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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


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


Chen Chuanren

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

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