By MORTZ C. ORTIGOZA
When I saw at the Face Book account of MaxDefense several weeks ago the open house of American aircraft at the former U.S base Clark Airport, I rode shotgun the following day to see up close and personal the ballyhooed American airplanes I romanticized, when I was a boy, reading at military magazines collected by my air force father.
I was told, however, by a Philippine Air Force public information office (PIO) officer a certain Lieutenant Romero that I have to get a clearance first at the General Head Quarter at Camp Aguinaldo before I could start interviewing the Filipino and American forces who participate in the Balikatan 2015 or military exercise after I introduced myself and showed my I.D that I am a member of the Fourth Estate.
As I left the PIO, I bumped into a retired Air Force General who is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1977.
I told him I worked before at the PIO of the PMA and told him PMA alumni members in Pangasinan like Congressman Pol Bataoil and Governor Amado T. Espino.
“I’m from San Jacinto, Pangasinan, too,” he said.
“So you heard about that retired general near your town whose house was raided by the National Bureau of Investigation?” I posed.
He was amused about the information I gave him.
|Author looking at the United States air assets at the former U.S base Clark Airport|
during the Balikatan 2015 U.S- Philippines military exercise held last April.
Aircraft at the background are (from left) A-10 Thunderbolt or Warthog,
Vertical Short Take Off/Landing AV/8B Harrier jump jets, and Bell Boeing V-22
Osprey titlrotor aircraft. Other aircraft not in photo are C-17 Globe Master, Lockheed
C-130 Hercules transport planes,Boeing CH-47 Chinook Helicopters, Sikorsky UH-60
Black Hawk helicopters, and others.
He told the guards at the checkpoint of the joint HQs of the Filipinos and Americans to allow me to see the U.S and Philippine air assets that were open to the public the weekend before.
“I’ll call your commander (a general), just allow him to see those planes,” he told the guards.
If the Philippine Air Force is 90% Air and 10% Force, the U.S is 60% Force and 40% Air what with the absence of its F-16 Falcons, F/A-18 Hornets, and Stealth fighter-bombers being displayed on the tarmac there.
I saw there the U.S giant C-17 Globe Master, AV-8A Harrier Jump Jets, three C-130, Black Hawk helicopters those messengers of death you saw on the flick “Black Hawk Down” and those two stealth choppers used by the Yanks on bringing the SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) Team-6 who killed NO. 1 global terrorist Osama bin Laden at the 3rd floor of the building in Abbottabad , Pakistan, Chinook, Bell AH-1 Cobra Helicopter, some A-10 Thunderbolt “tank killer” or Whartogs, while the PAF displayed its camouflage Italian made turbo power SF 260 Marchetti training planes, couple of Italian made jets S-211 while inside the PAF hangar I saw two dark green Poland made W-3A Sokol combat utility helicopter, two four blades S-76 Sikorsky helicopters that were purchased during the last year of the government of ousted Strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
On that day, I saw, too, a platoon of the elite Special Action Force and their American counterparts prepared themselves to enter the C-17 for parachute jump, while American officers and enlisted personnel billet themselves in style at 5-Star Hotels there like Holiday Inn, Stotsenberg, Oxford, to name a few.
I heard that a Filipino restaurant owner billed a P50 order of chicken adobo for P100 or more for American servicemen who relished the delicacy despite of the catered American food at their air-conditioned huge tents cum mess hall.
I learned from a source there that even without the Balikatan, once in awhile a squadron of F-16 Falcons or F/A-18 Hornet jets landed at Clark and stayed there for a while unknown to the Philippine media.
With the Pentagon alarmed by the construction of China of an air base at Fiery Cross Reef, and its plan to send a U.S aircraft carrier and frigates there to protect the freedom of navigation of tankers and ships going to and from progressive countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, it would be worth watching with bated breath how the Americans would fill up the tarmac of Clark and the harbour of Subic Naval Base with modern combat armada to neutralize the Sinos who warned the U.S of consequences in case it pushes through its plan to put naval assets at Spratly anytime from now.
The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) conducts routine patrols on Monday in international waters near the Spratly Islands in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
The Chinese People's Liberation Army-Navy guided-missile frigate Yancheng (FFG 546) sails close behind the US warship. US Pacific Fleet photo handout.
For several weeks or months from now and before this year’s end, the development at the Spratly group’s of islands is worth watching as the Chinese reclamation and construction of a runway for its jets and bombers at Fiery Cross Reef would be operational before this year’s end.
Wall Street Journal reported last Tuesday U.S Defense Secretary Ash Carter requested options that include sending aircraft and ships within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of reefs that China has been building up in the Spratly island chain.
Such a move would directly challenge Chinese efforts to expand its influence in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.
Son of a gun, this is déjà vu Cuban Missiles Crisis in 1962!
The vast land reclamation project in Fiery Cross Reef is one of several pursued by China but the first that could accommodate an airstrip, says US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Poole.
With an airbase there, Chinese made Chengdu J-10, Russian made Sukhoi Su-30MKK , Russian made Sukhoi Su-27 Air Superiority Fighter, China made Shenyang J-8 Interceptor Fighter, China made, Chengdu J-7 Fighter/Interceptor, China made Xian JH-7 Fighter bomber, and Nanchang Q-5 close air support would no longer fly 1000 miles from Mainland China to the Spratly groups of islets just to harass claimant countries Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines.
These modern air assets could be at the Spratly and even its bombers could saber rattle to the Australians who live down under the globe.
Here’s Australia’s news.com.aus:
“If China truly is building an air base — and Janes (Defense) says land 3km long and 200 to 300m wide has been reclaimed since August is “large enough to construct a runway and apron” — it even has implications for Australia. Despite being some 3200km distant, Taiwanese media has pointed out that China’s long range bomber — the Xian H-6K — can deploy with cruise missiles capable of striking “all US military facilities in Australia”.
Gee whiz, now that is not only chilling but worth watching as the U.S ships gear to sail and surround some of the islets there at the Spratly before the Chinese could finish an airbase at the Fiery Cross Reef before the year’s end.
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