Friday, May 22, 2015

The Philippine Navy embarks on the acquisition of missile-armed Multi Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC-M)

The Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) has recently released the Terms of Reference for the Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC) acquisition project (Lot 1) for the Philippine Navy (PN). The Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) is Php 270 million for 3 brand new units, The boats shall be delivered together with mission essential equipment and integrated logistics support (ILS) package for the first 2 years.

The project is actually divided into 2 lots: Lot 1 involves the acquisition of the boat itself, considered to be good enough as a regular MPAC, and Lot 2 is for the acquisition of a remote weapons system (RWS) and a missile launching system. More of Lot 2 will be discussed later on, in the meantime, MaxDefense will focus on the current project, which is Lot 1.

The Multi-Purpose Attack Craft:
The Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC) is a fast boat used by the PN for different missions, which includes insertion and extraction of troops, maritime patrol, maritime law enforcement, and other purposes that the PN finds the boats capable of doing. Currently the PN has six MPAC in its arsenal, divided into 2 sub-classes. Being minor assets, they are not named in the PN fleet, but are only know according to their hull number. Based on the PN's hull numbering system, the boats are currently designated as Assault Landing Crafts with designation as "BA".

The current classes of MPAC in the PN are around 15 to 17 meters long, has a maximum speed of around 40 to 4 knots using

The first ship of class of the MPAC Mk. 1, BA-482, during tests.
Photo taken from the Philippine Navy's website.
The first ship of the MPAC Mk. 2, BA-485, during the presentation to the media a few years ago.

The first sub-class, locally known as the "MPAC Mk. 1", consists of hull number BA-482, BA-483, and BA-484, are designed and built for Filipino company Propmech Corporation by their subcontractor Lung Teh Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. of Taiwan, with propulsion system, fit-out, local sales,and support provided by Propmech. It is 15 meters long, has a maximum speed of 40 knots, and is entirely made of aluminum.

The MPAC Mk. 1's plan and cross section details.
Photo taken from Lung Teh Shipbuilding Co. Ltd's product brochure.

A second sub-class locally know as "MPAC Mk. 2", consists of hull number BA-485, BA-486 and BA-487. They are physically bigger at 17 meters long, and has improved performance like a higher maximum speed of 45 knots. It also made modifications to address shortcomings found on the Mk. 1 like position of gun mounts and access, aerodynamic design, location of ballistic protection armor, and other minor issues. Like its predecessor, the Mk.2 boats were also designed and made by Propmech and Lung Teh.  

The MPAC Mk. 2's plan and cross section details.
Photo taken from Lung Teh Shipbuilding Co. Ltd.'s product brochure.

Both sub-classes are armed with a single 12,7mm M2 machine gun and two M60 7,62mm machine guns, with the smaller guns positioned frontward. The Mk.2 also has an improved field of fire as compared to the Mk. 1, with the machine guns moved to a higher position near the boat's bridge.

The PN's MPAC Mark 3:

With the continuous experience gained by the Philippine Navy in using both 2 different types of MPACs in service, it was able to again come up with a redesign of the type, with a few changes on the MPAC Mk. 2, and additional weapons and sensors systems that will further expand the role of the MPAC from merely an insertion and patrol platform, into a small surface combatant.

Based on the Technical Specifications released by the DND, the changes include improvements on the safety features and ballistic protection, at the same time the installation of 12.7mm heavy machine gun in a remote weapons stations (RWS), plus a missile launching systems that will be provided separately by the Philippine Navy. Doing so means increasing the loading capacity the boats can carry while retaining the same agility and performance as the regular MPACs. This might be possible with the reduced required passenger capacity for the boarding team from 20+ men to just a minimum of 8 men. Although more can be made, it would probably be used by the designers as basis, as increasing the capacity to more than 8 men means increasing the design of the boat.

The reduced boarding team capacity also means using the space for the RWS and its operators, and storage for ammunition. This also means the troop insertion will become a minor role for the boats, as it becomes closer to a small fast missile craft rather than an MPAC.

The increased ballistic protection may include adding more armoring on locations that previously do not have this feature. It may also mean increasing the armor plate thickness, or improving the slope or material used on locations that were already armored in the MPAC Mk. 2, thus increasing the total weight of the boat without passengers and crew.

Use of Remote Weapons Stations and Missile Launching System:
The installation of the remote weapons systems, which was rated to be weighing only a maximum of 800 kilograms, which appears to be a single system that will both carry and integrate a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and missile launching system. MaxDefense believes that the DND & PN are actually leaning on having Rafael's Mini Typhoon stabilized naval RWS gun-missile mount. Including the ammunition, the total weight of the ammo and weapons system is 1,500 kilograms.

The Rafael Mini Typhoon naval RWS mount as shown with a Spike missile launcher.
Photo snipped from Rafael Mini Typhoon brochure.

