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More Details on the Philippine Multirole Fighter Jet Program

It is taken note that months ago, we wrote an article here about the overview of the Multirole Fighter Jet Program intended for the Philippine Air Force upon the implementation of the country's PADIZ or the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone where it focuses more on both of the most prominent offers made by companies like the SAAB JAS-39 Gripen and the Lockheed Martin's F-16 fighter jet. With the time passes by, more details suddenly arise where arguments went hand in hand between the bettors of these type of aircraft offered wherein from there, they pointed out all of the advantages and disadvantages that both of the offered platforms were given. Not to mention that new information with regards to this development recently disclosed which provides the overall picture that can closely detail what kind of aircraft that the Technical Working Group of the Philippine Air Force is after for a multirole fighter.

The Department of National Defense Recently disclose that
they are lenient to purchase JAS-39 Gripen C/D block for the
Philippine Air Force. 
Imagery designed by Mr. Paul Hernandez
First, let us discuss what is with regards to the Technical Working Group (TWG) under the Philippine Air Force's Bids and Awards Committee especially on the details that involve this fighter jet program where it is being around since the start of the Horizon 2.

So far, there are still no detailed specifications or parameters that the TWG provided for their preferences on their Multirole Fighter that the organization will be using for air interdictions. This quickly put more speculations on the matter where many possibilities may happen throughout the project period. 

So far, the only detail that is provided is for the usual process of providing Request for Quotation or RFQ to the respective suppliers where they are obliged on which products will they offer, at what price, and on what capabilities these assets have in line to the Contract Price or the Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) of the whole budget in which it amounts to around Php 61 Billion. 

This does not put any finalization on which supplier or product will be bagging this project given that the bidding process or the direct Government-to-Government (G2G) negotiations aren't taking place yet. So, it may be nice not to speculate which is which for the project itself where the chances for both F-16s and JAS-39 Gripen are fair enough, with their own advantages and disadvantages on hand that only the people involved in the project fully understand what they need with regards to the needs and satisfaction of the Air Force capability, providing the best buck for the taxpayer's money.

So, as the project in itself rolls on with more discussions, brainstorming, and idea-sharing in place, any judgment in place so as which is which may be nice to have, although it is better to simply wait it out until more precise details will be provided in such sense that in any way, the organization still have a sophisticated multirole fighter it desires that looks after the capabilities and cost that they are looking for from such unit.

The Department of National Defense Building.
Courtesy of Department of National Defense, Flickr.
Just recently, the Secretary of National Defense Mr. Delfin Lorenzana disclosed on Philippine News Agency (PNA) that their organization is likely to acquire the JAS-39 Gripen in which they said that it is cheaper to maintain - in line with SAAB's marketing of the aircraft that provides a nice idea with regards to this consideration in line to the procurement process in the Philippines. It was also remembered that the Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72 or V variant - the latest one that the United States offer is expensive to maintain despite that the U.S. pushed it for the third time and of course, with the Foreign Military Financing Option which is their equivalent of soft loans.

With the information for specifications not yet disclosed by the PAF-TWG, it may be said that these statements provided are simply words that uttered from the Defense Department where anything isn't being finalized yet out of the open. However, with such words coming out from the Defense Department itself, it is not avoidable that various outlets may treat this leniency as "final" in a way that they considered the JAS-39 Gripen of SAAB being the clear winner on this project. Well, just to clarify this up folks, as long as the bidding details aren't out nor finalizations on specifications being in place, it is safe to say that not SAAB nor Lockheed Martin bagged the contract for this project, yet. It is primarily premature to each and everyone to say that there is a clear winner although the people that are assigned to the project are still formulating their criteria that are needed to provide a clear picture with regards to which is which on the Multirole Fighter Jet project. 

So, it might be a nice tab for now that the project in itself is on the process where the gallant men involved are doing the best of their jobs to make it happen. So, it might be nice for them to thoroughly assess their things up based on the criteria they made, provide evaluation measurements and determine the one that they see as an ideal and capable fighter jet for the Philippine Air Force to use.

Primary argument: The F-16s have longer loiter time while the
JAS-39 Gripen being short-legged. A big factor if patrolling
the huge Philippine Airspace is to consider.
Just recently, Slovakia and it's Air Force chooses F-16V over the JAS-39 Gripen C/D block due to the following factors such as the range/loiter time that the image above has shown from the assessments they made. The deal they have closely resembled the Philippine multirole fighter project deal taking place wherein it also involves two suppliers that participated actively in both Slovakian and Philippine projects, only that the former already made a decision.

