The revised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program is divided into three horizons. The first horizon was implemented from 2013 to 2017 and implemented the acquisition of new frigates, fighter jets and
armored vehicles. The second horizon for the modernization program of the Philippine military covering the period 2018 up to 2028 consists of the acquisition of what is called as multi-role fighter aircraft as well as unmanned aerial systems (drones) such as the Elbit Hermes 450 Male UAS and the Elbit Hermes 900 Male UAS.

Talking about multi-role fighter aircraft it was reported that the possible purchase by the Philippines of 12 of the latest variants of F-16 fighter jets from the United States has been met by delays due to supposed financial constraints faced by the country and which deems the price offered by the US as too expensive. The reported sale of these fighter jets from the US comprises 10 F-16C Block 70/72 aircraft and 2 F-16D Block 70/72 aircraft.

For the F16C block 70/72 aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin and claimed to be the latest and most advanced variant of the F16 it boasts of the following technological advancements : Advanced APG-83 AESA radar, Radar Mode improvements, Upgraded Modular and Mission Computer and avionics architecture, Infrared Search and Track (IRST), Advanced datalink, targeting pod and weapons, New cockpit displays and safety improvements, New Digital Flight Control Computer with enhanced Autopilot/Auto Throttle, Automated Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS), Digital Intercommunications System with 3-D audio, and Precision GPS navigation. So many advance technologies incorporated in the newest variant of the F-16.

Being a multi-role fighter jet it can also conduct advanced air-toground missions with improved support for multiple weapons such as the Harpoon Block II airlaunched cruise missiles and AIM9x Sidewinder Block II guided missiles.
If the Philippines is able to acquire twelve of these latest variants of the F-16 fighter jets then the air superiority of the AFP is well on its way to being guaranteed. The only problem is the cost which, for the 12 F-16C Block 70/ 72 aircraft, runs to 2.5 billion dollars and which is deemed too pricey by the country. On the other hand if the
country cannot afford these superior fighter jets then perhaps it can consider acquiring more unmanned aerial systems (UAS) such as unarmed and armed drones.

As already stated above the latest UAS to be purchased by the country are the Elbit Hermes 450 and the Elbit Hermes 900. Both of these drones are used for unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance aerial vehicle. It is
always to the advantage of the country of course, if it can purchase more of these types of drones however, it should also seriously consider buying so called armed drones or commonly called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which are unmanned aircraft designed to identify, surveil and engage ground based targets with kinetic weapons such as bombs and missiles.

Some of the perceived advantages of using UAVs, as against manned fighter aircraft, are safety since unmanned drones have no pilot to be killed, injured or captured, precision in ground based targeting since UAVs have the ability to get closer to their ground based targets, loitering since UAVs are able to linger and surveil their targets far longer that manned aircraft, and expense since UAVs since the costs associated with acquiring, maintaining and operating unmanned drones are far less than that of a mannedaircraft. Of course there are also disadvantages into using armed drones against ground based targets but if the intent of the AFP is to further secure and advance its air
superiority then it must exert all of its effort to acquire more drones to complement its air arsenal.

The Philippines need only to look at how Ukraine is defending its homeland against Russia thru the use of bomb dropping UAVs to understand how armed drones have significantly altered the battlefield. Finally, if the US fully
desires to set up its war material and personnel within the country then it should reciprocate the acquiescence of the Philippines and reduce the cost of its F-16 fighter jets to a level acceptable to the host country, or better yet just give them for free.

Amianan Balita Ngayon