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In 01 October 1971, the Philippine Airlines (PAL) sold its fleet of Fokker Friendship F-27 aircraft to the Philippine Air Force (PAF). In line with this, the 204th Tactical Airlift Squadron was activated on provisional status under the 205th Composite Wing to operate this aircraft. It had an initial complement of three officers and twenty-six airmen. In 27 January 1975, the interim status of the unit was discarded making the squadron a permanent unit of the PAF with LTCOL MANUEL NAVEA as its first squadron commander with 27 officers and 117 airmen under his command.
In the same year, the 203rd Air Transport Squadron was activated in anticipation of the arrival of the Lockheed C-130 aircraft. It was also created as a provisionary unit on 02 April 1973 under the 205th Airlift Wing. On 07 June 1973, it was absorbed by a newly created Wing, the 220th Heavy Airlift Wing and in 10 October 1973 it was renamed 222nd Heavy Airlift Squadron, still on provisional status.
The 204th and the 206th Air Transport Squadron were deactivated on 01 July 1982 based on PAF reorganization scheme. The 220th AW absorbed the personnel and air assets, F-27, RF-27, and the C-47, with 221st Airlift Squadron as the using unit. The appellation – Airlift Wing was never used before to distinctly connote the present wing’s identity. The former 205TH Composite Wing was the first unit to use this title way back in 1972 as the 205TH Airlift Wing. The subsequent re-designation of 205 was a step to redefine further its myriad mission and functions from composite operations to purely tactical operations, the bulk of which were airlift operations. This situation paved the way for the creation of a new unit that would later cater to this kind of airlift operations-the 203RD Air Transport Squadron (ATS).
The 203RD ATS was activated under the then 205TH Airlift Wing as a provisional unit. Upon activation of the 220TH Heavy Airlift Wing on 01 June 1973 pursuant to paragraph 1 GO #750 HPAF dated 01 June 1973, this new Wing absorbed the 203RD ATS without changing the latter’s station and the maintenance personnel were still provided by the 205th. When the 220TH Heavy Airlift Wing developed its own maintenance capabilities, the 205th AW finally cut off its maintenance support to the 203RD ATS. This Squadron was later re-designated on 10 Oct 1973 as the 222ND Heavy Airlift Squadron as a provisional unit of the new Wing. From here on, the 220TH Heavy Airlift Wing started its transformation as a separate major unit in the Philippine Air Force Organizational Unit Set-Up with distinct missions and functions. The Wing formulated its own policies and doctrines in consonance with its mandated mission. Under the leadership of the first Wing Commander, COLONEL LEONARDO G BANZON the Wing evolved to provide and conduct airlift and air transport to all AFP units. The 220TH Airlift Wing was created out of the C-123K Providers (manufactured by Fairchild) upon orders
from MAJOR GENERAL RANCUDO, the then Air Force Commanding General. He tasked Colonel Banzon to organize a Wing that would man these planes in Mactan Air Base.
At the onset, there were no qualified pilots to fly the Providers. These aircraft were practically grounded in Mactan Air Base while waiting for the Mobile Training Team that would be provided by the United States.
After the establishment of the Wing in June1973, these aircraft were idly parked at the ramp until the arrival of the team that trained the Filipino pilots sometime in October of the same year. It was in Christmas Eve of the same year when the C-123 had its first operational flight in Mindanao (Historical Files 220TH AW). The C-123 aircraft were given by the United States after it was utilized in the war in Vietnam. These aircraft were found to be more versatile than the C-47. There were a total of 16 Providers and all were on full mission capable, however, only ten were used in operational missions. The remaining six were used as standby aircraft. These aircraft were manned and maintained by the 221st Heavy Airlift Squadron. The Squadron had its office at the present 222nd Airlift Squadron building in Mactan Air Base.
The Providers were the “workhorse” of the Wing and were utilized to accomplish numerous airlift operations most of which were supply missions. The burden of maintaining the Providers at a high operational rate did not come easy. Concerns on maintenance manuals and references had slowed down the impetus. However, through personnel ingenuity and dedication, the Wing managed to put the aircraft into high-operational-flying rate.
To support the primary unit of the Wing, support units were organized into different squadrons namely the Headquarters Squadron, Supply Squadron, Avionics Squadron, Field Maintenance Squadron and the Organizational Squadron. As a dynamic organization the Wing underwent numerous changes in its administrative, operational, supply, and maintenance capabilities structure. Upon activation of the 220TH Heavy Airlift Wing as a Provisional Unit on 01 June 1973, the Headquarters Squadron had branched out and the Office of the Directorate for Materiel was created to attend to logistical matters and the Field Maintenance Branch for the maintenance concerns of the Providers.
A few days after the inauguration of 222ND Heavy Airlift Squadron on 22 March 1974, it received the C-130H Nr 4704. The arrival of the new C-130 in its folds affirmed the Wing’s ultimate airlift capability. (AFP The HORNETS 1989) Following the 4704 was the pick-up of another H-model at Georgia, USA the C-130H Nr 4726. Equipped with Global Navigation System (GNS 500 equivalent to present GPS) the 220th AW crew ferried the aircraft from California via Honolulu, Wake
Island and Guam, to the Philippines. The GNS impressed the crew with its accuracy. But the GNS was not procured by the Command because of its impracticality since the aircraft would only be used in local navigation. When the C-130H Nr 4761 was picked-up, there was no more GNS on board. (Historical Files 220TH AW)
However the Philippine government at that time had different plans for the aircraft. It had its hands tied on certain government policies and agenda with other sectors of the society. Giving the aircraft to the military at that time would mean putting some sectors of society under military control unless certain bureaucratic procedures were ironed out through constitutional approval.
