Philippine Air Force Evaluating Gripen, F-16 for Multi-Role Fighter Project

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is currently evaluating Saab JAS 39 Gripen and Lockheed Martin F-16V fighter jets for its multi-role fighter (MRF) project, Philippine News Agency reported citing Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

“One of the aircraft being evaluated is from Sweden (the Saab JAS 39 ‘Gripen) and the other is the American (General Dynamics) F-16 (V),” Lorenzana said when sought for updates on the MRF which is being eyed to beef up the country’s air defense system.

He did not give additional details on the process, according to the PNA report.

The MRF project is part of Horizon Two of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program slated for 2018 to 2022, which aims to acquire more equipment for external defense. The aircraft selected for the project must be able to integrate with existing radar systems that have a range of around 250 nautical miles.

The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a light single-engine multirole fighter aircraft manufactured by the Swedish aerospace company Saab. The aircraft has a delta wing and canard configuration with relaxed stability design and fly-by-wire flight controls. It is powered by the Volvo RM12 afterburning turbofan jet engine and has a top speed of Mach 2.

Swedish Air Force JAS-39 Gripen
A Swedish Air Force JAS-39 Gripen returns to the play areas of the Arctic Challenge exercise Sept. 24, 2013, over Norway, after taking on fuel from a U.S. Air Force KC-135R Stratotanker. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Christopher Mesnard/Released)

The General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics (its aviation unit is now part of Lockheed Martin) for the U.S. Air Force (USAF). The F-16V (Viper) is the latest and most advanced variant of the F-16.

The core of the F-16V configuration is an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar – the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR), a modern commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based avionics subsystem, a large-format, high-resolution display; and a high-volume, high-speed data bus.

Lockheed Martin F-16V
Lockheed Martin F-16V fighter aircraft. Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

These proposed fighter jets are expected to augment PAF’s existing fleet of 12 South Korean KAI FA-50PH Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft acquired from 2015 to 2017. The FA-50PH is the first supersonic aircraft operated by the PAF after the decommissioning of its Northrop F-5 Tiger jet fighters in 2005.

The FA-50PH is the PAF-version of the KAI FA-50 aircraft which is the light attack variant of the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic advanced trainer aircraft. This jet doesn’t have the capability of fully-fledged multi-role fighter jets such as F-16 and Gripen.

Philippine Air Force FA-50PH
A Philippine Air Force FA-50PH fighter aircraft lands during the Bilateral Air Contingent Exchange-Philippines (BACE-P) at Cesar Basa Air Base, Philippines, Jan. 21, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Small)

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