Philippine Air Force
Hukbong Himpapawid ng Pilipinas
Seal of the Philippine Air Force
FoundedJuly 1, 1947; 77 years ago (1947-07-01)
Country Philippines
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
  • 17,600 active personnel[1]
  • 16,000 reserve personnel[1]
  • 224 aircraft
Part ofArmed Forces of the Philippines
HeadquartersColonel Jesus Villamor Air Base, Pasay City
Motto(s)"Guardians of our Precious Skies, Bearers of Hope"
Colors Air Force Blue 
MarchPhilippine Air Force Hymn[2]
Engagements Edit this at Wikidata
Commander-in-ChiefPresident Bongbong Marcos
Secretary of National DefenseGilberto Teodoro Jr.
Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the PhilippinesGen. Romeo S. Brawner Jr., PA
Commanding General of the Philippine Air ForceLieutenant General Stephen P. Parreño, PAF[3]
Vice Commander, Philippine Air ForceMajor General Augustine S. Malinit
Chief of Air StaffMajor General Aristotle D. Gonzales
Sergeant Major of the Air ForceCMSgt John I. Roxas , PAF[4]
Aircraft flown
AttackA-29B, AS-211, OV-10A/C, SF-260TP/MP
HelicopterBell 412EP, UH-1H/D, W-3A, S-70A-5/i, S-76A/AUH-76
Attack helicopterT129B, AH-1S, AW109E Power, MD520MG,
ReconnaissanceAero Commander, Cessna 208, ScanEagle, Hermes 450, Hermes 900
TrainerSF-260FH, T-41B/D
TransportFokker F27, C-130, Aero Commander, Cessna 208 IPTN NC-212, F27, N-22B, C-295M

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) (Filipino: Hukbong Himpapawid ng Pilipinas) is the aerial warfare service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Initially formed as part of the Philippine Army as the Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC) in 1935, the PAAC eventually saw combat during World War 2 and was formally separated from the Army in 1947 as a separate service branch of the AFP under Executive Order No. 94. At present, the PAF is responsible for both defending Philippine airspace, and conducting aerial operations throughout the Philippines, such as close air support operations, combat air patrols, aerial reconnaissance missions, airlift operations, helicopter tactical operations, special operations, and aerial humanitarian operations, which includes search and rescue operations. The PAF has also carried out various missions within the country and abroad.

The PAF is headquartered at Villamor Air Base in Pasay, and is headed by the Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force, who holds the rank of Lieutenant General and also serves as the branch's highest-ranking military officer.


Main article: Military history of the Philippines

Philippine Commonwealth and Independence

Early years and World War II

The forerunner of the Philippine Air Force was the Philippine Militia, otherwise known as Philippine National Guard (PNG). On March 17, 1917, Senate President Manuel L. Quezon enacted a bill (Militia Act 2715) for the creation of the Philippine Militia. It was enacted in anticipation of an outbreak of hostilities between United States and Germany.[5]

P-26 Peashooter used by the Philippine Air Corps (1941)

By the end of the First World War, the US Army and Navy began selling aircraft and equipment to the Philippine Militia Commission. The Commission then hired the services of the Curtiss Flying School to provide flight training to 33 students at Camp Claudio, Parañaque.

The early aviation unit was, however, still lacking enough knowledge and equipment to be considered as an air force and was then limited only to air transport duties.[5] On January 2, 1935, Philippine Military Aviation was activated when the 10th Congress passed Commonwealth Act 1494 that provided for the organization of the Philippine Constabulary Air Corps (PCAC). PCAC was renamed the Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC) in 1936. It started with only three planes in its inventory. In 1941, PAAC had a total of 54 aircraft including pursuit (fighters) light bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, light transport and trainers.[5] They later engaged the Japanese when they invaded the Philippines in 1941–42, and were reformed in 1945 after the country's liberation.

Post-WWII and AFP restructuring

PAF P-51 Mustang

The PAF became a separate military service on July 1, 1947, when President Manuel Roxas issued Executive Order No. 94. This order created the Philippine Naval Patrol and the Air Force as equal branches of the Philippine Army and the Philippine Constabulary under the now Armed Forces of the Philippines[6] becoming Southeast Asia's third air force as a result.

