The Philippines said Friday a deal has been reached to buy 12 fighter jets worth P18.9 billion ($415.7 million) from South Korea as the country struggles to modernize its military.
“We did not only inch closer, we are almost there,” Undersecretary Fernando Manalo, chairman of Bids and Awards Committee, told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo Friday after Manila and Seoul reached a conclusion on the negotiations for the acquisition of 12 FA 50 lead-in fighter jets.
“We are considering it [FA-50 lead-in fighter jets] as not just an ordinary lead-in fighter because it can deliver short range missile and there is a potential for these to be classified as beyond the short range fighter aircraft,” Manalo said.
The deal came amid a seething territorial conflict with China over the resource-rich West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The acquisition of fighter jets is one of the two big ticket items in the P85-billion AFP Modernization Program. The other is the purchase of two brand new frigates worth P18 billion.
The FA-50 is a new light combat aircraft manufactured by Korea Aerospace Industries. It is a light combat version of the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft.
The deal was reached after seven months of negotiations with the Korean firm.
The first two fighter jets will be delivered 18 months after the contract signing, which is targeted before March 15. The delivery will be completed in 2017.
The Philippine military is one of the weakest in Asia, and retired the last of its US-designed F-5 fighters in 2005.