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Additional Utility Helicopters (Bell 412) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force

As part of improving its lift capabilities with the retirement of older Bell UH-1 Huey combat utility helicopters, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has embarked on the acquisition of replacements. 

It was decided that aside from acquiring the Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk in the combat utility helicopter role, the PAF decided to procure a second model to supplement and complement the Black Hawk in the form of the Bell 412 multirole helicopter.

This resource page discusses the acquisition of Additional Utility Helicopters, particularly the Bell 412 for the Philippine Air Force.

A Bell 412EP of the PAF's 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing, as of 2018. Photo taken from and credited to aviation photographer Efrain Noel Morota.

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Project Summary:

Additional Utility Helicopters (Bell 412) aka Combat Utility Helicopter (Phase 5) Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 15 January 2024.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (205th Tactical Helicopter Wing)

* Quantity: 8 units plus ILS package

* Modernization Phase: 2nd List of Horizon 2 Phase Projects of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php6,392,619,750.00

* Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) deal with Japanese  Ministry of Defense

* Source of Funding: Multi-Year Contractual Authority for 3 years, using General Appropriations Act (GAA) starting FY2023

* SARO Release: 
   - SARO-BMB-D-23-0020671 dated 03 August 2023 worth Php958,892,963.00 (15%) as initial payment

* Winning Proponent: TBC, most likely Subaru Corporation or Bell Helicopter Textron

* Product for Delivery: Subaru Bell 412EPX

* Contract Price:
 Php6,392,619,750.00

* Residual Price: Php0.00

* First post by MaxDefense: 23 February 2022

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag:
 #PAFAdditionalBell412Acquisition #PAFCUHPhase5Acquisition

* Status: This project was included under 2nd List of Horizon 2 in 2021 due to increasing need to have additional Bell 412 helicopters to complement the Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk in combat utility helicopter role. To be acquired through Direct Contracting / Government-to-Government. Was suppose to receive funding in 2022 but was moved to 2023. Initial funding released 03 August 2023, with Notice of Award reelased on 15 September 2023. Confirmed by sources and other documents to be the Subaru Bell 412EPX.No contract signed yet as of Procurement Monitorig Report from DND dated 04 January 2024.

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Overview:

With the Philippine Air Force now making the Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk as its main combat utility helicopter after receiving 16 units in an initial order made in 2018 and ordering another 32 units in a second batch order made in 2021, the other helicopters models with similar roles is becoming less relevant due to their lesser numbers.

The fatal crash of one of the first 16 Black Hawk helicopters in June 2021 that led to the grounding of the entire Black Hawk fleet was a reminder to the PAF that they need to invest in another combat utility helicopter model to avoid grounding the entire fleet when an accident occurs.

Since the PAF originally wanted the Bell 412 as the eventual replacement of the Bell UH-1D/H Huey helicopter due to several factors like size, acquisition and operating cost, similarity between both models, and Bell's very good support, it was not difficult for the PAF to decide which model should be used as an alternative to the Black Hawk.

The PAF originally requested for 10 brand new Bell 412 helicopters with a budget of US$151.3 million, for either the EPI or the newer EPX variant, to supplement its current fleet of 5 Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters. In addition, it has studied the possibility of replacing the PAF's Bell 412EP VVIP helicopters (3 Bell 412EPs procured during the Noynoy Aquino administration, 3 procured during the Ramos administration) and reconfiguring them as combat utility helicopters.

One of the 5 Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters during turnover and induction to PAF service in August 2015. Photo credits to PAF.


One of the new Bell 412EP configured to VVIP transport, which were originally planned to be reverted back to combat utility role after the APEC 2015 summit, but did not happen. Credits to original source of the photo.


These moves will allow the PAF to create a full squadron of more than 20 Bell 412s to be operated by the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing.

The final number was reduced to 8 new Bell 412s with a budget of Php6.4 billion, which will be acquired through Direct Contracting / Government-to-Government deal. 
It remains to be seen if it would be with Canada where Bell Helicopters produces the Bell 412s, or with another country like Japan which produces the Bell 412EPX-based Subaru UH-2.


