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Air power is vital to national interest (First of three-part series)


Time was when the Philippine Air Force (PAF) was the cutting edge as the country’s first line of defense -- second to none in air superiority in Asia, except Japan.

The PAF was at its peak in 1950 to early 1970s as it had a strong air defense system, complete with air defense alert centers in Basa Air Base in Pampanga and Palawan, guarding the Western Philippine Sea.

During those golden years of the Air Force, an array of sophisticated jetfighter interceptors were standing-by on alert, day and night all-year-round, ready to take off at any moment’s notice to intercept and challenge any foreign aircraft or ship picked up by radar of intruding into Philippine airspace or territorial waters.

The PAF fighter jets were armed to the teeth with air-to-air and air-to-ground guided missiles, .20mm cannons and .50 caliber machine guns scrambled into the air in a matter of minutes.

Regrettably, however, through the years the once formidable PAF has dissipated into thin air and has become a weakling Air Force with not a single jetfighter remaining in its arsenal to challenge unauthorized planes entering the country’s sky.

The sorry state of the Air Force can be traced to the procrastination by the government to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to keep in pace with time, while other military forces in neighboring countries have long modernized their defense capability.
The PAF was left behind. Its vaunted air power superiority was gone.

There is a joke going around that the “Philippine Air Force is all air but no force.” It is hurting to hear but as the saying goes, truth hurts.
Col. Raul L. del Rosario, wing commander of the PAF Air Defense Wing based at Basa Air Base and an F-5 fighter pilot, reminisced the days of old when he flew the supersonic jet during acrobatic maneuver as head of the famed Blue Diamonds.

Like all fighter pilots, del Rosario is a believer of a strong Air Force as “an instrument of national power.” He said that with properly equipped Air Force, Filipino jetfighter pilots are highly proficient flyers comparable to the best in the world.

To further prove PAF pilots proficiency, del Rosario said: “We participated and won air-to-ground gunnery competitions against U.S. pilots” in many occasions in the past when the PAF had jetfighters.

Del Rosario also said that during those glory days, the Philippines sent an expeditionary squadron of F-86 Sabre jets to Congo, Africa many years ago because “we were practically number one in Asia in terms of air power.

“That just proved a point that given the equipment, we got what it takes to be a top caliber Air Force,” he said.
Del Rosario says the time is now for the PAF to regain its lost glory for the government to fast-track the acquisition of new jetfighter interceptors.


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