Philippine Air Force

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The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is the air force of the Philippines. Its official name in Filipino is Hukbong Himpapawid ng Pilipinas.

The Philippine Air Force became a separate military service on July 1, 1947, when President Manuel Roxas issued Executive Order No. 94. This order created the Philippine Naval Patrol and the Air Force as equal brances of the Philippine Army and the Philippine Constabulary. The Air Force was preceded by the:
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Philippine Air Service Philippine Constabulary Air Corps Philippine Army Air Corps

World War I and Inter-War Years
Although the Philippines did not have its own air corps as of yet during World War I, Filipino volunteers from the Philippine National Guard were accepted for flight training at Fort Mills on Corregidor, which was then home to the 1st Company, 2nd Squadron of the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps. By February 1918, these volunteers finished their ground schooling and were ready for flight training on the mainland. On March 15, Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison's request for flight training for these volunteers would be denied as there were no more planes available. These volunteers were then assigned to Fort Stotsenburg as part of the Artillery Corps of the Philippine National Guard. After the War, the National Guard was disbanded. Surplus materiel from the war were also sold to the Philippine Militia Commission (PMC). Now equipped with aircraft, the PMC commissioned the Curtiss School of Aviation to provide flight training to 33 students at Camp Claudio in Parañaque. These were composed of ten Philippine Constabulary officers and 23 recruits from the National Guard. On April 26, 1920, Lieutenant Leoncio Malinao became the first locally-trained Filipino military pilot to go on a solo flight. On July 7, 1920, the Council of State established the Philippine Air Service, which was tasked to provide air mail and passenger flights between Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, and Zamboanga. In 1921, the Service was forced to shut down due to lack of funds. On January 2, 1935, Brigadier General Basilio J. Valdes formally organized the Philippine Constabulary Air Corps, which was tasked to provide reconnaissance support to the Philippine Constabulary. On December 23, the National Defense Act of 1935 provided for the creation of the Philippine Army, which was to be compoased of the Constabulary; the Constabulary Air Corps thus became the Philippine Army Air Corps. Up until the beginning of the Pacific War, the Army Air Corps focused on training pilots as well as acquriing aircraft and facilities. The Air Corps's instructors were also tasked to train both Filipino and American pilots. A prominent student was Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower, who took flying lessons, while serving a tour of duty as part of General Douglas MacArthur's staff.

World War II
Shortly before the Pacific War began, the Army Air Corps was absorbed by the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). At that time, the Air Corps had 142 pilots, 1,700 enlisted men, and four airfields: Zablan Field (Camp Aguinaldo), Maniquis Field in Nueva Ecija, Batangas Field, and Lahug Field in Cebu. On December 8, 1941, the Japanese attacked Clark Airfield. Two squadrons of Boeing B-17s and a squadron of P-40 fighters and other assorted aircraft were destroyed. By December 9, the Army Air Corps's 6th Pursuit Squadron at Batangas Field under Captain Jesus Villamor was the only intact aviation unit in the USAFFE. The 6th Squadron then proceeded to engage the Japanese in dogfights over Manila and Batangas. The squadron possibly shot down two enemy fighters and a bomber, but these kills are unconfirmed. First Lieutenant Cesar Basa, after whom Basa Air Base in Pampanga is named, was the only one in the squadron not to survive the battle. Villamor went on to gather intelligence for the Allied forces. He would later receive the Distinguished Service Cross; his men would receive the Silver Star with an oak leaf cluster. After the war, the Philippine government honored Villamor with the Medal of Valor as well as his squadron, with the Gold Cross with Bronze Anahaw Leaf. With much of its aircraft gone, the Army Air Corps was then ordered by General Jonathan Wainwright to destroy its remaining planes and join the retreat to Bataan. After General MacArthur landed in Leyte, the remaining Army Air Corps pilots were sent to Leyte and subsequently to the United States for refresher flight training. Undergraduate cadets of the Flying School were also sent to the United States. When they returned to the Philippines, the Air Corps was reorganized by Lieutenant Colonel John Ryan of the U.S. Army Air Corps, who was also acting chief of the Philippine Army Air Corps until Lt. Col. Edwin Andrews arrived in the Philippines. In September 1945, the Air Corps regained flying status when the 1st Troop Carrier Squdron at the Lipa Army Air Base in Batangas was activated with two Douglas C-47s. By January 1946, the squadron had 22 such aircraft.

