US State Dep’t OKs possible sale of fighter jets, missiles to PH — Pentagon
WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets, as well as Sidewinder and Harpoon missiles, to the Philippines in three separate deals with a combined value of more than $2.5 billion, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
The Philippines is looking for a new multi-role fighter jet and is evaluating the F-16 and the SAAB Abs Gripen.
The U.S. announcement comes as the United States seeks to renew an agreement with Manila governing the U.S. troop presence in the country, which is critical to Washington’s strategy to counter ever-expanding Chinese activity in the region.
Last week, the Philippines again suspended a move to scrap the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement that had been due to expire in August.
The government of the Philippines has requested to buy 10 F-16C Block 70/72 aircraft and two F-16D Block 70/72 aircraft made by Lockheed Martin Co. That arms package, which includes spares and training, is valued at up to $2.43 billion, the Pentagon said.
Despite the State Department approval, the notification does not indicate that a contract has been signed or that negotiations have concluded. Often during a competition, the State Department will approve the export of weapons before a winner has been named.
Eric Sayers, a visiting fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said it appeared to be “a proactive effort by Washington to ensure the United States remains the security partner of choice for Manila.”
The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency also notified Congress on Thursday of the possible sale of two missile packages to the Philippines.
One was for 12 Harpoon Air Launched Block II Missiles, two training missiles, spares and equipment made by Boeing and valued at up to $120 million, the Pentagon said.
Another was for 24 AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II tactical missiles, 24 training missiles and spare parts made by Raytheon Technologies and valued at up to $42.4 million, the Pentagon said.
The Philippines is a U.S. treaty ally and several military agreements are dependent on the Visiting Forces Agreement, which provides rules for the rotation of thousands of U.S. troops in and out of the Philippines for war drills and exercises.
Having the ability to rotate in troops is important not only for the defense of the Philippines, but strategically for the United States when it comes to countering China’s increasingly assertive behavior in the region.
“The package is a serious step that will certainly get Beijing’s attention,” said Sayers.
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