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Philippines Nearing Decision on JAS-39 Gripen Selection. Agreement as Soon as Next Month?

The Philippines is reportedly considering the acquisition of between 12 to 14 Gripen fighter jets to enable the formation of a squadron of Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA), which would complement its existing fleet of FA-50 light combat aircraft manufactured by South Korea.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — The Philippines is reportedly nearing a decision to forego purchasing the American-made F-16 fighter jets in favor of the JAS-39 Gripen aircraft, developed by the Swedish firm Saab Group, for its air force.

The country is contemplating acquiring between 12 to 14 Gripen fighter jets to establish a squadron of Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA).

According to local media quotes from Arsenio Andolong, a spokesperson for the Philippine Department of Defense, recent meetings have been held between senior officials from the Philippine Department of Defense, Sweden, and the company.

These discussions were not limited to the defense sector but also included representatives from the Finance and Foreign Affairs Departments of this Southeast Asian nation.

Expectations are set for the two countries to sign a purchase agreement for the Gripen aircraft next month in Sweden, positioning the Philippines as the second Southeast Asian nation to utilize these Scandinavian-manufactured fighter jets, following Thailand.

Gripen
JAS-39 “Gripen”

 

The Philippines anticipates the arrival of its first Gripen aircraft by as early as 2027, with the final, or 14th aircraft, expected in 2028.

The Royal Thai Air Force currently has 12 Gripen fighter jets, though one was lost in a crash during a show in Hatyai a few years ago.

 Following the rejection of its request to acquire the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets from the United States, Bangkok is considering increasing its fleet of Gripen aircraft.

A few months ago, the Philippines and Sweden signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate Swedish involvement in the modernization efforts of the Philippine Armed Forces, especially its Air Force.

Saab Group
Gripen-E

 

High-ranking officials from the Philippine Air Force had visited Sweden and the Saab Group facilities to closely inspect the Gripen aircraft and the AEWC (Early Warning and Control) planes, a month before the MoU was signed.

In 2021, the United States approved a potential sale of 12 latest variant F-16 fighter jets to the Philippines.

However, the purchase has been delayed due to financial constraints faced by Manila, which considers the price offered by Washington as “too expensive.”

The potential sale included 10 F-16C Block 70/72 and two F-16D Block 70/72 aircraft from Lockheed Martin, valued at $2.5 billion (RM11.25 billion), along with Harpoon Block II air-launched missiles, training missiles, spare parts, and other equipment.

The F-16s were also to be equipped with AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II missiles, training missiles, and spare parts developed by Raytheon Technologies.

Gripen
Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF)”Gripen”

 

However, the Philippine Ambassador to the United States, Jose Manuel Romualdez, recently stated in an interview with Nikkei Asia that the cost of acquiring F-16 fighter jets from the United States was prohibitively expensive and beyond the country’s financial reach.

“It’s still too expensive, so we (the Philippines) are forced to explore ways to finance the purchase (of F-16s) over the long term,” he said.

 Given the high cost of the latest F-16 variants offered by the United States, the Philippines is seeking alternative means to acquire new fighter aircraft for its air force. — DSA

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