The main aircraft type in the earlier era of the PAF was the P-51 Mustang, flown from 1947 to 1959. Ground attack missions were flown against various insurgent groups, with aircraft hit by ground fire but none shot down. In the 1950s the Mustang was used by the Blue Diamonds aerobatic display team.[7] These would be replaced by the jet-powered North American F-86 Sabres in the late 1950s, assisted by Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star and Beechcraft T-34 Mentor trainers.

PBY Catalina amphibious aircraft used by the Philippine Air Force after independence

1963 Congo Mission and the Limbas Squadron

The United Nations Operation in the Congo would be the first international mission of the Philippine Air Force after President Diosdado Macapagal deployed the 9th Tactical Fighter "Limbas" Squadron to assist the United Nations.

The 9th Tactical Fighter Squadron left for the Congo on 11 February 1963 and conducted flight operations from Kamina Air Base.

Cold War Era

Marcos rule and People Power Revolution

A squadron of F-86F Sabre of the Philippine Air Force

When unrest arising from news of the Jabidah Massacre during Ferdinand Marcos' first presidential term triggered the Moro conflict in Mindanao and the establishment of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1972,[8] the PAF was called upon to actively provide air support for the AFP campaign against MNLF in Central Mindanao, aside from doing the airlifting duties for troop movements from Manila and Cebu to the conflict zone. Traditional workhorses like the UH-1H choppers, L-20 “Beaver” aircraft, and C-47 gunships were mainly used in the campaign.

In the same decade, the PAF Self-Reliance Development Group, the forerunner of the Air Force Research and Development Center (AFRDC) was created. The Center enabled the PAF to create prototypes of aircraft aside on going into partnership with the private sector for some of its requirements.[9]

In late 1977, the Philippine government purchased 35 secondhand U.S. Navy F-8Hs that were stored at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. Twenty-five of them were refurbished by Vought and the remaining 10 were used for spare parts. As part of the deal, the U.S. would train Philippine pilots in using the TF-8A. They were mostly used for intercepting Soviet bombers. The F-8s were grounded in 1988 and were finally withdrawn from service in 1991 after they were badly damaged by the Mount Pinatubo eruption, and have since been offered for sale as scrap.[10]

The PAF played a key part in ending the Marcos dictatorship during the 1986 People Power Revolution through the "Sotelo landing" of February 24, 1986. Forces under Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile had planned a coup against Marcos but were discovered early, and, trapped in Camp Aguinaldo, asked the support of Philippine Constabulary Chief Fidel Ramos in nearby Camp Crame. When Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Sin learned about the situation, he called upon Philippine civilians, many of whom were preparing to protest the anomalous results of the 1986 Philippine presidential election to form a human barricade around the camps, effectively preventing Marcos' forces from taking the camps in a land assault but leaving the camps vulnerable to attack from the air.[11] After determining that all his men were no longer willing to support Marcos in the aftermath of the election,[12] Col. Antonio Sotelo defected with the entirety of the 15th Strike Wing, Philippine Air Force, landing 6 S-76 gunships, 2 rescue helicopters, and a utility BC-105 on the grounds of Ramos' headquarters at Camp Crame. Sotelo and his forces then later flew back to Villamor Air Base to disable six remaining UH-1 'Huey' helicopters which Marcos' forces could have used to attack the camps.[13][14] This encouraged even more AFP units to withdraw their support for the dictatorship.[15]

1986–1990 Coup attempts

A Vought F-8H Crusader (ex U.S. Navy BuNo 148649) of the Philippine Air Force in flight.

The following years remained hostile for the Philippines, a series of bloody coup attempts led by then Col. Gregorio Honasan of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, involved thousands of renegade troops, including elite units from the army and marines, in a coordinated series of attacks on Malacanang and several major military camps in Manila and surrounding provinces, including Sangley and Villamor Air Base, using the T-28 aircraft for aerial assaults. President Corazon Aquino found it necessary to request United States support to put down the uprising. As a result, a large US special operations force was formed and named Operation Classic Resolve, as USAF F4 fighter aircraft stationed at Clark Air Base patrolled above rebel air bases, and two aircraft carriers were positioned off the Philippines. The US operation soon caused the coup to collapse. Additional US forces were then sent to secure the American embassy in Manila. The military uprisings resulted in an estimated US$1.5 billion loss to the Philippine Economy.[citation needed]

US Military departure from the Philippines

The Cold War Era has reached its endpoint as tensions between the two ideological rivals, the United States and the Soviet Union, have simmered down as a result of the dissolution of the latter and the massive change of political system among its allies.

