The Philippine Air Force's (PAF) plans to acquire 12 FA-50 fighter jets has received a favourable boost following approval of the project's terms of reference by the Department of National Defense's (DND) Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).
Philippines Assistant Defence Secretary Patrick Velez was quoted by The STAR as saying that the terms of reference, comprising vital details of the acquisition, will soon be forwarded to Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for final approval.
The final approval is expected to pave the way for the DND to start negotiations with the aircraft manufacturer, Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI).
Noting that the negotiations are anticipated to complete by the end of August, Velez said, ''We are expediting it because it is a priority project.''
Philippines Defence Undersecretary Fernando Manalo was earlier quoted by the news agency as saying that South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) will sign the agreement on behalf of Seoul, guaranteeing the assets' performance even if they are manufactured by a private company.
Around PHP18.9bn ($463.3m) has been allocated by the Philippines Government for acquisition of FA-50 fighters as part of a modernisation programme, which aims to address the country's requirements to counter airborne threats and also to train pilots on supersonic high-performance weapons platforms.
Offered to PAF in October 2012, the FA-50 is a multirole fighter variant of KAI's T-50 Golden Eagle and features upgraded EL/M-2032 pulse-Doppler radar, advanced avionics, a longer radome, a greater internal fuel capacity and a tactical datalink.
The aircraft are scheduled to be used for training, interdiction and disaster response missions, in addition to reconnaissance and surveying operations.
The PAF, which retired its F-5 Freedom Fighter jets in 2005, had initially attempted to procure used F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft from US, but the plan was scrapped later due to budgetary constraints.
Image: The FA-50 is a multirole fighter version of the T-50 Golden Eagle aircraft. Photo: courtesy of Kentaro Iemoto.