Country Listing

Philippines Table of Contents


Air Force

Traditionally, the air force's primary mission was air defense of the nation. In the mid-1980s, however, the air force shifted its principal effort to supporting the ground forces in counterinsurgency operations, using both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. The air force's other roles included search and rescue, transportation, and communications for all services. The Air Force Security Command (formerly the Aviation Security Command) was responsible for security of the nation's airports. The air force regularly took part in disaster relief and emergency operations in cooperation with civilian organizations and participated in national development programs.

The air force was headquartered at Villamor Air Base (formerly called Nichols Air Base) in Manila and was commanded by a two-star general. Other major bases included Basa and Clark air bases in Pampanga Province, Fernando Air Base in Batangas Province, Sangley Point Air Base in Cavite Province, and Mactan Air Base in Cebu Province. Flight training was conducted at the Air Force Flying School located at Fernando Air Base. Clark Air Base in Central Luzon was used primarily by United States forces based or training there. Although normally based at one of these facilities, aircraft, especially helicopters, routinely operated out of forward bases throughout the country in support of area commands' counterinsurgency operations. With approximately 15,500 officers and enlisted personnel, the air force was slightly smaller in 1990 than in the early 1980s, when personnel totaled 16,800.

The air force inventory in 1990 included fifteen combat aircraft and seventy-one armed helicopters, all United Statesmade (see table 21, Appendix). In 1987, the Philippines grounded its fleet of F-8 Crusaders, leaving only two squadrons of F-5 Freedom Fighters to provide air defense. The fighters were armed with United States-made AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles. Counterinsurgency operations were supported by a squadron of eight T-28D Trojan propeller-driven trainer/attack airplanes, and a wing equipped with fifty-five Bell UH-1H/Iroquois transport helicopters and sixteen AUH-76 attack helicopters.

Support units included seven transport squadrons; three training squadrons; a presidential airlift wing; and assorted reconnaissance, search and rescue, and liaison aircraft. Aircraft assigned to these elements were obtained from many countries, including Britain, Australia, Italy, and the Netherlands as well as the United States. In 1990 the air force expanded its capabilities by acquiring a variety of new aircraft. The Philippines received four Italian S-211 jet trainers and contracted for delivery of fourteen more. In addition, the air force was to receive twenty-nine United States-made MD-520 attack helicopters and hoped to upgrade its fighter fleet with the purchase of two squadrons of more modern fighters.

Data as of June 1991