras from Jordan.
|A Jordanian AH-1F firing 2.75" rockets. The AH-1's advantage over existing armed helicopters in the PAF include larger munition capacity.|
Photo taken from Defense Update page.
The Possible Israeli Route - AH-1F Tzefa
Aside from this, it was also mentioned to MaxDefense that the DND might also be planning, or might already be in discussion with their Israeli counterparts to provide some of its stored upgraded AH-1E/F Tzefa attack helicopters to the Philippine Air Force, probably as donation as well, considering Israel already made the same arrangement with Jordan a few years ago to help secure against ISIS-related attacks.
It is also difficult for the DND to justify a second hand purchase, considering Pres. Duterte's latest statements of acquiring only brand new units. A donation, being free, might not be affected by this instruction.
It remains to be seen though if this would materialize.
|Israel's AH-1F Tzefa attack helicopter, which were retired in favour of unmanned aircraft. Israel may provide a few examples to the Philippines if an agreement is reached.|
Credits to owner of photo.
Back to the Question:
So is the PAF getting AH-1 Cobras? Although the answer is still not definite 100%, as also agreed upon by our sources, the answer is closer on the "yes" rather than "no". As of our last check, the AH-1F donation from Jordan is still for approval by the PAF and AFP's senior leaders, before it is recommended for approval by higher authorities. But being a donation, MaxDefense expects the senior leaders to approve and accept the offer and fund for its transfer.
So far there's no budget allocation yet for the preparation for the helicopters, which includes training of PAF personnel with the Royal Jordanian Air Force, and transportation and delivery of the helicopters to the Philippines, among others. So until these are confirmed, its best to say that it the chances are high that the PAF is getting Jordanian Cobras but its not 100% confirmed.
Another reason why its closer to being a "yes", is that the PAF has already started requesting for queries on how to improve the helicopters for donation.
How about MaxDefense's mention of the "another (attack) helicopter model arriving next year", was it the Cobra? While the direct answer is yes, MaxDefense is also talking about the possibility of having another attack helicopter model since the PAF is acquiring more attack helicopters under the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program. And it may not necessarily be more AW-109E Power.
The only reason MaxDefense did not post about this information before was because of the lack of photographic evidence to back-up our post. But since its already out anyway, we'll just post any photograph to corroborate the information once it's allowed for public consumption.
According to our sources, the PAF has also shown interest to upgrade these Cobra helicopters if they are acquired. Among those they are looking at are upgrades on the avionics systems, and possibly the weapons system as well.
Considering that these Jordanian Cobras are not upgraded since they were received, it is highly likely to still be using avionics that are older than what the newer AW-109E Power is currently using, despite not being a purpose-built attack helicopter.
Also, the weapons systems might be a concern. The Cobra's advantages over current PAF armed helicopters is the presence of a heavy internal oscillating gatling cannon (20mm M197 3-barrel cannon) and the use of an anti-tank missile system. But the anti-tank is currently limited to the American TOW missile, which is not exactly the most modern missile in the market now, and would not be as easy to acquire than the Spike missile.
With the AFP, specifically the Philippine Navy, introducing the Rafael Spike missile including a helicopter-launched variant, it is highly likely that the Philippine Army may also want the missile for its anti-tank requirements, including a helicopter-launched one. And this means upgrade for the AH-1Fs are imminent. Take note that Israel's AH-1Fs are upgraded to fire the Spike missile as well.
|An Israe AH-1S Tzefa carrying a Spike missile launcher. The PAF may also do a similar upgrade considering the PN is acquiring the same system for its upcoming AW-159 helicopters.|
Photo taken from Defense Update page.
If the donation of Jordanian AH-1F, and hopefully any other Cobra offer from Israel are approved, it is expected that the PAF will be sending their pilots and ground crew for training in Jordan by November this year, and the helicopters delivered to the Philippines by early next year.
MaxDefense won't be discussing about the AH-1F Cobra's capabilities and other performance issues, and suggest its readers to read publicly available sources by Googling them.
MaxDefense believes that there will be more information coming out in the next few months, or even weeks, as the PAF closes its own schedules on how they will proceed with the Jordanian AH-1Fs. Until then, MaxDefense will be posting new updates once information becomes available and good for release to the public.