Despite vowing never to buy military equipment from the United States, President Rodrigo Duterte may very well be using American hardware to fly within and outside the country.
Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation recently announced on its website that the Philippine Air Force has signed a contract to buy a Gulfstream G280 aircraft for “command and control” duties.
Defense Department Spokesman Arsenio Andolong Jr. has confirmed that the new jet will be used by the president as well other senior government officials.
“The G28 will primarily serve as platform to carry our senior leaders and commanders. In the event of, example, crisis situation, it can be used by the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] Chief of Staff, [Secretary of National Defense], our major service commanders and the President” he said.
The aircraft, slated to be delivered by mid-2020, costs US$39.9 million or almost P2 billion. It was bought through the US government’s Foreign Military Sales Program.
Duterte previously went on a tirade against the US in April 2018, saying if the airplane he was flying in exploded, that it was the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that should be blamed.
With a range of around 3600 miles or over 6000 kilometers, the G280 can fly for eight hours non-stop. This gives it the capability to fly from Singapore to Melbourne, Singapore to Dubai, or Hong Kong to Dubai.
The price tag includes tooling, spare parts, and logistical support for an unspecified number of years.
Despite the G280 being at the bottom tier of Gulfstream’s range of executive jets, pictures from the manufacturer’s website reveal a spacious and comfortable interior with carpeting, wooden highlights and tables. Expansive leather chairs seat 10 passengers.
Andolong admits the G280 does have more amenities than the average military or government aircraft. But he insists there is nothing extravagant about the purchase.
The G280 is also used by the US military for similar command and control missions while other American agencies use the model for medical evacuation, surveillance and disaster response missions.
“Admittedly it's a little more well-appointed than your average aircraft but it will carry senior leaders so of course it's designed to be a little more comfortable. But like what I said a while ago its premium is its speed, capability to land on short runways, which cannot be done by our other aircraft at the moment,” Andolong said
The Philippine Air Force, for its part, said it cannot comment on the aircraft and which unit it will be ultimately assigned to.
Andolong is also unsure whether the new aircraft will be under the Presidential Security Group or under the Philippine Air Force. He believes that the aircraft will not be for the exclusive use of the president.
Flying is an important part of the Duterte presidency since he regularly flies to his hometown Davao City almost weekly.
Duterte has been flying around private jets lent to him by private individuals, including his long-time friend, Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.
The president also takes commercial flights on occasion.
The designated Presidential plane is a 1970s era Fokker F28 jet that is currently undergoing maintenance in Malaysia. —JST, GMA News