ASEAN Beat | Security | Southeast Asia

What Do the Philippines’ New Cobra Helicopters Mean for Its Military?

The used helicopters were finally delivered to the country from Jordan last week.  

Prashanth Parameswaran
What Do the Philippines’ New Cobra Helicopters Mean for Its Military?

A photo from the Philippines-Jordan summit meeting last year.

Credit: Presidential Communications Office of the Philippines

Last week, the Philippines finally received helicopters from Jordan based on an agreement both sides had reached in 2018. The development put the focus on the pact as well as its significance for the Philippine military and its capabilities.

As I have noted before in these pages, while defense ties between the Philippines and Jordan remain quite underdeveloped, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Jordan last year saw both sides explore avenues for collaboration, including a new memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation signed between the Philippines Department of National Defense (DND) and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army.

One of the outcomes of Duterte’s visit to Jordan in 2018 was the Jordanian government’s provision of two Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters to the Philippines. While the helicopters were initially expected to be delivered around July 2019 following the training of Philippine pilots, there had been some delay on their delivery. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had said that the expectation was for their arrival by the end of 2019.

As I noted when news of the deal first surfaced, the transfer of the helicopters between the two countries would represent a significant development for the Philippine military. While these would be used helicopters, they would nonetheless be a much-needed addition to the Philippines’ currently limited military capabilities, helping it address several security challenges including terrorism as well as freeing up money to pursue other line items in a long shopping list for its ongoing military modernization.

On November 26, the Philippines finally received the helicopters from Jordan. The helicopters arrived at the Philippine Air Force (PAF) headquarters in Clark Airbase, Pampanga, and the arrival was subsequently communicated via an official statement by the Philippine military.

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Per the Philippine News Agency, Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) spokesman Arsenio Andolong told reporters in a statement that the two helicopters would be used mainly for close air support in internal security and counterterrorism operations. He added that the helicopters which were a manifestation of the “widening” of the Philippines’ “circle of friends” – in line with Duterte’s so-called independent foreign policy – and “will immensely help our troops on the ground and enhance the overall capability of the PAF.”

With the helicopters now received, they will be assembled and then undergo a series of tests and inspections. They will then be formally received by Lorenzana and are expected to enter into service soon thereafter.