Philippine Air Force

The Philippine Air Force (PAF; Filipino: Hukbong Himpapawid ng Pilipinas) is the aerial warfare service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Initially formed as part of the Philippine Army (Philippine Army Air Corps), the PAF is responsible for both defending the Philippine airspace, and conducting aerial operations throughout the Philippines, such as close air support operations, combat air patrols, aerial reconnaissance missions, airlift operations, tactical operations and aerial humanitarian operations. The PAF is headquartered at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay, and is headed by the Chief of the Air Force, who also serves as the branch's highest-raking military officer. The PAF has an estimated strength of over 15,000 personnel and operates 203 aircraft.[2]

Philippine Air Force
Hukbong Himpapawid ng Pilipinas
Seal of the Philippine Air Force
Founded1 July 1947; 74 years ago (1947-07-01)
Country Philippines
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
  • 15,000 personnel
  • 203 aircraft
Part of Armed Forces of the Philippines
HeadquartersColonel Jesus Villamor Air Base, Pasay, Metro Manila
Motto(s)"Guardians of our Precious Skies, Bearers of Hope"
Colors Air Force Blue 
MarchPhilippine Air Force Hymn[1]
Commander-in-ChiefPresident Rodrigo Duterte
Secretary of National DefenseDelfin Lorenzana
Chairman of the Joint ChiefsGen. Cirilito E. Sobejana, PA
Chief of the Air ForceLt. Gen. Allen T. Paredes, PAF
Deputy Chief of the Air ForceMaj. Gen. Florante M. Amano, PAF
Chief of the Air Force StaffMaj. Gen. Fernyl G. Buca, PAF
Sergeant Major of the Air ForceCMSgt Nelson S. Mercado, PAF
Battledress identification patch
Aircraft flown
AttackA-29B, AS-211, OV-10A/C, SF-260TP/MP
HelicopterBell 412EP, UH-1H/D, W-3A, S-70A-5/i, S-76A/AUH-76
Attack helicopterMD520MG, AH-1S, AW109E Power
PatrolF27-200MAR, C-130
ReconnaissanceAero Commander, Cessna 208, ScanEagle, Hermes 450, Hermes 900
TrainerSF-260FH, T-41B/D
TransportIPTN NC-212, C-130B/H/T, F27, F-28-3000, G280, N-22B, C-295M


Philippine Commonwealth and Independence

Early years and World War II

The forerunners of the Philippine Air Force was the Philippine Militia, otherwise known as Philippine National Guard (PNG). On March 17, 1917, Senate President Manuel L. Quezon enacted a bill (Militia Act 2715) for the creation of the Philippine Militia. It was enacted in anticipation that there would be an outbreak of hostilities between United States and Germany.[3]

By the end of the First World War, the US Army and Navy began selling aircraft and equipment to the Philippine Militia Commission. The Commission then hired the services of the Curtiss Flying School to provide flight training to 33 students at Camp Claudio, Parañaque.

The early aviation unit was, however, still lacking enough knowledge and equipment to be considered as an air force and was then limited only to air transport duties.[3] On January 2, 1935, Philippine Military Aviation was activated when the 10th Congress passed Commonwealth Act 1494 that provided for the organization of the Philippine Constabulary Air Corps (PCAC). PCAC was renamed the Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC) in 1936. It started with only three planes on its inventory. In 1941, PAAC had a total of 54 aircraft including pursuit (fighters) light bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, light transport and trainers.[3] They later engaged the Japanese when they invaded the Philippines in 1941–42, and were reformed in 1945 after the country's liberation.

Post-WWII and AFP restructuring
PAF P-51 Mustang

The PAF became a separate military service on July 1, 1947, when President Manuel Roxas issued Executive Order No. 94. This order created the Philippine Naval Patrol and the Air Force as equal branches of the Philippine Army and the Philippine Constabulary under the now Armed Forces of the Philippines[4] becoming Southeast Asia's third air force as a result.

