Philippine (PAF) F-16 Multi-Role Fighter (MRF)
In 1995 during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos, Congress passed the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that includes the acquisition of new planes, helicopters and naval vessels to replace aging ones. Since F-5s were put out of service in 2005, the PAF had no multi-role jetfighters in its arsenal, although it had bought from South Korea a dozen FA-50 jets but the planes’ capability is limited compared with the Gripen, F-16 and similar aircraft. The acquisition of Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) was badly needed to protect the country’s airspace.
The MRF is part of Horizon Two of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program slated for 2018 to 2022, which aims to acquire more equipment for external defense. Any aircraft that will be selected must be able to integrate with existing radar systems that have a range of around 250 nautical miles. Once these MRFs are acquired, the PAF, with the help of these radar systems, can be deployed to determine whether the aircraft flying in Philippine airspace is friendly or hostile. These proposed MRFs are expected to augment the existing fleet of 12 South Korean-made Mach 1.5 capable FA-50PH jet aircraft acquired from 2015 to 2017 by the PAF as its first supersonic aircraft after the decommissioning its Northrop F-5 "Tiger" jet fighters in 2005.
In August 2010 Retired Admiral James Lyons, former commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, signed an oped in the Washington Times which proposed that "The United States should consider leasing big-ticket military hardware to the Philippines to give it the capability to defend its sovereign territory against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.... the US should consider leasing a squadron of F-16 along with T-38 supersonic trainers, an aircraft for maritime patrol, and two FFG-7 guided-missile frigates to provide a recognized capability to enforce the Philippines’ offshore territorial claims."
The Office of the President, Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Philippine Air Force all publicly declared the Aquino administration’s intention to acquire 12 surplus F-16C/D aircraft from the United States. In a speech during the Philippine Air Force (PAF) invitational shoot fest and firing range blessing on 10 Decmber 2011 at the PAF headquarters in Villamor Airbase, Pasay City, President Benigno S. Aquino III said his administration is working continuously to arm and provide the members of the Armed forces and the police the equipment they need. The president said he would request for fighter planes from the US after his visit to Indonesia, saying the Obama administration has provided the Indonesian air force F-16 jets, an older generation of American jet fighters. In February 2012 Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario said that the Philippines will request a squadron of 12 fighter jets.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said 28 September 2018 the United States government had again offered its F-16 fighter jets to the Philippines as he visited the Pentagon. "They offered us some equipment that we might want to buy like the F-16s and the attack helicopters," Lorenzana told reporters on the sidelines of China's 69th founding anniversary reception in Makati. He noted that the government has plans to acquire a multirole fighter plane but is still considering Washington's offer, given the equipment it is offering is expensive and costly to maintain.
"Not immediately but in the future we need that because all others here have these fighter planes. It's a multirole fighter but we need more the helicopters than the fighter planes," the defense chief said. "They offered it to us and we’re thinking about it. We told them we will consider, we will think more because this is very expensive. Expensive to buy, expensive to maintain," he added.
Lorenzana revealed that Washington also raised its concerns over Manila's plan to acquire military equipment from Moscow. "They said that it might not be good for the interoperability of our equipment when we go on exercise. So they raised the problem there, plus there is a sanction," he said, admitting the sanction may have a general effect to some extent. "If you buy from them, it is the company of Russia that is sanctioned, not us. So the bank will not pay them," the official pointed out, saying the government "will look into" the matter carefully. "We will decide according to our interest," he said when asked what was his reply when the subject of acquiring from Russia came up.
Lorenzana was in the US on 19 September 2018 to meet with his counterpart, Secretary James Mattis. During a bilateral meeting, he reaffirmed that the Philippines-US alliance remains robust. The Filipino official also met with State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo, whom he asked for "help" to push for some of the country's procurement in the US. "Practically, I mentioned the same thing to Secretary Mattis and to other people I talked to," he said.
Since the F-5s were pulled from service, the Air Force tried to acquire advanced jetfighters such as the supersonic F-16 from the United States, but no progress was made. Lorenzana confirmed the US offer, but said the F-16 supersonic jetfighter interceptors are too expensive. In comparison, the Gripen costs less and has the same capability with other multi-role jetfighters, including the F-16.
After a thorough study and research, the Department of National Defense (DND) is most likely to buy the Swedish-made Gripenmulti-role supersonic jet fighter for the Philippine Air Force (PAF). Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made this disclosure on 15 October 2018. Lorenzana said aside from being cheaper and less expensive in maintenance cost, the Gripen has been proven to be an excellent supersonic fighter aircraft with a top speed of Mach 2 or 1,236 kilometers per hour, or twice the speed of sound. The PAF has been scouting for over a decade of what jetfighter aircraft it would buy to replace the US-made F-5A/B jet interceptors that retired in 2005 due to old age and lack of spare parts.
The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is still evaluating two aircraft for its multi-role fighter (MRF) project, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said 17 December 2019. "One of the aircraft being evaluated is from Sweden (the Saab JAS 39 'Gripen) and the other is the American (General Dynamics) F-16(V)," Lorenzana said when sought for updates on the MRF which is being eyed to beef up the country's air defense system.
On 24 June 2021 the US State Department made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of the Philippines of F-16 Block 70/72 Aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $2.43 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale. The Government of the Philippines has requested to buy ten (10) F-16C Block 70/72 aircraft; two (2) F-16D Block 70/72 aircraft; fifteen (15) F100-PW-229EEP engines or F110-GE-129D engines; fifteen (15) Improved Programmable Display Generators (iPDG); fifteen (15) AN/APG-83 Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Scalable Agile Beam Radars (SABR); fifteen (15) Modular Mission Computers 7000AH; fifteen (15) LN-260 Embedded GPS/INS (EGI) with SAASM and PPS; twenty-four (24) Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) AIM-120C-7/C-8 or equivalent; one (1) AIM-120 Guidance Section; forty-eight (48) LAU-129 missile launchers; three (3) KMU-572 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition (LJDAM) tail kits; six (6) Mk-82 500lb bombs; six (6) Mk-82 500lb Inert training bombs; six (6) FMU-152 or FMU-139 fuzes; six (6) Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATP) or Litening ATP; fifteen (15) Multifunctional Information Display System Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS-JTRS) aircraft terminals, and; fifteen (15) M61A1 Vulcan Anti-Aircraft 20mm guns.
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