Sweden makes further push for Philippine MRF bid

A formation of RTAF Saab Gripen combat aircraft. (Saab)

Sweden has further positioned itself for the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND)’s Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) programme for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) by signing a framework agreement that will facilitate the Southeast Asian country’s access to Swedish-made defence equipment.

The Embassy of Sweden in Manila noted on its social media channel that senior officials from both countries, including Swedish Defence Material Administration head of exports and international relations Joakim Wallin and the Philippine DND’s Assistant Secretary for Logistics, Acquisition, and Self-Reliant Defense Posture Joselito B. Ramos, were involved in the signing of the Implementing Arrangement Concerning the Procurement of Defense Materiel and Equipment on 17 May.

“The logistics cooperation is part of the commitment of the two countries under the Memorandum of Understanding concerning cooperation in the acquisition of defence materiel signed by the two countries on 3 June 2023, ratified on the same day by Sweden and by the Philippines on 4 September 2023,” said the embassy post.

Sweden has been consistently promoting its Saab JAS-39 Gripen multirole combat aircraft to the Philippines, which is one of the two contenders being considered by the PAF for the MRF programme, the other being the US-made Lockheed Martin F-16V. The MRF effort seeks to acquire up to 12 new combat aircraft for the PAF with a total approved budget of 61.2 billion pesos (US$1.04 billion).

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.

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.

Last year, a PAF delegation led by Commanding General Lieutenant General Stephen Parreno visited the Swedish Air Force for an exchange, as well as Saab to inspect the JAS-39 and Saab 340 airborne early warning and control aircraft.

by Jr Ng