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Early this month, we heard that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is planning to acquire two long range patrol aircraft to further boost its air defense capabilities. This was disclosed after the government announced the bidding for the two aircraft for P5.97 billion. It’s really about time we replace those vintage planes!

The last World War must have  made a dent in our mindset that most Filipinos keep on referring to every single propeller plane passing through our airways as “Tora-Tora” (English translation: Tiger-Tiger). In World War II, this was the Japanese codeword used to indicate that complete surprise had been achieved. In this case, tora was an acronym  for totsugeki raigeki or lightning attack.

Tora-Tora strafing a pirate motorized kumpit by Castor Amper
Tora-Tora strafing a pirate motorized kumpit by Castor Amper

This brings us to the nooks and crannies of the enlightened side of social media where we spotted Jon Limjap, a Physics alumnus of De La Salle University–Manila, who admittedly told his followers that generalizing all propeller planes as such is one of his pet peeves.

His Facebook post starts off by explaining why he’s annoyed at people who think that way:

“Whenever Pinoys see propeller planes…they always refer to them as ‘Tora-tora’. World War 2 vintage. Old. Slow. Ineffective. They’ve been thoroughly convinced that if it does not have a jet engine, it must be some really old hand-me-down.

And this annoys me. It annoys me not only because our propeller planes (Cessna T-41/172s, SF-260s, OV-10s) were acquired in the 1990s to 2000s (whether brand new, or in the case of OV-10s, refurbished), but also because they are used primarily in the most relevant air combat operations conducted by the Air Force, which are COunter INsurgency (COIN) operations. None of these aircraft ever saw World War 2; most of them were designed during the Vietnam War.”

Embraer Super Tucano (Photo courtesy of Pinoy Aviators via Facebook/ Jon Limjap's Facebook post)
Embraer Super Tucano (Photo courtesy of Pinoy Aviators via Facebook/ Jon Limjap’s Facebook post)

Air Force spokesman Col. Enrico Canaya–in an interview with the Manila Bulletinexplained that the PAF currently uses C-130 aircraft, a Fokker plane, Nomad plane and S-11 fighter planes for its patrol operations.

Limjap continues his post by explaining that COIN operations –- which include bombing, strafing runs, and close air support of ground operations –- make jets useless for the PAF. He makes his stand by giving samples such as the existence of rebels in the highlands of the country.

“With elements of the Abu Sayyaf and the NPA hiding mostly in mountainous jungle terrain, it’s nearly impossible for jets to accurately identify targets owing to their speed and the fact that they can’t fly too close to the ground. This becomes crucial when you have both friendlies and enemies in the area, and it’s a matter of not hitting your own colleagues. In this case, propeller-driven planes would do best.”

And bringing us back to the news of acquiring more long-range aircrafts for patrol use, Limjap shares that “Right now, the PAF is adding another ‘Tora-tora’ to its list”. (We saw what he did there!)

PAF team with the Embraer Super Tucano. They evaluate the plane as part of the procurement process. (Photo courtesy of Pinoy Aviators via Facebook/ Jon Limjap's Facebook post)
Inside the Embraer Super Tucano. (Photo courtesy of Pinoy Aviators via Facebook/ Jon Limjap’s Facebook post)

The plane he’s referring to is the Embraer Super Tucano, an aircraft for light attacks in low threat environments. “It might look like a ‘throwback’ on the outside, but inside it’s an all-digital, GPS-enabled modern COIN aircraft for the 21st century, and so far battle-tested in the jungles of South America and soon to see action in the deserts of Afghanistan,” explains Limjap after citing that these will be replacing the “battle-weary” OV-10 Broncos.

Embraer Super Tucano (Photo courtesy of Pinoy Aviators via Facebook/ Jon Limjap's Facebook post)
Embraer Super Tucano (Photo courtesy of Pinoy Aviators via Facebook/ Jon Limjap’s Facebook post)

The best part of his post?

“So yeah, people will continue calling these things ‘Tora-tora,’ but the government will continue to do everything to protect…(us) from internal threats.”

We join him in this call to stop calling the PAF planes as tora-tora. They’re all modern equipment that’s suitable for the military situation in the Philippines. They may not be as advanced as you might want them to be for modern warfare, but these planes were not made to wage war against other countries. There are others to be considered for such… but that’s another story.

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