By Priam Nepomuceno

AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. (PNA photo by Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has already approved the military’s “intention” to acquire multi-role fighters (MRFs) to be used in boosting the country’s defensive capabilities, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said on Thursday.

Brawner said the President gave the green light on the measure during Thursday’s first-semester command conference in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

However, he said a decision has yet to be made on what MRFs the Philippines would buy.

“As to which one, wala pa hong decision. As to how many, wala pa rin narating na desisyon. But kailangan natin itong mga MRF (As to which one and how many units, no decision has been reached. But we urgently need these MRFs),” he said in a press briefing shortly after the command conference.

While the 12 units of FA-50s in the Philippine Air Force (PAF) service, along with their pilots, are quite formidable, these aircraft are still not enough to defend the country, Brawner said.

“We need to get more of these jet fighters and (the) multi-role fighters that are actually bigger, faster, and more lethal,” he said.

Two possible contenders for the MRF projects are the latest models of the US Lockheed Martin-made F-16s and the Swedish Saab JAS-39.

The F-16V is the latest and most advanced F-16 in operation today and is considered the foremost combat-proven fourth-generation MRF. it is equipped with advanced radar systems, allowing it greater detection and tracking capabilities, along with advanced air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons.

The JAS-39 “Gripen” C/D, meanwhile, is classified as the most reliable “swing-role combat aircraft” available in the world.

The “C” version is a single-seat aircraft while the “D” version has a two-seater configuration.

The Swedish-made fighter requires minimal personnel and ground support equipment for dispersed operations and can operate from small unprepared roads.

It is also equipped with sophisticated radar and sensors, as well as weapons.

The MRF is part of Horizon 2 of the AFP Modernization Program from 2018 to 2022, which aims to acquire more equipment for external defense.

Any aircraft that will be selected must be able to integrate with existing radar systems that have a range of about 250 nautical miles.

Once these MRFs are acquired, the PAF, with the help of these radar systems, can be deployed to determine whether the aircraft flying over the country’s airspace is friendly or hostile.

These proposed MRFs are expected to augment the present fleet of 12 South Korean-made Mach 1.5 capable FA-50 jet aircraft acquired from 2015 to 2017 by the PAF as its first supersonic aircraft after the decommissioning of its Northrop F-5 jet fighters in 2005. (PNA)