In its multi-role fighter jet (MRF) tender, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has shortlisted the Lockheed Martin F-16 and the Saab JAS-39 Gripen. The F-16V Block 50/52 Variant and the JAS-39 Gripen C/D+ Version are the two remaining competitors, according to PAF spokesperson Col. Maynard Mariano, who was quoted by the Philippine News Agency in a news release on July 6, 2022.
As a result, additional applicants, notably HAL Tejas of India, are no longer eligible for the tender. The news statement, however, makes no mention of why the two candidates were selected or whether the nation had received any other bids from nations other than the US, Sweden, and India.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) involving the purchase of different Indian-made aircraft, including fighter planes and helicopters, was signed in May 2022 between India’s HAL and the Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation (PADC). Although the US and Sweden had submitted the only two proposals, the PAF stated in June that “additional nations interested to participate” the tender. It should be noted that the Gripen C/D and the F-16 Block 50/52 are out-of-date versions of the aircraft, leaving only two competitors.
In comparison to the Block 50/52, which began manufacturing in 1991, the most recent F-16 Block 70/72, unveiled in 2012, provides updated avionics, radar, and airframe. The Gripen E/F, which started delivering aircraft in 2021, is advertised as an all-around improvement over the Gripen C/D, which has been produced since 2002.
The F-16 Block 50/52 and the Gripen C/D can both be updated to the most recent version, claim the manufacturers. The Philippines’ selection of an older model may be indicative of problems with the nation’s finances. In 2021, the MRF programme was delayed as money meant for the Philippine military’s modernization was used to lessen the effects of the COVID-19 epidemic.
The Philippines’ government specifically cited the high price of the most recent F-16 type as its key issue, claiming that the Swedish offer is significantly more alluring in this regard. It’s possible that the decision to buy older models of the jets was viewed as a workable compromise. As part of its ambition to modernise its armed forces, the Philippines launched the MRF tender in 2018.
The procurement of 12 “fourth generation or above” multirole fighter jets will provide the PAF its first real fighter aircraft since the retirement of its Northrop F-5 Tigers in 2005. The PAF now uses a variety of turboprop light attack aircraft variants in addition to a fleet of KAI FA-50s, a combat variant of the Korean-made T-50 advanced jet trainers.