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MD-520MG Upgrade Project of the Philippine Air Force

The Philippine Air Force embarked on rehabilitating its fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-520MG Defender light attack helicopters, aiming to bring back mothballed helicopters as well as improving those that were still in service.

This resource page discusses the MD-520MG Upgrade Project of the Philippine Air Force, which is  is part of the 3rd phase of the original 1995 AFP Modernization Program from 2006-2010.

One of the Philippine Air Force's MD-520MG Defender light attack helicopter. Photo credits to Wikipedia.

Project Summary:

MD-520MG Upgrade Project:

Note: Edited as of 31 May 2024.

* End User:
 Philippine Air Force (15th Strike Wing) 

Quantity: 20 MD-520MG Defender light armed helicopters

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

* Project ABC:

Acquisition Mode: Direct Negotiation with US Department of Defense (US Foreign Military Sales Program) 

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

* SARO Release: TBC

* Winning Proponent:
 US Department of Defense

Product for Delivery: Overhaul of engines, supply of parts, and service for 20 MD-520MG helicopters, and integrated logistics support package.

* Contract Price: Php214,342,800.00

* First post by MaxDefense:

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PAFMD520MGUpgrade 

Deliver Status:
Involves overhaul and upgrade initially planned for procurement through Public Bidding, but shifted to Negotiated Procurement through US Foreign Military Sales (US FMS) Program. Project awarded in 2009, and completed as of May 2012. PROJECT COMPLETED.

PAF MD-520MG Defender light attack helicopters in flight. Photo credits to original source.



In 2007, the Philippine Air Force's fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-520MG Defender light attack helicopters have started to show its age as several of the helicopters are in need of new parts, or in need of major maintenance work.

Many of the helicopters have been out of service due to lack of spare parts, many of which are difficult to obtain from the market resulting to using these helicopters as spare parts hulks for surviving helicopters.

This reduced the number of helicopters in service, from more than 30 helicopters to reportedly as low as around 10. Previous repair and upgrade works on a few helicopters has somehow increased the fleet size but these are temporary measures.

Photo credits to original sources.

The biggest concern was the need to overhaul or replace the helicopter's Allison turboshaft engines.

In 2007, the PAF has requested for an upgrade program for these light attack helicopters, with the DND initiated a bidding for the upgrade of 20 helicopters. But this was immediately changed to a Direct Negotiation with the US Department of Defense through the US Foreign Military Sales (US FMS) Program, which was believed to be the best option considering the helicopters were built in the US and uses American-made parts.

Originally Php240,000,000.00 was allocated for the project, but this was reduced to Php215,000,000.00, which appears to have been sufficient enough considering the project was awarded based on a lower cost.

The new engines were supplied from US suppliers, although the actual works on the helicopters including the installation, calibration and testing were done in the Philippines. Repair works include airframe mid-life upgrade, avionics rehabilitation, as well as replacement of mechanical and electrical parts.

By the end of the repair and upgrade works, the total number of operational MD-520MG Defender attack helicopters have been brought up to around 20 helicopters, while also increasing its service life by another 15 years.

Further repair and upgrade works were said to have been done to several other helicopters at a later date under separate contracts, which enabled the PAF to continue maintaining an acceptable fleet size of capable light attack helicopters until a new replacement comes in.

Credits to original source.


With the 20 MD-520MG Defender light attack helicopters already repaired, upgraded, and delivered to the Philippine Air Force as of May 2012, MaxDefense and Philippine Defense Resource officially consider the MD-520MG Upgrade Project of the Philippine Air Force as COMPLETED.

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First edit and release: 31 May 2024
Copyright Philippine Defense Resource / MaxDefense Philippines

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