Tue, Sep 17, 2002 - Page 3 News List

The Philippines wants Taiwan's jets

AFP , MANILA

The Philippine military said yesterday it wanted surplus F-5E jets from Taiwan to form the core of its "interim fighter fleet" while it looked for money to buy more modern jets.

The Philippines is also looking for surplus F-5E jets from other countries, armed forces chief of staff General Benjamin Defensor said.

"The F-5 we are getting for our Philippine Air Force is actually an interim measure," he said, adding that the jets would be used to form "an interim fighter fleet until we get the modern fighters."

Defensor was reacting to a report on Sunday by a Taiwan newspaper that negotiations between Manila and Taipei over the sale of the fighter jets was gathering pace.

In return for the sale, Taiwan is pressing Manila to allow its jets to land in the former US air base at Clark north of the capital because it does not have enough air space to train its pilots. Taiwan's defense ministry was tight-lipped on the negotiations but the sale would most likely anger Beijing.

Taiwan has scrapped the outdated fighters, which were made under US license in the 1970s, after its air force acquired US-made F-16s, French-made Mirage 2000-5s and home-made Indigenous Defense Fighters.

But despite their age, the Philippine military has said the single-seater F-5Es would still be a boost to its ill-equipped air force amid Muslim and communist insurgency problems plaguing the countryside.

The Philippines' legislature passed a military modernization program in the mid-1990s that called for the acquisition of modern multi-role fighter aircraft and patrol boats. The fighter acquisition program has failed to take off due to a lack of funding.

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