Header Ads

google.com, pub-7237988725091974, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

Combat Utility Helicopter (Phase 1) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force

As the Bell UH-1H Huey combat utility helicopter fleet of the Philippine Air Force already considered obsolete decades ago, it has become inevitable for the service to consider acquiring replacements as soon as it can.

This resource page discusses the Combat Utility Helicopter (Phase 1) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force, which is the service's initial attempt to replace the UH-1H Huey with something new and much modern.

The Combat Utility Helicopter (Phase 1) Acquisition Project is part of the 3rd phase of the original 1995 AFP Modernization Program from 2006-2010.

Project Summary:

Combat Utility Helicopter (Phase 1) Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 30 May 2024.

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

Quantity: 8 combat utility helicopters + Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) Package

* Modernization Phase:
Capability Upgrade Program of the AFP Modernization Program (RA 7898)

* Project ABC:

Acquisition Mode: Public Bidding (initially), switched to Negotiated Procurement 

* Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund

* SARO Release: TBC

* Winning Proponent:
 PZL-Swidnik (Poland)

Product for Delivery: PZL-Swidnik W-3A Sokol combat utility helicopters

* Contract Price: Php2,860,000,000.00

* First post by MaxDefense: 08 August 2013

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PAFCUHAcquisition #PAFW3ASokol #PAFCUHPhase1Acquisition 

Deliver Status: 
Procurement was opened in 2008 and was originally through Public Bidding, but was changed to Negotiated Procurement after 2 failed biddings. PZL Swidnik won against AgustaWestland with the deal secured as of June 2009. First batch of 4 helicopters delivered on February 2012, second batch of 2 helicopters delivered on November 2012, and the final batch of 2 helicopters were delivered in early 2013. PROJECT COMPLETED.

Four of the eight W-3A Sokol CUHs ordered from PZL Swidnik of Poland. Photo credits to original source.



In 2008, the DND initiated a bidding for 8 Combat Utility Helicopters (CUH) with a budget of Php 3 billion (US$68 million), including an Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package. The helicopters are to complement the venerable Bell UH-1H Huey, and may become its successor in the future.

Being the most plentiful aircraft in service with the PAF, it is expected that there should be a massive effort to replace the aircraft en masse, but funding issues remain back in 2007 when the PAF decided to do something about the pressing need to replace the UH-1H Huey.

The new CUH shall be brand new, capable of night operation, capable of 3,000 lbs. minimum payload with full fuel, with side door gun mounts for M60D machine guns, and fast access for troops.  

An initial bid failed with the only bidder, AgustaWestland was declared ineligible., apparently due to offering its product, believed to be the AW109, does not meet the technical requirements although meeting the allocated budget.  

Reportedly AgustaWestland separately offered the AW109 helicopter to the PAF, but it did not met specifications although it met the budget. Photo taken from deagel.com.

A rebid was launched in the same year, with AgustaWestland and PZL Swidnik being the 2 bidders, but it failed again and made the government go for negotiated purchase.

As the DND went to negotiated purchase, only Poland's PZL Swidnik participated and has made the cut and a contract worth Php 2.86 billion for 8 PZL W-3A Sokol helicopters was made.

It was known that there were several companies interested in participating in the first bid attempt but did not submit a bid due to to the payload requirements that exceed the budget allocated by the DND.

Our parent page, MaxDefense Philippines, previously reported that its sources pointed that there were only limited candidates that meet the specifications and budget allocated by the DND, as helicopter models like Bell's 412EP, Sikorsky's S-76, AgustaWestland AW139 and Eurocopter EC155 Enlarged Dauphin all far exceed the budget of approximately $8 to 8.5 million apiece.

Only PZL Swidnik was able to deliver a product that can meet both the DND's specifications and budget, clearly winning the deal. 

Training of PAF personnel started in Poland by winter of 2011, with PAF pilots conducting flight training in European snowy conditions without any reports of issues.

One of the W-3A Sokol CUH conducting flight tests in Poland during the winter. Photo credits to original source.

First batch of 4 helicopters delivered on February 2012, second batch of 2 helicopters delivered on November 2012, and the final batch of 2 helicopters were delivered in early 2013.

But on August 2013, then President Benigno Aquino III during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) mentioned that there are issues with the W-3A Sokol, particularly the size of its side doors which made entering and exiting the helicopter difficult during combat or emergency situations.

The first batch of 4 W-3A Sokol helicopters as seen flying over Luzon in 2012. Photo credits to Paul Basa.

Issues on Side Door and Opening Size:

The W-3A Sokol's design was derived from the old Soviet Mil Mi-2 Hoplite light helicopter. Soviet helicopter designs differ from Western ones, which include the absence of wide opening side doors. The Sokol have sliding doors on both sides but unlike most Western designs like the Huey, they are narrow and not aligned with each other with the port side at the forward part of the cabin, while the starboard side door is at the rear of the cabin. 

Just looking at the technical drawing above, it already shows how small the port side door is.

According to information provided by PAF sources, the Sokol's port side door opening is at around 36-37 inches (3 feet) wide. The starboard side door opening's width might not be totally different. In comparison, the UH-1H Huey used by the PAF has a sliding door opening 74 inches (more than 6 feet) wide, and have a maximum of 92 inches (more than 7.5 feet) wide when the forward suicide doors are opened. As expected, the Bell 412 has almost the same door opening dimensions as its older stablemate. 

A technical drawing of a UH-1H cargo compartment showing dimensions. Drawing taken from Globalsecurity.org.

Surprisingly, the Black Hawk's door opening is smaller than the Huey's at 68 inches wide, but still wider than that of the W-3 Sokol. Drawing taken from GlobalSecurity.org.

From the beginning the PAF should have known the helicopter's door sizes and they could match it with their required door opening specifications, unless if the DND did not include such provision. Missing this provision on the requirement specifications will indeed make the Sokol eligible for the program, not the fault of PZL Swidnik and the Sokol helicopter.

U P D A T E S:

08 August 2013:

Our parent page MaxDefense Philippines posted a new blog entry discussing the side door issues of the W-3A Sokol combat utility helicopter, which was highlighted by Pres. Benigno Aquino III as an issue that shows poor decision making by the Department of National Defense and the Philippine Air Force during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"What went wrong with the PZL W-3A Sokol purchase as Combat Utility Helicopters?"- first published on 08 August 2013.


With the PZL-Swidnik W-3A Sokol combat utility helicopters already delivered and formally inducted with the Philippine Air Force as of early 2013, MaxDefense Philippines and Philippine Defense Resource officially consider the Combat Utility Helicopter (Phase 1) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force as COMPLETED.

x x x x x x x x x x x 
First edit and release: 30 May 2024
Copyright Philippine Defense Resource / MaxDefense Philippines

No comments

Featured Post

Long Range Patrol Aircraft Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force

The Philippine Air Force has embarked on the acquisition of Maritime Patrol Aircraft under the Long Range Patrol Aircraft (LRPA) Acquisition...

Philippine Navy Projects

Philippine Army Projects

Philippine Air Force Projects

Philippine Coast Guard Projects

PNP Maritime Group Projects

Powered by Blogger.