The signing of the contract for 12 fighter jets for the Philippine Air Force on Friday, March 28, was historic for the poorly equipped Philippine military, one of the weakest in Asia. The Philippine defense department has been on a shopping spree in the past few years with its $2 billion budget for military modernization.
In 2015, the shopping bags are arriving. It's going to be the year of the Philippine Air Force, which will see delivery of two of the much awaited FA-50 fighter jets that will bring the ill-equipped air force back to the supersonic age a decade since it retired the last of its US-designed F-5 fighters in 2005.
In his visit to South Korea middle of December, President Benigno Aquino III inspected a sample unit of the Lead-in Fighter Trainer that is also classified by many as a fighter jet because of its minimum fighter capabilities. Its design is derived largely from the US F-16.
Delivery is expected in the 3rd quarter of 2015 after the manufacturer, the Korea Airspace Industries, committed to deliver them earlier than the December 2015 schedule. Air Force pilots are leaving for South Korea in March to train with the Korean Air Force on how to fly and maintain them. Delivery of the 12 fighter jets will be completed by 2017.
the FA-50 is a lead-in fighter trainer aircraft but there are those who consider it a fighter jet because of its minimum fighter capabilities. The FA-50 design is derived largely from the US' F-16, meaning it won't be a problem if the Philippines in the future gets the money to upgrade to the more expensive designs.
The KAI website describes the FA-50 as a "light combat derivative of the T-50 supersonic advanced jet trainer."
It can carry 4.5 tons of weapons, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, machine guns, and precision guided bombers among others. It is also equipped with Night Vision Imaging System, Radar Warning Receiver, and the Counter Measure Dispenser System. KAI CEO Ha Sung Yong said "It will not only be served as the most powerful Advanced Jet Trainer and Lead In Fighter Trainer but also FA-50, the Fighting Eagle, will serve the Philippine Air Force as multipurpose fighter which is already proven the best performance among the equivalent with affordability at the same time."