Friday, July 11, 2014

Its a Cat Fight for the Philippine Navy's ASW Helicopter Acquisition Program

The Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) has updated the bid information on the Philippine Navy (PN) requirement for new Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopters. Its latest Supplemental Bid Bulletin shows the DND's replies to queries sent by PT Dirgantara Indonesia (Indoensian Aerospace) - Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter) joint venture, and AgustaWestland.

The AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat naval helicopter, one of the expected entries for the PN's ASW Helicopter acquisition project.
Photo taken from Helihub website.

Although no information was provided in the media, it is expected that the PTDI-Airbus Helicopters venture will offer the Airbus AS565SB Panther naval helicopter, and AgustaWestland with the AW159 Wildcat. PTDI-Airbus recently won some tender projects with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly with the Philippine Air Force (PAF) with the supply of 2 NC-212 Aviocar for the Lift Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft program, Airbus with the supply of 3 C-295 transport aircraft for the Medium Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft program, and AgustaWestland for the supply of 8 AW109E Power helicopters for the Attack Helicopter program, aside from the 5 AW109E Power naval helicopters for the Philippine Navy.

It was earlier announced in media reports that Bell Helicopters was also interested in this project, and it was expected by many that Sikorsky Aircraft, and even NHIndustries, may also show some interest in the project. Should these 3 other companies try to join, it was expected that Sikorsky may offer the S-70B Seahawk, NHIndustries with the NH90NFH, and Bell Helicopters may use a modified B412EP similar to its previous 412EP Sentinel from the late 1990s. But according to MaxDefense sources, all 3 helicopter manufacturers are not expected to join the tender, with Sikorsky and NHIndustries due to "budget vs product costs concerns", and Bell due to difficulty in making an offer based on their product line up to meet the DND/PN requirements.

The Airbus Helicopters' AS-565 Panther naval helicopter in service with the French Marine Nationale. PTDI of Indonesia  is Airbus' partner for the PN project, and has a license to produce the said helicopters in their Indonesian facility.
Photo taken from Helihub website.

With only PTDI-Airbus and AgustaWestland submitting queries, this further cements the idea that only these 2 manufacturers will be expected to submit a bid for the project, making this project a Panther vs Wildcat "cat fight".

MaxDefense was able to get the Technical Specifications released by the DND for this project, so called "Supply and Delivery of Two (2) Anti Submarine Helicopters to the Philippine Navy with Munitions, Mission Essential Equipment, and ILS". A summary of the said specs are as follows:

Technical Specifications Summary:

General Requirement:

- 2 brand new units (aircraft, systems, and components);
- Certified for both Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) capability;
- Crew of 2 pilots, passenger crew as Tactical Coordinator (TACCO) and Sensor Operator (SENSO) in ASW configuration, or 6 passengers in utility;
- Dual Pilot Control System and Automatic Flight Control System, 4-axis Autopilot System;
- Certified for Single-Pilot Instrument Flight Rules (SPIFR), and for night VFR operations using Generation III Night Vision Goggles (NVG);
- Cruising Speed of at least 120 knots in full ASW configuration with munitions;
- Maximum Take-off Weight (MTOW) of not more than 12,000 kgs.
- Payload of at least 1,800 kgs.;
- Endurance of at least 2 hours (revised from original requirement of 2 hours and 30 minutes) in full ASW configuration with munitions;
- Range of at least 240 nmi (revised from original requirement of 300 nmi.), in full ASW configuration with munitions;
- Retractable dimensions to fit ship hangar with dimensions at 14.3m (lenght) x 9.8m (width)  x 5.6m (height);
- To include manual or automatic main rotor blade and/or tail folding kits necessary for retraction;
- Equipped with Recovery, Assist, Securing and Traversing (RAST) system;
- Utilized for naval/maritime operations by country of origin or by at least 2 other countries;
- 730 days delivery schedule from issuance of Notice to Proceed (previously from issuance of Letter of Credit),

- External painting in matte grey with PN markings;
- Wheel type landing gears;

- Twin turbine Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) engines, capable of hot and humid operation
- Engine performance allows one-engine inoperative capability in full ASW configuration

