Gripen vs F-16 for the Philippines: JAS-39 may have the edge

MANILA ($1=56.03 Philippine Pesos) — It is known that the Philippines is looking for a new fighter jet. Since 2019, the government in Manila has been trying to make its choice. The main reason for the delay is funding. But right from the start, the Philippine Department of Defense made it clear that two fighters would be competing against each other – the American Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72 Viper and the Swedish SAAB JAS-39 Gripen.

JAS-39 Gripen to fight Russian Su in Ukraine? The reply has come
Photo credit: Twitter

The Philippines has internal problems to deal with. Jihadist influence in the Asian archipelago still exists. Manila decided to fight the terrorists with South Korean FA-50PH light attack aircraft. They are the main fleet of the Philippine Air Force [PAF]. But Philippine islets and reefs in the South China Sea face a foreign threat. China claims sovereignty over them.

The FA-50PH cannot counter the Chinese J-10, J-16, or JF-17. Especially now that the Philippine Air Force is finding it difficult to fly the “South Korean birds”. Seoul apparently made a planning error by not being able to secure spare parts for the Philippine FA-50PH in time. Poland’s purchase of the FA-50PH may also affect supplies in the region, but the problem remains.

Manila needs a 4th generation fighter. Such are the two combat aircraft mentioned above. The US made the first move last year. Then, without Manila having made a decision, Washington announced that US$2.4 billion would have to be provided to the Philippines to acquire 12 F-16 Vipers. However, this amount does not include the delivery of the AGM-84-L-1 Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles. They will need at least another 120 million USD.

F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jet
Photo credit: Greek Air Force

However, Sweden was closely watching the actions of its American competitor. Stockholm took a different strategy. Seeing Manila’s financial inability to purchase a 4th generation fighter, offered to lease aircraft. Something that Hungary and the Czech Republic have already benefited from, for example.

At the moment, political and military observers claim that Swedish diplomacy is “already leading with one breast” in front of the American proposal. Waiting for the last moment, Stockholm invited General Connor Anthony David Kanlas and put him on a Gripen to test it. Immediately after, Sweden invited General Steven P. Pareño who heads the Philippine Air Force. They did the same to him.

Sweden’s courtship continued in Europe. The Philippine President, Mr. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., was invited to Brussels by the Swedish Prime Minister, Mr. Ulf Kristerson. Using the European Union summit, Mr. Christerson and Mr. Marcos Jr held a closed-door meeting. Sources say the main topic was the leasing of Gripen fighters for the needs of the Philippines.

Half Philippine fighters grounded, FA-50PH spare parts issues
Photo credit: European Post

Sweden is said to be ready to offer the Philippines “dressed aircraft”. I.e. fully armed. Here, the Gripen has an advantage over the American F-16 as well. Arguably the best long-range Meteor air-to-air missile as well as the RBS-15 Mk.III anti-ship missiles are included in the package for the Philippines. Military experts already understand that with these two missiles, the Philippine Air Force can respond to China’s claims.


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