Saturday, November 26, 2016

Reasons Why BT-67 Basler is Not Appropriate for PAF

This machine derived from original C-47/DC-3 fuselage of the Second World War is once again being offered to the Philippine Air Force with the use as a gunship as well as a medium transport. However, albeit the cost-effectiveness, such plane will not have its effectiveness in a modern-day battlefield.


OVERVIEW
This is the BT-67. A C-47 derivative. From Airport Journals Website.
In this article by IHS Janes 360 dated October 13, 2016, aircraft company Basler offered its Product which is the  BT-67 aircraft to the Philippine Air Force (PAF). This was looked as a replacement for the aging OV-10 close-air support aircraft that the PAF obtains in its arsenal. Considering this, they are offering on a gunship version of this aircraft wherein this DC-3 derivative plane, accordingly to the said article, is the most proven airframe there is since it gives exemplary performance during the Second World War. Accordingly, the only difference this plane have with the original ones are the digitized avionics, turboprop engines, and other improved electrical systems.

However, the offer slowly becomes of a discussion matter across defense outlets wherein this offer, albeit its affordability, is an issue of its own. Considering that, the company offers a design which is proven once from a great war which will render obsolete in modern terms. Not to mention that other considerations such as the number of military users required before the Air Force obtain them. Add to that, the other better planes have there that can fit the gunship description with the sense of having a modernized airframe with avionics and engines at par or improved further than the BT-67. These in which we need to get consider with.

Among these things, as well as the main point of this discussion matter, there are many reasons as to why BT-67 Basler is not appropriate to the Philippine Air Force.

KEY REASONS
Converting an old C-47 airframe to a BT-67 format
Here are the given key reasons as to why BT-67 is not appropriate to the Air Force in the sense that it gives the sense of loading its cargo and several other factors.

1. Nonexisting Ramp Door
US soldiers passing through a ramp door.
Ramp doors are a usual thing in the Philippine Air Force especially in its logistics and airlift division. From the small CN-212 aircraft to the large C-130 planes, all of these air transports have ramp doors for easier loading and offloading cargo of various types.

This feature is indeed the first and the most important in the Philippine Air Force wherein such capability ranges from better loading to rapid deployment of the said troops and equipment to the ground. That means, having a paradrop from a C-130 plane which have a huge door is better than presumably, a C-47 where the BT-67 is derived where an airborne trooper needs to jump at the side of the plane. More unto this, ramp doors have equipments easier loading in the plane. That in which includes several light vehicles. In this case though, dropping supplies and vehicles in a parachute with ramp doors is a better thing to do. Having this feature is very important where the lives of the crew as well as the airborne troops are at stake. These things do matter where rapid deployment is a matter of the overall success or failure of the given mission.

Overall, the BT-67 fails in this first part of rapid deployment matters. Albeit its strategic importance in a form of the older C-47 during the Second World War, the same will no longer apply today where in the modern dimension of the battlefield full of guided ordinances, albeit the questionable reduced signature against MANPADS, will never stand a chance at all.

2. Weapons capability, Airframe and Rapid deployment
This is the Dakota Hunter Gunship. From their website.
Speaking of weapons capability, it can be seen as ideal to look back on the armaments such plane can bring, especially from the C-47 planes that have been used as gunships such as the Dakota Hunter in Vietnam. (Seen above)

Albeit the firepower that can be seen as effective in the theaters of Vietnam as well as Colombia as what the Dakota Hunter website have cited for, the reason number one can be put again as the prime reason where the space for extra ammunition is greater with planes with ramp doors than the BT-67/DC-3 plane. Not to mention that such aircraft acting at a role as a gunship needs to be rapidly deployed in the battlefield with its given needs where guns shall be immediately loaded in bulks which is deemed disadvantageous wherein time really matters. This plane is indeed modernized where FLIR and other sensors are applicable with this aircraft citing its purpose as a gunship. However, given all of these things ranging from weaponries to sensors, the airframe design in itself, or rather, the airframes given are also given in doubt considering that these are remanufactured DC-3 planes that as being said before, these planes of such kind are rendered obsolete in today's standards. One of the factors of saying such weapons are rendered obsolete is that the Philippine Air Force operated C-47 planes before as well as several Civilian airlines/transports with the DC-3. But with these planes being retired with fatigue as one of the factors, it is as good not to have these BT-67 planes either unless if refurbishment of older C-47 aircrafts are to be seen.

In this matter, one can also say that other aircrafts like the recent C-295 that the PAF acquires have the better assessment of being a gunship where better guns can be installed than the BT-67 planes not with the sense that conversion shall be needed compromising logistics, but rather acquiring more aircrafts of such type that it is dedicated as an air artillery.

3. Better Alternatives
Embraer Super Tucano
There are better alternatives than this plane that can give the Philippine Air Force more effectiveness in firepower, rapid deployment, maneuverability and other capabilities in which the BT-67 will surely be lacked of.

As per the article given by the IHS Janes, the BT-67 calls for replacing the OV-10 Bronco as a Close-Air Support (CAS)aircraft. But given the nature of close-support, there are much better replacements to the said aircraft. First, there is the Close-air support program that the PAF undertakes which the process is still on-going. As far as the reports are given, the Embraer Super Tucano is so far the best bet for the said replacement since this aircraft, given its nature like the OV-10 which is a strike aircraft than gunships that BT-67 which will do runabouts where it risk the lives on board, is indeed appropriate to what the Philippine Air Force needs for a CAS aircraft. Moreover, there are also AW-109 gunships, MD-520s, and even land-based artillery that are better when it comes to area saturation than the BT-67s considering that these platforms are indeed proven within the AFP when it comes to battle. Speaking of these, it is better to stick on to these kind of alternatives than having a plane based on the World War 2 design that is inappropriate to what the Philippines is facing today. And, as per given that it is proven in several air forces including those in the United States, forget it. The Philippine Air Force is looking for platforms that suits its purpose given the needs of the whole armed forces and these alternatives is indeed just right for that.

In lay man's term, there are better things for the air force as well as the whole armed forces in general to have. Consider these factors, the whole armed forces are looking for a platform that gives what is the best for the capabilities these said forces do have. And with the BT-67, it only gives more disadvantages than the alternatives given here. Hence, procuring what is the ideal platform is a necessity to every armed forces like the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It was just that given the things AFP have, BT-67 is inappropriate as an air asset for the air force to obtain.

CONCLUSION

The BT-67 Basler, as what its manufacturer's brochure have offer, have its promising features that may help the AFP to improve its forces whereas they may say that it's affordable, cost-efficient, supplementary spare parts and most of all, quick delivery from the company. However, the reasons given are worthy to share points as to why BT-67 is not appropriate for PAF to have, given the summary due to the fact that the dimensions and the nature of the weaponry, systems and other factors the AFP as well as the Philippines as a whole does not seek such kind of aircraft that may risk lives and decreases efficiency in time especially on loading and unloading as well as rapid deployment. Overall, such kind of aircraft as what its manufacturer said may seem too good to be true but given the circumstances, it will not give the proper needs PAF is after for. Perhaps, a CN-235 gunship or a C-295 gunship may do, but citing it as replacement for OV-10s, it may be appropriate to go and acquire Super Tucanos instead since this plane, like the OV-10s are strike aircraft that the PAF can enhance further. In summary, the Philippine Air Force, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in General, simply deserve better weaponry in the market. As they may say, one must not focus on cost alone, but instead, balance it with its given effectiveness that gives an overall impact for the whole armed forces that affects the outcome of a mission.

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