MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III said two of 12 FA-50 multi-purpose fighter jets are expected to arrive in the country by next year; a long-overdue addition to the nation’s ill-equipped military.
The two jets, the first brand new ones in almost ten years to be purchased for the Philippine military, were ordered form a South Korean manufacturer. The remaining ten jets are expected to arrive over the next three years.
The Philippines is desperately trying to modernize and beef-up its military – considered one of Asia’s weakest – especially in light of escalating tensions with China as a result of territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
According to Aquino, the Philippines has lacked fighter jets for territorial defense since 2005, when a fleet of F-5 jets was retired from service. The purchase of new assault helicopters, long-range patrol aircraft and C130 cargo planes is expected to strengthen the ailing air force, he said.
In a speech at Clark Freeport, to mark the anniversary of the Philippine air force, Aquino lamented: “It’s saddening to think about the state of the air force that we inherited: Once regarded as among Asia’s strongest, the air force seemed to have failed to take off from decades of anomalies, abuse and neglect.”
Aquino said with the acquisition of the FA-50s, “we can again defend our territory in a more effective way.”
The twelve FA-50 jets were purchase by the Philippine military from Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. in March, at a total of PHP 18.9 billion ($420 million.)