The Philippines acquired 24 examples of the S-211, but the fleet’s high attrition rate (11 aircraft lost in total) and a lack of available spare parts have left just three airframes remaining in operational PAF service. These jet trainer aircraft are employed by the 105th Combat Crew Training Squadron at Basa Air Base (AB) in Pampanga.
While it adopted a limited fighter role in 2005 – following the retirement of the PAF’s Northrop F-5A/B Tiger II fleet due to the discovery of airframe cracks – the S-211 is now used for lead-in fighter training and close air support (CAS) operations, as well as being used for maritime patrol missions over the Kalayaan Island Ground.
Commenting on the fleet to the Philippine News Agency (or PNA) – the Philippine government’s official news agency – Col Maynard Mariano, a PAF spokesperson, detailed that research is now being conducted in the search for the S-211 fleet’s replacement. “We are planning for a replacement, research is ongoing, and there will be a presentation [of possible aircraft models] to the senior leadership soon,” he told the PNA.
The move to replace the S-211 comes after the PAF received 12 Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50PH Golden Eagle light combat aircraft from South Korea. These aircraft are operated by the 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Basa AB. It also comes shortly after the PAF revealed it had shortlisted both Lockheed Martin’s F-16V Block 70/72 Fighting Falcon and Saab’s JAS 39C/D Gripen in its quest to select a new combat aircraft under the Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) procurement project. A contract for up to 12 aircraft is expected to be signed before the end of this year.