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President Marcos Approves MRCA Fighter Jet Acquisition Plan for Philippine Air Force

In response to China's aggressive actions in the South China Sea, Philippine President Ferdinand "BongBong" Marcos Jr. has approved a plan for the acquisition of Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) for the Southeast Asian nation's air force.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — In response to China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea, Philippine President Ferdinand “BongBong” Marcos Jr. has approved a plan for the acquisition of Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) for the Southeast Asian nation’s air force.

The decision was announced by Philippine Armed Forces Chief General Romeo Brawner Jr., who did not disclose the specific types of MRCA that the Philippine Air Force would select.

“Indeed, the President has approved the intention to purchase MRCA. However, the specific type and the number of aircraft have not been decided yet,” General Brawner stated.

 “Nevertheless, we definitely need these multi-role combat aircraft.”

General Brawner emphasized that although the capabilities of the Philippine Armed Forces have improved recently, they are still insufficient.

“We need to procure both fighter jets and MRCA to defend our country adequately,” he added.

JAS39 Gripen Royal Thai Air Force


“MRCA are larger, faster, and more formidable compared to the FA-50 fighter jets currently in our fleet.”

He also highlighted the necessity to enhance the Armed Forces’ radar and surveillance systems as part of the Horizon 3 modernization program.

According to regional military observers, the Philippines is nearing a decision on the MRCA acquisition.

The contenders are Sweden’s Saab, offering the JAS39 Gripen, and the U.S.’s Lockheed Martin with the F-16.

In 2021, the U.S. approved a potential sale of 12 advanced F-16s to the Philippines, but the purchase has been delayed due to financial constraints, with Manila considering the price “too high.”

The potential deal includes 10 F-16C Block 70/72 and two F-16D Block 70/72 aircraft, valued at $2.5 billion.

The package also comprises 12 Harpoon Block II air-launched missiles, training missiles, spare parts, and other equipment.

Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-16


Additionally, the F-16s would be equipped with 24 AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II missiles and 24 training missiles, developed by Raytheon Technologies (RTX)

Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez mentioned in an interview with Nikkei Asia that the cost of the F-16s was prohibitive.

 “It is still too expensive, so we have to find ways to finance the purchase over the long term,” he explained.

Due to the high costs of the U.S. F-16s, the Philippines is exploring alternative options.

Sweden has offered the JAS39 Gripen, which is currently leading the competition to meet the Philippines’ needs.

At the end of June, the Philippine and Swedish governments signed a key agreement to support the acquisition of fighter jets for the Philippine Air Force.

Gripen E


This agreement, titled “Implementing Arrangement Concerning the Procurement of Defense Materiel and Equipment,” provides guidelines for the Philippines to procure defense assets from Sweden.

Regional military observers indicate that the agreement signifies Manila is “increasingly close” to acquiring at least one squadron of Saab’s JAS39 Gripen for the Philippine Air Force.

 The Philippines is considering purchasing 12 to 14 Gripen aircraft to form a squadron of MRCA alongside its existing South Korean-made FA-50 light fighters.

The Philippines is expected to receive its first Gripen aircraft by 2027, with the final or 14th aircraft by 2028.

 If the acquisition proceeds, Manila will become the second Southeast Asian country to operate the JAS39 Gripen, following Thailand, which has 12 of these fighters. — DSA