SWEDEN has offered anew its Saab multi-role fighter (MRF) aircraft for the upgrading of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), which is keen on reinforcing its fleet.
This developed following Ambassador Annika Thunborg’s mid-August courtesy call to Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. at the Department of National Defense (DND) headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
“On modernizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines to more effectively protect the country’s territorial integrity and interests in its EEZ [exclusive economic zone], Secretary Teodoro emphasized that whatever defense acquisition the Philippines will pursue must be sustainable, interoperable, and supportable,” DND’s spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said. “Recognizing the Philippines’s need for a modern PAF, Ambassador Thunborg highlighted Sweden’s offer of its flagship multi-role fighter aircraft: the Saab JAS-39 ‘Gripen.’”
The JAS-39 is considered one of the top-two contenders for the PAF’s MRF acquisition project; the other jet fighter being the United States’s Lockheed Martin F-16V “Viper:” the latest version of the American-made aircraft now being supplied in quantities in many air forces in the world.
Classified as the most reliable “swing-role combat aircraft” available in the world, the Swedish-made JAS-39 fighter requires minimal personnel and ground-support equipment for dispersed operations. It can operate from small, unprepared roads, and is also equipped with sophisticated radar, sensors and weapons.
The MRFs are expected to backstop the military’s existing fleet of 12 South Korean-made Mach-1.5 capable FA-50PH light jet fighters.
Said project stipulates that the offered aircraft must be “fourth generation or higher.” It also requires 12 MRFs which are at least capable of patrolling the country’s protected waters and airspace.
The MRF is supposed to be part of “Horizon 2” of the AFP Modernization Program slated for 2018 to 2022, which aims to acquire more equipment for external defense, but was pushed back for implementation because of the pandemic.
Previously, Sweden was able to discuss the JAS-39 with Teodoro’s predecessors: former DND officer in charge-Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. last March 24, and then-Defense chief-Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. on December 21, 2022.
“Exchanging regional security situation updates, Ambassador Thunborg noted the developments in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea [SCS/WPS], and conveyed Sweden’s support for the Philippines’s position and upholding the rules-based international order,” Andolong announced.
“Welcoming the support from Sweden and other like-minded partners, Secretary Teodoro hoped for a global consensus on the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration, [or PCA, ruling on the SCS/WPS], and underscored the importance of the Philippines’s enforcement of its sovereign rights over its EEZ,” the DND spokesperson said.
He added that both sides looked forward to the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Acquisition of Defense Materiel’s ratification and implementation, which was signed between the Philippines and Sweden last June 3 in Singapore.
“[Anticipating possible projects in the future, the envoy] proposed to facilitate the exchange of information on the two countries’ differing financial systems and financing packages that Sweden could offer,” Andolong averred.
Both countries are also looking at possible cooperation or capacity-building on disaster resilience and management.
Image credits: DND/PNA