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Philippine Air Force (PAF) Modernization - Fighter Aircraft

President Rodrigo Duterte, at the 48th anniversary celebrations of the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing held at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City 14 Septemer 2016, said he had no use for military jets like F-16s which were acquired by the previous administration, as he said he has no plan of fighting with other countries. He said he would rather have “propeller-driven planes” that can be used in the “anti-insurgency” and “anti-terrorism campaign” in the country, particularly in Mindanao.

The Philippine fighter fleet by the 1990's consisted of only a small number of aging F-5A and F-5B Freedom Fighters, which had been first acquired in 1965. These aircraft were slated for either upgrade or replacement under the AFP Modernization Program. Contenders such as the General Dynamics F-16 and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 were reportedly considered, but in the end, the PAF opted retain their F-5 fleet for finacial reasons, buying an additional 15 airframes for spare parts and outright replacement of existing aircraft from Jordan and South Korea during the mid-1990s.

The delivery of South Korean fighter planes was part of a program strengthening the logistics support capabilities of both the Korean and the Philippine Armed Forces as contained in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Logistics and Defense Industry Cooperation entered into by both governments on 24 May 1994. The MOU covered expanded and enhanced logistical cooperation such as procurement, supply, maintenance, and transportation.

In the FY02 regular budget appropriations an Air Defense Package was included in the release of the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund. This package included the acquisition of Multi-Role Fighters (MRF), Air Defense Surveillance Radar (ADSR), Long-Range Patrol Aircraft (LRPA) and Seach-Air-Rescue (SAR) Helicopters, among others. In addition, it also prioritized the formulation of Master Development Plans (MDPs) of priority bases and stations. Thanks to this, the PAF was able to purchase new SF-260 trainer planes and night attack helicopters. It was also set to acquire 8 primary trainer aircraft, 10 additional Huey UH-1H utility helicopters, 8 brand new combat utility helicopters, 8 new attack helicopters, 2 light lift aircraft, and 12 trainer helicopters. There were also plans to upgrade the PAF's existing 20 MD-520MG's.

In April 2012 RIA Novosti reported that Russia had decided to join a tender on the delivery of six light fighter jets to the Philippines with its new Yakovlev Yak-130 Mitten combat trainer. “We are taking part in the Philippine tender with the Yak-130 aircraft,” deputy general director of Rosoboronexport, Viktor Komardin, said at the Defense Services Asia-2012 arms show in Malaysia. The tender for six aircraft to replace the retired U.S.-built Northrop F-5A Tiger fighters was announced in 2011. The results will be made public in two to three months, the Russian official said. Two rival designs, the Italian Alenia Aermacchi M-346 and South Korea's KAI TA-50, were also competing in the tender. The Yak-130 was chosen as a basic aircraft for Russian Air Force pilot training. First deliveries started in 2009.

PAF F-5A fighter phase-out

On 2 May 2002, a PAF F-5A fighter jet participating in the Balikatan military exercises crashed into the back of an elementary school building in Mabalacat, Pampanga, killing the pilot and one person on the ground as well as injuring 18 civilians. The entire fleet was grounded due to safety issues. Financial difficulties and discussions of simply retiring the F-5 fleet meant that a 2003 agreement with South Korea to donate more F-5's to the Philippines was abandoned, as were plans to upgrade all F-5's with radars and advanced avionics.

On 2 October 2005 the PAF permanently retired its fleet of F-5's in a ceremony at the 431st Maintenance Hangar, Air Defense Wing, Basa Air Base. The event was highlighted by the final taxiing and engine shutdown of F-5 Aircraft #191 by Brigadier General Manuel F. Natividad, Wing Commander of the Air Defense Wing. The F-5 airframes were mothballed and remained in the Philippines.

Armed SIAI-Marchetti AS-211 jet trainers, delivered between the late 1980s and early 1990s, filled the role of Philippine air defense after the retirement of the F-5 fleet. Air Force officials stated that the arrangement was merely a stopgap measure, and that a new fighter model would be selected for purchase by 2011 to reestablish credible air deterrence and projection capabilities.

The F-5's, which had been mothballed after their retirement in 2005, became the subject of a deal with Thailand in 2008. Under the agreement the Philippines would sell Thailand F-5 spare parts in exchange for Thai OV-10C Bronco spare parts, reflecting the different needs of the 2 countries. However, the Philippines also retained various F-5 components for other uses, most notably the 20mm M39A3 cannons, some of which were used in locally fabricated gun pods and others which were transfered to the Philippine Army for ground use in exchange for Dillon Aero M134D rotary barrel machine guns acquired under the Philippine Army Capability Upgrade Program in 2007.

T-41B trainer

On 5 March 2009 the PAF boosted its pilot training capability with the transfer of 15 T-41B trainer planes from the Republic of Korea in a formal turn over ceremony at Clark Air Base. Some reports erroneously referred to these aircraft as "jet trainers." The 15 Cessna 172 (T-41B) Trainer Aircraft, which were reassembled from kits and tested until they were declared fully mission capable by PAF aircraft mechanics at Clark Air Base in Pampanga, were flown by PAF pilots to Fernando Air Base in Lipa City.