An aerial photo of Clark Airbase in Central Luzon

The fate of the US military bases in the country was greatly affected by these circumstances, and by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 which engulfed the installations with ash and lahar flows. The nearby Clark Air Base was eventually abandoned afterwards, while the Philippine Senate voted to reject a new treaty for Subic Naval Complex, its sister American installation in Zambales. This occurrence had effectively ended the century-old US military presence in the country, even as President Corazon Aquino tried to extend the lease agreement by calling a national referendum, leaving a security vacuum in the region and terminated the flow of economic and military aid into the Philippines. [16] [17]

Contemporary Era

AFP modernization efforts and Asian Financial Crisis

The importance of territorial defense capability was highlighted in the public eye in 1995 when the AFP published photographs of Chinese structures on Mischief Reef in the Spratlys.

The PAF MD-520MG displayed at the Mall of Asia.

Initial attempts to improve the capabilities of the Armed Forces happened when a law was passed in the same year for the sale of redundant military installations and the devotion of 35 percent of the proceeds for AFP upgrades. Subsequently, the legislature passed the AFP Modernization Act.[18] The law sought to modernize the AFP over a 15-year period, with minimum appropriation of 10-billion Pesos per year for the first five years, subject to increase in subsequent years of the program. The modernization fund was to be separate and distinct from the rest of the AFP budget.

However, the Asian Financial Crisis struck the region in 1997. This has greatly affected the AFP Modernization Program due to the government's austerity measures meant to turn the economy around after suffering from losses incurred during the financial crisis.[19]

C-295W of the Philippine Air Force assigned to 220th Airlift Wing of the Air Mobility Command

Several air assets acquired by the Philippine Air Force through the original AFP Modernization Program of 1995 were the AW109 armed scout helicopters, and airlift assets like the Airbus C295 and CASA C212 Aviocar.

A decade of neglect

Former F-5A Freedom Fighter of the Philippine Air Force
The AS-211 Warrior jet trainer/light attack aircraft, which served as "gap stopper" for the PAF in its air defense operations

Since the retirement of the Northrop F-5s in September 2005 without a planned replacement, the Philippine Air Force was left without fighter jets. The PAF resorted to the Aermacchi S-211 trainer jets to fill the void left by the F-5's. These S-211's were later upgraded to light attack capability and used for air and sea patrol and also performed counter-insurgency operations from time to time.[citation needed] The only active fixed wing aircraft to fill the roles were the SF-260 trainers with light attack capability, the OV-10 Bronco light attack and reconnaissance aircraft and the AS-211 warriors (upgraded S-211).

South China Sea arbitration case and revised AFP Modernization Program

The incidents with Chinese presence in the South China Sea prompted the Philippines to proceed with formal measures while challenging the Chinese activities in some of the sea features in the disputed island chain. Hence, the South China Sea Arbitration Case was filed by the Philippines in 2013 at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).[20]

Reminiscent to what occurred in 1995, the Congress passed the Revised AFP Modernization Act of 2012, which was meant to replace the older AFP Modernization Act of 1995 signed during former President Fidel V. Ramos’ term, when its 15-year program effectivity expired in 2010.[21]

Two FA-50 Golden Eagle light multi-role fighter/LIFTs escorting a Philippine Airlines flight carrying President Benigno S. Aquino III

Major air assets acquired under this new modernization program iteration were 12 FA-50 Light Fighters, while those programmed for future procurements are Multi-Role Fighters and Maritime Patrol Aircraft, among other equipment.[22]

Flight Plan 2028

In response to regional strategic challenges and perceived internal weaknesses, the PAF has embarked on a transformation process to enhance its capabilities. Flight Plan 2028 is administered by the Air Force Strategy Management Office (AFSMO), and aims to:

The plan calls for a reorienting of the Philippine Air Force from a primarily internal security role to a territorial defence force. It will require substantial organisational, doctrinal, training, strategic and equipment transformation.