This RWS system can be mounted with a Philippine Navy-standard Browning M2 machine gun, and Rafael's own Spike ER or Spike NLOS surface to surface missile, which has a navalized variant. If this would be the choice, MaxDefense hopes that the DND and PN choose the NLOS variant of the missile, which has a reported maximum effective range of 25 kilometers as opposed to the Spiker ER which only has an effective range up to 8 kilometers. 

Not only Spike NLOS a better weapon than the Spike ER, it is also a missile that can be used by the Philippine Navy for other purposes. With the PN also embarking to acquire a naval helicopter with anti-surface and anti-submarine capabilities, the Spiker NLOS can be a good candidate. It is further bolstered by the PN's possible choice of the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat helicopter, which was also chosen by the Republic of Korea Navy with the capability to fire the Spike NLOS. That makes 2 possible platforms where the Spike NLOS can be used.

The Spike NLOS missile from Rafael. 

Aside from a RWS mounting, the boat will still feature at least 2 manually-operated machine gun mounts for 7.62mm general purpose machine guns, probably on the same location as those found at the MPAC Mk. 2.

Requirement to be Locally Made:
The PN has been the most interested armed service to have its assets built locally, in line of its goal of partial self-sufficiency as part of its long term goals. A requirement for the project are for bidders to build the boats locally, unlike the earlier MPACs that were actually built aborad (Mk.1 was built in Taiwan, and it is still unclear if Mk.2 was built locally by Propmech, or was built in Taiwan by Lung Teh Shipbuilding for Propmech).

The size of the boats are reasonable enough to be built locally, as it does not represent a large technological leap for local shipbuilders. As a country that is considered the 4th largest shipbuilding country in the world, it is expected that this should be attainable with high degree of success and quality.

Is it the Platform Best for use in the West Philippine Sea?
The MPAC has shown its versatility in several occassions, as a troop insertion and special operations boat, as an inshore patrol boat, and as a fast search and rescue platform. But it will always be limited by its size in many capabilities, like in the sea state it is going to operate, the range and endurance in operation, weapons and load it can safely and optimaly carry, and in the comfort in which the crew can operate.

Arming the boat with a missile system may represent a leap of capability for the Philippine Navy, but this technological capability can only be used on threats that are inshore or within a few kilometers away from land. It can't be used well to operate in offshore waters with high sea state, and where most of the armed threats the country is facing can be found. 

The missile system it may use is a good one, but is small and not enough to really stop large patrol vessels or frigate-sized ships the neighboring countries are fielding in case a shooting war starts. The missile system is designed for lower ranges and will need the missile MPAC to get close to its target, and if the target is a missile armed corvette or frigate, it would definitely be fired upon first several kilometers away before the MPAC reaches its optimal launching distance.

In short, the missile-armed MPAC is not optimized for the West Philippine Sea. 

For the West Philippine Sea and other offshore threats, it would still be best for the Philippine Navy to invest on vessels that are at least designed to operate in high sea states without degradation of the weapons and sensor system's performance, and has enough size and endurance to stay longer and carry a larger, more powerful anti-ship missile system.

Larger vessels that can carry larger missiles and can operate at deeper waters are advisable for the West Philippine Sea area, rather than using small missile-armed MPACs. The minimum size would be similar to the Korea Navy's Gomdoksuri-class fast attack craft (above), although something larger would be better.
Photo taken from Korea Defense Network website.

So is the MPAC Mk.3 a Bad Investment?
Not really. After all these shortcomings, MaxDefense does not discount the plan to arm its latest generation MPAC with missiles. The boats can be a good platform to use in patrols near the borders between the Southern Philippines and Sabah, where pirates and illegal activity has always been rampant. Its speed and size can be of good use in this area, and it can easily be based on the thousands of small islands with ease.

The Philippine Navy needs more small patrol boats and MPACs to guard its southern corridors, while it would be best for the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine National Police Maritime Group to patrol the archipelagic waters of the country.

Another suggestion of using the MPAC is operating from the Kalayaan Group of Islands. But the lack of a decent port facility in any of the islands occupied by the Philippines might be detrimental to this plan. But having missile armed MPACs ready for deployment once these facilities are available is better than having nothing at all.

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So far, the last publicly announced communication made by the DND regarding the Lot 1 of this project is the temporary suspension of the project until further notice. But MaxDefense believes that this project has only hit a temporary issue that has also affected several other projects of the AFP Modernization Program.

MaxDefense is hopeful that the government will finally clear all the obstacles hindering the DND and PN from continuing the program to acquire its needed equipment, including this latest MPAC endeavor.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Philippine Army to Acquire Night Fighting Systems to Improve its Night Fighting Capabilities.

On March 31, 2015, the Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) has recently completed the pre-bid conference for the Night Fighting System (NFS) Acquisition Project for the Philippine Army (PA). The turnout of interested entities was very good, with a mixture of local and foreign companies showing up, although it is expected that not all will be participating in submitting a bid once the bid submission proceeds, depending on their capability to supply the products, meet the deadline, and meet the profit they require.

