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Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (Horizon 2) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force

As part of the 2019-2023 Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has raised the Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) Acquisition Project calling for the purchase and induction of at least 12 Multi-Role Fighters to become the premier air combat aircraft of the country.

A pair of single-seat Gripens and Fighting Falcons (older variant of Viper) together in a formation
Photo taken from F16.net


Multi-Role Fighter Acquisition Project (Horizon 2)

Note: Edited as of 02 June 2021.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (5th Fighter Wing)

Quantity: 12 aircraft or more

* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:
 Php61,200,000,000.00 (approx. US$1.2 billion)

Acquisition Mode: Negotiated Procurement (Government-to-Government)

* SARO Release:

* Winning Proponent:

Product for Delivery: TBA

* Contract Price:

* First post by MaxDefense:

Status: PAF TWG selected F-16C/D Block 70 Viper on August 2019. PAF approved selected on September 2019, and DND approved selection on 30 October 2019. Despite approval, it appears that pricing issues has stalled negotiation with Lockheed Martin and re-opened the line of communications with Saab. As of June 2021, DND is said to prepare submitting proposal to Malacanang based on Saab's offer, which was selected due to pricing and delivery schedule. 

The Saab JAS-39 Gripen C and Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper remain as the only shortlisted contenders for the PAF's MRF Acquisition Project. Photo taken from Aviatia.net.


The Philippine Air Force has been in need of a new fighter aircraft to replace its ageing fleet of Northrop F-5A/B Freedom Fighter light combat aircraft since the early 1990s. 

Several attempts have been made from the early 1990s up to now, which all ended in failure due to lack of funding from the Philippine government.

In the mid 1990s, the PAF shortlisted several fighter aircraft offers made as part of the AFP Modernization Program, and ultimately selected the McDonnell Douglas (now part of Boeing) F/A-18C/D Hornet to be its next multi-role fighter. The best attribute on the selection was having twin engines, which allows for a higher safety parameter especially when one engine fails. A first batch of 12 units was planned, with a possible options of up to 24 more units within the next 10 years.

Sadly, the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 hit the Philippine economy badly, forcing the PAF to abandon its dreams, and making do with whatever is left of their budget after the exchange rate of the Philippine Pesos severely dropped and the government reduced its allocations.

As part of the 1995 AFP Modernization Program, the Philippine Air Force selected the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18C/D Hornet as its next multi-role fighter to replace the ageing Northrop F-5A/B Freedom Fighter. The Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 killed not just the MRF Acquisition, but also the entire AFP Modernization Program. This photo was taken during an inspection by PAF officials @ McDonnell Douglas' facility in the US (note the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle beside it). Credits to the original source of the photo.

There were also several offers made between that and the current Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP), although the PAF was not able to take a full grasp of the chances.

As part of the Horizon 2 phase of RAFPMP, the Philippine government approved the PAF's plan to revive the Multi-Role Fighter acquisition project, with a Phase 1 budget of up to Php61.2 billion. MaxDefense believes that part of the package includes an Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package, and all necessary arrangements, equipment, training, tools, documents and technical support, logistics and transportation, and possibly spare parts.

Several models were originally considered for the project, including the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (which is the successor of the older and smaller F/A-18C/D Hornet), the new Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 70/72 Viper, Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen and JAS-39E/F Gripen E, United Aircraft Corporation's Mikoyan MiG-35 Fulrcum-F and Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E.

In the end, the PAF's Technical Working Group (TWG) for the project shortlisted the JAS-39C/D Gripen and the Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 70/72 Viper. 

As of April 2019, no decision has been made yet, although information passed on to MaxDefense shows that both actually made very good offers, and that the PAF would not lose in selecting any of the offers.

U P D A T E S:

12 July 2018:

Results from the Slovakian fighter competition came out, which is between the Saab JAS-39 Gripen C and Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72 Viper, similar to those competing for the MRF Acquisition for the Philippine Air Force.

A summary of the results taken from the Slovakian government report are as follows:

1. Saab offered 3 options: purchasing, rental, or leasing. Should Slovakia pick the JAS-39C/D Gripen, they prefer doing a purchase as they find it the most advantageous. Saab offered payment to spread over 10 years, will include a flight simulator, and delivery can be made around 20 months from contract signing.

2. Lockheed Martin only offered purchasing since leasing and rental is not allowed by the US legislation. Payment for aircraft and training can be spread over 5 to 7 years, while the AIM-9X Sidewinders payment can be spread over 12 years. Flight simulator is also included. Delivery may go around 4 to 5 years after contract signing.