Communist Insurgency and the Cold War
After Philippine independence was granted on July 4, 1946, the Hukbalahap rebellion would become the predominant focus of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. To quell the insurgency, the Air Force primarily employed the North American P-51D Mustang. At the height of the Cold War, the Philippine Air Force would become one of the best-equipped air forces in Asia, and would remain such for over three decades. At one point, the Air Force had more P-51 Mustangs than it had pilots.[1]

Jet aircraft were introduced to the inventory in 1954 when Colonel Godofredo Juliano, Majors Pestaña and Rancudo, and Captain Jose Gil flew an initial batch of T-33 jet trainer aircraft from Japan. These aircraft landed at Clark Air Base as the PAF's Basa Air Base was not yet able to handle jet aircraft. In 1956, the PAF acquired several squadrons of F-86F Sabres, which became ready for combat after proficiency flights and aerial exercises with the 13th Air Force at Clark Air Base. In the 1960s, the PAF activated an extensive radar system all through the Philippines to monitor its airspace. It also acquired its first batch of F-5 Freedom Fighters that were armed with AIM-9B missiles. In 1953, 1Lt. Jose Gonzalez and other pilots from the 6th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 5th Fighter Wing at Basa Air Base formed the Blue Diamonds, a group of pilots which excelled in precision aerobatic flying. The Blue Diamonds first used the P-51s, then the F-86S, and finally, the F-5s. It was considered the Philippine counterpart to the USAF Thunderbirds.[1] By the 1960's the Philippine Air Force was totally independent upon the United States Air Force, that the Philippine Air Force was actually the "United States Air Force run by Filipinos."[2] In 1962, United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld asked the Government of the Republic of the Philippines to send a tactical air squadron to neutralize secessionists in the Congo. In 1963, Filipino, Swedish, and Iranian fighter units secured the airspace over the Congo. This earned the Limbas Squadron the United Nations Service Medal. Also in 1963, the PAF sent a mercy mission to Bali, Indonesia after Mount Agung erupted. Air Force paramedics, including a team of doctors and nurses from the Department of Health, treated and vaccinated thousands of evacuees in a field hospital. Seven Douglas C-47s ferried the team along with medical supplies and relief goods. In the 1970's, the PAF had a complete array of bases and airfields, including landing strips in the Sulu Sea and the Kalayaan Islands. After the Hukbalahap insurgency was quelled, the focus turned its attention to the New People's Army (NPA) and the Moro National Liberation Front. The Air Force would play a significant role in the continuing effort to destroy the NPA. One of the most significant battles against the NPA occurred in November 1972 during the Battle of Sibalu Hill in Jolo, Sulu. During this operation, numerous waves of F-5 and F-86 fighters, as well as T-33 jets and C-47 gunships, took to the skies from Mactan for Jolo every minute, continuously bombarding the insurgent camp. In late 1977, the Philippine Air Force acquired 35 F-8P Crusaders (refurbished F-8H Crusaders). As part of the deal, the United States Air Force would train Filipino pilots in the TF-8A. The F-8s were withdrawn from service beginning in 1988 and were finally withdrawn from service in 1991, after they were badly damaged by the Mount Pinatubo eruption. They have since been offered for sale as scrap.

1986 EDSA Revolution
The Air Force also played a significant role in the success of the 1986 People Power Revolution. On February 24, 1986, at the height of the revolution, Colonel Antonio Sotelo defected the 15th Strike Wing to the Ramos-Enrile camp, taking with him his squadron's Sikorsky S-76 gunships. Later in the day, Captain Wilfredo Evangelista of that particular wing fired warning shots at Malacañan Palace; at noon, three other gunships disabled the Marcos forces at Villamor Air Base.

