The U.S. State Department approved three separate transactions for the sale of F-16 fighter jets and Sidewinder and Harpoon missiles to the Philippines, with a total value of more than 2.5 billion U.S. dollars.
The Philippines is looking for new multirole fighter jets and is evaluating F-16 and SAAB Abs Gripen.
The announcement on Thursday comes as the United States is seeking to renew an agreement with the Philippines regarding the presence of American troops in the country, which is critical to Washington’s strategy to combat China’s expanding activities in Asia.
last week, The Philippines once again suspended the cancellation of the 20-year Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) for six months It was originally scheduled to expire in August.
The Pentagon stated that the Philippines requested the purchase of 10 F-16C Block 70/72 aircraft and two F-16D Block 70/72 aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin. The package includes spare parts and training and is worth up to $2.43 billion.
Although approved by the State Council, the notice does not indicate that the contract has been signed or the negotiation has ended.
Usually during the competition, the department approves the export before nominating the winner.
“Preferred Security Partner”
Eric Sayers, a visiting scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said this appeared to be “a positive effort by Washington to ensure that the United States remains Manila’s preferred security partner.”
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines often condemned US foreign policy while exploring closer relations with China, he told Washington last year VFA cancelled amid anger of senators and allies being denied U.S. visasSince then, he has slowly withdrawn his threats and suspended the expiration dates of military exercises many times.
Duterte also accused the United States of losing part of the Philippines’ territory in the South China Sea to China.
Gregory Pollin, a maritime safety expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that one of Duterte’s complaints was that he believed that the United States did not provide the Philippines with high-quality equipment.
“I expect the U.S. government will look for opportunities to fight this perception in the next six months,” he said.
The Pentagon also notified Congress on Thursday that it may sell two sets of missiles to the Philippines.
One of them is used for 12 Harpoon air-launched Block II missiles, two training missiles, spare parts and equipment manufactured by Boeing and is worth up to 120 million U.S. dollars.
The other is 24 AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II tactical missiles, 24 training missiles and spare parts manufactured by Raytheon Technology, which are worth up to 42.4 million U.S. dollars.
The Philippines is a treaty ally of the United States, and some military agreements rely on the VFA, which manages the rotation of thousands of American troops in and out of the Philippines.
The ability to have a rotating army is not only important for the defense of the Philippines, but also strategically important for the United States to counter China’s increasingly tough behavior in the region.
“The package plan is a serious step that will definitely attract Beijing’s attention,” Saiers said.
Lockheed Martin stated that the F-16 will play an important role in strengthening the strategic partnership between Manila and Washington and its allies, while enabling the Philippines to join other Southeast Asian F-16 operators.
The Philippines has continuously improved its military capabilities and equipment in recent years, but it is still considered to be lagging behind other countries in the region.
In recent months, Tensions with China over the maritime border issue in the South China Sea Make the country more urgently need to improve its own military capabilities.