MD Note: Slovakia's deal included ammunition, which the PAF separated from the MRF project.

3. Should there be a need to acquire used F-16s for training and to fill in the gap, the US government has offered to sell 14 used F-16s (around 20-30 year old models) for 214 million Euros, and will take around 2 years to refurbish and upgrade. No mention was made if the cost includes the upgrade although it is safe to assume that refurbishing them is included in the cost.

4. The JAS-39C/D Gripen was found to be be less capable in carrying load and equipment, lower fuel capacity, lower tactical range, lower endurance, lower climbing ability, and significantly lower acceleration compared to the F-16 Blk 70/72. The Gripen was also found to be using older generation of avionics like radar (non-AESA), early warning and protection systems, etc, which doesn't meet current and future air operation requirements of the Slovakian Air Force. The Gripen was found to not have significant improvement over the older MiG-29 despite being a new aircraft.

MD Note: JAS-39C/D uses Volvo RM12 afterburning turbofan, which is a Swedish version of the GE F404 engine used by the PAF's FA-50.

5. F-16 Blk 70/72 uses subsystems that are used by 5th Generation fighters, has higher payload, more choices of munitions to be carried, higher fuel capacity, tactical range, endurance, acceleration, uses advanced avionics (AESA radar, etc) and targetting, weapons, and imaging systems. F-16 also includes Auto GCAS which is an advanced safety feature not found on Gripen. F-16 acquisition is significant step compared to Gripen.

MD Note: The F-16 Blk 70/72 uses either the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 (Blk 70) or the GE F110-GE-129 (Blk 72), both of which are more powerful than the Volvo RM12 or the GE F404.

6. Training for Gripen will be in Sweden and will take 6-8 months. But tactical usage training on use of Link 16 and AN/AAQ-28 Litening III targeting pods is not included. Air to air refuelling training is not included. Limited training on air to air warfare, and no training on air to ground warfare. NATO STANAG 6001 Level 3 English language is required.

7. Training for F-16 will be in US and will take 3-4 years. Training will be for ALL air operations including aerial refuelling. English language training will be included should pilot candidate fail to meet English language requirements ECL 85.

8. Logistics support for Gripen is calculated based on 12 JAS-39C and 2 JAS-39D, operated from 1 base, with total operating hours of 2,100 flight hours/year. Delivery of spare parts is guaranteed by Swedish side for 10 years. Spare parts of aircraft is also ensured. Spare parts for other equipment for ground operations, avionics and ammunition is not included and require separate contracts with suppliers.

9. Logistics support for Viper is calculated based on 12 F-16C and 2 F-16D, operated from 1 base, with total operating hours of 2,520 flight hours/year. Spare parts and supplies included for 2 years of operation of aircraft. After 2 years, new contracts for spare parts supply is necessary. Spare parts included in contract will be delviered no later than 6 months before the first aircraft. Spare parts for other equipment for ground operations, aviationics and ammunition does not require 3rd party. 2 years logistic support starts from receipt of every individual aircraft. New contract for supply of spare parts is necessary after 2 years.

10. Analysis of necessary infrastructre is based on recommendation of American and Swedish side and are necessary to implement to ensure effective operation of new technology and the required level. It was found that Slovakian infrastructure to support new aircraft does not meet requirement and found to be of low level. This may result in lower lifespan of aircraft and avionics. Failure to implement the recommended changes by the operator will most likely cause innumerable restrictions and will not secure compliance warranty.

Conclusion: The Slovakian side found the F-16 Blk 70/72 offer to be better compared to the JAS-39C/D offer from Saab, taking into account aircraft performance, training provisions, future proofing, availability of options, and package inclusions.

But take note: Slovakia is a NATO member. The Philippines is not a NATO member, although it is considered a US Major Non-NATO ally. But restrictions may apply to the Philippines in terms of equipment that can be included or sold depending on its relations with the US government, and in meeting US policies. The same can be said on Swedish government requirements, although the alliance with the US is a major advantage over Sweden which the Philippines has no major defense partnership or agreement with.

The full report can be found on the link below for easy reference.

"Proposal for acquisition of new tactical fighter aircraft I.part - unclassified" - posted at the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic dated 7/10/2018.


27 September 2018:

As part of ADAS 2018 defense exhibition in Manila, a MaxDefense contributor was able to speak to Saab's representative in the show, and asked why Saab offered the older JAS-39C/D Gripen C rather than the newer JAS-39E/F Gripen E.

