Philippine Air Force prioritises fighter aircraft procurement

28 September 2018

Saab is positioning its Gripen to meet the Philippines’ Multi-Role Fighter requirement. Source: Saab

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has budgeted PHP61 billion (USD1.1 billion) to procure a multirole combat aircraft over the next five years, a senior PAF official told Jane's at the Asian Defence and Security (ADAS) 2018 exhibition in Manila.

He said the procurement - the Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) programme, which will feature the acquisition of 12 aircraft in its initial phase - is one of several requirements for the PAF as it enters its 'second horizon' modernisation phase, which runs from 2018 to 2022. Total funding for PAF modernisation under the second horizon is PHP139 billion.

Other procurements in this time frame include attack helicopters, long-range patrol aircraft, additional FA-50 light fighter aircraft from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), additional Airbus C295 transport aircraft, combat-utility helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles. However, the official stated that the PAF regards the MRF project as its priority. "We needed it yesterday," he said.

The officer also added that although the PAF has acquired 12 FA-50 light fighters, which it ordered in 2014, a bigger, more capable fighter platform is required as part of efforts to enhance territorial defence across the Philippines' expansive exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

This requirement is specifically outlined in the PAF long-term modernisation project, which is aligned with the three five-year procurement horizons, called Flight Plan 2028. The PAF has been without a dedicated air-combat platform since it retired its fleet of Northrop Grumman F-5 Tiger fighter aircraft in 2005. Since then it has used its Aermacchi S.211 trainers - acquired in the 1990s - and its FA-50s for related missions.

Jane's understands that the PAF issued a request for information (RFI) in support of the MRF programme in mid-2017 and the service is evaluating submissions and fine-tuning its requirements before seeking presidential approval.

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