The Philippine Air Force (PAF) said Tuesday that the most recent versions of the American-built Lockheed Martin F-16s and the Swedish-built Saab JAS-39 are the two options for its multi-role fighter (MRF) project.
“The two last contenders, for the PAF MRF project are the F-16V Block 50/52 Variant and the JAS-39 Gripen C/D+ Version. For the MRF, the project is approved with the issued Acquisition Memorandum Decision, the government will still find a way to fund the said project,” said PAF spokesperson Col. Maynard Mariano.
The F-16V is the newest and most technologically advanced F-16 currently in use and is regarded as the foremost combat-proven fourth-generation MRF.
It is outfitted with cutting-edge air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry as well as sophisticated radar systems that provide improved detection and tracking capabilities.
Meanwhile, the JAS-39 “Gripen” C/D is regarded as the world’s most dependable “swing-role combat aircraft.”
The “D” version is a two-seater configuration, whereas the “C” version is a single-seater.
The Swedish-built fighter can conduct dispersed operations from narrow, unpaved routes with a minimum of ground personnel and equipment. Additionally, it has advanced radar, sensors, and weapons.
Earlier, PAF Chief, Lt. Gen. Connor Anthony Canlas Sr., said the service’s MRF project has been approved by former president Rodrigo R. Duterte.
Canlas noted that the MRF project contract might be inked this year and that the PAF’s requirement for the project stipulates that the offered aircraft be “fourth generation or higher.”
Additionally, 12 MRFs at least capable of monitoring the nation’s protected airspace and waterways are needed for the project.
The MRF is part of Horizon Two of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program slated for 2018 to 2022, which intends to acquire more equipment for external defense.
Any aircraft that is chosen must be able to work with current radar systems, which have a 250 nautical mile range. The PAF can then use these radar systems to identify whether an aircraft flying over the country’s airspace is friendly or hostile after acquiring these MRFs.
These proposed MRFs are expected to augment the existing fleet of 12 South Korean-made Mach 1.5-capable FA-50PH jet aircraft acquired from 2015 to 2017 by the PAF as its first supersonic aircraft after the decommissioning of its Northrop F-5 “Tiger” jet fighters in 2005.