The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is set to procure 32 additional Sikorsky S-70i Polish-made Black Hawk combat utility helicopters.

The acquisition is proceeding ahead after the release of the initial funding requirement for the aircraft last month.

The helicopters will be deployed to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expects the finalisation and signing of the contract for the helicopters to take place this month.

Lorenzana told the Philippine News Agency (PNA): “We are delighted with the release of the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO). We really need more helicopters, primarily for HADR missions.”

On 27 December, the Philippine Defence Department received a SARO amounting to $31.3m (PHP1.6bn) from the Department of Budget and Management.

The PNA reported that the financing was released ‘to cover the initial funding requirement for the additional utility helicopters acquisition project of the Philippine Air Force under the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program’.

The Philippine Government has set aside $1.21bn (PHP62bn) for the procurement of 32 Black Hawks and six offshore patrol vessels for the Philippine Navy.

The PAF has employed S-70is to transport relief supplies and rescue personnel, as well as Covid-19 vaccines.

Lockheed Martin company PZL Mielec in Poland is responsible for the supply of the aircraft to the PAF.

Last year, the service took delivery of all 16 Black Hawks from the Polish company.