Danish F-16 Fighter Jets for the Philippine Air Force?

The Philippine Air Force still seeks more fighter jets that come in an arrangement different from its Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition project and the Excess Defense Articles arrangement with the United States, whereby they put extra additional air defense capabilities and short transfer times into mind. Now, the Philippine government is sourcing more aircraft from other sources to attain that goal.

RDAF, Royal Danish Air Force, F-16 Fighter Jet, Philippine Air Force, Hot Transfer, Ukraine, Argentina
The Philippine Air Force aims to get some European-based F-16 fighter aircraft like the ones from the Royal Danish Air Force for its capability improvements.
Image Source.

The leadership within the Philippine Air Force aspires to get more-capable Multirole Fighter aircraft for the longest time, both since they retired the older Vought F-8 Crusader and the Northrop F-5 A/B from service, and since the entry of the newer FA-50PH from Korea Aerospace Industries that brought the air service branch back to the supersonic age once again, with the latter renewing that interest for that more-capable aircraft for Philippine air defense and patrol operations.

This is the same point of waiting for a longest time as said in a recent interview made by CNN Philippines to the Philippine ambassador to the United States Ambassador Jose Manual Romualdez, whereby the Philippine government is now actively negotiating to their counterparts to the United States in securing more F-16 multirole fighter aircraft, as this comes as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' ongoing modernization efforts in-line to the current government policy of improving its external defense posture.

In a separate interview, the Philippine Ambassador to the United States pointed out that the acquisition of new F-16 Viper aircraft may come as a costly one, saying that it may require more than half of the country's annual budget (Php 27.5 Billion for the year 2023), and they are now looking to other sources of getting such aircraft like the country of Denmark in Europe. This likely refers to the prices provided under the multirole fighter jet acquisition program.

Currently, the multirole fighter jet acquisition program has the SAAB JAS-39 Gripen being the frontrunner of the project, with the only pending step left is on the ratification of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Sweden and the Philippines by the Swedish parliament. The time is running out for both sides to keep it stuck, and as reports suggest, the United States may provide an enticing arrangement that will ultimately help the Philippine Air Force secure its squadron of new F-16 Vipers.

With the Danish F-16 fighter aircraft for the Philippine Air Force now raised up, let us now discuss even deeper the history of the aircraft serving within the Royal Danish Air Force, the upgrades and service life extension programs it received, the other contenders to the acquisition of these Danish-served fighter aircraft, and ultimately the nature of this acquisition as compared to the 'EDA F-16 jets from the United States and the Multirole Fighter Jet acquisition project, all of which are separate programs of their own right.

F-16, Royal Danish Air Force, Flyvevaben, Philippine Air Force, Hot Transfer, United States, Lockheed Martin
The Danes have bought at least 77 units of F-16A/B in the late 70s, replacing their older F-404 Starfighter.
Image Source.

Based on the known repository website for F-16s operating in different countries - Denmark included, this Scandinavian country initially bought seventy-seven (77) units of F-16 A/B in the late 1970s, just in two to five years since the first single-seat F-16 fighter aircraft first flew in 1976 and the first operational unit successfully delivered and eventually entered service within the United States military in 1979. Denmark actually played a role in the inception of the F-16 program.

Some developmental background, the F-16 program has developed with a five-nation consortium in mind, whereby the United States and the other four European countries that are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO - Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, and of course, Denmark, entered an agreement for the production and long-term operations of the aircraft plus the assembly of components and parts coming from all the countries aforementioned.

The F-16 multirole fighter aircraft has come a long way from just an aircraft that serves the consortium of countries and their air forces' operational requirements to one of the most well-marketed products of Lockheed Martin, as they are now actively selling the latest variant of the F-16 aircraft, the F-16 Block 70/72 Viper, to countries that are seeking this aircraft like Taiwan and Slovakia, and also potential customers like the Philippine Air Force.

Currently, Denmark has at least 62 F-16 fighter aircraft, of which 48 are fully functional platforms and 14 are in reserve status, although all the units undertook mid-life upgrades or MLUs, ensuring that these Danish F-16 multirole fighter aircraft continues to operate within the Royal Danish Air Force requirements until the delivery of F-35 Lightning II 5th Generation aircraft has completed, enabling them to decommission these jets out of service, eventually.

The mid-life upgrades that the Danish F-16s have received may come as a metric in the decision-making process of the Philippine government into considering it for the improvement of capabilities of the Philippine Air Force, as this complies to the special provisions pointed out in the 2024 budget for at least 50% or more remaining lifespan for a military hardware, although the Philippine Ambassador to the United States stressed that the revision of the procurement law may help to push this deal through.

