SOURCE: RAUNAK KUNDE / NEWS BEAT / IDRW.ORG
The Philippines Air Force (PAF) is embarking on a critical modernization program, with a total approved budget of 61.2 billion pesos (US$1.11 billion), to bolster its air defence capabilities. The primary focus of this endeavour is to procure 12 new combat aircraft under the Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) program. These fighters will play a pivotal role in safeguarding the country’s territorial integrity and interests in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). A three-way race is currently underway, featuring Lockheed Martin’s F-16V, Saab’s Gripen C/D, and India’s HAL LCA-Tejas Mk1A.
One of the key requirements for the new fighter jets is their ability to carry an advanced anti-ship missile (AShM) that can be air-launched. This capability is essential for the Philippines to protect its maritime interests and enhance its deterrence capabilities in the region. The choice of AShM will significantly impact the effectiveness of the PAF’s fighter fleet.
Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and Saab’s Gripen-E are both capable of carrying established AShMs like the RBS15 and Harpoon, which are well-known for their precision and range. On the other hand, the HAL LCA-Tejas Mk1A offers a unique proposition by being equipped with the Indo-Russian BrahMos Cruise missile, and India is concurrently developing a smaller BrahMos-NG variant for air-launched applications.
The Philippines, as the first export customer of the Indo-Russian BrahMos Cruise missile, stands to benefit significantly from the introduction of the BrahMos-NG. This new-generation missile, with a remarkable Mach 3.5 supersonic cruise capability and a range of up to 290km, provides the country with superior firepower compared to subsonic AShMs available from other contenders.
The BrahMos-NG, designed to be air-launched, will offer the Philippines an unprecedented advantage in terms of speed, range, and precision, significantly enhancing its maritime security posture.
BrahMos Aerospace, in collaboration with India, is set to conduct the first developmental trials of the BrahMos-NG cruise missile from the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet next year. This lighter version of the BrahMos missile is expected to be compatible with the HAL LCA-Tejas Mk1A, making it a promising choice for the PAF’s MRF program.
HAL has reportedly conveyed to Philippine authorities that the developmental trials are projected to conclude in the next 3-4 years, with the missile becoming operable on the LCA-Tejas Mk1A within the next 5 years.
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