The Invitation to Bid released by the DND recently indicates that the PA will be acquiring 4,464 sets of the NFS, probably bound for the PA's Special Operations Command (SOCOM), with an Approved Budget for Contract (ABC) worth Php 1.116 billion. The winning bidder must deliver the products within 180 calendar days (6 months), consisting of Night Vision Monocular that can be mounted on helmet and individual weapon, an Infrared Aiming Device to be mounted on the weapon, and a Laser Zeroing Device for calibrating the aiming devices.

NVD product displayed by UDMC & Nivisys during last year's ADAS 2014 Defense Exhibition.
Photo taken from UDMC's website.

These system gives the infantry the capability to fight at night or in low light environments, which is crucial for Special Operations and to give superior advantage against enemy forces without such capability like the insurgency and terrorist forces operating within the country.

The Philippine Army have limited numbers of night fighting systems, and are mostly confined to the PA's SOCOM operators. Four thousand sets is enough to provide an entire brigade with the system for each operator, and enabling the PA to distribute its older systems to other field units that may require such equipment.

1. Nightline Inc.
The Texas-based company is no stranger to the DND and Philippine Army. They previously supplied the PA with 2,351 M914A monocular night vision devices for the Special Operations Command. The M914A is a variant of the US military-spec AN/PVS-14 which is the most common NVD in the US military today.

It is expected that Nightline will be offering their most common products: for the Night Vision Monocular, they might offer either the NL914A (which is similar to the M914A they supplied before), or their newer NL914B which can be powered by either 3 standard 1.5V AA batteries, or a single 3V CR123 battery.

Nightline's NL914B, which is an enhanced version of the types used by the PA's SOCOM.
Photo taken from Nightline's website.

For the Infrared Aiming Device, they currently offer 3 types, the DBAL-A2, DBAL-A3 and the DBAL-I2. The DBAL-A2 is the same as the US Military AN/PEQ-15A), while the DBAL-A3 is an enhanced version which includes dual remote cable ports. Meanwhile, the larger DBAL-I2 is an older model, a variant of the US Military AN/PEQ-2A which is being used by the Philippine Army.

Nightline's DBAL-A3 infrared aiming device.
Photo taken from Nightline's website.

For the Laser Zeroing Device, Nightline offers the MBS-AA & MBS-1WE borelights. The MBS-AA is more suitable for rifles and machine guns, while the smaller MBS-1WE is applicable for pistols and rifles.

MaxDefense expects Nightline to offer the NL914B, DBAL-A2, and the MBS-AA for this project.

2. United Defense Manufacturing Corporation (UDMC) - Nivisys LLC Partnership:
Local firm UDMC has been actively promoting its products for the past few years, and its partnership with American company Nivisys LLC might be a big break for them. UDMC does not make their own night vision devices, but Nivisys is a known manufacturer of such products. Both companies were present in last year's ADAS 2014 defense exhibition.

A PAF Staff Sergeant inspecting UDMC-Nivisys' weapon mounted NVD systems mounted on an AR-15 type rifle during last year's ADAS 2014 defense exhibition.
Photo taken from UDMC's website.

Nivisys'product line include their version of the AN/PVS-14A monocular NVD, and they have larger weapon mounted systems like the AN/PVS-22 and AN/PVS-27. Another is the MUM-14, which is smaller and simpler than the rest of the product line. For the infrared aiming device, Nivisys offers the GCP-2 IR tactical aimer/pointer which can be hand-held or mounted on individual and crew-served weapons.

MaxDefense believes that UDMC-Nivisys may offer the AN/PVS-14A and GCP-2 to the DND.

3. Intertrade Asia Pacific Corp. - Theon Sensors S.A. Partnership
MaxDefense believes that they were wrong named in the recent news report on this project, and MaxDefense has reasons to believe that the company they meant was Greek company Theon Sensors S.A.

Theon offers several types of monocular NVD under the NX-122 series. The latest version is the NX-122C, might be the best they can offer to the DND. 

Theon Sensor's NX-122C monocular night vision device.
Photo taken from Theon Sensors S.A.'s website.

Their website didn't indicate any product offering for the infrared aiming device and the laser zeroing device, which is part of the entire system. It could either be they will be supplying the product made by another company, or they will going with a collaboration with a company that manufacturers MILSPEC laser devices.

4. Armasight Enterprises
This company, based in the United States, provides a wide variety of night vision systems and accessories, and focuses entirely on similar systems unlike its other larger competitors. They pride themselves of having people with experience to NVS, with staff being previous employees of larger companies or competitors.

Armasight's PVS-14, which comes in different versions as listed in their product website.
Photo from Armasight's website.

They also have their own versions of the AN/PVS-14 which appears to also be their main product line of monocular night vision goggles. Their infrared aiming devices offered include the Drakos and Drakos 2, which have similarities to the AN/PEQ-15 used by the US Military.

5. Exelis Inc.
American company Exelis Inc. is a leading defense and security company, with several offerings on their product lines including several variants of night vision devices. 

