Sweden proposes Saab JAS-39 Gripen multirole fighter for Philippine Air Force

Priam Nepomuceno, from the Philippines News Agency, reported on August 16 that Sweden has again offered its Saab JAS 39 Gripen multi-role fighter aircraft for the modernization needs of the Philippine Air Force.

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Sweden proposes Saab JAS 39 Gripen multirole fighter for Phillipine Air Force Saab JAS-39 Gripen of the Czech Air Force taking off from AFB Čáslav (Picture source: Wikipedia/Milan Nykodym)

After an introductory visit made by the Ambassador of Sweden to Manila, Annika Thunborg, to Gilberto Teodoro Jr., the Secretary of the Department of National Defense (DND), at the DND headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, a series of developments followed suit. This occurred on the subsequent Monday after the courtesy call.

During this interaction, Secretary Teodoro accentuated the significance of enhancing the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with a focus on safeguarding the nation's territorial integrity and its interests within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). He underscored a crucial criterion for any defense procurement pursued by the Philippines – it must exhibit sustainability, interoperability, and supportability. Ambassador Thunborg, acknowledging the nation's requirement for a contemporary air force, drew attention to Sweden's proposal involving their leading multi-role fighter aircraft, known as the Saab JAS-39 Gripen. This particular communication was conveyed through a statement issued by DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong on August 16.

In the context of the Philippine Air Force's endeavor to acquire a Multirole Fighter (MRF), the Saab JAS-39 emerges as one of the two primary contenders. The other contender is the Lockheed Martin F-16V Viper.

The Saab JAS-39 is distinguished as the world's foremost "swing-role combat aircraft," recognized for its exceptional reliability. This fighter, manufactured in Sweden, boasts the advantage of demanding minimal personnel and ground support equipment for decentralized operations. It boasts the capability to function from compact, unprepared landing strips. Beyond these attributes, the aircraft is outfitted with advanced radar, sensors, and weaponry.

The Multirole Fighter acquisition project assumes significance as it is intended to reinforce the existing fleet of 12 FA-50PH light jet fighters, capable of achieving Mach 1.5 and originating from South Korea. A prerequisite for the project is to secure at least 12 MRFs that possess the capability to conduct surveillance over the nation's safeguarded waters and airspace. This initiative was initially intended to be a component of Horizon 2 within the AFP Modernization Program, a scheme outlined for the period between 2018 and 2022. However, the project's timeline was deferred due to the influence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both parties involved express an eagerness for the endorsement and execution of the Memorandum of Understanding, which pertains to Collaborative Efforts in the Procurement of Defense Resources. This document was formally signed by the Philippines and Sweden on June 3, a ceremony held in Singapore.