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Thomson protest holds up Philippine radar plans

The Philippine air force has been forced again to delay issuing a tender for new air defence radars after Thomson-CSF protested about being dropped from the shortlist. The new fighter programme has now taken a step forward with the issue of the long awaited invitation to bid (ITB).

Manila had been expected to issue an ITB on 27 April for five new radars at the same time as inviting final tenders for the multirole fighter and naval offshore patrol combatant requirements. The bid is on hold as a result of Thomson-CSF objections to the circular of requirements narrowing the selection to L-band radars.

The move disqualified the S-band Thomson-CSF TRS 22XX and Northrop Grumman's mobile TPS-70 radars from the contest, narrowing the selection to the Alenia RAT-31 SL/E, GEC-Marconi Martello and Lockheed Martin FPS-117. The air force had argued that L-band radars are better suited to the Philippines tropical rain environment.

Manila's radar programme has been dogged with controversy and delay since late 1995, when political lobbying undermined a planned purchase of two Martello and two Messenger dual use radars by the Philippine Department of Transportation and Communications. The new air force radars will have to be integrated into the civil air traffic control network.

The air force, meanwhile, has given six manufacturers until 27 July to respond to the ITB for 12 new multirole fighters and 12 options. Qualified contenders are the Boeing F-18C/D, British Aerospace/Saab JAS39 Gripen, Dassault Mirage 2000-5, Israel Aircraft Industries Kfir 2000, Lockheed Martin F-16C/D and MAPO MiG-29 Fulcrum.

As a result of the Philippine peso's devaluation against the US dollar, the initial planned order has been halved. The ITB also specifies the supply of accompanying air to air and air to ground weaponry, financing, countertrade and offset proposals. The air force has stated that it will make a final selection within six months of ITB submissions.

Manufacturers are also submitting responses to an air force request for proposals for six maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). BAe is offering its Australian Coastwatch suite on the Bombardier Dash 8 or the IPTN CN-235, while Casa and IPTN are offering their own MPA versions of the CN-235.

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