Sweden has reaffirmed its offer to provide the Saab JAS 39 “Gripen” multi-role fighter aircraft as part of the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) ongoing modernization efforts aimed at enhancing its air fleet capabilities. This announcement follows a recent diplomatic engagement on Monday, where Annika Thunborg, the Swedish Ambassador to Manila, paid a courtesy call to Gilberto Teodoro Jr., the Secretary of the Department of National Defense (DND). The meeting took place at the DND headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. The Philippine News Agency reported that the Saab JAS 39 “Gripen” is considered one of the top contenders for the PAF’s multirole fighter (MRF) acquisition project, standing alongside the US Lockheed Martin F-16V “Viper.” The Gripen is renowned for its versatility, earning the classification as the most reliable “swing-role combat aircraft” available worldwide.
The modernization initiative aims to complement the Philippine Air Force’s existing fleet of 12 South Korean-made FA-50PH light jet fighters. The project specifications require the offered aircraft to be “fourth generation or higher.” A minimum of 12 MRFs with the capability to patrol the nation’s protected waters and airspace are sought after. Originally intended to be part of the AFP Modernization Program’s Horizon 2 phase, spanning from 2018 to 2022, the MRF project’s timeline was deferred due to the global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Saab AB had previously engaged with Teodoro’s predecessors on the JAS 39 Gripen proposal, including Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on March 24, and Defense Chief Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. on December 21, 2022.
The Saab JAS 39 Gripen, often referred to as the “Griffin,” is a single-engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft produced by Saab AB. Sporting a delta wing and canard configuration with relaxed stability design and fly-by-wire flight controls, the Gripen is fully NATO interoperable. Over 2710 Gripens of various models, from A to F, have been delivered. What sets the Swedish-made fighter apart is its capacity to operate with minimal personnel and ground support equipment, enabling it to carry out operations even from small unprepared roads. It boasts state-of-the-art radar, sensors, and weaponry, making it a formidable addition to any air force. Notably, the Gripen features canard control surfaces that provide positive lift force at all speeds. The delta wing’s ample lift compensates for the negative lift produced by the rear stabilizer during high speeds, thus reducing induced drag.
To ensure a lengthy service life of approximately 50 years, Saab designed the Gripen with low maintenance requirements in mind. Modular major systems like the RM12 engine and PS-05/A radar contribute to reduced operating costs and enhanced reliability. The Gripen’s adaptable design allows for seamless integration of new sensors, computers, and armaments to keep pace with technological advancements. Moreover, the Gripen program emphasizes technology transfer agreements and industrial partnerships with export customers. Customization to client needs facilitates the inclusion of local suppliers in manufacturing and support processes. Operators receive access to the Gripen’s source code and technical documentation, enabling autonomous upgrades and integration of new equipment. As the Philippine Air Force continues its path towards modernization, the potential inclusion of the Saab JAS 39 Gripen presents an opportunity for enhanced aerial capabilities and strengthened defense.