US-Philippine Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement

In April 2014, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed by the representatives of the Philippine and US Governments, aimed at bolstering the military alliance of both countries. The agreement allows the United States to rotate troops into the Philippines for extended stays and allows the U.S. to build and operate temporary facilities on Philippine military bases for both American and Philippine forces' use.[24][25]

Both parties agreed to determine the military installations across the Philippines as covered by the pact, including the former US Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Base, as well as several locations in Cebu, Luzon, and Palawan. [26]

As of 2016, four PAF bases and one Army camp have been determined by the United States and the Philippines to be utilized under the agreement. The Air Force Bases are Basa Air Base, Antonio Bautista Air Base, Benito Ebuen Air Base, and Lumbia Airfield.[27]


The Philippine Air Force is commanded by the Chief of the Air Force, holding the rank of Lieutenant General, and is assisted by the Vice Chief of the Philippine Air Force, and the Chief of Air Staff, in charge of organizational and administrative matters, both holders of the rank of Major General. The Philippine Air Force consists of three tactical commands, three support commands, seven air wings including one separate search and rescue wing, one engineering brigade, one air control and warning wing, one air weather group and one special operations unit.

T129B ATAK Helicopter of the Philippine Air Force (PAF)

Tactical Commands and Air Wings

The three Tactical Commands are in the direct control of the PAF Leadership while serving his function in the command chain of the AFP. These units are jointly reactivated and reorganized on July 21, 2017, while effectively replacing the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Air Divisions as part of the PAF Flight Plan 2028.[28]

Support commands

The three Support Commands are in charge for the overall combat, logistics, education, training, doctrine development, reservist management and administrative support in the PAF's operations.

Separate units

Aerobatic teams

The Philippine Air Force Blue Diamonds "Sabre" emblem on a F-86F Sabre, circa 1962.

The Philippine Air Force had a number of aerobatic teams among which the PAF Blue Diamonds was the first to be founded, and was one of the oldest formal aerobatics teams in the world. The proceeding units listed are at inactive status due to the retirement of their aircraft, most notably the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighters.

Rank structure

Main article: Military ranks of the Philippines


Rank group General / flag officers Senior officers Junior officers Officer cadet
 Philippine Air Force[38]
General Lieutenant general Major general Brigadier general Colonel Lieutenant colonel Major Captain First lieutenant Second lieutenant


Rank group Senior NCOs Junior NCOs Enlisted
 Philippine Air Force[38]
Chief master sergeant Senior master sergeant Master sergeant Technical sergeant Staff sergeant Sergeant Airman first class Airman second class Airman


The Philippine Air Force has nine major air bases and several radar, communications, and support facilities located throughout the archipelago. Shared facilities with commercial airports being used as detachments by the Tactical Operations Command were not included here.

Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base Pasay, Metro Manila
Clark Air Base Angeles City
Colonel Ernesto Rabina Air Base Capas, Tarlac
Cesar Basa Air Base Floridablanca, Pampanga
Basilio Fernando Air Base Lipa, Batangas
Danilo Atienza Air Base Cavite City, Cavite
Wallace Air Station San Fernando, La Union
Paredes Air Station Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte
Gozar Air Station Lubang, Occidental Mindoro
Parañal Air Station Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte
Benito Ebuen Air Base Mactan, Cebu
Guiuan Airfield Guiuan, Eastern Samar
Antonio Bautista Air Base Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Mt. Salakot Air Station Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Edwin Andrews Air Base Zamboanga City
Rajah Buayan Air Station General Santos
Lumbia Airfield Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental
Davao Air Station Davao City


Main article: List of equipment of the Philippine Air Force

The Philippine Air Force has made use of its existing equipment to fulfill its mandate while modernization projects are underway. The Republic Act No. 7898 declares the policy of the State to modernize the military to a level where it can effectively and fully perform its constitutional mandate to uphold the sovereignty and preserve the patrimony of the republic.[18] The law, as amended, has set conditions that should be satisfied when the defense department procures major equipment and weapon systems for the air force.

These are acquisition projects of the government that have been signed and awaiting delivery for the modernization of the air force.


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