Category Archives: Surveillance Aircraft

The TC-90 for the Philippine Air Force?

A TC-90 King Air of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF). Photo courtesy of the JMSDF website.
A TC-90 King Air of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF). Photo courtesy of the JMSDF website.

Just when I thought that the acquisition of the P-3C was final, Japan turns around and offers the simpler TC-90 aircraft to us in its place.[1] Japan is reportedly concerned about our Armed Forces’ ability to operate effectively the P-3C and is thus offering these TC-90s as a way for us to slowly gain experience in using more sophisticated Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) first. Although the plans to provide these TC-90s are not solid yet, let’s take a quick look at it and at the same time see how it fits into the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) inventory of MPAs.

’The TC-90’
The TC-90 is based on the commercial, twin-turboprop engine, straight wing C90 utility aircraft made by the American company Beechcraft. The C90 belongs to the Model 90 Series of aircraft with an official name of King Air. It first flew in 1963, and since then over 3,000 of it and its derivatives has been produced and served with various Air Forces and Airlines all over the world. The TC-90 is the designation given to the Training Aircraft used by the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSF) with unique locally made avionics.[2]
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P-3C Orion for the Philippine Air Force

A P-3C Orion of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A P-3C Orion of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It was during PNoy’s visit to Japan in the first week of June 2015 that plans for the acquisition of the P-3C started firming up up.[1] Initially I thought that Japan would only give us simple military equipment like Trucks, Small Boats, etc., but it turns out they are more aggressive in helping us improve our armed forces than the United States. As of this writing, the acquisition of the P-3C is still being finalized, but it seems that the Department of National Defense (DND) is intent on getting this aircraft and that it will be a part of our aircraft inventory by the year’s end[2] (hopefully). So let’s take a closer look at the P-3.

’The P-3C Orion’
The P-3 is a subsonic, straight wing, four Turboprop engined aircraft designed for both Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW, against ships) with a typical crew size of eleven. It was initially made by the American company Lockheed Martin and entered service with the United States Navy (USN) in 1962. Since then approximately 757 aircraft have been built, and the aircraft has entered service with the armed forces of 18 countries around the world. It is a COMBAT PROVEN design, having seen action during the Vietnam War, the Iran-Iraq War and the various wars that the US had been involved in the Middle East during the last 2-3 decades. The P-3C is the latest and most common version, and its official name is the Orion.[3]
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Airborne Targetting Support for the Philippine Army’s Anti Ship Missiles

An IAI Heron UAV with Surface Search Radar and a FLIR Ball Turret. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
An IAI Heron UAV with Surface Search Radar and a FLIR Ball Turret. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

If the Philippine Army (PA) does push thru with its plan to acquire shore-based Anti-Ship Missiles (AShM),1 and if these missiles will have ranges of 150-200 km as per the RAND Corporation’s recommendation,2 then it will ALSO will needing AIRBORNE ASSETS to enable them to make use of the maximum ranges of those missiles due to the issue of RADAR HORIZON.

‘Radar Horizon Issue’
I wrote a blog about the issue of the “Radar Horizon” a couple of years ago titled, “Radar Detection and The Horizon Distance“. In summary, it basically means that since the Earth is round, it limits our ability to see objects over distance even when using radar because that object will eventually be hidden by the curved surface of the Earth. The Radar Horizon is affected by two things:
– The height of the object being observed;
– And the height of the equipment being used to observe the object.
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