Weeks after ditching the idea of buying more than a dozen Russian helos, the Philippines is now considering purchasing and employing the US-made heavy-lift Chinook helicopters.

US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson told reporters last Friday that Washington has granted Manila $100 million in foreign military financing to help aid its military modernization efforts and boost the defense capabilities of its longest ally in Southeast Asia.

In August, the Philippines canceled its helicopter deal with Russia to buy 16 Mi-17 military transport helicopters just days before the end of Rodrigo Duterte’s six-year term as the head of state. The former president, throughout his term, has established a reputation of being a staunch critic of the US government, leaning most of his foreign policy towards China.

Last week, the United States granted one of its longest allies in Southeast Asia, the Philippines, $100 million in foreign military funding, intended to boost the latter’s military modernization efforts and defense capabilities. The move has been a one-eighty under the new administration that strive to improve defense ties with the West superpower in contrast to the previous president, Rodrigo Duterte, who leaned and favored most of his foreign policy towards China.

The son of late Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Sr met with his US counterpart, Joe Biden, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last month and discussed strengthening ties, highlighting “their support for freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea,” according to Reuters.

Going back, Carlson stressed that the US will “not dictate” to its ally how it would modernize its armed forces, proceeding to thank “the Philippines for making the decision, especially in the wake of Russia’s illegal attack and unprovoked war in Ukraine, to cancel the helicopter deal.”

She explained: “As [Defense] Secretary [Lloyd] Austin [3rd] announced in Hawaii, as I reiterated last Friday, the US State Department has now notified [the US] Congress its intent to make available to the Philippines $100 million for military financing to be used for defense modernization according to the needs of the Philippine national defense in conjunction with the ongoing consultations that we have throughout the year between our militaries on what makes sense, what programs are available.”

Nonetheless, the envoy recommended that Manila could use the military financing “to offset that helicopter purchase for example.”

Ambassador Jose Romualdez canceled the $227.35 million helicopter deal with Russia in August to fear getting Western sanctions. Though, Romualdez later clarified that Washington did not pressure the country to abandon the agreement but rather an independent decision made by Manila.

“This cancellation of this contract is precipitated mainly by the war in Ukraine. While there are sanctions expected to come our way, from the United States and western countries, obviously it is not in our interest to continue and pursue this contract,” Romualdez said.

Since the Philippine government had sent the initial payment of $48.2 million earlier this year during the Duterte administration, Romualdez advised the incumbent president Marcos and his top defense-foreign officials to request the Russians for additional weapons or equipment that the down payment would cover instead of asking for reimbursement.

Despite being the largest recipient of US military assistance in the Indo-Pacific, the Phillippines continue to struggle to update and upkeep its military modernization, noting that tons of Muslim and Communist insurgencies, in addition to the disputed Waters, have been plaguing the country for years. Current outdated military hardware that deems to be modernized as soon as possible includes its aging warships from World War II and secondhand helicopters, which the US forces used in the Vietnam War.

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Difference Between Mi-17 and Chinook CH-47 Helicopter

The Russian Mil Mi-17 (Hip-H) and Boeing CH-47 Chinook are medium-lift, multi-mission helicopters that can transport troops, weapons, supplies, and equipment, as well as used for medical evacuations, aircraft recovery, and search and rescue missions, among many others. Between the two helos, however, the Chinook is a bit older—introduced and produced in the early 1960s, while the Mi-17 emerged in the mid-1970s. In terms of maximum payload capacity, the Russian helicopter only weighs nearly 7,000 kg and can carry around 36 armed soldiers, in contrast to Chinook’s over 10,000 km payload capacity that can transport more or less 50 troops.

Mil Mi-17
Russian Mil Mi-17 (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

A standard Mi-17 is outfitted with two Klimov TV3-117MT/VM or VK-2500 turboshaft engines that generate over 2,000 shaft horsepower while driving a five-bladed main rotor and three-bladed tail rotor. It can reach a range of up to 580 km with a maximum speed of 255 kph and a ceiling of 19,685 ft. On the other hand, the CH-47 has two Lycoming T55-L-712 turboshaft engines that develop more than 3,700 shp each while driving two three-bladed main rotors with a top speed of 290 kph, a range of 425 km, and a ceiling of nearly 8,500 ft.

MH-47E Chinook
US Army MH-47E Chinook (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

The typical armament of a Mi-17 includes Shturm-V missiles, S-8 rockets, rocket pods, 23 mm cannon pods, and 7.62 mm machine guns, while Chinook is equipped with two 7.62 mm general-purpose machine guns or miniguns. A special force version, MH-47E, is outfitted with more sophisticated armaments, including ATK AN/AAR-47 missile approach warner, Northrop Grumman ALQ-162 Shadowbox jammer, and ITT ALQ-136(V) pulse jammer, among many others.