Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has reportedly ordered the grounding of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) fleet of Black Hawk helicopters.

The decision follows a crash that took place during a night-flying exercise in a province north of the capital Manila. The accident has claimed the lives of at least six people.

Lorenzana said: “We at the Department of National Defense extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the three pilots and three airmen of an S-70i Black Hawk helicopter of the PAF who perished when their plane crashed in the vicinity of Crow Valley near Clark Air Base, Pampanga, after undertaking a night proficiency flight on Wednesday evening, 23 June.”

PAF spokesperson lieutenant colonel Maynard Mariano was quoted by Philippine News Agency as saying that the helicopter belonged to the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing.

According to the PAF, ‘night-flight proficiency trainings’ are conducted to improve the pilots and air crew’s capabilities.

The crash is currently being probed and all the S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters will remain grounded until its conclusion.

PAF said it will launch a thorough inquiry to determine the circumstances of the incident.

The S-70i Black Hawk helicopter is one of the total 16 being purchased from Poland in a deal valued at $241m in 2019.

It is built by Poland-based Sikorsky Aircraft subsidiary PZL Mielec under licence.