The Philippines has ordered a new business jet from the United States to serve as an “airborne command post,” officials said Tuesday, in an apparent turnaround from President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncements that he would no longer buy American military hardware.
Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., based in Savannah, Georgia, announced on Oct. 2 that the Philippine Air Force had signed a $37-million deal for a Gulfstream G280 jet.
“The G-280 will primarily serve as platform to carry our senior leaders and commanders in the event of, for example, a crisis,” defense department spokesman Arsenio Andolong told reporters.
“It can be used by the [military’s] chief-of-staff, the secretary of national defense, our major service commanders and the president,” he said. “Although you want to use the term lightly or loosely, it is similar to an airborne command post, it would serve that purpose.”
The contract, which would include parts, servicing and logistics support, was signed in November last year via the U.S. Foreign Military Sales and the jet is expected to be delivered in 2020, he said.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo on Tuesday said the airplane “is similar to an airborne command post.”
Asked if this means that the Philippine government was now willing to purchase more military equipment from the United States, Panelo said: “Since we started one, that will be the logical consequence.”
During the early months of his administration, Duterte accused the United States of interference in the country’s internal affairs after it questioned his drug war that has left thousands dead. He had blasted Washington and said he would no longer order U.S. military equipment.
He also distanced himself from the United States, a traditional military ally, in favor of its rivals, China and Russia. Coincidentally, Duterte had just completed a visit to Russia, where he said he had forged lucrative trade and business deals.
But two years ago, Duterte relied on American intelligence help to defeat Islamic State-linked militants who took over the southern city of Marawi. Aerial surveillance provided by the United States was credited for helping Filipino forces crush the months-long siege that killed more than 1,200 people, most of them militants.
In a statement, Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. said the aircraft would be configured for “command and control missions.”
“The G280’s unmatched performance combined with the backup of our world-renowned customer support makes it an agile and reliable platform for the Philippine Air Force,” said Mark Burns, Gulfstream’s president.
The jet has a maximum range of 6,667 km (4,167 miles), and can fly eight hours non-stop, he said.
The current presidential plane is a Fokker F28 jet, which was built in the 1970s, according to the Presidential Museum and Library.