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 flightglobal.com.




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 Airliners.net.




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.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Questions Answered on Erroneous Reports on the Acquisition of M113 APC from the US and Israel for the Philippine Army

A few weeks ago, News5 released a report by Erwin Tulfo regarding the alleged misuse of funds for the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) Modernization program, wherein budget allocated for the transportation of donated M113 armored personnel carriers from the United States was said to be diverted to acquire second-hand M113 APCs from Israel. This issue was immediately picked-up by Senators JV Ejercito and Chiz Escudero, who themselves are asking for an investigation of the matter.


An M113 fitted with Elbit's 25mm RWS. A similar configuration is being acquired by the Philippine Army with Elbit Systems Land & C4I.


MaxDefense has kept quiet on this issue for some time, even if it was apparent that there are errors and inconsistencies in the report made by Mr. Tulfo. MaxDefense was clear on its stand that the project to acquire 28 refurbished upgraded M113s from Israel and 114 surplus M113A2 from the US are 2 distinct and different projects, with 2 separate project schedules, and 2 separate funding.



The Issue - Mr. Tulfo's Report:
According to the reports made by Mr. Tulfo, the Department of National Defense (DND) diverted funds donated by the United States government to ship 100+ units of surplus M113 APCs from the US mainland to the Philippines. The funds, said to be worth Php 800+ million, was instead used to acquire used M113s from Israel, which were sourced from Belgium, and refurbished and installed with remote weapons systems by Elbit Systems Land & C4I. The M113s are said to be 3rd hand, wherein Belgium bought the vehicles from the US, then was sold to Israel, and are now sold to the Philippines.

The point of concern is why did the DND forego the delivery of 100+ free M113s from the US to buy "28 3rd-hand, vintage, World War II era refurbished M113s" from Israel that are older than those coming from the US, when it was apparent that free is better than paid, and 100+ is better than 28. 

MaxDefense sees many discrepancies on this report, at almost the same level as the report made by Manila Times recently regarding the Dornier UH-1D helicopters.


An M113A1-B ARV formerly used by the Belgian Land Compnent, currently in use by the Indonesian Army and was supplied by Sabiex S.A. of Belgium, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems Land & C4I of Israel.
Photo taken from arc.web.id.



MaxDefense Replies:

MaxDefense separates the issues between the 2 distinct M113 projects for easy comprehension. 


A. US Government Excess Defense Article Grant of 114 M113A2 to the Philippines:

In 2012, the US government awarded a grant to the Philippine DND involving the transfer of 114 surplus M113A2 vehicles for the Philippine Army. Being a grant, the Philippine government is not expected to pay anything for the vehicles themselves. In laymen's term: donation.




1. Is it true that the US government donated money to ship the donated M113 to the Philippines?

No. The US government only provided the M113A2 units to the Philippine government as part of the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) grant, and it is up to the Philippine government to shoulder the shipping costs of bringing them from the stockyard in the US mainland to the Philippine Army facilities in the Philippines. 

The US government normally do not provide donated money, but are actually in the form of US Military Assistance which the Philippine government annually receives. 

To reinforce this answer, Mr. Tulfo reclarified in his later reports that the fund for the shipping was actually from the Philippine government, coming from the AFP Modernization Program. To be exact, the fund actually came from Republic Act 7898, which is the AFP Modernization Act of 1995. 




2. Is the true that there is a Php 800+ million pesos budget intended for shipping of surplus M113 from the US mainland?

No. As early as 2010, the Philippine Army already requested for a budget to acquire tracked armored personnel carriers. A budget of Php882 million was allocated to acquire 14 brand new basic tracked armored personnel carriers, funded under the budget allocated covered by RA 7898 or the AFP Modernization Act.

But the plan was eventually scrapped as the Philippine Army believed that 14 new tracked APCs would not be enough to fill-up the planned Table of Organization and Equipment (TOE) of the Philippine Army's Mechanized Infantry Division (MID). The planned TOE involves several hundreds of additional tracked armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles to be placed under the command of the PA's MID.

From 2012 to 2013, the Philippine government tried to seal a deal with the Italian Ministry of Defense, wherein the DND decided to use the budget from the cancelled acquisition of 14 new APCs in favor shipping and refurbishing 100+ units of used VCC-1 armored vehicles (reported as M113) and 25 units of used FH-70 155mm towed howitzers, all formerly from the Italian Army. This was known in the DND and AFP as the "Italian Package", which includes the Maestrale-class frigates, naval helicopters, light combat aircraft, and other retired Italian military equipment. 

