Although about 25 air forces around the world have F-16 jet fighters as the backbone of their defenses, Philippine officials are having second thoughts about buying second-hand F-16 Fighting Falcons from the United States because of their huge maintenance cost not to mention the short remaining flying hours before they become obsolete.
“Excess defense materials are not economical,” said PAF spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Okol after Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia said the US was prepared to sell the Philippines two supersonic F-16 jetfighters but cautioned of the jets’ high maintenance cost.
“By the time our pilots shall have finished training how to operate the F-16, there life span shall have lapsed,” Okol said. “The advice of the US security officials was right for the Philippines not to get a second-hand F-16.”
The F-16 is a multirole jet fighter aircraft developed originally by General Dynamics and later by Lockheed. It was designed as a superior jet interceptor that can fly in all kinds of weather conditions.
The Fighting Falcon saw extension action during the Gulf War against Iraq with great success and at least 25 countries have F-16 in their Air Force because of the jet’s versatility.
In fact, the PAF has been craving to have F-16 aircraft to replace the retired F-5 fighters which were decommissioned in 2005, leaving the Air Force without a single jetfighter.
As a consequence, Philippine airspace is devoid of air defense the past seven years and intrusions by foreign aircraft have remained unchecked.
Okol said that “a brand F-16 costs US$60 million without the weapons and training.”
He said the weapons such as air-to-air missiles are very expensive but buying these weapons will have the nod of the US government or any foreign government that sells defense materials.
The Philippines badly needs modern fighter aircraft to protect its sovereignty from foreign intrusion like what is happening at the Panatag Shoal or Scarborough Shoal.
The Department of National Defense has been scouting for the purchase of supersonic jetfighter interceptors for the Philippines. Aside from the F-16, the government will also look for other sources of fighter jets that are comparable to the Fighting Falcon but at a lesser price.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that the upgrade and modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is in full swing.
Gazmin said the defense department is working speedily on the approval of contracts for the upgrade and modernization of 138 projects to be implemented over the next five years. The deadline for the approval of these contracts is on July 31.
Newest assets. The Philippines took delivery of four of these Polish Sokol helicopters earlier this year.
“These projects would surely provide the Philippine Air Force with brand new and reliable assets for its operations, along with the operational requirements of the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Army,” Gazmin said.
The acquisition will include surface attack aircraft, lead-in fighter trainer, attack helicopters, light transport aircraft and medium transport aircraft to be delivered in 2014.
There are several countries the Philippines can purchase jet fighters such as the Mirage jets of France, the Tornado jets manufactured by Britain, Germany and Italy, the Kfir of Israel, to name a few.
Congress had passed the AFP Modernization Law in 1995 allocating P331 billion spread over 15 years, but its implementation is snail-paced with only about P33 billion spent during the period.
The PAF acquired early this year four of the eight Sokol combat helicopters from Poland and the remaining four will be delivered late this year.
On the other hand, the Philippine Navy also acquired a refurbished cutter from the US and another will be delivered shortly but these vessels are already 45 years old and considered as US excess defense materials.
Like the Air Force, the Navy also needs modern warships and gunboats two guard the country’s territorial waters which are twice as long as that of the United States. Some of its ships are World War II vintage and the Navy has no missile capability.
The Center for a New American Security, a US think-tank, recently said that the Philippines needs 48 F-16 jet fighters, four to six mini submarines, more armed frigates and corvette-size combat vessels and minesweepers if it is to have a credible military defense capability.
Asian Defence News