An FA-50 fighter jet. (photo grabbed from KAI website http://www.koreaaero.com/)

An FA-50 fighter jet. (photo grabbed from KAI website http://www.koreaaero.com/)

The Philippines may start getting fighter jets in 2015 under a deal being negotiated with South Korean aircraft maker Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI), Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Thursday.

Deliveries of the FA-50 lead-in fighter jets are expected to start “June 2015,” Gazmin said in a text message.

Gazmin made the remark after saying that the defense department has already recommended measures on how to resolve issues on the P18.9-billion project.

“We recommended the approval of the downpayment and progress billing,” Gazmin said.

Earlier this month, Undersecretary for modernization Fernando Manalo said KAI is asking for a 52 percent downpayment but the department can only pay 15 percent under the law.

Another key issue is the “turnaround time,” or the period required for the supplier to deliver spare parts under warranty. The department requires the supplier to deliver spare parts within 30 to 45 days, while KAI wants a 180-day period.

The DND recommended that KAI be allowed a period of 60 days, Gazmin said.

Recommendations on the project have been sent to the Office of the President, he added.

“The FA-50 project is ongoing. There are just terms that require prior approval of the President,” Manalo said in a separate text message.

The government and KAI began negotiations early this year on the former’s plan to buy 12 FA-50 fighter jets.

The country retired its last seven F5 fighter jets in 2005, after being in service for 40 years.

The absence of fighter jets and other modern equipment for almost a decade now has left the country’s far-flung territories – like the Spratly Islands off Palawan and Scarborough Shoal off Zambales – virtually “open” to intrusions by other countries, especially muscle-flexing China. (John Roson)

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