KUALA LUMPUR—The Philippines has enlarged its 2018-23 defense modernization program by 44%, budgeting for multirole fighters and the first of at least two planned submarines.
Other equipment being sought from the $5.46 billion allocation are attack and utility helicopters, transport and patrol aircraft and anti-tank, anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. The three services have previously signaled their interest in that equipment.
The navy will get $1.4 billion and the air force and army the rest.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the projects for the 2018-23 plan, known as Horizon 2, defense department spokesperson Arsenio Andolong says. Based on the amount announced by Andolong, the allocation has been increased by about $1.68 billion from Horizon 1.
The Department of Budget and Management is working with the defense department to determine the details of the allocation, Andolong says.
The Philippines has said it will buy multirole fighters once the air force has enough experience with 12 Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50 light attack jets, the last of which was delivered in May 2017.
Companies that have proposed fighters to the Philippines include Saab, with the JAS-39C/D or JAS-39E/F Gripen, and RAC MIG, with the MiG-35. Lockheed Martin is also expected to offer the latest variant of the Fighting Falcon, the F-16V. The Philippines will not consider buying used aircraft.
Duterte said in 2017 that the country would buy another 12 FA-50s; Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reiterated the plan this month.
The Horizon modernization program is divided into three phases, each five years long. Horizon 1 started in 2013 and ended in 2018. Horizon 2 starts this year and goes until 2023, while Horizon 3 will be from 2023 to 2028.
Like most Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines has for many decades structured its armed forces mainly for internal security—keeping order and preventing insurrections—rather than defending itself against other countries. This is intended to change under the three Horizon plans.
“The second Horizon is supposed to be our transition period from internal security operations to territorial defense, so we’re somewhere in between,” Andolong told the Philippines News Agency.
An air force modernization time line shows multirole fighter acquisition beginning in 2021 with four aircraft, followed by eight in 2022. Then 12 more would be sought from 2023.
The first diesel-electric submarine was initially earmarked for Horizon 3 but has been brought forward because the navy is worried it will be left behind by regional neighbors.
Four countries in Southeast Asia—Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore—have submarines. Thailand said in 2017 it would acquire two; one has been ordered from China.
Andolong declined to say how many submarines will be bought, but said it will be more than one.
“Yes, it won’t just be one because having only one would be useless,” he said. The navy has already created a submarine group under its command to prepare for the eventual purchase.
Under the second phase of the modernization program, the army wish list included towed and self-propelled howitzers, multiple launch rocket systems, light tanks, armored recovery vehicles, fire support vehicles, tactical radios, ground mobility equipment, individual weapons, heavy machine-guns and grenade launchers, and night fighting systems.
The air force also wants more air defense radars, light utility aircraft, medium transport aircraft, heavy transport helicopters, unmanned aircraft, attack and combat utility helicopters, special mission and long-range patrol aircraft, and trainer aircraft.
The navy has asked for more frigates, corvettes, amphibious assault vehicles, anti-submarine helicopters, fast attack craft, medium helicopters and a multirole vessel.
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