According to the Saab representative, the Gripen C suites the requirements released by the PAF TWG better than the Gripen E, specifically on delivery period and cost.

The current JAS-39C/D Gripen C is said to meet and even exceed most if not all of the minimum standards required by the Technical Specifications, although they are open to offer the JAS-39E/F Gripen E should there be changes in the budget, specifications, and delivery requirements.

Saab brought in a full-size mock-up of the JAS-39C Gripen during ADAS 2018 defense exhibition in Manila last September 2018. Interesting note on the 2nd photo showing its features. Photos shared by MaxDefense community members who attended the expo.

Meanwhile, our contributor was also lucky to be able to talk to Lockheed Martin's representative in the exhibition, who also mentioned that their new F-16C/D Block 70/72 Viper is the current production model and is targeted for the export market as an alternative to their more expensive and more stringent-to-acquire F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

The Viper features technology derived from the F-35 development, and is a far improvement over the last variant of the F-16.

Sadly, the representative was not keen on answering if they meet the delivery schedule of the PAF, which MaxDefense believes is quite tight for Lockheed Martin to follow based on previous deals with other countries and due to the US government's lengthy process of getting approval from the US Congress and State Department for export.

While not having a strong display as Saab, Lockheed Martin was also present in ADAS 2018, pushing for the F-16 Viper for the PAF. Photo shared by MaxDefense community member who attended the expo.

16 October 2018:

In a post MaxDefense made in our Facebook community page, we made several comments on the pros and cons of going for the Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen, considering Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana mentioned that the Philippine Air Force might go for this offer. Among those we mentioned are as follows:

The Saab JAS-39C Gripen.

Positive Notes:

1. The current JAS-39C/D Gripen being offered to the PAF is said to be in the latest MS20 standard, and includes the PS-05 Mk. 4 pulse doppler radar, which is considered among the best non-AESA fire control radar for fighter aircraft in the world.

2. There's the still debatable but widely accepted concept of Gripen's low purchase cost, quick turn-around time, less requirements for infrastructure and manpower, low operating cost, and simplicity of overall operation.

3. The JAS-39C/D Gripen uses the Meteor BVRAAM, which is said to be the best in its class.

4. MaxDefense sources from the PAF confirmed that Saab guaranteed the delivery of the first 4 to 6 aircraft within 18 months (1.5 years) after Contract Signing and and release of Notice to Proceed. If PAF signs up for an MRF in 2019, it means the PAF could get their Gripens starting 2020, far earlier than the US' standard delivery time which is around 4 years.

On the Negative Side of Things:

1. The primary concern MaxDefense had been mentioning since before is the combat range and endurance of the JAS-39C/D Gripen compared to the F-16C/D Block 70/72 Viper and even the KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle, considering the most likely location of any combat where air superiority, anti-ship, and strike missions would happen over the West Philippine Sea. Unless flying from Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, how long can the Gripen stay in the area and fight without relying too much on external fuel tanks and air tankers? Refer to the photos below for reference, based on Slovakia's official assessment of the Gripen vs the Viper.

2. Did the DND consider well the reliability of the Swedish government, which is stricter in terms of human rights issues than the US, which actually made special considerations to the Philippines due to Pres. Trump's cordial ties with Pres. Duterte? This is considering that just last year, the Swedish government imposed stricter arms export rules to countries with questionable human rights records? WHETHER WE AGREE OR NOT, it is a fact that globally, the human rights track record of Pres. Duterte's government has been in question especially by liberal European countries.

3. How strong is the support provided by the Swedish government, Saab, and the Swedish Air Force in terms of preparing the Philippines for fighter ops, as well as in sustaining the potential PAF Gripen fleet for the next 30 years? Compared to how the US does it, considering by default, no matter who is the country's president, the US and Philippine military partnership is strong and the default standard, no questions asked.

Unless the Philippines make a very drastic shift in alliances, the US will still be the one to train Filipino pilots and the PAF in general, even if it chooses Gripen. Will that be easier for both sides compared to if the PAF selects the Viper or even the Super Hornet?

These details came from the official assessment made by the Slovakian Defense Ministry and Slovakian Air Force, wherein they found that the F-16 Viper trumps over the JAS-39 Gripen C in terms of performance, range and endurance. Which are important for the PAF as the most likely place where a conflict may arise is far out in the outer edges of the Philippine EEZ. Photo taken from Slovakian government open sources.

