PAF marks milestone, integrates with U.S. Air Force AWACS crew
By Staff Sgt. Maeson L. Elleman, 18th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 05, 2015
CLARK AIR BASE, Philippines -- For the first time in Philippine Air Force history, PAF air battle managers controlled aircraft while airborne by integrating with the U.S. Air Force's 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron as part of Exercise Balikatan 2015.
Five PAF air battle managers have flown in the AWACS each day since the exercise began April 20.
It's the first time in roughly a decade the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) and its crew from the 961st AACS stationed at Kadena Air Base, Japan, have participated in the exercise, making the aircraft an unusual sight and the missions unforgettable for each of the PAF members.
"It was a really nice and memorable experience for me because it was my first time being a part of Balikatan and flying on an AWACS," said PAF Maj. Frederick Facia, 581st Aircraft Control and Training Squadron commander. "I had the chance to get familiar with the AWACS and control Philippine aircraft from the sky. I learned a lot from that experience - especially about the AWACS' equipment and crew's functions."
According to PAF Maj. Generoso Bautista Jr., 580th Aircraft Control and Warning Group director of operations, modernization of PAF aircraft is becoming a more prominent objective to better defend the Philippines in the future.
Bautista, who noted the PAF's potential to purchase similar equipment to the AWACS, said getting first-hand experience behind the consoles provides key insights to procedure and response.
"The purpose of this training was for us to familiarize with a system we hope to acquire in the future since we are modernizing, and the bulk of our modernization will be on air defense," Bautista said. "We hope to learn how the system works and how we can apply it to our future equipment. What we obtained here was the first-hand experience on how the system really works."
Though Bautista said he studied weapons control at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, he said performing the art in flight aboard the AWACS was very instructional.
"I feel like I learned a lot," he said. "In our point of view, it's new equipment. We learned a lot about the system and how the U.S. Armed Forces applies their air tactics."
"This is a good basis for acquiring the equipment that operates the same as the AWACS," Facia said. "It's nice to have the experience of going onboard and seeing how the AWACS crew performs their duties during the mission. Hopefully we can apply what we learned here to training our personnel."
So far the U.S. has effectively integrated 20 different PAF weapons controllers onboard the aircraft. Being able to work alongside each other gives both forces a better understanding of how to work together in the future.
"Balikatan is an important exercise to conduct for both sides," Facia said. "It's a good opportunity to work together and test the integration of the equipment as well as the U.S. and Filipino personnel. It's a good chance to strengthen the friendship between the Philippines and the United States."
"In the future, I hope this training will be repeated," Bautista said. "It's much better for us to continue this kind of training, especially with some air defense."