Now with the short-legged argument, it is undisputedly known that the F-16s with their airframe-integrated conformal fuel tanks or CFTs increases the loiter time and range of these jets where they can patrol the airspace on a longer time period where, if applied to the Philippine context, provides more coverage to the airspace to patrol or to interdict with, where scrambling jets to the West Philippine Sea from an airbase in Luzon is possible. However, it is also taking note that these jets are more expensive which undermines the argument for its range and capability. Hence, the saying "Defense is not cheap" applies. Now, with regards to the JAS-39 Gripen and it's being short-legged given its range as shown to the Slovakian assessment. Take note that it is a cost-effective platform that is easy to maintain and not only that, SAAB also markets it as more capable of landing on highways given that the F-16 is also capable to do it. Given such short-leggedness, perhaps the JAS-39 Gripen may require landing on several airports or directly through the air refueling tankers before getting deployed in a military base such as Oyster Bay in Palawan which is the one nearest to the contested waters of the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines do not have any air refueling capabilities as of present, yet although its fleet of C-130s can be converted to that configuration which further helps increase the range of these Gripens. If such thing is considered by the people in the ranks, it may be nice that additional cost-effective C-130 airframes shall be purchased for this purpose, at least to have these jets as capable in terms of loitering time. 

Now, it will be nice to see as to how far it will be for these platforms to get in through the Philippine Air Force market, given that each airframe from different suppliers have their own capabilities to showcase with, in a way that each have its respective advantages and disadvantages that for sure, the gallant people of the PAF-TWG really consider for their assessment and documentation. 

F-16 Scale Model with Philippine Air Force insignia in ADAS 2018.
The United States offers it in the form of Foreign Military Financing or FMF.
Courtesy to its respective owner.
Aside from the points aforementioned, another form of information to consider especially if it means a parameter is influenced by the likes of enticing offers or "sweeteners" where it convince the people of a certain Bids and Awards Committee and its Technical Working Group where it provides a silver lining to the capabilities that a military organization like the Philippine Air Force is looking for while retaining the cost as specified in the ABC or Allocated Budget of the Contract.

As for the JAS-39 Gripen of SAAB, Thailand experienced a nice deal where 12 units of such jets they purchased came with Erieye AEW&Cs radar installed on a SAAB 340 aircraft which help provides better systems integration as well as other perks that the company offered to the Royal Thai Air Force which was stated in the article above underlined and highlighted in yellow-orange. 

In the case of their pitch for the Philippines, such a possibility for a package may get possible where the Horizon 2 program calls for 12 units in parallel with the ones that took place in Thailand in terms of numbers. Such this thing is being pushed by the company in a package, it is a nice pitch for SAAB aside from it being much cheaper to maintain and operate that makes the PAF BAC-TWG determine for evaluation.

The F-16 meanwhile, is being pushed by the United States multiple times with the latest offer involves newly-built assets wherein it will be supplanted by a Foreign Military Financing, which is a form of a soft loan with terms differentially structured by the U.S. government to further improve the capabilities of an ally especially now in the face of China's rising power in the region where it showcases its capabilities a lot in the contested claims among nations which includes China and the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea region. 

To take note once again as mentioned above in the primary points of this article, the Defense Department takes the F-16 maintenance and operations as an expense that makes it a bit costly especially for its intended mandate for air interdictions. 

However, it does not dismiss the fact that it is still affordable for the Air Force to have even without the FMF mode of payment in place. Just to take note, the exchange rate to determine the contract pricing is set at US$1 = Php55.00 in the same way as this image provides about the details of the project in specific.

Despite these things, all of the offers are to be assessed and determined upon especially by the key Air Force officials where recently, they reopened the Basa Air Base which prompted the return of the 5th Fighter Wing to its intended nest wherein both SAAB and Lockheed Martin deployed their representatives as well as their scale models in the hopes that their products find its way to this place called as the "FighterTown". This is perhaps a nice thing in terms of the on-going process.

Philippine Air Force F-16 Concept by Mr. Paul Fernandez.
The source can be seen here.
With the new details unraveled with regards to the Multirole Fighter Jet program, it is clearly shown that the process is there with the progress actively participated by the stakeholders involved.

So, it is nice to stay updated in this project that defines a significant portion of the Philippine Air Force budget as well as others being presented on the pipeline. The primary aim of every organization especially in the government offices is to provide the best output from the resources provided or to manage the best things out of it per relevant laws such as the R.A. 9184 or the procurement act. Moreover, the vibrant activity over this project shows the willingness of the suppliers involved to bag the project while supplying the Philippine Air Force the platform it needs to supplant its air interdiction capability which currently supplanted by the FA-50 Lead-in Fighter Trainer jets wherein once purchased, will help the organization obtain a capable, more credible squadron of combat fighter aircraft that suffices the needs in implementing the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone or PADIZ as desired in the Flight Plan 2028.

These in which, among other projects, are the ones that will keep tabs as the progress of these military platform procurements means a lot for the Armed Forces as they are aspiring to modernize, motivate, and better organization doing their mandate with efficiency and effectiveness in such a way that they will further secure the country's sovereignty and security with the citizenry's best interest in mind.


First PDA discussion on this subject: June 24, 2018.
Article Title: The Philippine Multirole Fighter Jet Procurement Program
Link: http://pitzdefanalysis.blogspot.com/2018/06/the-philippine-mrf-jet-program.html

See related:
- SAAB JAS-39 Gripen 
- Lockheed Martin F-16





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