With talks between the Italian and Philippine defense officials failed and the acquisition of the "Italian Package" cancelled in 2013, the DND and Army decided to use the Php 882 million budget to acquire refurbished but heavily upgraded M113s in a government-to-government deal under the supervision of the US Department of Defense.


The Philippine Army almost got hold of 100 VCC-1 Camilino tracked APCs, which are actually Italian version, Italian license copy of the American M113 APC.
Photo taken from Armyrecognition.com.



3. What are the physical condition of the M113A2 APCs from the US?

The M113A2 are formerly US Army armored personnel carriers. They are newer derivatives of the M113A1 being used by the Philippine Army, and were built starting 1979 up to 1986. The US Army heavily used these armored vehicles in deployment around the world, and were eventually replaced by the newer and more capable M2 Bradley AIFV starting in the late 1980s. Retired M113A2 vehicles are currently stored in desert open storage facilities in the US mainland, and are being sold or granted to friendly countries by the US government.

114 units were allocated by the US government to the Philippines, divided into 2 batches (100 and 14). According to MaxDefense sources, officials from the Philippine Army and DND were given a chance to choose the vehicles a few years ago in a total sample of more than 700 vehicles. Only 96 vehicles are still in working condition, but will require servicing, repair, and refurbishing in one way or another, and are not ready to use vehicles. The 18 other vehicles will need major spare parts and servicing before the PA can commission them, or they may just make them spare parts hulk for the rest of the fleet. 

All 114 M113A2 do not include the machine guns and armored cupolas, which the Philippine Army will need to acquire separately.


The M113A2s being inspected by Philippine Army officers in the US Army open storage in the mainland United States. Look at the condition of these armored vehicles.
Photo taken from the Mechanized Infantry Division-Philippine Army website.


It will definitely cost the Philippine Army a significant amount of money and time to prepare these vehicles, although the DND received Php141 million from the US government as part of US Military Assistance to the Philippines, specifically allocated for the refurbishing of the said vehicles. But even so, it appears that the amount is not enough to repair and arm all 114 vehicles, and the Philippine Army must shoulder the balance should it decide to commission all vehicles. Estimates made by MaxDefense's source said the amount is only good to fully upgrade and equip around 25 units.





4. If the money for the shipping of M113A2 from the US is different from the money to pay for the upgraded M113s, where is the shipping money?

This is the tricky part. Originally the DND opened a bidding for the shipping of 114 M113 armored vehicles from Sierra Army Depot in Herlong, California to the Philippines. Budget allocated for this is from the cancelled project to re-engine and upgrade 18 FV101 Scorpion vehicles of the Philippine Army worth around Php 200 million. The bidding failed, and no shipping company was awarded a contract. Further delays required the DND to return the money to the Department of Budget Management (DBM). But when the DND again requested for the DBM to release the budget, it did not materialize due to technical concerns on the release of Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO), and was later on affected by the government's decision to scrap the SARO system in 2013.

Instead, the DND and Philippine Army decided to use part of the US Military Financing Assistance fund worth Php 141 million initially allocated for the repair, refurbishing and rearming of the 114 M113A2, with the approval of the US government. This Php 141,008,183.06 budget was actually among those included in the Revised AFP Modernization Program under RA 10349. But as Typhoon Yolanda / Haiyan struck in late 2013, the DND again requested the US government to allow them to use the budget for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, which was approved. 

Since the budget was already used-up, the DND then requested for a new budget allocation for the shipping from the national government, and is still being processed by the Department of Budget Management. So far, the requested amount has not yet been released. 

But the budget release is currently the worry of the Philippine Army and DND, because another MaxDefense source confirmed that the US government already sent a communication early this year asking for a commitment from the Philippine government to ship out the armored vehicles from the Sierra Army Depot in California. If the Philippines failed to take the vehicles out as per the agreed commitment, the US government will offer these vehicles to other interested foreign governments. It was also confirmed by MaxDefense sources that there are already other military inspectors from foreign countries interested on the specific vehicles previously selected by the Philippine Army inspection teams.



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B. Acquisition of 28 refurbished & upgraded M113 from Elbit Systems Land & C4I:

5. Who are involved in the deal to acquire the refurbished & upgraded M113A2+ from Elbit Systems Land & C4I?

All acquisitions involving US-made or US license-built military equipment will require the involvement of the US Department of Defense (DoD). The M113, in all its form and licensed copies, is among those that need the US DoD's approval before any sale or transfer happens. This is true not only for the Philippines, but for any government or entity that acquires US military equipment.

