Sweden has made another push to promote its Saab Gripen multirole fighter aircraft for the Philippine Department of National Defense’s (DND’s) Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) programme, which seeks to acquire up to 12 new combat aircraft for the Philippines Air Force (PAF) with a total approved budget of 61.2 billion pesos (US$1.11 billion).
The latest discussion occurred between Swedish Ambassador Annika Thunborg to DND Secretary Gilberto Teodoro during a courtesy call at the DND headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on 14 August.
DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement that Defense Secretary Teodoro had emphasised the importance of modernising the Armed Forces of the Philippines so that it is better able to protect the country’s territorial integrity and interests in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), adding that the Secretary had asserted that defence acquisitions must also be sustainable, interoperable, and supportable.
The DND earlier announced that the MRF project has been added into the Third Horizon of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program, which is scheduled to run from 2023 to 2027.
The MRF was intended to be part of Horizon 2 of the AFP Modernization Program between 2018 to 2022, but was delayed due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to local media, the leading contenders for the MRF programme are Lockheed Martin’s F-16V and the Saab’s Gripen C/D.
In a statement in December 2022, the DND had declared that the Gripen aircraft “has been in the PAF’s shortlist” following the release of a “positive advance notice for the export of the Gripen to the Philippines” a month earlier by Sweden’s Inspectorate of Strategic Products (ISP).
Swedish media noted that the approval represents a change in attitude by the Swedish government as the appointed Export Control Council (EKR) had earlier rejected a possible export of the Gripen aircraft to the Philippines.
Saab had asserted that the Gripen’s ease of operation, requiring minimal personnel and ground support equipment for dispersed operations and inherent ability operate from small unprepared roads, makes it the suitable choice for the Philippines.
by Jr Ng