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Philippines May Buy Fighter Jets Other Than U.S. F-16s

May. 16, 2012 - 09:51AM   |  
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MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is looking at arming itself for the first time with dedicated fighter jets made outside of the United States, President Benigno Aquino said May 16 amid a territorial dispute with China.

The Philippines last month requested aircraft, patrol boats and radar systems from its U.S. military ally to help it achieve what the government said would be a “minimum credible defense.”

Aquino said that his government had asked to buy second-hand F-16s from the U.S., but the jets’ maintenance costs could end up being too high because of their age.

“We might end up spending $400 million or $800 million per squadron, and we were thinking of getting two squadrons,” he said in an interview with Manila’s Bombo Radio.

“We do have an alternative, and — this is a surprise — it seems we have the capacity to buy brand-new, but not from America,” Aquino said, without mentioning the aircraft model. “These are manufactured by another progressive country that I won’t name at this point.”

Aquino noted that Manila had retired its last fighter jet, a Korean War-vintage F-5, in 2005.

It does continue to fly Italian firm Marchetti’s S211 trainer jets, which are sometimes used as ground attack aircraft against various insurgencies.

But along with the F-5, the Philippines had previously relied on obsolete U.S. hand-me-downs, including the T-33 and the P-51 Mustang as dedicated attack fighters. The country now has no effective air defenses.

It is engaged in a tense maritime standoff with China over the disputed Scarborough Shoal and surrounding waters in the South China Sea. Both nations have stationed vessels there for more than a month to assert their sovereignty.

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