December 16, 2011:
The Philippines is asking the U.S. for some used F-16 jet fighters. The Philippines is broke so the proposed deal is for free F-16s with the Philippines paying for any upgrades or modifications needed for service in the Philippines Air Force. Normally, the Philippines has no practical need for a jet fighter force. But this has changed because of possible clashes with China. The Filipinos are being practical. China is claiming Filipino territorial waters including places where the Philippines authorized drilling for oil and gas. The Philippines could never afford to buy, or even just maintain, warplanes sufficient to deal with a Chinese air threat. The Philippines depends on its friendship with the United States for protection. American warplanes provide better protection than any jet fighters the Philippines could put in the air. But the Philippines would like a dozen or so F-16s just so they can chase away Chinese warplanes that increasingly fly into Filipino air space.
Six years ago the Philippines removed from service its eight F-5 fighters. These 1960s era aircraft were not much of a match for more recent warplanes and were expensive to maintain. In the meantime, the Philippines has been using armed trainer aircraft for strikes against Moslem and communist rebels.
Three years ago the Philippines Air Force bought another 18 Italian SF-260 trainers, for about $812,000 each. The SF-260 has been around for over 40 years and about a thousand have been produced. This is a 1.1 ton, two seat aircraft, with a max speed of 347 kilometers an hour, and an endurance of about six hours. It can be equipped to carry a 100-150 kg (220-330 pounds) of weapons and be used as a light attack aircraft. The Philippines had previously bought 64 SF-260s and has been using them for decades. Because of operational losses and wear-and-tear few are still in service.
Back then things were pretty desperate, or at least more desperate than usual, for the air force. The rising price of oil has forced sharp cutbacks in maritime patrol flights by its five Italian made S211 jet trainers. These five aircraft also served as the only fighter aircraft the Philippines had. The Philippines bought more helicopters, which were very useful in fighting Moslem and communist rebels. The Philippines also kept in service five S211 jet trainers which can be used for ground attack or air-to-air operations (like against terrorists who have hijacked an aircraft.) The Philippines originally bought 25 S211s in the 1980s but due to accidents and lack of maintenance only about five were available for service most of the time.
The 2.7 ton S211s have a max speed of 665 kilometers an hour and can stay in the air for about five hours per sortie. The S211s were not really doing much with the maritime reconnaissance flights, as the aircraft lacked search radar and depended on the eyes of the two pilots to spot anything. The SF-260s will replace the remaining S211s. If some pre-owned F-16s can be obtained from the United States these will also be able to help out with ground attack duties.