Their most common is their version of the AN/PVS-14, and a lesser capable but probably cheaper variant which they call the Night Enforcer PVS-14 used for law enforcement duties. Not much information is available though if they have their own manufactured Infrared Aiming Device and Laser Zeroing Devices.

6. System Nomics Philippines Inc. - Aselsan A.S. 
Local company System Nomics Philippines will be fronting for the Turkey's largest defense company Aselsan A.S. Aselsan produces different night vision products although MaxDefense believes their strength lies on military electronics and munition systems. 

Aselsan manufactures their license copy of the AN/PVS-18 / M983 NVD (above).
Photo taken from L-3's website.

Aselsan manufactures the A100 monocular NVD, and license built copies of the M983 and M983A monocular systems based on the L-3 Warrior Systems AN/PVS-18. No information though if Aselsan manufactures infrared aiming and laser zeroing devices. 

Not much information is available though if they have their own manufactured Infrared Aiming Device and Laser Zeroing Devices. But it is possible for System Nomics to acquire these items from a different manufacturer.

7. Spartans 3 Trading Corporation:

This is the first time MaxDefense heard about this company. According to its official website, it appears to be a Filipino company whose expertise is supplying rescue and safety equipment, and traffic equipment and accessories rather than night vision equipment or firearms. 

Their website didn't list any night vision equipment in their line of products, so it would be difficult for MaxDefense to determine what they will be offering. Definitely they will either be sourcing this from a night vision system manufacturer, or they have partnered with one and will act as a local sales representative.

8. Elbit Systems:
This large Israeli defense company has been actively participating in several major AFP projects, with the most recent being the 155mm Towed Howitzer project. Through their subsidiary Elbit Systems - ITL, have several products that they could offer.

There's the Mini N/SEAS which can be used as a monocular or binocular by combining 2 similar units together, or the newer and more compact XACT-NV32 mirco compact night vision monocular. This was only released by ITL in 2012, and is among the newest model in the possible offerings.

Elbit Systems - ITL Mini N/SEAS (above) and the XACT-NV32 (below).
Photos taken from Specshop Poland and ASD News websites, respectively.

For the laser aiming device, they might be offering the AIM family, specifically the AIM 1-SLR. It appears to be smaller than most offerings that follow the US AN/PEQ-2 model, and can be mounted on AFP-standard weapons like the M16 and M4 family.

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As MaxDefense does not have a copy of the Technical Specifications on this project yet, we can only assume that these are among the possible products the bidders may offer. It is also still unclear who among those who went to the pre-bid conference will continue on and submit a bid on the bid submission date, which is now rescheduled to May 28, 2015 after requests from the bidders to extend the deadline.

MaxDefense is hoping for a very competitive bidding for this project as the number of bidders and the big names involved suggest the strong interest in this project. It would be best if the DND and PA chose not only according to the pricing, but also checking the reliability and lifespan of these products.

This blog entry will now serve as the update page on this project, and all news reports or new information regarding this project will be posted at the update section of this entry.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Is the Philippine Navy's BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) having its Mk.38 Mod.2 guns installed soon?

One of our MaxDefense reader recently confirmed that the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15), the Philippine Navy's flagship, is currently dry-docked in Subic Freeport. According to him (who wishes to remain anonymous), the ship has already been in dry dock for the past 2 to 3 months, and was docked for some time in Subic before entering dry dock. 

The BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15), the Philippine Navy's flagship. The Navy is planning to have Mk.38 Mod.2 secondary 25mm autocannons fitted on the ship soon.

Below are photos he took recently, and although the dry dock is far from his point of view, it is very obvious that the ship inside the dry dock is indeed a Gregorio del Pilar-class / Hamilton-class ship. To the untrained eyes, the double mast can be clearly seen on the first photo.

Both photos taken recently were taken at Subic Freeport. Although very small, it shows the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) dry docked.
Photo taken and shared by one of MaxDefense readers.

Several months ago (last year), MaxDefense posted a news article from PTV-4 and Philippine News Agency (PNA) regarding the BRP Ramon Alcaraz and its new Mk.38 Mod.2 25mm remote weapons station. In that article, it confirmed that the BRP Gregorio del Pilar was scheduled for dry docking betweem February and June of 2015. This might be the scheduled dry docking indicated in the said news report. It is also impossible for its sistership, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, to be dry docked this time as it just recently had its turn late last year.

The interesting part is that the report confirmed that the BRP Gregorio del Pilar is also scheduled to have Mk.38 Mod.2 25mm RWS installed during its dry docking. Originally, reports surfacing about the Philippine Navy acquiring Mk.38 Mod.2 guns from BAE was only for 2 units. So far, 2 units were already installed on the BRP Ramon Alcaraz last year.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) already got its Mk.38 Mod.2 guns last year, and both guns were visible during its port visit to Cebu early this year.
Photo above taken from, photo below taken by an anonymous MaxDefense reader.

