The Philippine Air Force has not had a fighter jet in the sky for the last eight years, when it retired the last of its US-designed F-5s in 2005.
That is why the Philippines is keen on acquiring 12 FA-50 fighter jets from South Korea.
Speaking to reporters in Seoul on Thursday night, President Benigno Aquino 3rd said the Philippines and Korea pledged to speed the procurement process for the FA-50s.
“We’re just finishing some things both in their laws and our laws regarding the procurement. The details were really plenty,” the President told reporters in Seoul on Thursday night.
Aquino, who was scheduled to return to Manila after a two-day state visit in South Korea on Friday night, said the Philippines and Korea pledged to speed the process for the procurement of the fighter jets.
The Philippine government has allocated P18.976-billion to purchase new jets as part of the plan to modernize the military.
The 12 new jets will be multitasking for the Air Force. They would be used to train pilots and also to patrol the country’s borders.
”We’re handling this [as a]G-to-G [government-to-government] procurement. There were several models that were looked at by the Air Force and after all of the negotiations, this is their preference,” the President noted, referring to the Korean Aerospace Industries Inc.
(KAI) which developed the aircraft.
Aquino and South Korean President Park Geun-hye witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries that calls for greater cooperation in the arms industry.
Malacañang earlier said the FA-50s will be the first fighter jet acquisition for the Philippine Air force since it retired the last of its US-designed F-5 fighters in 2005.
”We don’t have any existing jets right now that are in use, therefore it is necessary for us to upgrade. This is part of the ongoing process of modernizing our military hardware,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters.
The jets, Lacierda said, will be used for “training, interdiction and disaster response.” They are equipped with cameras for aerial survey.
Aquino made it clear that the planned purchase was “not aimed at any particular country” despite the new tensions with China over maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea.
President Aquino discussed acquiring more South Korean military hardware when South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak visited the Philippines in November 2011.