24 October 2018:

As part of the re-opening of Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga, as well as the celebration of the "Balik Basa" 2018, both Lockheed Martin and Saab were present in the display section of the event, showcasing the F-16C/D  Block 70/72 Viper and JAS-39C/D Gripen C, respectively.

The event was a good chance to sway pilots and decision makers within the PAF and the fighter pilot community.

Both LM and Saab also displayed a scale model of their aircraft offerings, which can be seen below.

The Saab JAS-39C Gripen (top) and Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper (above) were showcased by both aircraft manufacturers during the re-opening of Basa Air Base and the Balik Basa 2018 reunion.
Photos shared by a MaxDefense community member who wish to remain anonymous.

21 January 2019:

Lockheed Martin brought in their F-16 Block 70/72 Viper Cockpit Demonstrator to Manila to demonstrate the aircraft's flight characteristics to the Philippine Air Force. Lockheed Martin also brought in a USAF F-16 fighter pilot and LM test pilot, Maj. Monessa Cantuncan-Balzhiser (who is an American of Filipino decent).

The demonstrator was in Manila for a few days, and several PAF pilots especially those from the 5th Fighter Wing were able to try it out, while Maj. Catuncan-Bazhiser also gave talks on the aircraft and its capabilities.

Photos below were exclusively shared to MaxDefense by one of our contributor.

LM brought the F-16 Viper Cockpit Demonstrator to Manila, together with USAF F-16 fighter pilot and LM test pilot Maj. Monessa Catuncan-Balzhiser. Photos shared exclusively to MaxDefense by one of our contributor.


17 April 2019:

A report from Sweden came out that the Swedish government ordered 14 Gripen fighter aircraft from Saab, but only did so to make sure that the production line is busy and the technical know-how of the production team won't be lost in the wait until Saab gets the go-signal to produce the latest JAS-39E/F Gripen E variant.

Apparently 10 single-seat JAS-39C Gripens and 4 twin-seat JAS-39D Gripens were ordered, and are partially completed, while the Swedish government and Saab markets the Gripen C to other countries and finish the partially-completed airframes for delivery to the foreign buyer and recoup expenses for the investment.

On our Facebook page post on the matter, we mentioned that MaxDefense has been trying to get answers on why one of Saab's offer to the Philippines and other fighter markets lately like Slovakia and Bulgaria involves the rapid delivery of a first batch of 3-4 fighters within a year after order confirmation, when usually it takes more than 2 years for a fighter aircraft to be delivered. This is one of Saab's key selling points for countries who wanted results to be made as quickly as possible, like the Philippines.

MaxDefense believes that if the PAF decides to select the JAS-39C/D Gripen C, Saab would just complete the first batch of at least 3-4 fighters (mostly twin-seater trainers for pilot conversion training) and deliver it to the PAF within 1 year from the release of the Notice to Proceed (NTP) and Opening of the Letter of Credit (LOC, if applicable).

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin's offer only allows for the 1st batch of fighters to be delivered to the PAF after more than 2 years from NTP release, since it may take time to get the export approval from the US Congress and the State Department (apparently the Philippines' Department of National Defense was assured that the US State Department has no issue and will release their approval quickly).

One of the JAS-39 Gripen in Saab's production line, and is almost complete. Photos taken from SvD Naringsliv.

19 April 2019:

MaxDefense posted this resource portal for the Multi-Role Fighter Acquisition Project.

Based on MaxDefense's information in the past few days, apparently the Philippine Air Force was given the priority for fund access for Horizon 2 for this year, since the MRF acquisition project is pushed to be decided, awarded, and contracted to the winning proponent within this year.

The massive value of this project might drain the annual modernization budget, even if the DND and PAF are only required to pay 15% as down payment, which is already worth more than Php9 billion. Considering the PAF has already finalized the Combat Utility Helicopter (CUH) project, and is pushing for the Attack Helicopter (AH), C-130 with ILS, Ground Based Air Defense System (GBADS), and Medium Lift Aircraft to be all awarded and contracted this year, funding is indeed difficult to come by.


04 June 2019:

Sources confirmed that the F-16 Viper variant being offered by Lockheed Martin to the PAF is the Block 70, powered by the General Electric F110-GE-132 engine instead of the Pratt & Whitney equivalent in the Block 72.