When the DND and PA decided to acquire refurbished and upgraded M113 vehicles, it was initially coordinated with the US DoD which gave approval of the planned acquisition. It was actually the US Army's Infrastructure Modernization (IMOD) office that recommended to award such contract to Elbit Systems Land & C4I, with the approval of the Israeli Ministry of Defense and its Defense Export & Defense Cooperation (SIBAT) office


6. Are the M113s sold by Israel are 3rd hand, World War II vintage vehicles?

A strong No. Elbit Systems Land & C4I of Israel is supplying the armored vehicles for the Philippine Army in a government-to-government contract entered by the DND last year. The M113s to be used are former Belgian Land Component (Belgian Army) M113A1-B vehicles.

The M113A1-B is the Belgian version of the M113 armored vehicles, with the "B" denoting "Belgium". They were made in Belgium by the Belgian Mechanical Fabrication (BMF) Company. Although designated as an "A1", they are actually very much more similar to the US M113A2 version than the older M113A1. Modifications made by the Belgians include using the same suspension as the US M113A2, and nuclear-biological chemical (NBC) protection, among others. They were built from 1982 to 1988, which means that these vehicles are actually newer than the US-made M113A2. And since World War II ended in 1945, or 37 years after the first M113A1-B rolled out of BMF's factory, these are incorrectly and outrageously termed as vintage World War II era vehicles!



The FMC M113 first appeared in 1960, or 15 years after World War II. The Philippines was among the first users of the type, receiving them in the late 1960s. But the versions being acquired by the Philippines now are newer versions produced between 1979-1986.



7. So if they are not vintage, is it true that the vehicles are dilapidated and "bulok"?

No. After the Belgian Land Component reduced its TOE size and replaced older vehicles, the M113A1-B were among those retired from service. The specific M113A1-B units to be sold to the Philippines passed through the Belgian defense company Sabiex International S.A., a subsidiary of Elbit Systems Land & C4I. 

Elbit Systems through Sabiex now has the retired Belgian M113A1-B for the PA and are now doing the refurbishing works in Belgium. But it does not mean the M113A1-B were bought by the State of Israel, as they were acquired by a Belgian company (Sabiex) to be sold to other interested governments or entities. No other military used these vehicles after the Belgians. If 28 of these vehicles are transferred to the Philippine Army, it may seem that they are already the 3rd hand owner, with the Belgian Land Component as the 1st owner, Sabiex S.A./Elbit Systems as the 2nd owner, and the Philippine Army as the 3rd. But since Sabiex/Elbit does not use the vehicles for military operations, Sabiex and Elbit are similar to sales agents, retailers or consignees in commercial terminologies. So officially, the Philippine Army is the 2nd owner.

Aside from being newer than the US-sourced M113A2, the Belgian M113A1-B are actually far better in terms of condition and usage. A MaxDefense source confirmed that the M113A1-B units chosen by the Joint Visual Inspection team from the DND and Philippine Army are actually very much new, with only more than 1,000 kilometers mileage! 

How is that possible? It appears that the vehicles chosen by the DND and PA were used by the Belgians only for military and royal parades, displays, and training exercises within Belgium, and were not used in NATO deployments across Europe. They were also among the last units retired by the Belgians before being replaced with the MOWAG Piranha IIIC 8x8 armored vehicle. The Belgians never used the chosen units in any minor or major armed conflict, military operation, or peacekeeping mission. Add to that the fact that the refurbishing includes zero-timing the vehicles. So in effect, these vehicles are practically new! 


A Belgium Land Component M113A1-B.


Aside from that, as part of the deal between the DND and Elbit Systems, Sabiex will refurbish these M113A1-B vehicles to M113A2+ standards, undergoing a complete refurbishing and overhaul of the body and engine, new Allison TX1001A transmission system, a new fuel system, hydraulic steering system, and an improved suspension.





The M113A1-B will undergo a refurbishing and upgrade to M113A2+ standard by Sabiex S.A., as shown on the photos above.
Photo taken from Sabiex's website.


After refurbishing to M113A2+ standards, the vehicles will be fitted with the advanced remote weapons systems (RWS) made by Elbit Systems, and 76mm gun turrets from decommissioned Philippine Army FV101 Scorpion combat recon vehicles, converting these APCs into armored fighting vehicles. They won't be just bringing in soldiers to the combat zone like what standard M113s do, but because of the advanced weapons systems, they will be with the soldiers in combat in a similar way that other modern IFVs are used by foreign armies.

Once in service, the 28 upgraded M113s are actually the most modern armored vehicles in the Philippine military, being the only one equipped with these advanced features.




Elbit Systems will provide the Remote Weapons Systems for the M113A2+, 4 are 25mm chain guns and 6 are 12.7mm machine guns.
Photo taken from Elbit Systems website.



