The F-16 Fighter Jet and the US Offer for PAF Flight Plan Modernization

A strong air force is the one that can do its mandate with the necessary tools to make their things achievable. This ranges from airlift through the use of utility helicopters and fixed-wing cargo aircraft to combat-oriented aircraft that caters close air support mechanism through the use of gunships and aircraft that is designed for such purposes. 

And there is also an air defense identification zone implementer where with the use of multirole fighter jets for both air superiority and support is there to have the skies safe against any potential adversary infiltrating in the airspace.

The aspiring jet for the Air Force aside from the JAS-39 Gripen.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is now on the shopping spree where several projects are on the process of being materialized to attain the capabilities needed for a better military which, in having tools means getting to have its mandate did by protecting the national territory, waters and airspace against all potential enemies of the state, both inside and outside, from putting harm into the citizenry.

The details specified on Article II Section 3 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution defines much about the role of the Armed Forces as being the protector of the people and the state as well as to keep the integrity and the sovereignty of the country and its national territory. By doing so, it needs to get its role more efficient and effective where along the process, a variable set of steps following the DOTMLPF analysis will be made. 

And by that also means gathering more resources for training, doctrine formulation, facilities, recruitment, and most of all military purchases so that a minimum credible defense posture is to attain. In the case of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), this means having a Flight Plan with the aims of having more cargo aircraft, close air support assets, and of course, the most essential of all with regards to their role - the primary air interdiction assets such as radars and Multirole Fighter Jets or MRFs. This is part of the process in which the Air Force is set to implement the Philippine Air Defense Identification zone or PADIZ in which this will be enhanced from Area Readiness 4 which covers most of the northern part of the country up to the Area Readiness 1 which it will cover the country as a whole. 

This implementation of safeguarding the Philippine airspace makes the purchase of Multirole Fighters very essential given that obtaining it will help enhance the mechanism needed for protecting the airspace thoroughly.

Talking about MRFs, this asset is primarily the main Horizon 2 project for PAF where it will be a tough run among two primary competitors such as the SAAB JAS-39 Gripen and of course, the primary topic for this article which is the Lockheed Martin F-16s in which they will offer the latest Block 70/72 version. Both of which will define the capabilities of what a future Philippine Air Force may bring to the skies.

F-16 is a future-proof aircraft which is still in production at present.
File Source.
While we're at it, the deal with regards to the F-16 multirole fighter jets to the Philippines caught attention as it became the main topic especially when it was talked about by the commander in chief of the Armed Forces -- President Rodrigo Duterte.

The deal made by the United States for the Philippine military especially with regards to F-16s as well as attack helicopters received an ire from the President, saying that this is "useless" given that the country doesn't have any enemies as of the moment as well as this showing the discontent by the administration on what is so-called "frustrations on previous deals" especially on rifles which are supposed to supply the Philippine National Police on its effort against illegal drugs. Hence, the President himself prefers light Close Air Support Aircraft and helicopters intended for counter-insurgency operations.

From there alone, one may say that the Multirole Fighter Jet program is as good as gone. But that isn't always the case here. Given that the Horizon 2 budgeting of around Php 300 Billion was already approved where it includes the ones intended for purchasing dedicated Multirole Fighters, this is an assurance that the program is still a go unless a written memo overrides it. Meanwhile, the Secretary of Defense also assures that the project will not be retracted to Horizon 3 where the deal is for the senior officers at PAF to measure and determine with the help of the people in their Technical Working Group. 

The said program, presently on the planning stage, is scheduled on the latter part of the Horizon 2 which in this case, will be somewhere between 2020 and 2022 given that this Horizon obtains 5 years for the Armed Forces to modernize which started earlier this year.

So, the chance given here is still up for grabs that a supplier like Lockheed Martin, SAAB, or even the Russian Aircraft Corporation - Mikoyan/Sukhoi may take. With them presenting their deals with sweeteners which will be discussed also in this article, may get this big-ticket acquisition project of the Philippine Air Force as interesting as it can be.

To know more about this candidate for the Multirole Fighter Jet program, let us understand with regards to the manufacturer, the development of the aircraft, and its reputable service across several air forces which in itself define its reliability especially on the functionalities it is designed for.

Pitz Defense Analysis Note: The Philippine Air Force and the Defense Department may change the outputs of the Multirole fighter jet program or may have a different set of results on the set that at present, this project is still on the "evaluation" stage with the number or nature of the participating suppliers may change. Hence, this article reflects the defense community's viewpoints that give relevance which, like the SAAB Gripen before, presently gives the Lockheed Martin F-16 being the best possible contender in the deal. This, in any connection, was not sponsored for and by the said US-based Company.

In the 1990s, Lockheed Martin offered their F-16s for PAF use.
But this was canceled after the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.
Credits to the Owner of this photo.
This airspace industry is relatively known across the world as being one of the main suppliers for the U.S. Armed Forces in its needs as them being a nation stands on their national interest and principles where the company's products are some of the most sophisticated and most capable in their arsenal.