It will still be equipped with the Northrop Grumman APG-83 AESA radar based on the radars used in the F-35. It will also be standard with the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System II (JHMCS II) for full advantage in using the AIM-9X Sidewinder off boresight missile.

Conformal fuel tanks are also standard.

One of the flyers from Lockheed Martin marketing the F-16 Block 70 to the Philippines. Photo shared by one of our contributor who was present during one of LM's marketing sessions with the Philippine defense and military officials.


05 June 2019:

The Elbit Systems Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System II (JHMCS II), the standard helmet of the F-16 Block 70 Viper, was displayed today in the PAF Air Power Symposium. It is included in Lockheed Martin's offer to sell the F-16 Block 70 Viper to the Philippine Air Force.

Thanks to one of our community member who wish to remain anonymous for the photos!

All photos above from a MaxDefense community member who wish to remain anonymous.


06 September 2019:

Last July 2019, the Philippine Air Force sent pilots from the 5th Fighter Wing to the Joint Base Andrews in Washington DC to have familarization with the 113th Fighter Wing US Air National Guard's F-16C/D Fighting Falcons.

This is a follow-on to the BACE-P Exercises held between the 2 units in the Philippines earlier this year.

I won't go sideways, over and under with this. This is one of the major reasons why the Philippine Air Force and even major officials of the DND has been swayed into going for the Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 Viper offer for the PAF's Multirole Fighter Project. This demonstrates the US' commitment to help train and sustain any future PAF F-16 fleet, and demonstrates the importance of commonality and interoperability between the allies.

The US has also offered something else to support the PAF should it select the Viper. Who knows the 113th Fighter Wing might even be the one assisting the PAF in the transition.

All photos above from 113th Wing DC Air National Guard's FB page.


04 October 2019:

MaxDefense received confirmation from sources involved in the MRF Acquisition Project that the Philippine Air Force's leadership has agreed to the selection made by the PAF's Technical Working Group (TWG) and Defense Acquisition System Assessment Team (DASAT), including other related sub-projects which includes the MRF Munitions System Acquisition Project.

This was after the DASAT presented their selections for the two projects to the PAF Senior Leaders which is composed of the Commanding General PAF Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez and all other senior PAF leaders.

It was confirmed by MaxDefense sources that as early as August 2019, the PAF TWG for the Multirole Fighter Acquisition Project has selected the Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 70 Viper, which topped the selection over the other shortlisted model, the Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen MS20.

MaxDefense Philippines can officially confirm now that PAF prefers the F-16 Block 70 Viper!

A CGI of the F-16C Block 70 Viper. Credits to original source of photo.

No complete information was provided on why the F-16 Viper was selected over the JAS-39 Gripen, but it appears that interoperability, performance, and support from the Pentagon through several defense cooperation programs with the Philippine government are the main reasons.


26 October 2019:

Among those scheduled for discussion in the upcoming Senior Leaders Roundtable Discussion on 30 October 2019 will be the approval of the Multi-Role Fighter Acquisition Project, including the selected fighter aircraft model and offer. Discussions would be specific in justifying why the PAF selected the F-16 over the JAS-39.

It would be noted that the Philippine Air Force's Technical Working Group and Defense Acquisition System Assessment Team (DASAT) already made a selection based on their evaluation of the two shortlisted fighter aircraft - the Saab JAS-39C//D MS20 Gripen, and the Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 70 Viper.


05 November 2019:

As part of the recently concluded Senior Leaders Meeting last 30 October 2019 and attended by all seniod DND, AFP and PAF leaders including Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, it was confirmed by MaxDefense sources that the Senior Leaders has APPROVED the implementation of the Multi-Role Fighter Acquisition Project based on the offer made by Lockheed Martin.

This will now be forwarded to Malacanang and to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for final approval and appropriation of funding. The government will only need to make sure there is funding for the initial deposit requirements which is around 15% of the total value of the project.

MaxDefense received information that the DBM was asked to give importance to the PAF MRF Acquisition over all other big ticket projects of other armed services, considering the PAF's MRF Acquisition is the costliest defense project to be undetaken by the Philippines in its entire history.

A flyer from LM on the F-16 Block 70 offer to the PAF. Photo shared to MaxDefense by a community member.

14 December 2019:

As shared by a Philippine Air Force officer and MaxDefense community member in our community page. No words needed to describe.

Still onward to PAF Waypoint 2022!