8. The Philippine Army will provide 76mm turrets from decommissioned FV101 Scorpions?

Yes. That is part of the deal. The Philippine Army has several British-made FV101 Scorpion "light tanks" that are out of action for some time due to lack of spare parts. After several failed attempts to repair and re-engine these Scorpions, the Army decided to retire them for good. Instead of leaving them in the army's storeyards, it was decided that the L23A1 turrets, with its 76mm low pressure gun, are still worth using. As part of the plan, 14 of these turrets will be removed from the Scorpion vehicles.


Unfortunately, the Philippine Army's fleet of Scorpion CRVTs are declining fast. And with the turrets still working, the Army decided to transplant them to the M113A2+.




9. The M113A2+ are in Belgium. The RWS, FCS, and other components are in Israel. The 76mm Turrets are in the Philippines. So how will they be put together?

The 76mm gun turrets from the Scorpions will be repaired and refurbished locally by the Philippine Army with assistance from Sabiex personnel, using components provided by Elbit Systems. Once upgraded, Elbit Systems will check and accept these turrets and then integrate them with their new Fire Control System, as the RWS and FCS from Israel will be shipped to the Philippines separately from the M113A2+ from Belgium. 

Once the vehicles, weapons systems, and other components are here, they will be integrated by Elbit Systems in the Philippines, under supervision by the Philippine Army. Elbit Systems being the contractor of the project will make sure that the entire system will be in accordance to the standards required by the client (DND/Army), and will be in charge of warranties, integrated logistics support, and product support.

There might be questions on why the Philippine Army will do the repair and refurbishing of the L23A1 turrets when Elbit Systems is already part of the project, but it appears that this decision to have the Army do the work with only assistance from Sabiex/Elbit was made even before the contract was signed. Aside from these, the contract between the DND and Elbit Systems includes the provision of 4 free armored recovery vehicles by Elbit Systems. 




10. What, free Armored Recovery Vehicles?

Yes. The contract between the DND and Elbit Systems actually cover only 24 vehicles. These are the 4 units to be installed with 25mm RWS gun system, 6 with 12.7mm RWS gun systems, and 14 with the refurbished 76mm gun turrets from the Scorpions. As part of the deal, Elbit will give 4 refurbished M113A2+ in armored recovery vehicle configuration. This was even reported previously by the media.


Photo taken from Sabiex's website.




11. So is 100+ free M113A2 better than 28 refurbished M113s from Belgium-Israel?

Neither. The Philippine Army both needs quantity and quality. Its TOE requires hundreds of tracked armored vehicles in its inventory, and even if the 114 M113A2 from the US and 28 M113A2+ from Israel comes, the PA will still need more. While 114 M113A2 seems better than 28 M113A2+, many fail to consider that the 28 M113A2+ to be delivered by Elbit Systems are fully refurbished, almost new, technologically superior, and heavily armed variants as compared to those from the US grant. If you put the 28 M113A2+ to combat against the 114 M113A2, MaxDefense believes the upgraded units will definitely hold its own even if they are less in numbers.

In the end, the Philippine Army needs both projects to be implemented and delivered. And the PA will need to request more funding to acquire more armored vehicles, which inlcude the future plan to have Main Battle Tanks in its arsenal.





12. Is there anything wrong with buying second hand, refurbished military equipment?

No. Our lawmakers, decision makers, and the public must understand that the military's modernization program requires tens of billions of dollars to fully implement and transform it to first class, modern armed forces. Tens of billions of dollars that the government does not provide, and instead only a few million dollars are made available every year. If we insist on buying new equipment everytime, until when can the AFP realize its required number of equipment then? 

In its current plans, the Philippine Army may require up to 700 tracked armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles to fill its TOE. Currently it only has less than 150. Add the 114 surplus M113A2 from the US and 28 M113A2+ from Belgium/Israel and we now have less than 300 units. So the Army is still lacking 400 units! Another example: the Philippine Air Force requires around 100 serviceable combat utility helicopters at any given time. So it means they need at least 135 helicopters, considering maintenance and servicing for other units. Currently they have 40 units combined for working and non-working aircraft. They are buying 8 new Bell 412EP, so that brings 48 units. If the PAF bought more new Bell 412EP instead of refurbished Dornier-Bell UH-1D, the budget allocated by the government cannot even buy 3 new helicopters! So when the can the PAF get their 135 helicopters?

Refurbishing of old military equipment is a normal trend around the world that has becoming more prevalent with the defense cuts faced by even the richest countries. Service Life Extension Programs (SLEP) is a refurbishing and upgrading program that involves overhauling the entire equipment, replacing damaged or old parts with new ones, restoring the body and other non-moving parts, and installing upgrades to improve the vehicle's performance. This is what was done to the 28 M113A1-B from Belgium to become the M113A2+ the Philippine Army specified. 