The main aircraft type in the earlier era of the PAF was the P-51 Mustang, flown from 1947 to 1959. Ground attack missions were flown against various insurgent groups, with aircraft hit by ground fire but none shot down. In the 1950s the Mustang was used by the Blue Diamonds aerobatic display team.[5] These would be replaced by the jet-powered North American F-86 Sabres in the late 1950s, assisted by Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star and Beechcraft T-34 Mentor trainers.

The PAF saw its first international action in the Congo under the UN peacekeeping mission in 1960.

Cold War Era

Marcos rule and People Power Revolution
F-86D of the Philippine Air Force

During the 70s, the PAF was actively providing air support for the AFP campaign against the MNLF forces in Central Mindanao, aside from doing the airlifting duties for troop movements from Manila and Cebu to the warzone. Traditional workhorses like the UH-1H choppers, L-20 “Beaver” aircraft, and C-47 gunships were mainly used in the campaign. In the same decade, the PAF Self-Reliance Development Group, the forerunner of the Air Force Research and Development Center (AFRDC) was created. The Center enabled the PAF to create prototypes of aircraft aside on going into partnership with the private sector for some of its requirements.[6]

In late 1977, the Philippine government purchased 35 secondhand U.S. Navy F-8Hs that were stored at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. Twenty-five of them were refurbished by Vought and the remaining 10 were used for spare parts. As part of the deal, the U.S. would train Philippine pilots in using the TF-8A. They were mostly used for intercepting Soviet bombers. The F-8s were grounded in 1988 and were finally withdrawn from service in 1991 after they were badly damaged by the Mount Pinatubo eruption, and have since been offered for sale as scrap.[7]

On February 24, 1986, at the height of the "EDSA Revolution", the 15th Strike Wing defected to the Ramos-Enrile camp, taking their squadrons of S-76 “Sikorsky” that later dictated the EDSA People Power Revolution which effectively ended the Marcos rule.

1986–1990 Coup attempts
A Vought F-8H Crusader (ex U.S. Navy BuNo 148649) of the Philippine Air Force in flight.

The following years remained hostile for the Philippines, a series of bloody coup attempts led by then-Col Gregorio Honasan of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, involved thousands of renegade troops, including elite units from the army and marines, in a coordinated series of attacks on Malacanang and several major military camps in Manila and surrounding provinces, including Sangley and Villamor Air Base, using the T-28 aircraft for aerial assaults. President Corazon Aquino found it necessary to request United States support to put down the uprising. As a result, a large US special operations force was formed and named Operation Classic Resolve, as USAF F4 fighter aircraft stationed at Clark Air Base patrolled above rebel air bases, and two aircraft carriers were positioned off the Philippines. The US operation soon caused the coup to collapse. Additional US forces were then sent to secure the American embassy in Manila. The military uprisings resulted in an estimated US$1.5 billion loss to the Philippine Economy.[8]

US Military departure from the Philippines

The Cold War Era has reached its endpoint as tensions between the two ideological rivals, the United States and the Soviet Union, have simmered down as a result of the dissolution of the latter and the massive change of political system among its allies.

An aerial photo of Clark Airbase in Central Luzon

The fate of the US military bases in the country was greatly affected by these circumstances, aside from the catastrophic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 which engulfed the installations with ash and lahar flows. The nearby Clark Air Base was eventually abandoned afterwards, while the Philippine Senate voted to reject a new treaty for Subic Naval Complex, its sister American installation in Zambales. This occurrence had effectively ended the century-old US military presence in the country, even as President Corazon Aquino tried to extend the lease agreement by calling a national referendum, leaving a security vacuum in the region and terminated the inflows of economic and military aid into the Philippines. [9] [10]

Contemporary Era

AFP modernization efforts and Asian Financial Crisis

The importance of territorial defense capability was highlighted in the public eye on 1995 when the AFP published photographs of Chinese structures on Mischief Reef in the Spratlys.

