Philippines mulls revised fighter acquisition programme

Philippine Air Force MRF -- Saab
Philippine Air Force MRF -- Saab

The Department of National Defense (DND) is reportedly considering a “new set of specifications” and “quantity” of new combat aircraft for the Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) programme, according to state-owned news agency PNA.

DND Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr was quoted as saying on the sidelines of the National Day and Armed Forces Day of the Republic of Korea at the Grand Hyatt Manila in Taguig City that the DND has decided on changes to earlier plans and will imminently present its new requirements President Ferdinand Marcos Jr for approval.

Teodoro added that the MRF programme will be provisioned under the revised Horizon 3 phase of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program initially scheduled to run from 2023 to 2028.

The revised specifications and quantity of new MRF aircraft were not disclosed, although the original plan is seeking 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 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.

Sweden earlier made a renewed push to promote its Gripen when Swedish Ambassador Annika Thunborg made a during a courtesy call on Secretary Teodoro at the DND headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on 14 August.

DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement then that Defense Secretary Teodoro had emphasised the importance of modernising the AFP 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.

In an earlier 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).

by Jr Ng