F-16V Fighter Jet, Lockheed Martin

MANILA: The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is currently evaluating two aircraft for its multi-role fighter (MRF) project, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday night.

“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.

The Swedish-made ‘Gripen’ is a light single-engine MRF capable of speeds up to Mach 2.0. It is armed with a 20mm automatic cannon and is capable of carrying a variety of rockets, bombs, missiles and surveillance equipment.

Meanwhile, the American F-16V has a top speed of Mach 2.0, can also carry an assortment of bombs and missiles and sensors and armed with a 20mm cannon.

The MRF 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.

Any aircraft that will be selected must be able to integrate with existing radar systems that have a range of around 250 nautical miles.

Once these MRFs are acquired, the PAF, with the help of these radar systems, can be deployed to determine whether the aircraft flying in Philippine airspace is friendly or hostile.

These proposed MRFs are expected to augment the existing fleet of 12 South Korean-made Mach 1.5 capable FA-50PH jet aircraft acquired from 2015 to 2017 by the PAF as its first supersonic aircraft after the decommissioning its Northrop F-5 “Tiger” jet fighters in 2005.