US may offer Philippines F-16 Block 50 with Block 70’s avionics

The Philippines continues to want to buy multi-role fighter jets. The American F-16 and the Swedish Gripen are the remaining two fighters in the final right. There were originally four contestants, but India’s Tejas and Pakistan’s JF-17 were rejected as proposals.

US may offer Philippines F-16 Block 50 with Block 70's avionics
Photography by Thinh D. Nguyen

Lockheed Martini Washington is facing a serious challenge. Their proposal to sell F-16 Block 70/72 worth $2.4 billion was rejected. It is too expensive, Philippine media reported, citing government sources in Manila.

Therefore, the US is considering an option to reduce the price to the Philippines, but this will deprive them of the latest version of the famous fighter. Sources say Lockheed Martin is preparing to submit a new offer: the sale of the F-16 Block 50 with Block 70’s avionics. According to Turkish sources, a senior official from the Philippine Air Force also confirms that they are expecting just such a proposal from Washington.

F-16 Block 70 avionics

How much the new proposal will reduce the cost to the Philippine military remains unclear. Of course, we’ll see. But for sure, the Philippines should think about it, because the avionics of the F-16 Block 70 are impressive.

US-made F-16 in the sky over the Black Sea: predator or prey?
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

The radar is APG-83 AESA. A serious and powerful intelligent “machine” that is the next-generation radar. This radar is fully compatible with the hardware of other American flagships in the sky – F-22 and F-35. But the Philippines will get serious awareness under all weather conditions. The radar provides the pilot with high-resolution digital map displays.

Such a radar will not only ensure the armament of the Philippine F-16s but also possibly increase their range. Especially since it covers the new American missiles beyond visual range. For example, if the Philippines decides to purchase an AIM 260 air-to-air missile in the future, it means that it will hit an enemy target over 200 km.

Of course, the radar is important, but so is the rest of the avionics. For example, Philippine F-16s will get a Center Pedestal Display [CPD] with moving color maps that improve critical decision-making by pilots.

SAAB’s response

SAAB is ready to offer a lot. And much more than Lockheed Martin. SAAB currently offers the JAS-39 Gripen, both new and second-hand. It depends on what Filipinos are looking for. There will be a difference in the price [secondhand will be cheaper], but not in the equipment. The Swedes offer the complete package and more.

Sweden improving JAS 39 Gripen C/D's capabilities with a new update
Photo credit: Wikipedia

For example, just days ago, Philippine Acting Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson signed a Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] on defense cooperation that will allow Swedish defense companies to participate in various modernization programs the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The MoU focuses on the Philippine Air Force.

The Swedish offer includes upgraded JAS-39C/D aircraft with new-generation avionics. According to unofficial sources, the planes are called “C+”. It is believed that the planes could be second-hand or new production. The Saab-developed AESA radar is also believed to be fitted to the aircraft.

The main advantage of SAAB

What makes the Gripen an advantage over the F-16 is that it uses the same F-404 engine as the FA-50 fighters in the Philippine Air Force’s inventory.

Brazil's JAS 39 Gripen receives multi-domain MANET datalinks
Photo credit: Elbit Systems

Philippine Air Force Commander Steven Pareño led a small delegation to Sweden from May 24 to 28, where he met with the Commander of the Swedish Air Force. JAS-39 and Saab 340 fighter jets visited Saab facilities to learn about early warning and control.

Sweden has 4 of the Saab 340 early warning aircraft. 2 of these 4 aircraft are currently retired. The Philippines may be eyeing the Saab 340s, which are expected to be decommissioned soon.

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