18 December 2019:

We received reports that Boeing executives are in the Philippines to meet with officials from the Philippine Air Force. While they are not directly offering a fighter aircraft to the PAF, they are actually offering air-launched munitions that can be used for the F-16C/D Block 70 Viper.

Among those offered to the PAF are the AGM-84 Harpoon air-launched anti-ship cruise missile, and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guided/smart bomb system, plus several other products not related to the MRF project.

The AGM-84 Harpoon (top) and the JDAM smart bomb (above). Credits to original sources of photos.

It is unconfirmed though if Boeing also offered the newer AGM-84 Stand-off Land Attack Missile (SLAM) variant was also offered.

As confirmed by a source, the AGM-84 Harpoon is directly compatible with the F-16C/D Block 70 Viper, but also with the entire F-16 Fighting Falcon family including older variants.

AN AGM-84 Harpoon air-launched anti-ship cruise missile carried by an older F-16 variant, most likely an F-16C Block 30/32 based on the fighter's production year (1987). Credits to original source of photo.

Based on evidence shown to MaxDefense by sources, the offer made by Boeing was specifically for the F-16 series, and not for any multirole fighter or any other aircraft. Not even specific for the PAF's existing KAI FA-50PH Fighting Eagles.

This further validates that the F-16 was indeed already selected and positioned for final approval, despite official announcements by the DND and PAF that they are still in the selection process between the F-16 Viper and the JAS-39 Gripen.
In addition, Lockheed Martin executives were also in the Philippines to conduct another discussion, this time with Philippine government officials from the executive branch especially those involved in the final approval of the MRF Acquisition Project. They also held further discussions with PAF and DND officials as part of their continued effort to market the fighter aircraft and finalize the inclusions and details of their offer.


10 January 2020:

MaxDefense was informed by sources that the US Air Force's F-16 Viper Demonstration Team would be coming to the Philippines, and will conduct flight demonstrations with the USAF F-16C/D Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft.

It remains to be seen what other activities will be held with the Philippine Air Force, or if demonstrations will be open to the public.

Tune in to our social media page for more updates.


06 March 2020:

Unknown to many, the Philippine Air Force has already welcomed the US Pacific Air Forces' Viper Demonstration Team last February 2020 at Basa Air Base, and has already conducted demonstrations of their F-16 Fighting Falcon multirole fighter aircraft with members of the PAF's 5th Fighter Wing.

This pushed through BEFORE the Philippine Air Force and the US Pacific Air Forces conducted the Bilateral Air Contingent Exchange - Philippines also last February 2020 between the PAF's 5th Fighter Wing based at Basa Air Base, and a contingent from the US Pacific Air Forces based in Misawa Air Force Base in Japan, and Kunsan Air Force Base in South Korea.


19 October 2020:

After months of uncertainty due to several issues, let us make an update on this project.

Despite Lockheed Martin's F-16 Block 70 Viper being selected by the PAF TWG and PAF leadership, and supported by the DND, it appears that the negotiations between the DND and Lockheed Martin has reached a deadlock due to pricing issues.

According to MaxDefense sources, Lockheed Martin has revised its pricing and proposal to the DND and PAF, with the revised cost now higher than before. The price increase was significant enough for the DND to step on the brakes and re-discuss the project with the PAF leadership and Technical Working Group, and re-open the lines of communication with Saab.

So far, the PAF and DND has negotiated not just with Lockheed Martin, but with other suppliers for the F-16 Viper's munitions including Raytheon for the AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-120C AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and Paveway laser guided bombs, and with Boeing for the AGM-85 Harpoon anti-ship missile and Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kits which are to be acquired under the MRF Muntions System Acquisition Project that is tied together with the MRF Acquisition Project. So this setback may also affect all the other suppliers.

With funding still a problem and has not been secured up until now, this setback could be a reason why the MRF Acquisition Project as well as the MRF Munitions System Acquisition Project were not among those given funding priority under the Horizon 2 phase of the RAFPMP for Fiscal Year 2021.

Should Lockheed Martin or the US government fail to untangle this setback with the DND, there is a likelihood that Saab might come back to the negotiating table and offer a better deal to the DND and PAF than the last proposal they made.

 And with US Pres. Donald Trump unable to make sure he's getting re-elected in the upcoming US presidential elections, the US government may be stuck at the moment as well on what it can possibly do to help Lockheed Martin in the Philippine fighter competition.

Looks like the doors have re-opened for Saab again, although the delays in settling the MRF project won't be good for the PAF. Photo credits to War History Online.