The PAF MD-520MG displayed at the Mall of Asia.

Initial attempts to improve the capabilities of the Armed Forces happened when a law was passed in the same year for the sale of redundant military installations and devote 35 percent of the proceeds for the AFP upgrades. Subsequently, the legislature passed the AFP Modernization Act. The law sought to modernize the AFP over a 15-year period, with minimum appropriation of 10-billion Pesos per year for the first five years, subject to increase in subsequent years of the program. The modernization fund was to be separate and distinct from the rest of the AFP budget.

However, the Asian Financial Crisis struck the region on 1997. This has greatly affected the AFP Modernization Program due to the government's austerity measures meant to turn the economy around after suffering from losses incurred during the financial crisis.[11]

A C-295M assigned to the Tactical Operations Group 5 taxis at Legazpi Airport

Several air assets acquired by the Philippine Air Force thru the original AFP Modernization Program of 1995 were the AW109 armed scout helicopters, and airlift assets like the Airbus C295 and CASA C212 Aviocar.

A decade of neglect
F-5A, now retired from the Philippine Air Force
The AS-211 Warrior jet trainer/light attack aircraft, which served as "gap stopper" for the PAF in its air defense operations

Since the retirement of the Northrop F-5s in September 2005 without a planned replacement, the Philippine Air Force was left without fighter jets. The PAF resorted to the Aermacchi S-211 trainer jets to fill the void left by the F-5's. These S-211's were later upgraded to light attack capability and used for air and sea patrol and also performed counter-insurgency operations from time to time.[12] The only active fixed wing aircraft to fill the roles were the SF-260 trainers with light attack capability, the OV-10 Bronco light attack and reconnaissance aircraft and the AS-211 warriors (upgraded S-211).

South China Sea arbitration case and revised AFP Modernization Program

The incidents with Chinese presence in the South China Sea prompted the Philippines to proceed with formal measures while challenging the Chinese activities in some of the sea features in the disputed island chain. Hence, the South China Sea Arbitration Case was filed by the Philippines in 2013 at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).[13]

Reminiscent to what occurred in 1995, the Congress passed the Revised AFP Modernization Act of 2012, this was meant to replace the older AFP Modernization Act of 1995 signed during former Pres. Fidel V. Ramos’ term, when its 15-year program effectivity expired in 2010.[14]

Two FA-50 Golden Eagle light multi-role fighter/trainer jets escorting a Philippine Airlines flight carrying President Benigno S. Aquino III

Major air assets acquired in this new modernization program iteration are 12 FA-50 Light Fighters, while those programmed for future procurements are the Multi-Role Fighters and the Maritime Patrol Aircraft, among other equipment.[15]

Flight Plan 2028

In response to regional strategic challenges and perceived internal weaknesses, the PAF has embarked on a transformation process to enhance its capabilities. Flight Plan 2028 is administered by the Air Force Strategy Management Office (AFSMO), and aims to:

  • Build the PAF capability to detect, identify, intercept and neutralize intrusions in the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone (PADIZ) and the South China Sea (to the North and West of the archipelago) from Area Readiness 4 to Area Readiness 3 by 2022.
  • Build the PAF capability to detect, identify, intercept and neutralize intrusions into the entire Philippine territory from Area Readiness 3 to Area Readiness 1 by 2028;

The plan calls for a reorienting of the Philippine Air Force from a primarily internal security role to a territorial defence force. It will require substantial organisational, doctrinal, training, strategic and equipment transformation.

