After a deal with India for the induction of anti-ship Brahmos missiles, the Philippines government seems interested in upgrading its fleet of military aircraft with help from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
According to sources, HAL has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation (PADC) in April that may lead to export of India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and Light Utility Helicopter (LUH).
However, a lot will depend on Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who will be taking over as president of the Philippines in June.
The greatest threat to Philippines is China that refuses to acknowledge the arbitration order granting Philippines sovereignty over the West Philippines Sea.
Philippines considers the West Philippines Sea as its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) but China wants it to remain as part of the South China Sea over which it claims full control.
Marcos Jr has his task cut out for him. He has to either oppose China’s stance to claim its rights over the West Philippines Sea or face reprisal in his own country.
Most of the population in the Philippines are against China’s bullying in the South China Sea region. No wonder, Brahmos missile batteries have been inducted.
If there is one weapon that China fears the most, its the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, considered the most lethal in its class in the world.
China had even raised objections (even diplomatically) when Brahmos carrying Su-30 MKI fighters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) landed at upgraded Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) in Arunachal Pradesh, close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China.
During his election campaign, Marcos Jr had indicated that he plans to resolve issues with China through bilateral dialogue.
Unfortunately, China does not think that way. It is on an expansionist mode and would give little thought to countries like the Philippines that have not aligned with it against the US or the Quad (an agreement between the US, India, Australia and Japan).
The Quad nations have been regularly sending warships into the South China Sea to establish rights of passage.
Unlike Pakistan, which continues to receive Chinese military hardware, if not for anything else but to keep India on the tenterhooks, the armed forces in the Philippines have relied so long on antiquated equipment supplied by US allies like South Korea.
The fighter aircraft operated by the Philippine Air Force are the FA-50PH that are little more than a supersonic trainer aircraft built by South Korea. Its assault helicopters are from Turkey and are no longer a potent threat.
“Given the size of the country, Philippines does not require heavy or even medium fighters. The Philippine Air Force is on the lookout for light combat aircraft. It has been established that the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) developed by HAL and being inducted by the IAF are the best in its class in the world.