By the time the United States Armed Forces left the Philippines, the Philippine Air Force was direly in need of modernization. By the 1990's, it was still using 30-year-old F-5 fighter jets. The first aircraft acquired during its five-year modernization plan were the Aermacchi S-211 and the McDonnell Douglas MD-520MG Defender. The planned purchase of modern fighter aircraft, with the F-16 Fighting Falcon, JAS 39C/D Gripen, or the F/A-18 Hornet being the most popular choices, has been put on hold as the PAF concentrates in bringing its current fleet of aircraft into current and flyable standards. However, Air Force officials are trying to acquire surplus aircraft from various countries as an interim solution to its need for fighter aircraft. Current efforts are concentrated on the acquisition of aircraft for counter-insurgency (COIN) operations. The purchase of 6 second hand attack helicopters is given the highest priority, with ex-USMC AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters being the top choice. The purchase of more transport aircraft is also a priority.

At present the backbone of the PAF inventory consists of:
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Aermacchi S-211 for ground support and jet training Aermacchi SF-260TP/WP for primary training and counter-insurgency (COIN) North American Rockwell OV-10A/D Bronco for light ground attack McDonnell Douglas MD-520MG Defender and Sikorsky S-76 attack helicopters Lockheed C-130B/H Hercules, and Bell UH-1H Huey helicopters for transport duties Fokker F28, mainly for the official domestic trips of the president of the Philippines Fokker F-27, mainly as support to the C-130s Cessna T-41, used for primary training Sikorsky S-70 helicopters for VIP transport

Wherever possible the PAF has relied on local skills for modification projects as in the recent Huey II program. The Philippine Air Force retired its fleet of F-5A/B Freedom Fighters with a ceremony on October 1, 2005. While retired, they are still being maintained and are serviceable in case of future need. PAF F-5s have appeared in several films and television programs shot in the Philippines.

Organization in 2006
15th Strike Wing HQ, Maj. Danillo S. Atienza AB, Sangley Point, Cavite

16th Attack Squadron (Eagles)


17th Attack Squadron (Jaguars)


18th Tactical Air Support Squadron (Falcons)


20th Tactical Air Support Squadron


25th Attack Squadron


5th Tactical Wing

Basa AB, Pampanga

7th Tactical Fighter Squadron (Bulldogs)


205th Tactical Helicopter Wing

HQ, Benito Ebuen AB, Mactan Island, Cebu

206th Tactical Helicopter Squadron



207th Tactical Helicopter Squadron (Stingers)


208th Tactical Helicopter Squadron (Daggers)


220th Airlift Wing

HQ, Benito Ebuen AB, Mactan Island, Cebu

221st Tactical Airlift Squadron (Fokkers)

Fokker F-27

222nd Tactical Airlift Squadron (Hercules)


223rd Tactical Airlift Squadron (Nomads)

N-22B/C Nomad

100th Training Wing

Fernando AB, Lipa

101st Primary Flying Training Sqn (Wildcat)

T-41D/Cessna 172-k

102nd Basic Flying Training Sqn (Cougar)


505th Search and Rescue Group (Angels)

HQ, Col. Jesus A. Villamor AB, Pasay City, Metro Manila

5051st Search and Rescue Squadron

Huey II, Bell 205, S-76, UH-1H

5052nd Search and Rescue Squadron

Huey II, Bell 205, S-76, UH-1H

5053rd Search and Rescue Squadron

Huey II, Bell 205, S-76, UH-1H

5056th Search and Rescue Squadron

Huey II, Bell 205, S-76, UH-1H

250th Presidential Airlift Wing (Code one)

Col. Jesus A. Villamor AB, Pasay City, Metro Manila

251nd Presidential Airlift Squadron

Fokker F28

252nd Presidential Helicopter Squadron

S-76, S-70A, Bell 212, Bell 412

900th Weather Support Group

Col. Jesus A. Villamor AB, Pasay City, Metro Manila

901st Weather Squadron

Cessna T-210TG

Air Bases
The Philippine Air Force has nine air bases located throughout the Philippine archipelago:
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Clark Air Base, Pampanga Cesar Basa Air Base, Pampanga Jesus Villamor Air Base, Pasay City Danilo Atienza Air Base, Cavite Fernando Air Base, Batangas Antonio Bautista Air Base, Palawan Benito Ebuen Air Base, Cebu Edwin Andrews Air Base, Zamboanga Rajah Buayan Air Base, General Santos City, South Cotabato