So did the Philippine Navy receive 2 more Mk.38 Mod.2 guns from the US? If yes, are the guns being installed on the PN's flagship now?

Only time will tell. It is expected that the PN will be bringing out the ship to the public again once it goes back to sea. And by then we can confirm 100% if such upgrade is indeed made on the ship.

May 11, 2015:
The Philippine News Agency released an updated, as reported here by PTV News, confirming the undocking of BRP Gregorio del Pilar within this week. But it did not confirm the installation of any new system to the ship other than "preserve hull condition and servicing of machineries" which is typical to any drydocking activity.

MaxDefense will wait for any new information or photos after the drydocking which will confirm if there are anything new on the ship or not.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Russia unveils its new T-14 Armata MBT and other Armored Vehicles before Victory Day 2015 Parade

Although this is not totally related to Philippine defense and security, in the future, it could be.

The Russian Army has finally unveilled the vehicles it intends to display during the upcoming Victory Day 2015 parade in Moscow this May 9, 2015. A short summary and photo gallery follows below of what to expect on that day, which is expected to be very important for many defense institutions and government military planners.

Note: All photos are taken from Army Recognition website.

1. T-14 Armata Main Battle Tank

This is the latest generation main battle tank coming from the Russians, a totally different vehicle from their previous generation T-90 series which is heavily derived from the T-72 series. According to several sources, the T-14 Armata is equipped with a unmanned turret installed with a new 125mm smoothbore gun with autoloader feature for 32 ready to use rounds. The photo still covers the turret of the tank, keeping many exposed systems and features until the actual parade.

2. BMP T-15 Armata Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle:

This is a new AIFV that uses the same platform as the T-14 Armata main battle tank. Although it is expected that the vehicle will be armed with a 30mm 2A42 automatic cannon and 4 Kornet-EM anti tank guided missiles, the turret portion was also covered during the parade practice so it is still unconfirmed. It is also expected to have the same level of protection as the tank version, and can be operated by a 2-man crew and a passenger compartment at the rear for a heavy infantry squad.

3. BMP Kurganets-25 Tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicle

This new tracked armored vehicle is the main version of the Kurganets-25 series, and is considerably large even compared to the T-14 Armata tank. It is expected to be armed with a 30mm 2A42 automatic cannon, a 7.62mm PKT co-axial machine gun, and 4 Kornet-EM anti tank guided missiles in the same manner as the BMP T-15. It is expected to carry 8 heavy infantry aside from the 3-man crew, and is fully amphibious with 2 waterjets at the rear of the hull. It is equipped with a passive armor protection system which increases the total width of the vehicle.

4. BTR Kurganets-25 Tracked Armored Personnel Carrier

This is a lightly armed version of the BMP Kurganets-25, using the same platfrom but armed only with a small turret with either a 12.7mm heavy machine gun or a 7.62mm machine gun. MaxDefense believes that this would have a higher passenger capacity that its IFV version.

5. BTR Bumerang Wheeled 8x8 Armored Vehicle

This new wheeled armored vehicle is slated to replace the Soviet-era BTR-80 and BTR-82 series in several variants, and is more reminicent of modern wheeled armored vehicle models from Western countries. It's top portion was also covered during the parade practice, but it is expected to carry the same turret as the BMP Kurganets-25 IFV, with a 30mm 2A42 auto cannon, a 7.62mm co-axial machine gun and 4 Kornet-EM anti-tank guided missiles. It is also expected to be a universal platform for different variants which may include fire support vehicles, anti-tank missile carrier, command post, armored ambulance, and mortar carrier variants.

6. Kamaz 63968 Typhoon-K Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle

One of the two new MRAPs for the Russian Army under the Typhoon program, the Typhoon-K from truck manufacturer Kamaz is a modular 6x6 wheeled armored personnel carrier that can carry 16 troops including the crew. It has a V-hull design that Kamaz claims can withstand up to 8kg of TNT blasts from underneath the vehicle.

7. Ural 63095 Typhoon-U Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle

Another new MRAP from Russia, also under the Typhoon program but is made by Ural. It is also a 6x6 wheeled armored vehicle, which can be armed with a machine gun up to 14.5mm caliber mounted on a remote weapons station on the top of the crew compartment. It has a capacity of 14 troops including its 2-man crew. And like the Kamaz MRAP, it is also designed with a V-hull that the manufacturer claims can withstand an 8kg TNT or mine blast.

8. 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV 152mm Self Propelled Tracked Howitzer

This is a new generation self-propelled tracked howitzser from Russia that utilizes the old 2S19 Msta chassis with a new turret and a new 152mm 2A88 howitzer. The vehicle is also armed with a remote weapons station for a 12.7mm machine gun mounted on top of the turret. It can fire the generation 9K25 152mm Krasnopol laser-guided projectile.

