US OKs sale of F-16s, missiles to PH | Global News
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US OKs sale of F-16s, missiles to PH

/ 05:34 AM June 26, 2021

AIR POWER A US Army soldier looks at an F-16 fighter jet on the tarmac of a military base in Iraq in this file photo. —REUTERS

WASHINGTON — The US Department of State 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 multirole fighter jet and is evaluating the F-16 and the SAAB Abs Gripen.

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The announcement comes as the United States seeks to renew an agreement with the Philippines governing the presence of US troops in the country, which is critical to Washington’s strategy to counter ever-expanding Chinese activity in Asia.

Last week, the Philippines again suspended for another six months a move to scrap the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that had been due to expire in August.

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Proactive effort by US

The Pentagon said the Philippines requested to buy 10 F-16C Block 70/72 aircraft and two F-16D Block 70/72 aircraft made by Lockheed Martin Co. That package, which includes spares and training, is valued at up to $2.43 billion.

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 department will approve exports before a winner is 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.”

President Duterte, who has frequently condemned US foreign policy while exploring closer ties with China, told Washington last year he was canceling the VFA amid outrage over a senator and ally being denied a US visa. But he has repeatedly suspended the expiration date.

Gregory Poling, maritime security expert at Center for Strategic and International Studies, said one of Duterte’s complaints had been his perception that the United States does not provide high-quality equipment to the Philippines.

“I’d expect that the US government will be looking for opportunities over the next six months to combat that perception,” he said.

The Pentagon also notified Congress on Thursday of the possible sale of two missile packages to the Philippines.

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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.

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 Philippines is a US treaty ally and several military agreements are dependent on the VFA.

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TAGS: F-16 fighter jets, Gregory Poling, Harpoon missiles, Pentagon, President Rodrigo Duterte, Sidewinder, US State Department
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