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Saab JAS 39 Gripen Leading the Way to Strengthen Philippine Air force.

Sweden has positioned itself for the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) multirole fighter (MRF) program for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) by signing a framework agreement that will facilitate the Southeast Asian country's access to Swedish-made aircraft. This is why the JAS 39 Gripen is anticipated to be a strong contender in the Philippines' selection for a new combat aircraft.

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Saab JAS39 Gripen during patrol flight  (Picture source: Saab)

The Swedish Embassy in Manila noted on its social media that senior officials from both countries, including Joakim Wallin, head of exports and international relations at the Swedish Defense Material Administration, and Joselito B. Ramos, Assistant Secretary of the Philippine Department of Defense for logistics, acquisitions, and defense self-reliance posture, participated in the signing of the implementation agreement regarding the acquisition of defense materials and equipment on May 17, 2024.

The Swedish embassy in Manila indicates that the logistical cooperation is part of the commitment of both countries under the Memorandum of Agreement on cooperation in defense material acquisition signed by the two countries on June 3, 2023, ratified the same day by Sweden and by the Philippines on September 4, 2023.

Sweden is consistently promoting its Saab JAS-39 Gripen multirole combat aircraft in the Philippines, which is one of the two candidates being considered by the PAF for the MRF program, the other being the American-made Lockheed Martin F-16V. The MRF effort aims to acquire up to 12 new combat aircraft for the PAF with a total approved budget of 61.2 billion pesos ($1.04 billion).

The DND announced earlier that the MRF project had been added to the third horizon of the revised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program, which is expected to run from 2023 to 2027. The MRF was initially supposed to be part of Horizon 2 of the AFP Modernization Program between 2018 and 2022 but was delayed due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement in December 2022, the DND declared that the Gripen aircraft "was on the PAF shortlist" following the issuance of a "positive preliminary notice for the export of the Gripen to the Philippines" a month earlier by the Swedish Strategic Inspection.

Swedish media noted that this approval represents a change in attitude from the Swedish government, with the Export Control Council (EKR) having previously rejected a possible export of the Gripen aircraft to the Philippines. Saab had argued that the Gripen's ease of use, requiring minimal personnel and ground support equipment for dispersed operations and its inherent ability to operate from small, unprepared roads, made it the appropriate choice for the Philippines.

Last year, a PAF delegation led by the Commanding General, Lieutenant General Stephen Parreno, visited the Swedish Air Force for an exchange, as well as Saab to inspect the JAS-39 and Saab 340 airborne early warning and control aircraft.

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