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Aside from these new vehicles, the Russian Army will be featuring a number of upgraded and up-to-date vehicles and weapons systems being used. These include the following vehicles:

1. GAZ-2975 Tigr High Mobility Multipurpose Vehicle

Tigr armored vehicle with Kornet-D anti-tank guided missile laucnhers.

2. BTR-82A 8x8 Wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier

3. BMD-4M Airborne Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle

4. BTR-MDM Rakushka Tracked Armored Personnel Carrier

5. T-90A Main Battle Tank

6. K-300P Bastion-P Coastal Defense Missile System

Vietnam is currently an operator of this system, wherein they acquire two systems in 2011. The system fires the P-800 Oniks (SS-N-26 Yakhont Strobile) anti-ship cruise missiles, and has a maximum range of around 300km. 

7. TOR-M2U Mobile Air Defense Missile System

8. BUK-M2 Mobile Air Defense Missile System (SA-17 Grizzly)

9. Pantsir-S Short Range Air Defense System (SA-22 Greyhound)

10. S-400 Triumf Long Range Air Defense Missile System (SA-21 Growler)

This is the same air defense missile system that Russia approved to sell to China, which is in effect already something worth looking at in the Philippine setting.

11. Yars RS-24 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

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While these systems or vehicles are not directly affecting the Philippines, there are chances that they would in the future. China is a heavy importer of Russian arms, and they already are in the final stages of a deal to acquire the long range S-400 Triumf air defense system which can reach hundreds of miles from its launching position. An S-400 in the Spratly Islands would complicate the movement of aircraft from the Philippines, including inside Philippine airspace.

Vietnam is also a Russian military equipment importer, and already has the K-300P Bastion-P shore based missile system in its inventory. Although their main target are Chinese ships, it is not impossible for them to target Philippine ships as well, especially that they are also a claimant in some of the islands inside the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the West Philippine Sea. They are also expected to acquire some of the Russian equipment listed above for their own needs. Example is Russia's main battle tanks, as they are currently operating a large fleet of obsolete tank that may need replacement very soon.

Both Indonesia and Malaysia are currently Russian equipment users, and it may not be impossible for them to acquire land and missile systems from Russia in the coming years to beef up or replace their existing systems.

Although not a Russian equipment user, the Philippine military should open up to the possibility of acquiring military equipment from Russia if they are capable of filling the requirements of the AFP. This may be a difficult pill to swallow for the country's defense planners considering its strong affiliation with Western or US military equipment and systems, but it must be open to such options.

We'll see more of these Russian equipment in the coming Victory Day parade on May 9, 2015.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Other Acquisition Plans of the Philippine Air Force for its Medium Term "Flight Plan"

Earlier MaxDefense blogs discussed the Philippine Air Force (PAF) Air Defense Wing's "Flight Plan" for the medium term goals from now until 2022. But the "Flight Plan" actually encompasses the entire Air Force organization and not just the Air Defense component. Aside from improvements on the air defense capability of the PAF, there are also a lot more to cover all capabilities gaps to reach an acceptable capability status.

Support units of the PAF are also scheduled for acquisition of new assets, some of which have already arrived.

Ongoing Delivery of New and Additional Assets:

On March 30, 2015, the PAF accepted and commissioned its first of three new medium tactical transport aircraft, the Airbus-CASA C-295M aircraft which was acquired under the Medium-Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft project, and is expecting the delivery of the remaining two aircraft within this year. The aircraft will be assigned with the 220th Airlift Wing based in Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan, Cebu.

The 1st C-295 in PAF service, during the acceptance ceremonies last March 30, 2015.
Photo taken from GMA News website.

Despite being embroiled in accusations regarding contract breaches and corruption, the PAF also accepted and silently commissioned the first 7 units of a scheduled 21-unit buy of Refurbished UH-1 Helicopters in the form of ex-German military Dornier UH-1D Huey combat utility helicopters last February 2015. These additional helicopters are now with the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing. The supplier, a joint venture between Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters, was given a Partial Notice of Termination as of March 26, 2015, and was given 7 days (April 2, 2015) to justify the continuation of the contract with a new deadline within April 2015. According to MaxDefense sources, the remaining 14 helicopters are all fully assembled, and 6 of these helicopters have already undergone and passed the acceptance test by the PAF and are only awaiting for the PAF to accept them formally should the contract between RASI and the DND continues.

One of the accepted Dornier UH-1D Super Delta during the pre-acceptance tests.
Photo taken from Tim Maceren's FB page.

Assets Confirmed and Awaiting for Deliveries:

Still part of the Medium-Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft project, two more Airbus Military-CASA C-295M medium tactical transport aircraft are expected for delivery soon, and there were indications that the PAF might be able to receive both aircraft before the end of 2015. They will all be assigned to the 220th Airlift Wing.

