What is really going on?
In December 2009, the Bids and Awards Committee of the Department of National Defense issued a Notice of Award for the Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition project of the Philippine Air Force (PAF). The winning bidder was the Polish company Wytwornia Sprzetu Komunikacyjnego “PZL Swidnik” S.A., which offered its W-3 Sokol intermediate helicopter. Since the announcement, little if any details about the helicopter were ever released from official sources.
Then in September, 2010, the Philippine Star, care of Roel Pareno, produced the following article with surprisingly detailed descriptions of the helicopter’s armament. The following is an excerpt.
Air Force acquires 8 Polish-made attack helicopters
By Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) Updated September 18, 2010 12:00
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The capability of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) will be enhanced with the purchase of eight Polish-made attack helicopters.
PAF chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena announced yesterday that the Air Force has already acquired eight brand new Sokol W-3WA Falcon helicopters from the PZL Swidnik Co. of Poland.
Rabena said the helicopters, purchased at a cost of P2.8 billion, are all heavily equipped.
Rabena said the twin-engine combat helicopters would be delivered early next year.
PAF spokesman Lt. Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said the delivery of the helicopters would also include the training of the pilots and proper use of the weaponry for crewmen.
Okol said Sokol Falcon helicopter has weapons that include a GSz-23L gun, Strzala-2 AAMs missiles and Gad fire-control system.
The helicopter is also equipped with night vision capability, compatible instrumentation and armored seats that protect crewmembers from small arms fire.
He said the other helicopter units would be equipped with starboard-mounted 23mm GSz-23 twin-barrel gun; Mars-2 launchers for sixteen 57mm S-5 or 80mm S-8 unguided rockets, ZR-8 bomblet dispensers, Platan mine laying packs, and six cabin window mounted AK 47, 5.45mm Tantal or PKM machine guns.
Okol said the helicopters could be used for rescue missions.
< Edited >
The weapons list in the article surprised many long-time military enthusiasts. It didn’t make sense at multiple levels.
First of all, the CUH was supposed to be a transport helicopter. It was meant to operate in the same manner as the UH-1H Iroqouis (Huey) that is currently the PAF’s principal troop-mover. The UH-1s are only armed with two side-facing M-60 machine guns for self-defense purposes, thus reserving most of the helicopter’s lifting power to moving men and materiel.
The second, and more alarming, concern was the potential logistical impact of the list. The report mentioned weapons that did not currently existing in the PAF inventory, and therefore would be specialized purchases for a relatively small fleet of aircraft. The guns listed would introduce new types of ammunition that were not manufactured by the Government Arsenal, and would therefore have to be imported — again, for a very small fleet of aircraft.
The report just seemed wrong. As it turns out, it was.
Not long after the report came out, military-enthusiast community inquiries made their way to the PAF spokesman himself regarding the details that the report claimed that he had shared. Apparently . . . those details did not come from him and words had been put in his mouth.
In a effort to add spice to the article, the reporter reportedly inserted details that he had gotten from a Wikipedia article about the Sokols into his report. He had done so with little regard for whether or not the data was actually applicable.
It has never been made clear if the decision to embellish was the reporter’s handiwork, or if was an editorial decision.