Swedish defense contractor Saab is reportedly in pole position to secure a deal to sell its Gripen fighter aircraft to the Philippine Air Force. Photo: Oleg V Belyakov / AirTeamImages / Wikimedia Commons

The Philippine government is likely to buy Swedish-made Gripen multirole supersonic fighters for its air force, the Philippine News Agency reports.

Apart from being cheaper to purchase and less expensive to maintain, Gripen has also proved to be an excellent fighter aircraft, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told the news agency in an exclusive interview this week.

The Philippine Air Force has been looking for more than a decade for what aircraft it would buy to replace its US-made F5A/B jet interceptors that retired in 2005 because of old age and lack of spare parts. Since the F-5s were put out of service, the Philippine Air Force has had no multirole jet fighters and although it has bought a dozen F-50 jets from South Korea, the capability of those planes is limited compared with the Gripen.

If the deal goes through, the Philippines would be the second Southeast Asian country to acquire Gripens. The Royal Thai Air Force has purchased a dozen Gripens from the Swedish aerospace company Saab. Apart from being part of the Swedish Air Force’s arsenal, Gripen is also used in the air forces of South Africa, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

A potential problem for the Philippines would be Sweden’s strict laws on the export of military materiel, which limit sales to countries where human rights are severely under threat. Seen in that context, the Philippine government could encounter obstacles because of its brutal “war on drugs,” which has claimed thousands of lives.

A United Nations report released last month also names the Philippines among the counties whose governments subject human-rights defenders and activists to “an alarming and shameful level of harsh reprisals and intimidation.”

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