DND officer-in-charge Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. (PNA photo by Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – The Department of National Defense (DND) is still looking at the possibility of acquiring multirole fighters (MRFs) under Horizon 3 of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program which is scheduled for 2023 to 2028.

"The MRF just like the other priority (projects) of the Air Force is still within our list, it is in Horizon 3," DND officer-in-charge Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. told reporters on the sidelines of the agency's 83rd anniversary celebration in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Monday.

The MRFs are expected to backstop the military's existing fleet of 12 South Korean-made Mach 1.5 capable FA-50PH light jet fighters.

He also said acquiring these assets for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is "part of their wish list".

The requirements for the MRF project stipulate that the offered aircraft must be "fourth generation or higher."

The project also requires 12 MRFs at least capable of patrolling the country's protected waters and airspace.

The MRF is supposed to be part of Horizon 2 of the AFP Modernization Program slated for 2018 to 2022, which aims to acquire more equipment for external defense.

Any aircraft that will be selected must be able to integrate with existing radar systems that have a range of about 250 nautical miles.

Once these MRFs are acquired, the PAF, with the help of these radar systems, can be deployed to determine whether the aircraft flying over the country's airspace is friendly or hostile.

Among possible contenders for the PAF's MRF project include the latest model of the American-made Lockheed Martin F-16s and the Swedish-made Saab JAS-39. (PNA)