Andrew Mollett

Confusion surrounds the possible acquisition by the Philippines government of a new multi-role fighter aircraft.

Boeing says a final decision could be made as early as this year. "The political will on this one is very strong in spite of the region's economic difficulties," says a Boeing official.

However, a Lockheed Martin official says the Philippines government has decided to postpone the acquisition of the aircraft.

An official from a third bidder, Israel Aircraft Industries, says that the bidders will have to wait until the new budget later this year to see exactly how much money has been allocated for defence.

He adds that much will also depend on the level of US economic assistance, "-and you can be sure that if it is substantial the orders will inevitably be awarded to one of the US bidders."

It is expected that the deal will involve the acquisition of between 24 and 30 fighters and be worth as much as $600 million.

The six finalists are Boeing (F/A-18C/D Hornet), Dassault (Mirage 2000-5), Israel Aircraft Industries (Kfir 2000), Lockheed Martin (F-16C/D Fighting Falcon), MAPO-MIG (MiG-29) and BAe/Saab (Gripen).

Boeing is convinced that it is in a strong position to win the contract.

"The advantages of the F-18 having been designed primarily as an aircraft for maritime service makes it a perfect choice for service in the Philippine archipelago," says an official, adding that the Philippines government is "-a very sophisticated customer who will look hard not only at the aircraft but also the offset package that will come with the bids.

"This makes us a strong contender, as one would be pushed to find a competitor who can offer a better overall package than ourselves."

Source: Flight Daily News