And while the Philippines seek to secure some of the Danish F-16s for the improvement of capabilities of the Philippine Air Force's fighter aircraft fleet for the longest time, it does not mean that there will be no competition for them in securing this aircraft, as there are other countries that are also looking after this type of aircraft coming from the Royal Danish Air Force for their respective air force requirements and their broader defense and security-related needs.

In the competing of limited fighter aircraft resources, it may not come surprising if the plans of securing any of the F-16s that the Philippine Air Force aims to get, both new and used, are all ticking against time, as the production line for new F-16s may get longer if new orders supersedes any Philippine Air Force plans, and that same thing goes with both the Danish F-16s and the ones arranged under the Excess Defense Articles with the United States. 

Ukrainian Air Force, F-16, Royal Danish Air Force, Training, Philippine Air Force, Argentina, Hot Transfer
Here is a fictionalized digital rendition of what will be if Ukraine finally gets its F-16 from countries like Denmark.
Image Source.

As mentioned, there are other countries that aimed to secure the Danish F-16 Multirole Fighter Jets for their respective air force requirements, one of which is in a current state of war that they really do badly need these jets to turn the tide of conflict in their home country, against a more-capable eastern neighbor whose capability wears down through time, coupled with the sanctions that have inflicted to this country since the war started in March 2022.

This refers to the Eastern European country of Ukraine, of which they are entering a second year of prolonged conflict against the perceived might of the Russian Federation, that it significantly dwindles much of the military hardware and troops on both sides as the result of this atrocious conflict. This prompted European countries like Denmark to throw more support to Ukraine and its government, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, that Ukrainian pilots start training with Danish F-16s in mid-2023.

The Danes have shown their full commitment to the Ukrainian war effort that they devoted themselves to providing the latter at least nineteen (19) F-16s for its air force requirements, with at least six (6) units slated for delivery at the second quarter of the year 2024 instead of within this period, citing reasons relating to delays on the ongoing training of the pilots as it is their first in both operating and maintaining the aircraft, as they come in different to the Sukhois and MiGs that the Ukrainians typically use.

Adding it up, another European country like the Netherlands has shown their commitment to the Ukrainian effort to get at least 42 of their own F-16s, adding it up to at least 61 F-16s for the Ukrainian Air Force to use, a gesture that immediately boost the capabilities of the Eastern European country’s air defense capabilities as they aim to counter the Russian air dominance even further since the invasion started in 2022. Like Denmark, the Royal Netherlands Air Force slowly replaced their F-16s to the newer F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.

Aside from Ukraine, the South American country of Argentina set its sights on the Danish F-16 multirole fighter aircraft, whereby the United States government actually approved the sale of at least 24 of this renowned multirole fighter jet, now increasing the number of F-16s likely ended up to countries other than the Philippines to at least 43, leaving less than a desired number of multirole fighter aircraft for the Philippine Air Force to get, showing that they fight against time if they are keen to secure this MRF from the Danish.

This is where the beloved ambassador raised another option into securing the F-16 fighter aircraft that the Philippine Air Force really needs, which is through financial aid from the United States for the country to secure this type of fighter aircraft. A think-tank in the same article further supported the idea for the United States to provide its Foreign Military Financing scheme to the Philippine government to avail, especially if it goes on getting the F-16 fighter jet through the Danish approach, or for its EDA negotiations and MRF project.

F-16 Block 70/72 Viper, Philippine Air Force, Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, Lockheed Martin, PAF, MRF
Lockheed Martin F-16 Display in ADAS 2018.
Obtained via Wikimedia Commons.

As the proposals raised for the Philippine government’s negotiations on the acquisition and transfer of the F-16MLUs from the Royal Danish Air Force through Ambassador Romualdez, let us discuss further the Multirole Fighter Jet or the MRF acquisition project, whereby reports typically confuse the said proposal to this ongoing program, even though the Danish F-16 deal comes differently to the MRF, of which it primarily focuses more into securing newly built aircraft.

Currently, based on the latest Procurement Monitoring Report presented by the Department of National Defense on their website (PDF file here) for the 2nd half of 2023, the Philippine Air Force’s MRF Jet acquisition project still comes as pending, as they are still waiting for the Swedish Parliament to ratify the Memorandum of Understanding or MOU between the Philippines and Sweden in the mid-2023. Basically, there are no changes in the status since the previous report covering the first half of the year.