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U P D A T E S:
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19 July 2023:


The DND through its BAC2 report as of July 2023 has confirmed that the Philippine Air Force's Additional Utility Helicopter (Bell 412) Acquisition Project is now in advanced stages and is just awaiting the release of funds from the Department of Budget and Management for it to be able to award the project.

This project was actually first introduced in 2020 as part of the 2nd List of Horizon 2 phase, but failed to reach advanced stages by the time Horizon 2 ended and was pushed back to Horizon 3 phase.

It involves the acquisition of 8 Bell 412 helicopters to beef up the current fleet of the PAF, and will be the 2nd main Combat Utility Helicopter of the PAF and act as an alternative model and provide the PAF with helicopters in case the Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk CUH are grounded for safety or other reasons.

While it was specific for Bell 412s, it remains to be seen if it will consider models based on the Bell 412 model like the Subaru UH-2 which is actually a Japanese-made variant of the Bell 412EPX.

A Bell 412EP of the PAF's 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing, as of 2018. Photo taken from and credited to aviation photographer Efrain Noel Morota.

Once delivered, the PAF will have 13 Bell 412s as Combat Utility Helicopters, in addition to the 3 Bell 412EP VIP helicopters acquired during Horizon 1, and between 3 to 5 older Bell 412EP and 412HP VIP helicopters acquired during the Ramos administration back in the 1990s.

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03 August 2023:

The DBM has released the SARO for the acquisition of Additional Utility Helicopters (Bell 412) for the Philippine Air Force, with an initial funding worth Php958,892,963.00 released today 03 August 2023.

SARO for initial payment for project acquisition of Bell 412EPX helicopters. Photo screengrabbed from DBM's SARO listing.

This amount represents 15% of the total contract cost, which is to be used as initial funding. This confirms that the project will be paid via Multi Year Contractual Allocations (MYCA) following milestones of the project.

As we mentioned before, the PAF is looking to acquire 8 Bell 412s to supplant its current fleet of 5 Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters operated by the PAF's 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing as its alternate CUH variant after the Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk.

The Bell 412s are smaller and cheaper than the S-70i Black Hawk, and are also cheaper to sustain. They can be used for missions that do not require the size and power of the Black Hawks, which will allow the PAF to save in operating costs in the long run.

Before being cancelled by former Pres. Rodrigo Duterte during his administration, the DND was previously finalizing acquisition of Bell 412EPI variant, which is a more advanced variant of the PAF's Bell 412EP.

Upon checking with sources, it was confirmed that this project is considered part of the 2nd List of Horizon 2 of the RAFPMP, rather than the current Horizon 3 whose shopping list is not yet approved by Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The PAF Bell 412EP CUH. Credits to original source of photo.

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21 August 2023:

Our sources confirmed that the Bell 412 variant that the Philippine Air Force will be procuring is the Subaru Bell 412EPX, which shares the same platform as the Subaru Bell UH-2 for delivery to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

This will make the Philippine Air Force the 2nd military export user of the Subaru Bell 412EPX after the Guatemalan Air Force.

This will also be a boost for Japan and Subaru Corporation which is trying to expand its military exports after Japan loosened its tight laws on exporting military hardware and subsystems.

Bell Helicopters is still involved in the project although Subaru's involvement is said to be wider for this variant.

The Subaru Bell 412EPX. Photo c/o Subaru Corp.

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15 January 2024:

The Department of National Defense has released an updated Procurement Monitoring Report dated 04 January 2024, which included updates to the Additional Utility Helicopter (Bell 412) Acquisition Project.

The PMR stated that the Notice of Award has been released as of 15 September 2023, althoug it did not mention who received the NOA.

No contract has been signed as of release of the PMR, although we expect this to happen in early 2024 considering how long the gap between NOA release and contract signing are in other projects.

Screenshot from DND PMR.


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First post and edit: 04 August 2023
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines / Philippine Defense Resource

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