02 June 2021:

Our parent page MaxDefense Philippines received confirmation from multiple sources saying that the Department of National Defense has been serious in pushing the Multi-Role Fighter Acquisition of the Philippine Air Force, with no less than Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana personally pushing for the project to progress.

But the recommendation has changed. Based on several confirmation we got from PAF sources, the DND would be submitting the proposal to procure the Saab JAS-39C/D MS20 Gripen fighter aircraft, rather than the Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 70 Viper that was selected by the PAF's Technical Working Group in 2019.

Up until early this year, the PAF was pushing for the acquisition of the F-16 Block 70 Viper in which 12 brand new units were offered by the US to the PAF. 

Based on the TWG's evaluation, the aircraft's capabilities exceeded that of the JAS-39C/D Gripen - longer range and endurance including conformal fuel tanks, much modern avionics, more powerful engines, AESA radar, use of wide range of US munitions, interoperability with US military, and full support by US military including easy integration during combined force operations. Negotiations and several meetings were held with Lockheed Martin and US government officials to procure the fighter

But because of financial reasons, the PAF was left to choose between moving their MRF acquisition to the next Horizon 3 phase, or select a cheaper alternative. Cheaper alternatives include acquiring a 2nd squadron of KAI FA-50, or going with Saab's Gripen offer. Pushing the project to Horizon 3 means delaying the planned acquisition of more MRFs under that phase, as the PAF was planning to get a 2nd and possibly 3rd squadron of MRF by that phase.

While the Viper was the top choice and the 5th Fighter Wing's favorite, it was more expensive. As mentioned in an update we have last October 2020, MaxDefense PH confirmed that despite already being more expensive than Saab's offer, Lockheed Martin increased the package price further for the F-16 Viper, which may have reduced the prospects of the Viper to be selected for the project. The difference between both offers was said to be almost US$400 million, which is painful indeed for the PH government especially with the current financial strain it is experiencing due to COVID 19 pandemic affecting government spending and the economy.

According to MaxDefense PH's sources, Saab's offer was not only cheaper than Lockheed Martin's, but was also lower than the project's approved budget of Php61.2 billion (excluding munitions).

Delivery date was also an issue. Saab has committed to the PAF and DND to deliver the first batch of fighters by 2024 if a contract could be signed and NTP released within this year. In comparison, Lockheed Martin may only be able to deliver new Vipers starting 2025 or 2026, and has proposes the hot transfer of used F-16D Block 30 or 40 Fighting Falcons as military assistance.

Also, Saab committed to deliver not just 12, but 14 new fighter aircraft. In comparison, Lockheed Martin, thorough the US government, committed to provide 12 new F-16C/D Block 70 Vipers, and to hot transfer between 2 to 4 used F-16D Block 30 fighters used by the US Air National Guard.

The proposal is set to be submitted to Malacanang soon, as the proposal was already with the DND since last week. And it is expected that a Defense Cooperation Agreement would be signed between the Philippines and Sweden in the coming months should this deal proceed. This is needed as there is no mechanism currently available for the Philippines and Sweden to conduct Government-to-Government defense deals.

Also, the PAF TWG is said to be starting the review of the Project's Terms of Reference (TOR) this month, which serves as basis to the contract.

So far, this is what we've gathered although more information is being gathered from as many sources as possible.

In a way, its still a good news since it means the Philippines will proceed with its fighter procurement. But the PAF will have to settle with a less capable fighter but cheaper to fly and operate, rather than wait for another administration to proceed with this project.

It is expected that the Swedish government won't be like Canada in terms of looking at reasons not to sell the fighter to the Philippines, and turn a blind eye on the current administration's other issues and allow the deal to proceed.

It remains to be seen if the US will make last minute efforts to turn the tide to their favor, considering PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement negotiations are ongoing.

The JAS-39C Gripen. Photo credits to Air Force Technology. 


25 June 2021:

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has confirmed that the US State Department has approved the sale of 12 F-16C/D Block 70/72 Viper fighter aircraft including associated spares, services, logistics support, training, and munitions for the Philippine Air Force, with an estimated cost of US$2.43 billion (~Php120 billion).

While the approval covers both Block 70 and 72, MaxDefense Philippines received confirmation from Lockheed Martin that they did offer the Block 70 with the GE F110 engine.

So why is the cost from the DSCA's report is far higher than the Philippine Air Force's budget of Php61.2 million (US$1.25 billion), or Philippine Defense Resource / MaxDefense Philippines' previous report of around US$1.6 billion.

