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Singapore Airshow 2020: Viper and Gripen dogfight for Manila deal

5th February 2020 - 05:30 GMT | by Chen Chuanren in Singapore

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Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana confirmed in December 2019 that his country had downselected the Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 Viper and Saab JAS 39 GripenC/D as candidates for its Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) programme, setting the ball rolling for the final phase of evaluations.

As part of its Horizon 2 modernisation programme spanning 2018-22, the MRF aims to give the Philippine Air Force (PAF) the capability to better protect national interests, especially in the disputed South China Sea.

After decommissioning its Northrop F-5A fighters in 2005, the PAF lost supersonic combat aircraft capabilities for a decade until delivery of the Korea Aerospace Industries FA-50PH in 2015, using it as a stepping stone to regain expertise in high-end aerial warfare.

Washington is currently working with Manila on a Foreign Military Sales deal for the F-16 Block 70, although details of the full package are unclear. Lockheed Martin is working on ground demonstrations, while the US DoD is assisting with flight demonstrations.

A Saab official told Shephard the jets on offer are the JAS 39C/D in MS20 configuration and with P/S-05 Mk 4 radar. It added that the number of aircraft is still to be determined and will be driven by the final budget allocation. However, it will likely be a squadron-level acquisition of around six to eight aircraft.

The PAF’s MRF Technical Working Group has evaluated the Gripen in Sweden and other Gripen-user air forces over the past few years as part of its evaluation process.

Manila earmarked the Gripen in October 2018 as the ‘best candidate’, and added that the F-16 offered to them were too costly to run. The Royal Thai Air Force is the only Gripen operator in Asia, with 11 in service. 

Chen Chuanren

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Chen Chuanren


Chen Chuanren is Shephard’s Singapore correspondent, covering primarily land and sea systems. He served in …

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