RP GETS 3 CHOPPERS FROM US
Manila, Jan. 26, 2003 - The Philippine military is expecting the United States to deliver three combat helicopters soon as part of Washington's military assistance.
Lt. Gen. Narciso Abaya, commander of the military's Southern Command, said the Huey choppers will be a big boost in military operations.
The military has been redeploying in the past months to meet an upsurge of attacks by communist New People's Army rebels. Many NPA targets have been civilian facilities like telecommunications and electricity towers.
Communist rebels have been waging a 24-year Maoist armed campaign.
Because of lack of funding, the military has only a few dozen Hueys in service and has to make do with outdated equipment and weapons.
All of the Hueys were second-hand donations by the United States. Five Hueys were delivered to the Philippines last year.
The Air Force's small fleet of Hueys was whittled down last week when a Huey crash landed on a mountain slope in San Jose City in Nueva Ecija.
Col. Charles Hotchkiss, deputy commander of the Air Force's 600th Air Wing based at Clark Field in Pampanga, said the crash was apparently not caused by mechanical failure although investigators were still determining what went wrong.
Officials said the Huey crash landed after being buffeted by strong winds. The chopper spun out of control and was forced down on the slope of Mount Williams.
Seven of the nine people aboard four TV journalists from ABS-CBN and GMA-7, the chopper's two pilots and an army officer were hurt. Two other helicopter crewmen escaped injuries.
The Huey is the workhorse of the Philippine military. It does a variety of missions because of its ability to deliver personnel and cargo over rough terrain.
In the mid-1990s during the administration of Fidel Ramos the government embarked on an ambitious program to modernize the armed forces but shelved the plan due to lack of money. (Star)
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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