"Tora-Tora Strafing A Pirate Motorized Kumpit"  - Castor Amper

The Plane They Call Tora-Tora

by Castor Amper
March 23, 20014

In early 1980, my best friend Bert Anido, whose aviation expertise was well known, introduced me to Colonel Epifanio Reymundo whom we met in Sangley Point. The amiable colonel, commander of the 15th Strike Wing, commissioned me to portray a pair of AT-28s of his command. The planes were to be shown taking off not at the bare shores of Cavite, but from the green surroundings of Basa Air Base in Pampanga. It was also desired that the planes be clean without camouflage which I’d rather prefer being more colorful. Again, I had the opportunity to get near a Tora-Tora and allowed to take pictures with my instamatic camera the details of an armed plane for references. Good thing, though, I’ve been to Basa before with Bert, and the sketches of the terrain I made there enabled me to paint in oil the required scene.

I felt saddened by the news of a decisive air raid that occurred in Sangley Point on December 1, 1989. The base was seized by military rebels and consequently, in similar circumstances to the Pearl Harbor attack, three sleek F-5 Freedom Fighter jets of the 5th Fighter Wing from Basa Air Base swoop down on the dark-earth colored Tora-Toras parked together on the flightline for quick rearming. Explosive rockets and 20mmm cannon fire from the F-5s tore the rebel-held Toras with devastating effect. When the billowing black smoke dissipated and the widespread wreckage on the ground was shown on TV, it spelled the end of the 1989 coup d’état attempt.

As calmness prevailed long after, a good friend Captain Eldon Nemenzo came to visit me at home. To mark the occasion, I gave him the two watercolor paintings I did on the PAF AT-28 at the height of its operations, titled Tora-Tora strafing a pirate motorized kumpit and Tora-Tora firing a cluster of rockets. Eldon is an air force pilot and author of the great and significant book The Philippine Air Force Story. I’m honored that one of the watercolor images appeared in the book. Eldon, by the way, is now an active general.

“SCRAMBLE” FAF AT-28s taking off from Basa Air Base, Pampanga - Castor Amper
A Sangley based 15th Strike Wing T-28 "Tora-Tora" COIN aircraft prepares to land in Basa Air Base, home of the 5th fighter Wing after CAS/COIN mission in the region.

The AT-28D Trojan or colloquially known as "Tora-Tora" to many Filipinos, was one of the most fearful aircraft that man has created during his days.

He was known as the silent assassin not because of his husky sound, but because of his covert operations in Vietnam that made him popular, but for those who had served him... It's not just popularity, it's about the honor and respect that they can give to this gentle beast.

To those who laugh and called him "Eroplano ng Hapon," lucky you, cause you were not there at the wrong place and at the wrong time when He was there delivering Bombs, Rockets and Guns...

And for those who had witnessed his violent use of force, they will never forget the fear and death that this gentle beast can deliver.

But for those who had served him... For them, if some aircraft's are memorable, the AT-28D is unforgettable.

To the PILOTS and CREW who had served him for the sake of peace, and to those who gave their life just to complete their mission... THANK YOU FOR YOUR GREAT SERVICE AND SACRIFICE!




Then Lt. Ben Maturan a former aviation cadet of the Philippine Air Force Flying School and a member of class 1973 together with his flight leader then Ltc.Andres Samson also a former aviation cadet of the Philippine Air Force Flying School and a member of class 1963, both attack pilots of 15th Strike Wing were flying an AT-28D's Trojan for a close air support (CAS) mission.

Sometime in 1974, with the death of LTC ANTONIO BAUTISTA fresh in the minds of the PAF pilots, over at CASF Cotabato, Combat Air Patrols were regularly being done whenever fighter jets are operating in the battle area as which require only minutes to effect a rescue of any downed pilot.

Nothing illustrates this operational set-up than the rescue of Lt. Ben Maturan flying an AT-28D Trojan during a three Army battalion sweep, South of Lake Lanao with then Ltc. Andres Samson as his element lead. Lt. Ben Maturan's AT-28D's engine stopped operating during the climb out after CAS mission and forced landed on Malabang.The UH-1H who was also operating in the area overheard the radio communication of the two AT-28Ds and proceeded to rescue the downed Trojan pilot.

Ltc. Andres Samson who was the flight leader, provided as much protection to his wingman as he can by flying cover over the field under enemy control, he even considered landing in the area to attempt pick-up his wingman Lt. Ben Maturan and put him at the back seat of his AT-28D. Fortunately the UH-1H aircrew who was also operating near the area, arrived in the scene within 5 minutes and extricated Lt. Ben Maturan.

Kudos to then Ltc. Andres Samson for protecting his wingman under enemy infested area and to the Huey pilots and crew for saving our attack pilot.

By PAFAces Francis Neri PAFFS CL'95
With thanks from PAFAces Andres R. Samson PAFFS CL'63

PAF T-28 "Tora-Tora" releases a  general purpose bomb to a rebel target as the aircraft operated at the Tactical Advance Command Post in Cauayan,Isabela.
A flight of T-28's readied by its crew chiefs and pilots for a COIN mission armed with cluster grenades and general purpose bombs attached in their wing pylons.  An old airplane proven effective.
Helen Murphy © 2009-2017  All Rights Reserved
Because of its proven capabilities, the aircraft attracted foreign customers mostly to the air forces of Asia and South America. The Philippine Air Force, battle tested in counter-insurgency operations selected the armed AT-28D and received 60 in the 1970's as a light attack and COIN aircraft. It was assigned to the 17th Attack Squadron of the 15th Strike Wing based in Sangley Air Base in Cavite. Armed with miniguns, general purpose (GP) bombs, 81mm cluster grenades and up to 1,200 pounds of munitions carried under 6 underwing pylons, the PAF AT-28's affectionately called as the "tora-tora" served from the Advance Tactical Command Post and saw a lot of action supporting government troops in its campaign against the communist and muslim rebels. It became the most active fixed wing aircraft of the air force to support combat operations. With the AFP's self reliance program, the AT-28 became a test platform when it tested the country's first made air to ground missile, the "Cali" in Nueva Ecija province. However, in the 1980's, the aircraft was used in several coup attempts. Most notable in December 1989 when a flight of Sangley based "tora-tora's" piloted by PAF pilots belonging to the RAM-SFP spearheaded the revolt that would shake the nation in 7 days. They were destroyed though by loyal PAF pilots flying F-5's while re-arming in Sangley. With some "re-constructed" they continued on to serve the PAF until they finally retired in late 1992. - angelfire.com

T-28 Trojan Foundation