The CASA C-295 & CN-235 assembly line in Spain. 2 more C-295M are expected to be delivered by Airbus Military-CASA to the PAF within 2015.
Photo taken from

Another airlift-capable aircraft that is in the pipeline is the acquisition of 2 Light-Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft (LLFWA) to complement and eventually replace the N-22B Nomads. Indonesia Aerospace-PTDI won the project with their NC-212i, and was expected to deliver the aircraft by March 2015. Unfortunately the project was awarded to IA/PTDI later than planned, so they are now expected to arrive at least by 3rd or 4th quarter of 2015.

The PAF is scheduled to get 2 PTDI NC212i light lift aircraft within 2015.

Aside from the C-295M and NC-212, the 220th Airlift Wing is also expected the delivery of two refurbished Lockheed C-130T Hercules heavy tactical transport aircraft by early to mid 2016. These are ex-US Marine Corps tanker aircraft but it is still unconfirmed if they will retain their air-to-air refueling capabilities. This would bring the total commissioned C-130 fleet of the PAF to 5 units.

The PAF's joint inspection team during the final check on USMC KC-130T no. 022 before accepting the offer of the US government to transfer the aircraft together with another one for refurbishing prior to delivery to the PAF.

Under the Attack Helicopter project, the 15th Strike Wing is scheduled to receive their first batch of a total of 8 AgustaWestland AW-109P armed helicopters by the 1st quarter of 2015, with the first 2 helicopters arriving on December 2014 and is undergoing pre-acceptance tests and checks as of this writing. It is expected that both helicopters will be officially accepted and commissioned by the PAF within this month. 

One of the PAF's AW-109P armed helicopter undergoing tests. Take note of the FN RMP Pod installed on the side weapons mount.
Photo taken from Wikimedia. 

Another helicopter acquisition program that is expected to bear fruit this year is the Combat Utility Helicopters, wherein the DND acquired 8 Bell 412EP from the Canadian Commercial Corporation under a government-to-government project. 6 brand new helicopters are expected to arrive on or before October 2015, and will be assigned with the 205th Tactical Helicopter WingDue to the need for more helicopters to transport VIPs this year as part of the Philippines' hosting of APEC Summit 2015, 3 of the helicopters will initially be configured as VIP transport helicopters for the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing. It is not yet confirmed though if these 3 helicopters will continue to serve as permanent VIP transport helicopters, or if they will be reconfigured to combat utility helicopters later on.

The PAF is expected to get their new Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters soon, which are said to be almost similar to the configuration of the CH-146 Griffon used by the Canadian Armed Forces.
Photo by Michael Durning, taken from

Ongoing Projects for Implementation and Approval:

There are upcoming projects that are still being processed as of this writing, and some have even already started the bidding process although were among those affected by the delays in the implementation of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

The Close Air Support Aircraft acquisition project is the most anticipated project that has not yet gone past a successful bid submission schedule. This involves the acquisition of 6 brand new ground attack aircraft to complement and eventually replace the ageing Rockwell OV-10A/C/M Bronco being used by the 15th Strike Wing. Among the most anticipated participants in this project are Hawker Beechcraft with their AT-6 Texan II, and Embraer with their A-29 / EMB-314 Super Tucano. The project is currently on-hold, awaiting for the final approval of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

The Close Air Support Aircraft project is still pending as of now, but it is anticipated that the competitors will be between the Hawker Beechcraft's AT-6 Texan II and Embraer's A-29 / EMB-314 Super Tucano.

The PAF has also started the bidding for its Long Range Patrol Aircraft (LRPA) project, which requires the acquisition of 2 new Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The first attempt to bid the project failed, and ultimately the project was affected by Malacanang's pending approval for the Revised AFP Modernization Program. Aside from the possibility of acquiring brand new assets, the DND is also looking at the offers made by the US government to transfer, either by grant or by sale, or refurbished Lockheed P-3C Orion aircraft, which is a long standing offer by the US but was not availed before due to the high acquisition, maintenance, and operating cost of the aircraft. It is expected tha the PAF's 
300th Air Intelligence & Security Group will be operating the said type of aircraft.

New maritime patrol aircraft like the Airbus-CASA C-295MPA (above) and used refurbished models like the Lockheed P-3C Orion from the US (below) are being considered by the PAF.

Future Acquisition Projects:

After acquiring 2 new Long Range Patrol Aircraft, the PAF is planning to acquire another 2 units by 2020. It would be possible that this would be the same model as the first 2 to be acquired by the PAF. The goal is for the PAF to have at least 4 units, depending on the financial and threat requirements of the PAF.

There is also a requirement to acquire four (4) units of Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) aircraft, scheduled in 2 batches of 2 units. The plan is to have 2 units by 2020, and another 2 units by 2022. The ECM aircraft is still a vague acquisition, and interpretation on this project may vary. MaxDefense believes that this is Special Mission aircraft that will be using a transport or business aircraft similar to the expected platform for the PAF's future AEWC aircraft. But others suggest that this could be a special fighter aircraft similar to the US Navy's EA-18G Growler or US Air Force's F-16CJ/DJ Falcon that can perform fighter support and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) more commonly known in US nomenclature as "Wild Weasel". 

