Continuing on from my previous post about the airpark of the Philippine Air Force Aerospace Museum at Villamor Air Base near the Manila Airport (Terminal 3) during my visit in April 2018, let’s now take a look inside the mercifully air-conditioned museum building itself. Here you can see various aircraft, vehicles, weaponry, models, uniforms, medals, photos, artefacts and historical PAF information to keep you well and truly occupied for an hour or two.
The highlight of the museum displays is the centrepiece and beautifully preserved North American P-51D Mustang “Shark of Zambales“. Elevated on pedestals and with an upstairs balcony, you can get a great 360 degree walk around of the Mustang.
The Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC) received 103 P-51D Mustangs after World War Two. They were flown by the 5th Fighter Wing – 6th “Cobras” and 7th “Bulldogs” fighter squadrons and would continue with the renamed Philippine Air Force as a frontline fighter until the late 1950’s and a number flew on as Counter Insurgency (COIN) aircraft until the early 1980’s. They saw combat against communist insurgents and rebels in the 1950’s.
There are plenty of artefacts, uniforms, models and photos covering the Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC) pre-war and early World War Two periods within the Philippines. There are also period weapons on display.
A special cabinet within the museum houses artefacts from one of the last Imperial Japanese Army soldier to surrender in 1974. Lt. Hiroo Onoda continued on with his orders in the Philippines, still following the Imperial Bushido code (“the way of warriors”), running amok when he could with police and locals on Lubang Island, some 29 years after World War Two ended! The Philippine Air Force aided in his “rescue” but it took the return of his superior and former commander, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, to be flown to the Philippines to order him to surrender and lay down his arms.
Onoda surrended his sword to President Ferdinand Marcos himself on March 11th, 1974 (who pardoned him from his actions)! His tattered uniform, helmets, equipment and even his rifle are on display and remain in very good condition! Onoda returned home to become somewhat of a celebrity in Japan!
The last Imperial Japanese Army soldier to officially surrender was Teruo Nakamura, who did so a few months after Onoda. His case was a little different though, as he had ceased military activity at war’s end and just went into hiding for 3 decades!
The Cold War era is a big part of the museum collection, from aircraft, ejection seats, equipment, weapons, vehicles, uniforms and more. The weapon systems of the Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter is something unique to see.
An interesting aircraft on display, that was unknown to me, is the “Cali” T-610 Super Pinto jet trainer and light attack aircraft prototype. This was a design based off the TEMCO TT-1 Pinto with a two seat tandem configuration and powered by a General Electric J-85-17 turbojet engine (the TT-1 had briefly been operated in small numbers by the US Navy from 1959 to 1960). A “Cali” is a breed of eagle found in the Philippines.
It was intended to build the “Cali” as a Filipino indigenous design with composite materials manufactured in the Philippines, with the government and local manufacturers sharing the costs and profits of the aircraft development. It seems it never got too far though, as the PAF went on to purchase SIAI-Marchetti S.211 jet trainers that could also be used in the light attack role. Purchasing “off the shelf” was ultimately less expensive than developing a limited run production aircraft.
The flight simulators in the museum were out of action but could well have been subject to being renovated and updated (wishful thinking perhaps?). There was also a small gift shop but unfortunately I didn’t have time to check that out.
With a unique collection and interesting aircraft types on display, the Philippine Air Force Aerospace Museum is well worth a visit if you can handle getting through e the Manila traffic to get there! If you happen to be stuck at Terminal 3 at the airport for a few hours, you could also easily visit the museum, as it is very close by.