This is despite the progress made in the deal between the Swedish and Philippine sides regarding the deal pitched by SAAB for its JAS-39 Gripen C/D multirole fighter jets, such as the approval of the Export Control Board (EKR) for SAAB to export the Swedish-made fighter aircraft for the Philippine Air Force’s MRF acquisition project. 

The slow movement on the MOU ratification may become dire for both SAAB and the Philippine Air Force, as current external defense policy pushes have put this deal at risk as it slowly runs out of time.

The pending status unsurprisingly prompt the Philippine Air Force and the government at-large to seek into other options, with the most obvious one regarding the acquisition of F-16s through different options such as having a different arrangement with the United States government through their Excess Defense Articles or EDA, and through choosing the new F-16 Block 70/72 Viper jets under the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project with the deal sweetened that a squadron (12 units) of jets is attainable.

So, it is not surprising for the Philippine government through its ambassador to the United States to do all the badly needed negotiations just for the Philippine Air Force to get the multirole fighter jet it needs, as it is clear from the get go that the Armed Forces of the Philippines are badly in need of these jets yesterday. 

Apparently, based on what sources shared to Pitz Defense Analysis, the idea of having more FA-50s may come as a ‘Plan B’ in case the MRF acquisition project fails, corroborating a previous report of it on our site.

Hence, these developments have shown the liquidity of the situation surrounding the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, especially the Philippine Air Force, like the rest of the Philippine Armed Forces, now embark to the largest phase yet of the Revised AFP Modernization Program, now coined as the Re-Horizon 3 phase which have this project being the primary priority of the Department of National Defense, alongside the acquisition of warships, submarines, and advanced radar systems.

With the budget increase and the likelihood that it remain constant in the upcoming years, the entire Philippine Armed Forces may eventually get the tools it need for territorial defense, especially now that the rehashed Horizon 3 phase provides the framework of priority projects needed to enhance capabilities, of that includes both the Multirole Fighter Jets, the F-16s currently in negotiation under the United States EDAs, and that one deal involving Royal Danish Air Force’s F-16 multirole fighter jets.

BACE-P, Bilateral Air Contingent Exchange - Philippines, FA-50PH, F-16 Viper, Philippine Air Force, United States Air Force
Philippine Air Force and United States Air Force service members pose alongside one another during the Bilateral Air Contingent Exchange - Philippines (BACE-P) in 2019.
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Small, via DVIDSHUB.

As the Marcos administration successfully approved the revision of implementing the third phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program now called as the “Re-Horizon 3”, it is not surprising that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, specifically the Philippine Air Force, and with the support of the Department of National Defense and the national government at-large, is gunning to get more multi-role fighter aircraft for the country’s air defense purposes, with the eyes primarily set on the F-16 fighter jets.

This comes to a point that a certain legislator promotes the viability of the F-16s, especially all the plans and programs that are pushing under the Philippine Air Force from the current Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project as it compete against the SAAB JAS-39 Gripen from Sweden, to other options like the stocks under the Excess Defense Articles of the United States plus tapping on third-party sources like Denmark who is in the process of replacing its jets with the newer F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft.

But with all the eyes within the Philippine’s own defense community staring straight to the current push of getting multirole fighter jets for the Philippine Air Force like the F-16s of both new and pre-loved, one also needs to acknowledge that the time is going against the actions of the planners within the air service branch and the Department of National Defense, as Argentina and Ukraine being hell-bent on securing the Danish F-16s for their own use, while the production line gets longer now as Turkey now likely joins the fray.

With the deal with SAAB for the JAS-39 Gripen being in the limbo as the Swedish Parliament is slow in ratifying the Memorandum of Understanding with the Philippines, and with the current developments regarding other countries getting both the in-stock and order for production F-16s, it is not surprising if thing will go hard for the planners in achieving timeline for getting MRFs for the Philippine Air Force, as what we said in the beginning of this article, the country needs the fighter jets yesterday.

Despite the developments at hand, one thing is certain out of these developments. That is the likelihood that the Philippine Air Force may likely end up getting the F-16 Viper multirole fighter jets under the multirole fighter jet acquisition project, aside from stocked F-16s like the ones from Denmark and the F-16s provided under the Excess Defense Articles. At the end, it will come with full certainty if the projects push through, contracts signed, and the jets with the Philippine Air Force insignia have arrived in the country.

(c) 2024 PDA.


Anonymous said...

Even F-16 A/B's with 40 plus year old airframes are performance-wise, way better than FA-50 attack aircrafts.

Anonymous said...

All dream from PAF. Still not learn how important this MRF

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