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The Philippine government’s Department of National Defense (DND) has signaled its intent to move forward with the acquisition of at least 40 new multirole fighter aircraft (MRF) to bolster the country’s air defense capabilities. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is expected to be called upon to assist in securing funding for this significant project.

This news comes amidst ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The Philippines seeks to modernize its aging air force with advanced fighter jets capable of patrolling its airspace and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) more effectively.

Three frontrunners have emerged in the potential multi-billion dollar deal:

  • Gripen (Sweden): Offered by Saab, the Gripen is a proven and versatile fighter known for its operational efficiency and affordability.
  • F-16 Block V (USA): Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the F-16 is a highly successful and widely used fighter jet. The Philippines would likely be acquiring the latest F-16 Block V variant, known for its advanced capabilities.
  • LCA Tejas (India): Developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Tejas is a relatively new but promising domestic fighter jet from India. The Philippines may find the Tejas attractive due to its potentially lower acquisition and maintenance costs compared to the Western contenders.

The DND is expected to evaluate each contender based on factors such as:

  • Capability: Meeting the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) operational requirements for patrolling vast areas and deterring potential threats.
  • Cost: Balancing acquisition, maintenance, and life-cycle costs within the allocated budget.
  • Interoperability:¬†Compatibility with existing Philippine military equipment and potential for future partnerships.

This acquisition is being closely watched by regional players as it reflects the Philippines’ commitment to strengthening its air defense capabilities.