The disassembled planes had left the port of Pusan, South Korea on 4 December 2008 and arrived 4 days later at Manila's South Harbor. These were then hauled by the PAF to the 410th Maintenance Wing's facility in Clark for assembly. Initially targeted for completion on 16 February 2009, the PAF mechanics finished reassembling the 15 planes 4 days ahead of schedule on 12 February 2009.

The arrival of the trainer planes, also a product of the 1994 MOU between the 2 countries, greatly enhanced the operational readiness of the entire Philippine Air Force, especially in training its pilots for the planned transition to territorial defense mode in 2012 from the existing internal security operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

FA-50 fighter

In July 2012 Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was reported to have said the government was planning to acquire at least 18 South Korean T/A 50, as well as a number of Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano turboprop light attack-cum-trainer aircraft. Government defense acquisition rules require purchase via bidding, as a measure against corruption. Gazmin however, has said that due to the immediate need for an aircraft, the government might forego a long bidding process and instead seal a government-to-government deal. Reports said the deal could be worth $360 million, and that further purchases of similar aircraft will be carried out. The deadline for the approval of the contracts is 31 July 2012.

The Philippines Air Force finally announced in 2013 that it will buy 12 South Korean FA-50 fighter jets, the first it has operated since the F-5 was retired in 2005. “We don’t have any existing jets right now that are in use, therefore it is necessary for us to upgrade. This is part of the ongoing process of modernising our military hardware,” said President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda.

The Philippines received two new fighter jets from South Korea November 28, 2015, marking what the military calls a “return to the supersonic jet age.” Philippine National Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said “it’s only a small aircraft,” but it will help secure the country’s airspace from intrusions. “Our pilots are excited. It’s a very welcome acquisition, increasing the, boosting the morale of our pilots in the Air Force,” Galvez said.

The jets are the first two aircraft to arrive from a total of 12 being acquired through 2017. The $420 million acquisition is part of the military’s five-year $1.8 billion upgrade program. It is part of the Philippines plan to form a minimum credible defense posture in the face of China’s increasingly assertive stance in the South China Sea.

A-29 Super Tucano

On 30 November 2017 Embraer received a firm order of six A-29 Super Tucano light attack and advanced training aircraft for the Philippine Air Force (PAF). After a comprehensive public bidding process participated by several manufacturers from around the globe and complying with the stringent evaluation processes the Super Tucano was selected as part of the PAF's ongoing modernization plan. The aircraft will be deployed for close air support, light attack, surveillance, air-to-air interception, and counterinsurgency missions. Deliveries will start in 2019.

"We are honored to be selected by the Philippine Air Force, our second operator in the Asia-Pacific region, and with the confidence expressed by our customer", said Jackson Schneider, president and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security. "The Super Tucano is the best light attack aircraft in the market and we are confident that it will accomplish with excellence the missions it was selected for".

The Philippine Air Force (PAF)'s six new Embraer Defense and Security A-29 "Super Tucano" close-air support aircraft were expected to be delivered on July 29, 2020. The remaining two of the total six brand-new Embraer Defense and Security A-29 "Super Tucano" close-air support aircraft acquired by the Philippine government have arrived in Clark Air Base, Angeles City, Pampanga on 01 October 2020. The A-29 attack aircraft are expected to beef up the Philippine Air Force's 15th Strike Wing. The first four Super Tucanos arrived in Clark Air Base in the afternoon of September 19. Embraer company pilots flew the aircraft from the company airfield in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and made fueling stops in the Canary Islands, Portugal, Malta, Egypt, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, India, Thailand, and Vietnam before landing in the Philippines.

They are a welcome and much-needed replacement for the PAF's aged, close air support aircraft, and their mission versatility and capability to carry a variety of ordnance will be very useful in the field, the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said Thursday. The aircraft, which will be part of the PAF's 15th Strike Wing, will beef up the remaining North American Rockwell OV-10 "Bronco" attack aircraft used by the Philippine Air Force Air Force in strike missions.

The A-29 Super Tucano is a durable, versatile and powerful turboprop aircraft capable of carrying out a wide range of missions, even operating from unimproved runways. To date, the Super Tucano was selected by 14 air forces worldwide. Once the delivery of these aircraft is completed, they will be turned over to and maintained by the 15th Strike Wing, the PAF's end-user.


After a thorough study and research, the Department of National Defense (DND) announced October 15, 2018 that it was most likely to buy the Swedish-made Gripen multi-role supersonic jet fighter for the Philippine Air Force (PAF). Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made this disclosure in an exclusive interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on the sidelines of the book launching of former President Fidel V. Ramos at the Manila Hotel. 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 had 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. 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 said the United States government offered anew to sell F-16 fighter jets to the Philippines. The offer, Lorenzana added, was made by US Defense Secretary James Mattis when the DND secretary visited Washington in September 2018. Lorenzana confirmed the US offer, but said the F-16 supersonic jetfighter interceptors were too expensive. In comparison, the Gripen cost less and had the same capability with other multi-role jetfighters, including the F-16.

Since F-5s were put out of service, the PAF had no multi-role jetfighters in its arsenal, although it had bought from South Korea a dozen of F-50 jets but the planes’ capability was limited compared with the Gripen, F-16 and similar aircraft. The acquisition of multi-role jetfighters, Lorenzana said, was badly needed to protect the country’s airspace. It may be recalled that 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.

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Page last modified: 24-06-2021 17:44:11 ZULU