US in ‘Focused’ Talks to Offer Multirole F-16s to Philippines

U.S. and Philippine officials will hold “focused discussions” about selling the Philippine Air Force multirole fighter aircraft—one of several weapons systems the two countries discussed during a recent dialogue. 

The talks are part of the U.S.-Philippines Ministerial Dialogue on April 11, where Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken welcomed their counterparts to Washington, D.C.  

Austin announced during a February visit to the Philippines expanded U.S. troops’ access to four new bases in the country, which is strategically important given its location in the southwest Pacific. U.S. Air Force F-22s deployed to the Philippines in March, the first fifth-generation aircraft ever to operate there. And more than 17,000 U.S. troops are participating in the annual Balikatan exercise in the Philippines, which started this week. 

In a press conference after the 2+2 meetings, Austin said he and Philippine Secretary of National Defense Carlito Galvez discussed “near-term plans to complete a security sector assistance roadmap to support the delivery of priority defense platforms over the next five to 10 years, including radars, unmanned aerial systems, military transport aircraft, and coastal and air defense systems.” 

Austin did not mention negotiations for fighters, but a fact sheet distributed after the event said the two governments will “prioritize the modernization of shared defense capabilities,” specifically “focused discussions on an acquisition plan for a fleet of multirole fighter aircraft for the Philippine Air Force.”

It also said the two would also leverage “the additional $100 million in Foreign Military Financing that the United States announced last fall to support the acquisition of medium-lift helicopters.” 

The Philippine Air Force has been in the market for a dozen new multirole fighters since at least June 2022, when then-President Rodrigo Duterte approved a plan. At the time, former Philippine air chief Lt. Gen. Connor Anthony Canlas Sr. said the Islands sought a fourth-generation fighter, having received proposals for U.S. F-16s and Swedish JAS-39 Gripens.

The PAF’s primary fighter today is the FA-50 trainer/light-attack jet from Korea. 

The Philippine government ordered 32 Black Hawk helicopters in February 2022 and as many as five new C-130J transport aircraft in 2021. The U.S. Air Force has also transferred C-130Hs to the PAF in recent years. 

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