US-Philippine Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement

In April 2014, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed by the representatives of the Philippine and US Governments, aimed at bolstering the military alliance of both countries. The agreement allows the United States to rotate troops into the Philippines for extended stays and allows the U.S. to build and operate temporary facilities on Philippine military bases for both American and Philippine forces' use.[16] [17]

Both parties agreed to determine the military installations across the Philippines as covered by the pact, including the former US Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Base, as well as several locations on Cebu, Luzon, and Palawan. [18]

As of 2016, four PAF bases and one Army camp have been determined by the United States and the Philippines to be utilized under the agreement. The Air Force Bases are Basa Air Base, Antonio Bautista Air Base, Benito Ebuen Air Base, and Lumbia Airfield.[19]


The Philippine Air Force is commanded by the Chief of the Air Force, holding the rank of Lieutenant General, and is assisted by the Vice Chief of the Philippine Air Force, and the Chief of Air Staff, in charge of organizational and administrative matters, both holders of the rank of Major General. The Philippine Air Force consists of three tactical commands, three support commands, seven air wings including one separate search and rescue wing, one engineering brigade, one air control and warning wing, one air weather group and one special operations unit.

Tactical commands

The three Tactical Commands are in the direct control of the PAF Leadership while serving his function in the command chain of the AFP. These units are jointly reactivated and reorganized on July 21, 2017, while effectively replacing the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Air Divisions as part of the PAF Flight Plan 2028.[20]

  • Air Defense Command
  • Air Mobility Command
  • Air Combat Command (formerly Tactical Operations Command)

Support commands

The three Support Commands are in charge for the overall combat, logistics, education, training, doctrine development, reservist management and administrative support in the PAF's operations.

Air wings

  • 5th Fighter Wing, Basa Air Base – It is responsible for air defense and interdiction. It replaced the Air Defense Wing after the two were reactivated to their original status on 2017.
    • Flying units:
      • 7th Tactical Fighter Bulldogs Squadron – currently flies the KAI FA-50PH Fighting Eagle multirole fighter aircraft.
      • 105th Fighter Training Blackjacks Squadron – conducts jet qualification and training for future fighter-bound pilots. Currently flies the Aermacchi AS-211 jet training aircraft.
  • 15th Strike Wing, Danilo Atienza Air Base – It is responsible for providing combat air support to surface forces of the AFP.[21]
  • 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing, Benito Ebuen Air Base – It is responsible for conducting tactical helicopter operations and limited air support, in support of the PAF and AFP.[22] The wing currently flies the Bell UH-1H Huey, Dornier-Bell UH-1D Huey, Bell 412EP, and S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters.
    • Flying Units:
      • 206th Tactical Helicopter Hornets Squadron
      • 207th Tactical Helicopter Stingers Squadron
      • 208th Tactical Helicopter Daggers Squadron
      • 210th Tactical Training Squadron
    • Support Unit:
      • 450th Maintenance and Support Group
  • 220th Airlift Wing, Benito Ebuen Air Base – It provides tactical airlift operations in support of the AFP. It is also currently responsible for temporarily conducting long range maritime patrol and air reconnaissance.[23]
  • 250th Presidential Airlift Wing, Villamor Air Base – It provides air transportation to the President of the Philippines, immediate members of presidential family, the Vice President of the Philippines and their immediate family members, heads of states, state guests, and very very important persons (VVIP). The unit is also attached to the Presidential Security Group (PSG).[24]
  • 300th Air Intelligence and Security Wing, Antonio Bautista Air Base – responsible for conducting aerial surveillance, intelligence gathering, and maritime patrol using air and ground assets.
  • 355th Aviation Engineering Wing, Clark Air Base – the unit is tasked to provide general engineering support, including construction, repair, rehabilitation and maintenance of PAF aerodrome facilities and utilities.[25]
  • 580th Aircraft Control and Warning Wing, Wallace Air Station – It is responsible for operating air defense and surveillance radar systems of the PAF. It was reactivated on November 3, 2016, after being downgraded to a Group on April 1, 2005.[26]
  • 710th Special Operations Wing, Colonel Ernesto Rabina Air Base – It is responsible for conducting special operations, counter terrorism, and defense of PAF bases and facilities. The unit is also being groomed to be responsible for ground-based air defense system (GBADS) units which is being inducted into the PAF's future capabilities.