ASW and ASuW System:
Acoustic System
- capable to detect, localize, classify, and track submarines and surface targets based upon data derived from active and passive accoustic sensors;
- Tethered (A rope or chain) active multi-frequency (medium to low frequency) sonar;
- Tethered Sonar may be integrated with sonobuoy processor, with capability to process sonar and sonobuoy data simultaneously;
Weapons and Munitions:
- Equipped with interchangeable/removabale Armament Control and Dispensing (ASCD) System for munitions, armaments, sonobuoys, and stores for smoke markers and Signal Underwater Sound (SUS);
- Capacity of each station for future weapons up to 600 lbs (272 kgs) per station;
- Allowable to upload/download external weapons while aircraft has rotors turning;
- Provisions for self defense stores including chaffs and flares.
Torpedo & Torpedo Launcher:
- To include 2 removable Torpedo launchers/dispensers per helicopter;
- To include 6 Torpedoes with warshot & exercise head per helicopter;
- Torpedo will be the same as those to be acquired for the new PN frigate, to wait for finalized technical specifications of the frigate (addendum as per new SBB);
- Torpedo should be lightweight, impact detonated, with sub-surface target homing capability in active/passive/mixed acoustic modes; with target range of not less than 10 kms., seawater battery operated with electrically rechargeable power source, and to include Flight in Air Material (FIAM) gears.
Air-to-Surface Missile & Launcher:
- To include 2 air-to-surface missiles per helicopter;
- Missile should weigh not more than 150 kgs., with a warhead weight of not less than 20 kgs., a range of not less than 20 kms., and must be equipped with an internal guidance system.
- Any missile system will do as long as it complies with the requirements above (addendum as per new SBB).
Heavy Machine Guns:
- To include 2 50-caliber Heavy Machine Guns, interchangeable and removal, either mounted on both sides, with 2 spare barrels per helicopter or pod mounted with pilot control firing mechanism
- To include 5,000 rounds ammunition per helicopter.
- Optimized for surveillance, detection, classification and tracking of surface targets from minimum target range of 100 yards, to maximum of at least 120 nmi, at the service ceiling of 10,000 ASL, through 360 degrees;
- Capable of over-land surveillance, and supporting navigation and weather avoidance.
EO/IR - Forward looking Infrared (FLIR):
- Passively detect any Fast Patrol Boat / Fishing Boat sized vessel at a minimum range of 15 nmi in unobscured conditions;
- Provide imagery to classify by platform type any fishing boat sized vessel at a minimum range of 5 nmi. in unobscured conditions;
- Provide imagery to identify a platform at a slant range of 1,000 ft. in obscured conditions;
- Compact with multi-sensor system

Other Features:
- Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) / Selective Identification Feature (SIF)
- Mission Data Management System
- Tactical Data Exchange and Recording System, compatible to Tactical Data Link 16;
- Portable Down-link Receiver, compatible and ready for installation on and surface ship or ground station specified by the PN, and must be interoperable with the installed data link system of the helicopter;
- To include External Rescue Hoist with Strap, removable, with minimum capacity of 600 lbs.;
- To include Cargo Hooks with net and sling, minimum capacity of 500 kgs.


From the specifications above, there is a strong indication that the PN and DND used the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat as their base platform. MaxDefense sources says that the PN already made previous discussions with several naval helicopter suppliers, including those joining the tender and those MaxDefense believed to be joining, before the tender was started. There are several items worth discussing on the specifications that will broaden up information on this acquisition project.

On General Requirements:
Both the naval Wildcat and Panther have an MTOW of less than 12,000 kgs, with the Wildcat a little heavier of the 2 helicopters at 6,000 kgs., and the Panther even less than half of the requirement at 4,500 kgs. But for payload, the Panther may have problems meeing the required 1,800 kgs. minimum weight, as the aircraft's specified weight only allows around 1,600 kgs. Being a smaller aircraft, the Panther is at a disadvantage on this regard against the larger Wildcat, including a possible technical issue on the required range and endurance in full load configuration. 

Dimensional drawing of the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat.
Photo taken from Globalsecurity website.

Both helicopters are equipped with a 4-axis autopilot and SPIFR systems, and RAST system. Both can also fit the required hangar dimensions in folded configuration. The navalized Panther is in service with the French Navy and several other navies like Israel, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, and Mexico. The Wildcat is a newcomer being a different aircraft from the older Super Lynx, and is now in service with the British Royal Navy, and was ordered by the South Korean Navy for its Incheon-class frigates.