Their website:

Returning way back through history, Lockheed Martin became what it is today as two companies, Lockheed Corporation, and Martin Marietta merged way back in 1994 with the former specialized on aircraft and aerospace development. Before the merger, Lockheed Corporation already participated in aircraft manufacturing since its foundation in 1926 on the ideals set by one of its founders, the industrialist Allan Loughead. Throughout the Second World War, the company produced a couple of aircraft such as the P-38 Lightning which was sought action in various theaters the United States Armed Forced participated to flush out the fascist threat in the world.

After the war, the company produces more of its airspace products in which several of those are still in service at present. One of those things is the Lockheed C-130 Cargo aircraft that the Philippine Air Force obtained as part of its airlift fleet with 5 units present in its arsenal and one of such unit being modified as a Maritime Patrol Aircraft. Both of its role as a cargo lifting platform as well as a surveillance one, the Air Force may opt for additional unit aircraft of such given its multirole ability which goes to show the reliability of Lockheed's product such as this one for use ranging from military to civilian types such as the C-5 Galaxy aircraft, SR-72 Blackbird, L-1011 jet airliner and L-649 Constellation aircraft. 

Now, for the twist of this historical storyline about the companies that produce F-16: While Lockheed Martin presently is the one that produces the aircraft, the development is credited to another company that is still in the business of selling military hardware. This refers to the original designer and developer of the aircraft, General Dynamics Corporation


To take note, General Dynamics is notable of building military hardware ranging from warships like the Oliver Hazard Perry-class Frigates and Arleigh Burke-class Destroyers (Built by General Dynamics Bath Iron Works) to Land-based combat systems such as the M--1 Abrams tank and Stryker Armored Combat Vehicle. Before the Lockheed-Martin merger in 1995, General Dynamics sold its aeronautics business two years earlier due to a slowdown on F-16 orders at that time which may risk for its production line to close. 

From there alone, General Dynamics oversees the development of the aircraft from the prototype YF-16 to an earlier version of F-16 which is the A/B variant whereas the time goes by through the transfer of operations to Lockheed Martin up to present, this aircraft is still evolving up to the present sophistication it obtains with its present iteration, the F-16 V variant (Block 70/72) where it shares attributes with the F-35 which is also produced by the same company. The evolution of the F-16 from its inception until the present day result of it having different versions of aircraft as further development and upgrades were integrated to make it up to date. 

Some of the iterations include the earlier F-16 Block A/B version, F-16 C/D Block 25 and Block 30/32 versions, Block 40/42, Block 50/52, Block 60/61, and definitely the latest Block 70/72 version or the F-16V. More details about the versions can be seen on this website dedicated to F-16s or to this AirVector website here.

On the present news as of this posting, the F-16 is set to be produced to India from the United States through a partnership with a local Indian aerospace company Tata Advanced Systems Limited shall it be selected by the Indian Air Force (IAF) for its own Modernization/Capabilities enhancement program. 

From there, the production line for the latest F-16Vs will be transferred from the United States to India where, if the Philippine Multirole Fighter jet bid is to be bagged by Lockheed Martin after the transfer, it will mean that the country will the one among the others that will receive the jets which will be proudly made in India if the program proceeds.

Both Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics profit from this sophisticated aircraft which is used by many Air Forces across the world with the recent orders coming from Bahrain and Slovakia. The Philippine Air Force, in this case, is on its way to having one if they choose the F-16 for its multirole fighter role program. Talking about F-16 offers, the Philippines was already offered by the United States even before this Horizon 2-related topic even take place.

The desire of having multirole fighters such as F-16 means
a lot for the country's protection of its Air Defense
Identification Zone. 
Courtesy to Lima Mike Romeo, DRP.
At present, the Philippine Air Force recently offered by the United States these F-16s that is the latest, newly-built one on the market which is the F-16V (Viper) Block 70/72. This may go with the option of U.S. Foreign Military Financing or FMF in which is a kind of loan or grant which may help the Philippines minimize its burden on capital outlay if this is to be implemented.

Just to take note once again people, the Philippine Air Force obtains funds under the Horizon 2 with the contract price of Php61,200,000,000.00, calling for 12 units of Multirole fighters at the local context, is equated to one (1) squadron. If FMF is to be implemented in the process, this allocated fund may get to other projects such as the attack helicopter program or to fund an additional squadron of MRFs which makes the Air Force more capable. Such a decision based on the scenario is for the ranking officers of the Air Force and its Technical Working Group to determine.

Throughout history, the Philippine Air Force was already offered these F-16s by the United States since the first AFP Modernization process through the original R.A. 7898 took place in the 1990s. It was worth taking note that the United States offered those embargoed F-16 A/Bs which were intended to Pakistan in which the Philippines at that time prefers the then-latest Block C/D versions. 

