Philippines seeks second-hand US F-16s
Updated: 2011-12-21 19:59
MANILA - The Philippines has asked the United States to give it at least a squadron of second-hand F-16 fighters to help upgrade its territorial defences, the foreign secretary said on Wednesday.
The Philippines has no air power to speak of, with its 40-year-old F-5A/Bs fighter jets retired from service several years ago. It has no bombers or surveillance aircraft and still flies Vietnam War-era UH-1H helicopters.
"We are just trying to restore our capability as it was before," Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters.
He said he hoped the fighters would be acquired through excess defence articles, a US military aid programme.
"I think we are actually behind the curve ... we have been far more advanced many years ago in terms of military capability," he said.
Del Rosario said acquisition of the F-16 fighters would be among issues to be discussed in strategic talks in Washington in the first quarter of 2012, when Del Rosario and Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin meet their US counterparts.
He said Washington has agreed to give Manila larger ships and faster aircraft to assist in setting up surveillance stations to improve the military's "maritime domain awareness".
Last August, Washington delivered a Hamilton-class coast guard cutter, the largest ship in the Philippine Navy's fleet.
A similar vessel is due to arrive in the third quarter of next year and a third might also be acquired.
As was the case with the Hamilton-class cutter, del Rosario said he hoped the transfer of F-16s would be free of charge under the aid programme.
Manila would pick up the cost of refurbishment and repairs, he said.
The Philippines has said it will spend 40 billion pesos ($941 million) over the next five years to upgrade its military, buying new helicopters, ships and surveillance equipment.