Following the expiration of the parity rights agreement in 1974 the Americans made some revisions on the provisions of the Military Assistance Pact. Straightforward aid gave way to a credit system that tied the Philippine resources to difficult repayment schemes. Meanwhile, maintenance costs spiraled as the first global aid crisis blew fuel prices sky-high.
Tied with national issues on economy; budget deficit and constraints, public opinion, and national security; the Philippine government decided to transfer the C-130 to the Philippine Aero Transport Incorporated or PATI.
Nevertheless, after realizing the importance of having a military advantage against the insurgents, and going thru with bureaucratic exigencies and compliances, the transfer of C-130 to the 220TH Heavy Airlift Wing was done with finality.
The move to finally transfer it to the military in order to answer the need for heavier cargo and greater deployment of troops to the plaguing arenas of insurgencies in the country was wholeheartedly welcomed by the AFP especially the 220TH HAW leadership. This capped the point of the tactical airlift concept of the unit (Historical Files 220TH AW).
The creation of 223RD Tactical Airlift Squadron on 12 May 1975 answered the mounting need for more heavy and medium lift capability that can further project military presence and might. The first batch of Nomads or the N22 B’s touched the Philippine soil at Mactan Air Base piloted by then LTC BENJAMIN S ESCOBAR and LTC MIGUEL R HINLO. By the end of the year, the Wing had 4 Nomad aircraft.
Originally, it was the intention of Higher Headquarters to give the Nomads to the 205th Airlift Wing at that time. In fact those who manned the aircraft in Australia and the crew who flew it home to RP were all from the 205th. This was also the reason why these Nomads had that combination color of red, blue and white as it was patterned after the Fokker color of the 205th.
But upon arrival at the Philippine soil, all the aircraft were absorbed by the 220th AW by order of MAJOR GENERAL SARMIENTO, the Air Force Commanding General then. The 220th was the choice of the Commanding General to man the new aircraft as he was impressed by the safety record of the Wing. This move was a welcome development for the men of the Heavy Airlift Wing which subsequently absorbed the maintenance personnel and crew of the Nomad from 205th.
While the Providers were transporting heavy cargos and loads to established airports in the country, the Nomads provided additional transport capability with its capability of inching closer to the battle zones.
The Nomads were placed under the Area Commanders disposal during the height of the insurgencies paving the way for an easier command and control of troop movements and deployment. Commanders had since utilized Very Short Take Off and Landing or VSTOL capable light aircraft to visit deployment or detachment areas at far flung areas of the archipelago like Sibutu, Sanga-Sanga, CagayanCillo, Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi, Tarumpitao Point, Cuyo, and other unprepared airstrips too short for the Providers to land.
By this time, the “Heavy” in the 220TH Heavy Airlift Wing unit name was dropped and the unit was aptly renamed – 220TH Airlift Wing (PAF Historical Accounts).
In the eighties, when the second Wing Commander COL ERNESTO AQUINO left the 220TH AW, there were already two C-130s, Eight C-123K Providers and seven N-22B Nomads in its fleet. The C-123Ks were conducting tactical airlift operations in the south, the Nomads were performing CMO related sorties and the C-130s were flying across the region and the world.
The PAF was headed for a new age at the start of the eighties. Modern day concept of military doctrines and machineries steered the organization to a paradigm shift. Military principles and approaches were reviewed in view of the government’s attitude towards wars and insurgencies.
In line with this the 220TH Airlift Wing was undergoing evaluation on organization, personnel training, maintenance, and mission-orientation to effectively and efficiently respond to the changing times. Some squadrons and offices were dissolved, others were activated and some were merged with other offices.
In the middle of 1982, a dispiriting reality was faced when the aging, high-maintenance but dependable C-123K Providers were permanently decommissioned out of the Air Force service. It was a decision made by higher authorities since it appeared that its maintenance cost and requirements far outweighed the service it could provide.
BGEN MANUEL S MERCADO was the Wing Commander when the old airlift providers were replaced by the new type of aircraft. The arrival of the F/RF-27 of Fokkers led to the activation of the 221st Airlift Squadron on 01 July 1982. This event brought another milestone to the Wing. It reaffirmed the Wing’s capability in providing different airlift as the mission dictates. At that time the squadron had two types of aircraft in its inventory: the Fokker and C-47.
Though the Wing lost an undeniably unique airlift service from the Providers, the heavy load the C-130 B Hercules can carry, the N 22 B Nomads light airlift support, and the F/RF-27 Fokker medium airlift category ushered in the new era of Airlift capability. These three types of aircraft materialized the Wing concept of a heavy, medium and light airlift capability.
With such a highly impressive transport capability, the Wing had been given numerous missions abroad. From the time of its conception as a unit, it had already started sending out its personnel using the C-130s to almost all part of the globe either for training, special missions, IRANs or Inspection and Repair as Necessary, IRMs or Inspection and Repair Mandatory, PDMs or Programmed Depot Maintenance, and other AFP missions.
Today the 220th Airlift Wing continues to provide its service to the Filipino people. It has evolved to become more responsive to the changing needs of the AFP and the populace. From its previous missions across the globe, the Wing now focuses its attention to the fulfillment of the APF’s internal security operations. It continues to aim to develop a professional force, trained, equipped, disciplined and committed to perform its mission during peacetime and at all levels of war.