Take note that the estimated cost is not fixed, and could still go down depending on the final agreed package inclusions that the Philippines DND and US Government would agree on.

If one will notice, the package included munitions (AIM-120 AMRAAM and others), at least 3 extra spares of major components like engines, AESA radars, mission computers, comms and other avionics, and Sniper or Litening Advanced Targeting pods. 

Our basis on previous reports on the price provided by Lockheed Martin to the DND/PAF did not include these, although we were informed that at least 1 set of spares were included in the 12 F-16 Viper pricing, and that the US Government could potentially provide many of the items under US FMF grants.

The PAF intends to procure munitions separately under its MRF Munitions Systems Acquisition Project, with a separate budget of Php12 billion on top of the MRF budget. Compared to the package inclusions on F-16 Viper deals approved for Bulgaria, Bahrain and others, the PAF package is way bigger despite the number of aircraft involved.

This is standard for US military sales - they do not want the end user to end up lacking in spares, support, and other inclusions. When the PAF bought the FA-50PH Fighting Eagle from South Korea's KAI years ago, it did not include even a single spare engine, radar, and other major components which resulted to some aircraft becoming hangar queens for long periods of time.

Since the price is still an estimate value,  negotiations between the US and Philippine Governments could drop this price further, not to mention the application of a potential US Foreign Military Financing (US FMF) program grant amount which was said to further reduce the cost the Philippine Government would be paying.

Just to list down the inclusions of the approval:
* 10 F-16C Block 70/72 Viper single-seat fighters
* 2 F-16D Block 70/72 Viper twin-seat fighters
* 15 Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229EEP (Block 72) or General Electric F110-GE-129D (Block 70) afterburning turbofan engines;
* 15 Improved Programmable Display Generators (iPDG) 
* 15 AN/APG-83 AESA Scalable Agile Beam Radars (SABR);
* 15 Module Mission Computers 7000AH;
* 15 LN-260 Embedded GPS/INS with SAASM and PPS;
* 24 AIM-120C-7 or C-8 medium-range air-to-air missiles;
* 1 AIM-120 Guidance Section;
* 48 LAU-129 missile launchers;
* 3 KMU-572 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition (L-JDAM) tail kits;
* 6 Mk 82 500lb bombs;
* 6 Mk 82 500lb inert training bombs
* 6 FMU-152 or FMU-139 fuses
* 6 Sniper or Litening Advanced Targeting Pods;
* 15 Multifunction Information Display System Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS-JTRS);
* 15 M61A1 Vulcan 20mm rotary cannons;
* Several other equipment including Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, communications, transponders, countermeasures dispensers, missile launchers and adapter kits, sensors, 20mm munitions, cartridges, bomb racks, flares and chaffs, night vision devices, missile containers, testing equipment, TER-9A triple ejection racks, etc.

Also take note that US Government commitment to hot-transfer used F-16C/D Block 30/40 Fighting Falcon fighters to the PAF are not listed here, as this would be a separate commitment by the US Government and Lockheed Martin if the PAF buys the Viper.

More on the DSCA approval from their press release:

A CGI of the Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72 Viper. Photo credits to Lockheed Martin.


26 June 2021:

Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana confirmed that they found the US offer for new F-16 Block 60/72 Viper as too expensive, thus their decision to look at other options.

So far, there is only 1 other option based on previous statements, and that is the Saab JAS-39 Gripen from Sweden.

As we previously mentioned, the Gripen was offered at a far lower price than the F-16 Viper, 

MaxDefense Philippines confirmed that both PAF Commanding General Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes and Sec. Lorenzana has signed the recommendations selecting the JAS-39 Gripen for the MRF Acquisition Project.

More on the this on the report from Inquirer.net below:

A USAF F-16C Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft takes-off from Basa Air Base as part of BACE-P Exercsises 2019 between USAF and PAF fighter units. Photo credits to DVIDS.

First edit and release: 19 April 2019
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines / Philippine Defense Resource


  1. https://militarywatchmagazine.com/article/malaysian-prime-minister-mahathir-claims-american-fighters-are-only-useful-for-airshows-why-f-18s-can-t-fight-without-washington-s-permission?fbclid=IwAR1Sw9V7jSnykG98-zpyrm5a5qrqNqsFd0UxbiFYxB8khGN2FrfD-5bQwPA

    Might be worth reading...

  2. Any updates on this space after Covid?


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