The original MRF program of the 1990s offered a wide range of multirole fighter jets ranging from MiG-29s to F-18s as well as Israeli KFIRs and JAS-29 Gripen. However, the Armed Forces at that time simply ended up obtaining F-5 jets in service at that time, with additional units purchased for additional capability and spare parts where, they were decommissioned altogether in 2005, rendering a step back to the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force with AS-211 filling the role for air interdiction.

The offers for F-16 Fighter jets went into topic once again way back year 2010/2011 when the then-President Noynoy Aquino assumes the post as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The request goes in a form that 12 used surpluses F-16 C/D variant shall be used in the light of Chinese hegemony over the region as they are about to build their enhanced outposts on their artificial islands at that time. 

However, priorities go to the Lead-in Fighter Trainers (LIFT) aircraft in which it is presently obtained by FA-50PH made by KAI or Korean Aerospace Industries which is a brand new fighter trainer aircraft with attributes shared with F-16s. Such aircraft was developed jointly by KAI and Lockheed Martin, which makes the FA-50s an ideal platform or stepping stone especially if the F-16 Viper Fighter Jets are considered wherein both pilots and mechanics may have a smooth transition as far as learning about aircraft operations and maintenance is concerned.

Now that Horizon 2 comes at hand, and the Philippine Air Force procurement plans include Multirole fighters in its pipeline, the offer is up again especially on the latest offer made by the United States which, as aforementioned here, was considered as useless especially on counter-insurgency operations. Perhaps, all of the decisions will be for the ranking officers in the Air Force to make, especially for the Technical Working Group to determine. At present, this is the preferred aircraft given its capabilities against its contender the SAAB Gripen C/D jet. Such measurement was proven by Slovakia in its own acquisition program that calls on replacing their older MiG-29 jets from Russia. 

With the United States throw an enticing offer such as Foreign Military Financing for these jets (which is on their own discretion) or the Air Force awarded the contract to Lockheed Martin for these aircraft after the bidding, perhaps the country, along with Slovakia will finally join the group of countries and their air forces obtaining such aircraft where maintenance and spare parts will not be much of a concern given that there are many sources to gather the necessities and to keep these aircraft operational in line to the mandate to protect the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone or PADIZ.

An F-16 Production Line at a Lockheed Martin Factory.
At this period of time with the Philippine Government being in a full shopping mode on different military platforms for internal and external defense, things are getting interesting given that the Horizon 2 Phase of the AFP Modernization Program provides a larger budget than its predecessor, with big-ticket projects in mind such as attack helicopters, corvettes, light tanks, and multirole fighter jets.

On this program, and with the recent reports provided, there is some bittersweet assessment in a way that the administration seems to reject it on one hand while things about its capabilities it brings to the Philippine Air Force are on the other. 

By that manner, perhaps the best thing that may come in this manner is to let the main stakeholders understand its importance, as well as to evaluate and assess properly with regards to its effectiveness and efficiency where it affects the overall impact to the capability of the Air Force especially with regards to air interdiction or protecting the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone wherein it is being improved as part of the Flight Plan initiative where 100% of the country's airspace will be covered up with this air defense mechanism in which the Multirole Fighters like the F-16 play a key role. 

Not only that, since its role does not limit air interceptions alone, these jets can also complement those aircraft intended for close air support operations in which the government aspires to have that includes OV-10s and the incoming A-29 Super Tucanos which will be delivered later on. 

On the current disagreements made by the present administration, perhaps this plans to talk with President Trump may help given that the Defense Department and the Armed Forces are keen to get the tools they need per western standards for the sake of interoperability and maintenance in the case of some US-based weapons the Philippines obtained given that spare parts hulk is essential where the US, as well as other countries, obtain these parts to keep platforms operational.

With the things slowly putting in the place, the only thing that is to have is to wait for things up and to stay updated in which things are getting interesting where dreams and aspirations may get on hand if these things proceed. It is only up for both the supplier and the end-user to make these things a reality where it is affirmed with the aircraft flying in the country, carrying the banner proudly that it belongs to the Philippines especially to its armed forces.

See related: 
- Horizon 2 and the Budget Obstacle
- The SAAB Gripen and the Marketing Over Philippine MRF Program
- The Philippine Multirole Fighter Jet Procurement Program


Unknown said...

Well said Sir Bernraf, you gave us viewpoint and credible info and updates about this F-16 a potential MRF requirements for PAF. And also thank you for your previous blog regarding on budget obstacle and current situation of RAFPMP phase. Such a credible source of military info and your followers and readers continue to educate and making readers more aware on whats happening in Philippine military. More power and more endeavors for our defense page in tandem with MaxDefense Philippines.

reshma80 said...

Thank you for sharing such great information.
It has help me in finding out more detail aboutflight offers

riyaa said...

Thank you for sharing such great information. can you help me in finding out more detail on flight offers

Nicky said...

Here's the problem, if the Philippines get's F-16's then they are dependent on the Flying boom Air refueling system. If they get a Fighter that uses a Hose and drogue system, then they can use the C-130 as a Tanker transport. It's why I think the used Mirage 2000 or MIG-35 or JF-17 block 2 is a preferable option.

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