By Priam Nepomuceno

HELIBORNE OPS. Army soldiers board the “Black Hawk” combat utility helicopter on April 19, 2023 to participate in the air assault exercise in Zambales. Air Force spokesperson Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo on Thursday (April 20) said the S-70is are from the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing and played a “critical role” in the drills. (Photo from PAF) 

MANILA – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Thursday night reported that two of its newly-acquired S-70i “Black Hawk” combat utility helicopters participated in the air assault exercises by transporting 72 fully armed troopers from Nueva Ecija to Zambales on April 19.

Air Force spokesperson Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo said the S-70is are from the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing and played a “critical role” in the drills.

“Demonstrating their ability to quickly deploy troops to conflict areas, the Black Hawk helicopters inserted 72 fully-equipped Army troopers from the 103rd Infantry ‘Mabalasik’ Battalion, 5th Infantry Division, in two shuttles from Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, into the exercise area in Zambales,” she said.

Castillo said the training exercise aimed to improve the joint interoperability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)’s air and ground combat forces.

“Both the aircrew and troops were given hands-on experience to become familiar with the correct approach for performing heliborne assault operations,” she added.

This simulation, Castillo said, is expected to boost the AFP’s capability to promptly deploy forces to an engagement area while also identifying and addressing any necessary gaps for future exercises.

She added that the PAF’s American counterparts observed the entire exercise.

Castillo said the 580th Aircraft Control and Warning Wing also took part in the “Balikatan” subject matter expert exchange on forward interface control cell held at Wallace Air Station, San Fernando City, La Union on April 18.

“Topics discussed during the activity include data link, tactical air control systems identification and rules of engagement procedures management, and platform roles and missions. Participants also exchanged insights, best practices, and innovative approaches related to air battle management,” she said.

Castillo said this learning session proved to be an effective opportunity for both forces to enhance knowledge, improve capabilities, and foster collaboration and partnership. (PNA)