Singapore refurbished their M113 fleet by installing new technology and replaced old parts. It also included the installation of a RWS system as shown above.
Photo taken from tanknutdave's website.



Aside from the Philippines, the latest country to have bought refurbished M113A1-B from Belgium and supplied by Sabiex is the Indonesian Army. Some of the M113s were even delivered in time for the 69th Anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) last year.


Indonesia's Belgian-made M113A1-B supplied by Sabiex S.A. The first batch shown above were delivered on time to be included in the 69th Anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces. On the left is the ARV variant, which the PA will receive 4. The vehicle on the right is the standard APC variant.
Photo taken from fallenpx's Flicr account.




Even the richest countries with defense budgets several times higher than the Philippine military gets acquire second hand and refurbished equipment depending on the urgency, schedule, and budget flow they are facing. Several examples: Singapore bought 100+ used Leopard 2A4 tanks from Germany, and with refurbishing, they are now the most modern and most capable main battle tanks in Southeast Asia. Indonesia with a military modernization budget of US$15 billion in 5 years (the PH is less  than US$2 billion in the same timeline), also recently acquired 100+ refurbished Leopard 2A4 tanks and 50 refurbished Marder IFVs from Germany, and upgraded most of them to become as capable as Singapore's Leopard 2SG. They also recently acquired 24 mothballed F-16C/D from the and upgraded them to become one of their top fighters in their Air Force. Japan bought used refurbished C-130H Hercules transport aircraft from the US recently, which they used in the recently concluded Cope North Exercises. Australia bought second hand refurbished M1A1 Abrams tanks from the US. Thailand's entire tank fleet, with exception to their new tanks from Ukraine, are actually used surplus US Army stocks. Taiwan is a regular buyer of refurbished naval ships from the US, with recent procurements include the Kidd-class destroyers and Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates. Chile is the best example of a capable military using refurbished equipment, with used missile frigates from UK and the Netherlands, used fighters (F-16AM/BM) from the Netherlands, and used tanks and armored vehicles from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the US (Leopard 2, Leopard 1, Marder, YPR-765, M113), they are now one of the most capable armed forces in South America! Even America, with all its power and money, recently bought used AV-8B Harrier jets retired by the British Royal Air Force and Royal Navy! So what the Philippines did is nothing wrong, but just being practical and realistic.



The most modern main battle tanks in Southeast Asia, the Singaporean Leopard 2SG (above) and the Indonesian Leopard 2 Revolution (below), are nothing more but decades old, second hand, refurbished Leopard 2A4 tanks from Germany. And yet they are more capable than the most modern and newest main battle tanks from China.



13. Finally, what do our lawmakers and government need to do to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines?

If our lawmakers really desire that our soldiers get the best equipment available, all they need to do is increase the annual defense procurement budget. Recently, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Pio Catapang stressed the need to increase the annual military modernization budget to at least 1% of the annual national government budget. That request is a very modest one, but still the government is having problems granting that practical request. If the government is really serious to improve the country's armed forces, then provide what they need.

Another important matter is that the procurement process for defense equipment must be changed immediately. Not only does tendering enable certain entities of learning a lot of details on the military's requirements, but it also stops the military from getting the best product they require due to the process of having the cheapest product win. It also delays important projects, which is a very crucial factor especially that the country is facing a lot of internal and external threats, as well as environmental ones.



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There might be a possibility of corruption and illegal activities brought up by Mr. Erwin Tulfo with regards to his report on the acquisition of M113s. But the way the report was made showed lack of understanding on the product being demonized. It appears now to be no different from the false accusations made by another reporter regarding the capabilities and history of the Dornier-Bell UH-1D.

Like what MaxDefense pointed out in its previous blog on the Dornier-Bell UH-1D, reporters should not make baseless statements and reports against the equipment involved just to create a foundation for their accusations. There's no need to do that! And the worst part is, they are feeding the general public wrong information when it is the media's responsibility to look for the truth! If the truth is what they are searching for, then they must start from a strong foundation of truth as well.

There is nothing wrong with the calls for investigations because it is for the benefit of the Filipino people to know the truth. But if certain individuals, media, or organizations accuse DND and AFP officials of corruption, all they have to do is go directly to the issue, show evidence that there are indeed irregularities on the deals. No need to blow out the issue by making made-up stories and erroneously tainting the product's image with untrue or incorrect information, which can be debunked by people who knows their military equipment very well or even by simple research.


MaxDefense will be closely monitoring this projects and will be posting updates later on should more information arrive.