Separate units

  • 900th Air Force Weather Group - It is responsible for weather information, observation, reporting, and cloud seeding operations.

Aerobatic teams

The Philippine Air Force Blue Diamonds "Sabre" emblem on a F-86F Sabre, circa 1962.

The Philippine Air Force had a number of aerobatic teams among which the PAF Blue Diamonds was the first to be founded, and was one of the oldest formal aerobatics teams in the world. The proceeding units listed are currently at inactive status due to the retirement of their aircraft, most notably the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighters.

  • Blue Diamonds – 5th Fighter Wing, Air Defense Command
  • Red Aces – 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 5th FW
  • Golden Sabres – 9th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 5th FW (merged with the Red Aces on 1973)
  • Bubuyogs – PAF Helicopter Precision Demonstration Team, 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing


The Philippine Air Force has nine major air bases and several radar, communications, and support facilities located throughout the archipelago. Shared facilities with commercial airports currently being used as detachments by the Tactical Operations Command were not included here.

Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base Pasay, Metro Manila
Clark Air Base Angeles, Pampanga
Colonel Ernesto Rabina Air Base Capas, Tarlac
Cesar Basa Air Base Floridablanca, Pampanga
Basilio Fernando Air Base Lipa, Batangas
Danilo Atienza Air Base Cavite City, Cavite
Wallace Air Station San Fernando, La Union
Paredes Air Station Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte
Gozar Air Station Lubang, Occidental Mindoro
Parañal Air Station Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte
Benito Ebuen Air Base Mactan, Cebu
Guiuan Airfield Guiuan, Eastern Samar
Antonio Bautista Air Base Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Mt. Salakot Air Station Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Edwin Andrews Air Base Zamboanga City
Rajah Buayan Air Station General Santos
Lumbia Airfield Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental

Current inventory


A PZL W-3 Sokół of the 505th Search and Rescue Group
A S-70A-5 Presidential helicopter
A CASA NC-212i light transport aircraft approaching Clark International Airport
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
KAI FA-50PH South Korea light fighter / LIFT FA-50PH 12[28]
OV-10 Bronco United States light attack / surveillance OV-10A/C 7[28] upgraded to OV-10M with four-bladed propellers[29]
A-29 Super Tucano Brazil COIN / attack 6[28]
Fokker F27 Netherlands transport / maritime patrol 1[28]
Fokker F28 Netherlands VIP transport 1[28]
CASA C-212 Spain transport NC-212i 2[28]
CASA C-295 Spain utility / transport 4[28] one used for maritime patrol
Gulfstream G280 United States VIP transport 1[30]
GAF Nomad Australia transport 3[28]
C-130 Hercules United States tactical airlifter C-130B/H/T 1 / 1 / 2[31][32]
Turbo Commander United States utility 2[28]
Cessna 208 Caravan United States ISTAR aircraft 2[28]
Bell 412 United States SAR / VIP 412EP[31] 8[28]
Bell 205 United States utility 205A 8[28] 2 are the Huey II standard[31]
Bell AH-1 United States attack AH-1F 2[28]
Bell UH-1 United States utility UH-1H/D 23[28]
T129 ATAK Turkey / Italy attack 6 on order[33][34]
PZL W-3 Poland CSAR / utility 5[28] operated by the 505th SAR Group[35]
Sikorsky S-76 United States air ambulance 9[28]
Sikorsky UH-60 United States utility / SAR S-70A-5 / S-70i 11[36][31] one S-70A used for VIP -5 S-70i’s on order[28]
MD 500 Defender United States armed scout MD 520MG 15[28]
AgustaWestland AW109 Italy armed scout / utility 8[28]
Trainer Aircraft
Cessna T-41 United States primary trainer T-41B 15[37]
SIAI-Marchetti S.211 Italy jet trainer/ light attack AS-211 3[28]
SIAI-Marchetti SF.260 Italy basic trainer / light attack 21[28]
Boeing Insitu ScanEagle United States surveillance ScanEagle II 6[38][39]
Hermes 450 Israel surveillance 4[40]
Hermes 900 Israel surveillance 9[40]

