SIAI-Marchetti AS.211 to Patrol West Philippine Sea
The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has deployed three SIAI-Marchetti AS.211 jet trainers/light attack aircraft to Palawan to increase maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea, according to local media sources.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported the deployment on February 24, citing that “the jet trainers were expected to support the Philippine military’s Western Command [WESCOM] in its mission to protect [the nation’s] territorial integrity in its jurisdiction, which included the West Philippine Sea.”
The three aircraft are operating under PAF’s Tactical Operations Wing (TOW) West at Antonio Bautista air base, located at Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Taking to Facebook, TOW West said the deployment “will enhance the operational tempo of WESCOM” in securing the nation’s territorial waters and the Malampaya gas field near Palawan. However, the air arm has not made it clear as to whether the deployment will be rotational or if it is just a one-off requirement.
Tensions in the region have been high over arguments between China and countries such as the Philippines, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam (among others) regarding the ownership of territorial waters across the South China Sea.
The Italian-made SIAI-Marchetti S.211 is a turbofan-powered jet trainer which can also be employed in a light attack role. It first flew in April 1981 and entered service with the PAF in 1989, and it is the only air arm still operating the type. As of February 2020, at least three aircraft are still active with the 105th Combat Crew Training Squadron under the 5th Fighter Wing at Basa air base in Pampanga, northwest of Manila. Some have been upgraded too AS.211 ‘Warrior' standard, and these can carry a .50-cal gun pod under the fuselage.
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