As the counter insurgency war began to make headlines in the 1960's, the need for an effective Light Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (LARA) with multi roles came into the minds of tacticians. Rockwell answered the call and designed the OV-10 Bronco. A rugged, manueverable, tandem two-seater multi-mission aircraft capable of high G's and the capability of operate in a hostile environment. First flown in 1967, it was baptized by fire during the Vietnam War.
The Philippine Air Force, veteran in counter insurgency operations selected the Bronco to replaced its ageing T-28's. Twenty four (24) ex-USAF "A" variants were delivered in 1992 and were assigned to the 16th Strike Squadron of the 15th Strike Wing based in Sangley Air Base (now Atienza AB)in Cavite. Its capability as a CAS/COIN aircraft made it effective against conventional and guerilla forces added by its armor protection, bullet resistant windshield and self-sealing fuel tanks. With a range of 1,240 miles, it is armed to the teeth with 4 M60 7.62mm machine guns plus 3,600 pounds of mixed ordnance carried externally. Its canopy offers better visibility than helicopters, faster and more tactically versetile, yet slower and more manueverable than a jet utilizing tactics not possible to either. It requires no ground equipment in starting and can be maintained by simple handtools. It can use high octane and automotive fuel in place of jet fuel. Other roles the Bronco was designed for are forward air control, artillery spotting, helicopter escort, armed reconn, utility and medevac missions. Truly, presence of the Bronco in the PAF inventory is a morale booster and a small step for a giant leap to PAF 2000.
The intention to beef up the attack capability of 15th Strike Wing in the wake of the continuous depletion of the fixed wing air support fleet has led to the reconfiguration of the SF-260TP to the attack mode. The converted SF-260TPs, dubbed as the Turbo Chargers, will then assume the role as the OV-10’s little brother in its CAS missions. It is “Little Brother” in a way that it can fly in formation with the Broncos during airstike missions and expend a maximum payload of 500 pounds of ordnance. The two hardpoints in the underwing can carry a variety of ordnance, such as; bombs (110/260 lbs), rocket launchers (LAU 68/131), flare dispensers (MK-24), practice bomb dispensers (B-37K), and even M-60 machine guns.
The main advantage of this aircraft is its agility and superb maneuverability that translates to greater accuracy in hitting targets. The big drawback, on the other hand, is it being a single engine aircraft, no ejection seat, and a history of engine failure. Two incidents of engine failure while airborne and another two during landing roll led to it’s grounding in 1999 for more than a year. Such incidents, according to the result of the thorough investigation, were caused mainly by improper maintenance procedures compounded by a series of incorrect actions on engine discrepancies.
Appropriate corrective measures were then adopted, and the aircraft were later released for operation. These telltales of engine failure strike a fear among pilots. In reality, however, there is no such thing as a 100% safe engine. There is always that possibility that something might go wrong even for the latest and the brand new ones. Thus, for the SF-260TP and any single engine aircraft in the world, a balance of good pilotage and good maintenance system spells the right formula for safe flying.
In February 2001, Lt General Benjamin P Defensor Jr, Commanding General, PAF, approved the conversion of the remaining SF-260TPs in the PAF inventory to attack configuration. At least, ten are being projected to be completed by August 2001. The conversion project is handled by Air Force Research and Development Center under the command of Colonel Jose R Saplan.
With the transfer of the first two SF-260TPs to 15th Strike Wing in April 2001, there is no turning back now. A colorful service awaits these aircraft as they tread the paths of the legendary AT-28D Trojans and the OV-10A Broncos.
Thanks to Mr. Frank Suha for the above information
The T-28 aircraft was first flown in 1949 designed as a basic trainer for candidate pilots of the United States Air Force and Navy and became the advance trainer until displacced by jet designs. It became the replacement of the T-6 Texan being a low wing, all metal monoplane with tandem cockpit for student pilot and instructor. Its manufacturer, North American Aviation continued production and produced many variants. Most notable is the T-28D designated as the "Nomad", a re-engineered version of the T-28A "Trojan". It has a powerful engine, heavier armament, a beefed up structure, armour protection for the crew and six underwing hardpoint pylons. It saw action in the Vietnam War as a Fighter/Bomber for the South Vietnamese Air Force and the USAF's "Farm Gate/Jungle Jim" Detachment and prove to be an effective counter insurgency aircraft.
Because of its proven capabilities, the aircraft attracted foreign customers mostly to the air forces of Asia and South America. The Philippine Air Force, battle tested in counter-insurgency operations selected the armed AT-28D and received 60 in the 1970's as a light attack and COIN aircraft. It was assigned to the 17th Attack Squadron of the 15th Strike Wing based in Sangley Air Base in Cavite. Armed with miniguns, general purpose (GP) bombs, 81mm cluster grenades and up to 1,200 pounds of munitions carried under 6 underwing pylons, the PAF AT-28's affectionately called as the "tora-tora" served from the Advance Tactical Command Post and saw a lot of action supporting government troops in its campaign against the communist and muslim rebels. It became the most active fixed wing aircraft of the air force to support combat operations. With the AFP's self reliance program, the AT-28 became a test platform when it tested the country's first made air to ground missile, the "Cali" in Nueva Ecija province. However, in the 1980's, the aircraft was used in several coup attempts. Most notable in December 1989 when a flight of Sangley based "tora-tora's" piloted by PAF pilots belonging to the RAM-SFP spearheaded the revolt that would shake the nation in 7 days. They were destroyed though by loyal PAF pilots flying F-5's while re-arming in Sangley. With some "re-constructed" they continued on to serve the PAF until they finally retired in late 1992.
The MG-520 model is the uprated version of the loach, basically the armed version called the "Defender". Its Allison 250-C30 turboshaft engine producing 650 horsepower gave the helo an extraordinary performance that it set 23 world records. It is the armed version of the scout defender basically as a "tank buster".
It entered Philippine Air Force service in the 1990's and served basically as a "gunship". More than 30 of these excellent machines were delivered from the United States with deliveries completed in 1992. It serves under the command of the 18th Tactical Air Support Squadron of the 15th Strike Wing partnering the OV-10 Bronco based in Sangley Air Base. The helicopter can be differentiated from the original OH-6A by the 5-bladed main rotor and the tail rotor mounted inside the T-shape stabilizer. It is a very effective counter-insurgency aircraft armed with weapons such as the 12-tube 2.75 rocket launcher installled in starboard side and the .50 caliber machine gun in port. It has a speed of 137 mph, a range of 207 miles and can be loaded into a C-130 Hercules for long range tranpsort.
Introduced in 1975 by the Sikorsky company, the S-76 was basically designed as a 12-passenger twin turbine helicopter for civil transport duties seeking to gain share for the growing market of civil helicopters. Four prototypes made their maiden flight in March 1977 and delivery was first made on February 1979.
The company though has marketed the helicopter to the military and soon an armed version came into existence designated as the H-76 Eagle. It differs from the civil used ones as having armoured crew seats, sliding cabin doors and strengthen floors and was designed for the airborne assault, air observation, ambulance, evacuation, combat or conventional SAR, gunship, and troop transport/logistic support roles. It is powered by 2 485-kW Allison 250-C30 turboshafts mounted above the cabin and driving four-blade main and tail rotors. Retractable tricycle landing gear is standard.
The Philippine Air Force recieved an original order of 17 in which 12 armed versions service the 20th Air Commando Squadron of the 15th Strike Wing based in Sangley Air Base (now Atienza AB)and used it in the COIN and CAS roles. Its weapons include the FN Herstal HMP 0.50-in (12.7-mm) machine gun pods and other light weapons including air to ground rockets.