The PAF's requirement for 4 Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) aircraft was not defined on the type of capabilities it will possess. It could either be a special mission fighter aircraft similar to the USN's EA-18G Growler (above), or a transport/business jet modified for such purpose like the Embraer R-99B (below).
Photo of EA-19G taken from Naval Air Warfare Center webiste, photo of R-99B taken from Wikipedia.

Other support aircraft that is worth waiting are the requirements for at least a single Air-to-Air Refueling Tanker by 2021. As the project is still expected to be implemented a few years from now, it is still unclear how much is the budget and what are the required specifications of this aircraft. The most probable solution is for the acquisition of either a new or used refurbished C-130 aircraft with Air Refueling Tanker equipment, although it could be as high as acquiring a commercial airliner fitted as a Tanker/Transport like the Airbus KC-30 / A330 multirole tanker/transport aircraft.

The PAF's tanker aircraft acquisition is also too early to tell, but it could only be either a commercial airliner modified to tanker/transport duties like the Airbus KC-30 /A330 MRTT, or will be using a less capable option like the KC-130J Super Hercules tanker/transport.
Both photos taken from Wikipedia.

A step up from the usual combat utility helicopters being operated by the PAF is a plan to acquire a minimum of 4 Medium or Heavy Lift Helicopters, planned to be acquired in 2 batches of 2 units each by 2019 and 2022, respectively. As previously indicated by several PAF officers, the organization prefer a helicopter design that has a rear ramp which was very instrumental on Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. Among those they are looking at are the Boeing CH-47F Chinook and the AgustaWestland AW-101.

Among those being considered for the PAF's upcoming Medium/Heavy Lift Helicopter project are the AgustaWestland AW-101 (above) and the Boeing CH-47F Chinook (below).
Photo of AW-101 taken from AgustaWestland website, photo of CH-47F taken from Australian Aviation website.

There are also several projects that the Philippine Air Force is planning to acquire that are not listed in the "Flight Plan" report, but are actually logical in nature.

There is an impending plan to acquire at least 2 VVIP-configured Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters and a new VIP fixed wing jet aircraft for the 250th PAW, although it is said to be funded separately from the Revised AFP Modernization Program. For the helicopters, the budget will be taken from the Department of Energy (DOE) with an ABC of Php 2.09 billion. The VVIP fixed wing aircraft will be acquired by the Office of the President and has an ABC of Php 3.69 billion. The VVIP aircraft budget will be enough to acquire either a standard Boeing 737-800, or probably even a Boeing Business Jets BBJ. This would represent an improvement as the currently the only VIP aircraft in PAF service is the old Fokker F-28 Fellowship aircraft which lacks in size, range, and modern safety features.

The PAF's 250th Presidential Airlift Wing will be operating VVIP aircraft that the Philippine Government will be acquiring. These will be acquired without using the AFP Modernization Program budget.
Photo of S-70i taken from Wikipedia. Photo of BBJ taken from AVBuyer website.

There are also plans to increase the number of additional orders for transport and utility aircraft that were already ordered by the PAF. These include the Medium-Lift Fixed Wing aircraft, the Light-Lift Fixed Wing aircraft, the Attack Helicopter, and the Combat Utility Helicopter. This will be subject to availability of more funds, and the overall performance evaluation of the aircraft acquired. 

If all aircraft acquired by the PAF are all performing well, expect the PAF to request for additional Airbus-CASA C-295 aircraft (probably the newer C-295W version), the Airbus-PTDI NC-212i, the AgustaWestland AW-109P, and the Bell 412EP. The increase in acquisition would allow the PAF to retire its older assets, namely the Fokker F-27 Friendship, the GAF N-22B Nomad, and the Bell UH-1H Iroquois.

There are also plans to acquire a long-term replacement for the Aermacchi AS-211 being used by the PAF, as a trainer that will bridge the gap between the SF-260FH primary trainer and the FA-50 LIFT. It is still unclear if the plan calls for a jet or propeller powered aircraft model. Another type of aircraft being considered are medium sized Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or "drones" that will be used for surveillance and observation. The PAF is looking for a model that has enough range and endurance to reach the country's territories and EEZ in the West Philippine Sea, including the Kalayaan Group of Islands. Previous offers made was by Elbit Systems for a maritime patrol version of their Hermes 900 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), although it remains to be seen if the AFP will accept the said offer.

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In general, the PAF's modernization program has been moving slowly but surely, boosted by the support provided by the Aquino Administration. To address the slow movement, MaxDefense believes that it only goes back to more funding and a faster procurement process. Add to that the instilling of a culture of project continuity within the PAF, the DND, and the whole Philippine government. 

Apart from the equipment acquisition projects, the PAF's Flight Plan also discusses the importance of changes and improvement in the organization, training, research and development, human resource system, doctrine and knowledge system, bases and support systems, and values system. All this work hand-in-hand to further improve the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force towards a world-class organization tasked in defending the Philippine skies and supporting the Filipino people in any way possible.