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Search and Rescue Helicopters Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force

 As part of efforts to modernize the Philippine Air Force's overall capabilities in support of national development and provide assistance in both peacetime and combat operations, a requirement for new Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters was raised as part of the 2nd List of Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

This resource page discusses the Search and Rescue Helicopters Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force, and will try to keep information as the project progresses.

A MH-60 Jayhawk of the US Coast Guard, which is part of the Black Hawk family and used mostly for Search and Rescue. Photo for reference only, credits to Vintage Aviation News.


Project Summary:

Search and Rescue Helicopters Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 31 December 2023..

* End User: Philippine Air Force (505th Search and Rescue Group)

Quantity: 3 units

* Modernization Phase:
 originally Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP, to be moved to Re-Horizon 3 Phase.

* Project ABC:
 approx. US$67,817,540.00 (~Php3,730,000,000.00)

Acquisition Mode: TBC

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

* SARO Release/s: 
None yet, TBA

* Winning Proponent: TBA

Product for Delivery: TBA

* Contract Price: TBA

* Residual Amount: TBA

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PAFSARHAcquisition 

* Status: The DND has released an Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) in 2021, awaiting for funding approval by Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as of August 2022. but no funding has been released as of March 2023. Most likely to be moved to Horizon 3 Phase. Funding has not been released as of December 2023.



The Philippine Air Force's 505th Search and Rescue Group (505th SARG) is one of the most important air units of the service, being one of the highlights of interaction between the Filipino soldier and the common Filipino in need of help during disasters, accidents, and emergencies.

By means of air rescue remains the fastest and most efficient way of conducting search and rescue operations, and is tied to the PAF being the government's largest air service agency.

But underfunding through the years has placed the Search and Rescue capability of the PAF at the backburner due to prioritization of assets for combat and transport roles which to be fair are equally underfunded over the years as well.

Currently, the 505th SARG have been operating old Bell 205 helicopters, which are civilian versions of the equally old Bell UH-1 Huey combat utility helicopters. And while it has been given a boost in the past few years by adding a few PZL Swidnik W-3A Sokol helicopters and the sole Sikorsky S-70A-5 Black Hawk helicopter, these are not enough for the unit to provide Search and Rescue around the country.

One of the PAF's W-3A Sokol combat utility helicopter, seen here in 2013 converted to a Search and Rescue helicopter. Photo credits to Col. Francis Neri PAF.

This has become even more evident when the PAF decided to retire its fleet of UH-1 Huey helicopters, in which the Bell 205A is considered a part of. And this left the 505th SARG with only a few helicopters for it to spread across the country.

There have been previous plans to procure Search and Rescue helicopters but these have always been delayed or placed at the backburner due to funding issues. But it now appears that the PAF is pushing hard for the procurement of a few new helicopters for the role.

Based on documents from the DND and PAF, the Search and Rescue Helicopter Acquisition Project has raised a requirement for at least 3 new SAR helicopters. So far, our parent page MaxDefense Philippines was able to confirm that Sikorsky, Bell and Leonardo Helicopters have made pitches of their offer to meet this requirement.

Sikorsky was said to have offered a SAR variant of the S-70i Black Hawk helicopter, while Leonardo has offered a SAR variant of their AW139M helicopter.

The Leonardo AW139 in SAR variant, this unit operated by the Swedish Sjöfartsverket. Photo credits to VerticalMag.

It remains to be seen what Bell offered exactly, but it is highly possible that it is a variant of their Bell 412 helicopter, which is already in service with the PAF.

As of August 2022, it appears that no funding has been released yet for this project by the national government, although it was flagged by the DND to be of utmost importance due to the expected contribution of new SAR helicopters during Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations.

U P D A T E S:

23 March 2023:

No funding has been released as of this writing, which may be a reason for the DND and the government to move the project to Horizon 3 phase as the Horizon 2 phase has ended on 01 January 2023. 

So far there are also no updates regarding the project.


31 December 2023:

As of this writing, no funding has been released for this project.

It is assumed that the project is moved to the Re-Horizon 3 phase, although we are yet to see the finalised shopping list submitted to Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. earlier this month if it includes this project.


First edit and release: 15 August 2022
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines / Philippine Defense Resource

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