By Priam Nepomuceno

Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr. (right) and Swedish Ambassador to Manila Annika Thunborg (left) (Photo courtesy of DND)

MANILA – Sweden’s offer to supply Saab-made JAS-39 “Gripen” multi-role fighters (MRF) to the Philippines was among the key topics discussed by Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr. and Swedish Ambassador to Manila Annika Thunborg in a recent meeting.

Thunborg paid a courtesy call on Faustino at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Dec. 21 to discuss “mutual interests in the field of defense”, DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement Tuesday.

The JAS-39 “Gripen” is one of the two jet fighters eyed by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to fulfill its MRF requirement.

“The OIC, DND and the Swedish Ambassador discussed the PAF MRF Acquisition Project and the offer of Swedish defense and aerospace company Saab AB of Gripen aircraft, which has been on the PAF’s shortlist,” Andolong said.

Another contender in the PAF’s MRF acquisition program is the Lockheed Martin F-16V “Viper” jet fighter.

The MRFs are expected to backstop the military’s existing fleet of 12 South Korean-made Mach 1.5 capable FA-50PH light jet fighters.

The requirements for the MRF project stipulate that the offered aircraft must be “fourth generation or higher.”

The project also requires 12 MRFs at least capable of patrolling the country’s protected waters and airspace.

The MRF project is supposed to be part of Horizon 2 of the AFP Modernization Program slated for 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.

“Both officials stressed on the importance of building a strong air defense. Relatedly, the OIC, DND underscored the need to improve capabilities in the context of regional security developments, mentioning the shift in focus of the Philippine defense sector from internal security to external defense,” Andolong said.

He said Faustino recognized the potential of bilateral cooperation between the Philippines and Sweden, particularly in the defense industry and logistics.

“Meanwhile, Ambassador Thunborg noted the successful visit to Stockholm of the Commanding General, PAF on 09 to 14 December, as well as the recent meeting between Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson at the sidelines of the ASEAN-European Union Commemorative Summit last 14 December 2022 in Brussels. She further conveyed the readiness of the Swedish Government to enter into discussions on an agreement on cooperation on defense materiel, as earlier proposed by the Philippine side,” Andolong said.

The two officials also exchanged views on other topical issues on security, such as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, Philippine efforts to end local communist armed conflict and the situation in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (PNA)