US authorizes export of combat helicopters to the Philippines, despite tensions between the two countries

At the end of last week, the United States Department of State approved the sale of helicopters in the Philippines , as part of an FMS (Foreign Military Sales) procedure. As is often the case with FMS, this does not necessarily presume a future contract between the Philippine Air Force and American industry. Indeed, the FMS are often granted by the authorities while the negotiations are not finished, which makes it possible to accelerate the sale and the delivery in the event that a firm contract is signed later.

This administrative feature explains why the FMS authorizations relate to two very distinct offers. One is the sale of six Bell AH-1Z Viper helicopters for $ 450 million. The other offer concerns six Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardians sold for an impressive amount of $ 1,5 billion! What left the choice to Manila, even if the American helicopters are not the only ones in competition in the Philippines. The price difference between the Viper and the Apache is due to several reasons.

Boeing/Bell : two very different offers

First, offers do not relate to the same content . The overall support associated with the Viper thus includes only a minimum of spare parts (in particular two spare engines and an additional navigation system) and a symbolic armament pack (six Hellfire missiles, twenty-six APKWS laser-guided rockets) . The Apaches, for their part, are offered with six spare engines, 200 Hellfire anti-tank missiles and 300 APKWS, much more consistent with operational use. Thus, if the Viper is selected, the Philippines will have to negotiate another sale for the supply of additional armaments, while the total amount of an Apache contract may be renegotiated downward. Indeed, the “Apache package" probably contains way more navigation systems (fifteen for six helicopters) and Stinger air-to-air missiles (200, or as many as the Hellfire that the Apache embarked in much greater numbers) that are needed for an initial package. As it stands, however, the difference in content between the two arms deals probably should not count for more than $ 100 million, not justifying the $ 1 billion difference.

Despite its high price, the Apache is a real best seller in the combat helicopter market.

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