Future Aircraft

Future combat aircraft acquisitions currently being considered are the Saab JAS 39 Gripen[41][42] and the EMB 314 Super Tucano platforms,[43] due to pricing, funding and delivery date issues, the DND would be submitting proposals based on the countries financial state. Additionally more UH-60 Black Hawk's are being sought to replace the older Bell UH-1 fleet.[44] For cargo transport and maritime patrol roles a batch of C-130J Super Hercules, and P-3C Orions respectively are being looked at. Bids are also being obtained from Alenia Aermacchi, Airbus Military and Elta Systems.

Aircraft Origin Type Variant Quantity Notes
Saab JAS 39 Gripen  Sweden Multirole fighter Gripen C/D MS20 14 Due to pricing, funding and delivery date issues, the DND would be submitting the proposal to procure the Saab JAS 39 Gripen C/D MS20 fighter aircraft rather than the Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 70 Viper that was selected by the PAF's Technical Working Group in 2019.[45][46]
EMB 314 Super Tucano  Brazil light attack / close air support A-29B 18 Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana laid out plans to acquire up to 18 additional Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano attack planes, which is set to replace the OV-10 Bronco attack planes. The first 12 planes are planned to be delivered within 2022, while the final batch of 6 planes are planned to be delivered within 2024.[47]
TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK  Turkey attack helicopter T129B 6 6 units on order, with the first 2 units set to be delivered within September 2021, while the remaining 4 total units will be delivered within February 2022 and February 2023.[33][48]
Sikorsky UH-60  Poland Combat utility helicopter S-70i 32 32 additional units set to be acquired, set to replace the Bell UH-1 Helicopters.[44]
PTDI NC-212i  Indonesia Transport NC-212i 6 Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana laid out plans to acquire up to 6 additional PTDI NC-212i light transport aircraft, planned to replace the GAF Nomad.[49]
Airbus-CASA C-295  Spain Transport 3 The PAF has requested for the acquisition of additional C-295s under the Horizon 2 phase of the RAFPMP.[50]
C-130J Super Hercules  United States Transport C-130J-30 2 On 8 September 2020, Philippine Air Force chief Allen T. Paredes said that the country was planning to acquire 5 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.[51] The quantity was later reduced to 2 after government funds were prioritised for the COVID-19 pandemic response.[52]
Seaplane Search and rescue aircraft / Patrol Aircraft 3 The Philippine Air Force announced requirements for the acquisition of two seaplanes in 2013 with a projected cost of ₱2.67 billion (US$55.3 million).[53]
Long-range patrol aircraft 2 Alenia Aermacchi, Airbus Military and Elta Systems bought bid documents for the acquisition of long-range patrol aircraft with a projected cost of ₱5.976 billion (US$124 million). The PAF is also in talks with the US in plans for the acquisition of 2 P-3C Orions from the United States.[54]
Mil Mi-17  Russia Heavy lift helicopter Mi-171Sh/Mi-171A2 16 (+1 VVIP) These sixteen helicopters will be used for cargo transport with a total cost of US$235 million. 15 percent of the total cost has been distributed for payment by the Department of Finance. Another unit will be purchased as a VVIP transport.[55]
KAI KT-1 Woongbi  South Korea Advanced trainer aircraft 12 12 units are planned for procurement with an Approved Budget for Contract (ABC) worth Php4.2 billion. It is planned to be procured through Multi-Year Contractual Authority (MYCA), and could be a Goverment-to-Goverment (G2G) transaction with the winning manufacturer's country of origin. Set to replace the SIAI-Marchetti AS-211 Warrior.[56]

See also


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