Thursday, February 8, 2018

DND: Bell helicopters for humanitarian, disaster response

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 8): DND: Bell helicopters for humanitarian, disaster response

The Department of National Defense (DND) on Thursday clarified that the 16 brand new Bell 412 EPI combat utility helicopters to be acquired from the Bell Helicopter and Canadian Commercial Cooperation (CCC) would only be used for humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made the statement in response to the Canadian government’s move to review the deal on the sale of these helicopters following reports on human rights concerns and that these would be used for combat operations against rebel forces.

“The 16 brand new Bell 412 helicopters, which we are procuring for the Armed Forces of Philippines, will primarily be used for the transportation of personnel and supplies, ferrying wounded and injured soldiers, and the conduct of humanitarian and assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations. They are not attack or close support aircraft,” Lorenzana said in a statement.

“While they may be used in support of Internal Security Operations or ISO, their role is limited to those that I mentioned. As its designation “Combat Utility Helicopter or CUH” connotes, the Bell CUH 412 is a utility helicopter and, contrary to what some parties mistakenly believe, its mission is to save lives,” the defense chief added.

Lorenzana also stressed that the DND is ready to acquire aircraft from other sources should the Canadian government decide not to push through with the deal.

DND public affairs office chief Arsenio Andolong, meanwhile, echoed Lorenzana’s remarks, noting that it is unfair to equate internal security operations with human rights violations in general.

"Although it is their prerogative to subject such a transaction from here I think it is unfair to equate internal security operations in general with human rights violations," he added.

Also, Andolong said the alleged human rights violations, presumably committed by military forces, were largely unverified.

"I think it’s premature to cast judgment on the Armed Forces in this regard so I think it would be to the best interests of both our countries to step back and reconsider," Andolong noted.

Andolong added that aircraft will not be fitted with weapons or take part in any assault operations.

On Dec. 29, 2017, Lorenzana and representatives of Bell Helicopter and CCC signed the deal for the purchase of the helicopters worth PHP12 billion. Representing Bell Helicopter in the contract signing was James Williamson and Yvonne Chin, CCC Director for Asia.

Delivery of the first Bell 412EPI helicopters units are expected to commence by the first quarter of 2019 while the last batch will be handed over by the second quarter of 2020.

Andolong said the acquisition of these helicopters was part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program Horizon 2 and would be used in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and other-related missions.

These aircraft are fully configured and equipped with advance features, which includes an electronic engine control, a glass cockpit display system and Garmin touchscreen navigation system.

Generally, these helicopters are capable of carrying 14 passengers and flying at a maximum speed of 140 knots (around 259 kilometers), cruise speed of 122 knots (226 kilometers per hour) and a range of 402 nautical miles (745 kilometers). It is powered with an enhanced Pratt and Whitney PT6T-3D Twin Pac.

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