The Israeli Navy operates the Panther from their Sa'ar V corvettes, and are actively used for surveillance and maritime patrol duties in extension of the corvette's capabilities.

On Airframe and Powerplant:
The competing helicopters are both compliant with the engine and landing gear requirements, being both powered by twin turbine engines with FADEC. Point of interest would be the paint scheme, which appears to follow the one used by the PN's AW109E Power naval helicopters.

The external paint scheme for the new ASW helicopters will probably follow the scheme used for the PN's AW109E Power naval helicopters, shown above.

On Weapons and Sensors Systems:
Both helicopters are capable of doing ASW, ASuW, and SAR missions, with only differences on the specifications of the systems they are using. It is expected that the Wildcat will be using the Thales Compact Flash dipping sonar similar to what the South Korean AW159s will be getting. Aside from a tethered dipping sonar system, the specs also require a surface scanning radar system that can be used for surveillance and targeting, and as an extension of its host ship's sensors system. The data link standard was previously on hold for further announcement, but the SBB has indicated that the PN would use the Data Link 16 standard. The Portable Downlink Receiver is an interesting requirement, which was required to be compatible to the data link system and is ready to install to the PN's naval ships and ground stations. MaxDefense believes that the PN was specifically looking at the Security Enhanced Data Transfer Unit, which has this ability and is compatible with Tactical Data Link 16 network.

An illustration of what the Wildcat can carry.

These helicopters are also capable of carrying chaffs and flares, and both can carry heavy machine guns as required, although the AS565 Panther appears to have difficulty of having them on door pintle mounts and may require gun pods, which reduces the number of external stores like additional ordinances that the helicopter can carry.

The Panther and Wildcat can both carry the required torpedoes, but will be dependent on the actual torpedo type and made that the PN chooses for its new frigates. The Panther can carry the US Mark 46 and French/Italian Whitehead A.244/s torpedoes, while the Wildcat is designed initially to carry the British Sting Ray torpedo, although AgustaWestland is currently making the aircraft capable of carrying the MU90 and other similar Western torpedoes. The torpedo's propulsion requirement for a seawater battery operated type may point to the MU90, as the rest of possible torpedo contenders use other means.

The BAE Sting Ray torpedo.
Photo taken from

The missile is where an edge of the Wildcat over the Panther shines out. The Wildcat currently carries the British Sea Skua ASM while the Panther carries the French AS 15TT. Both missiles meet and exceed the required missile and warhead weight minimum requirements. But for the PN's specified requirement that the range must be at least 20 kms. will keep the AS 15TT at bay due to its operational range of only 15 kms., 25% short of the minimum range requirement. The Sea Skua even exceeds the requirement with an operational range of 25 kms. 

The Sea Skua, above shown being loaded on a RN naval helicopter, meets the requirements set by the DND and PN for the helicopter-launched ASM acquisition together with the ASW helicopters.

A naval Panther from the UAE military equipped with 4 AS 15TT missiles, 2 on each side.

The Wildcat also benefits from an ongoing future missile requirement specified by the British Armed Forces, which includes the already available Thales Light Multirole Missle, although both the Panther and Wildcat shares the advantage of having the MBDA Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) to replace both the British Sea Skua and the French AS 15TT. But while the PN requires a missile that is already being sold, which makes the Wildcat sit atop the Panther in the missile requirement. 

The only problem now is if the Sea Skua is still being produced by BAE Systems. If not, the British government may allow to provide pre-owned missiles from RN stocks, while the PN may opt to shift to the FASGW upon availability.

Additional Information related to the PN's New Frigates:
The additional information provided by the Supplemental Bid Bulletin also included tidbits of information that pertains to the incoming new frigates of the PN. Some previously missing information were answered and may shed important information on the ships.

The frigate specifications did not provide the exact data link system to be used, which is now known as the Tactical Data Link 16 network. This was probably decided upon by the PN between the release of the frigate and ASW specifications. It is interesting to note the the US, Australian, and Japanese military, NATO and most partner nations use this network, allowing inter-operability and joint use of tactical information. The SBB also shows that there is a possibility that most major, if not all, Philippine Navy ships will be installed with the Data Link 16 network.

It also confirms that the PN has not yet decided on the torpedo type until the ASW Helicopter SBB was released. 

Sure Winner?
With these information, it looks quite clear that the PN is going for the AW159 Wildcat, although PTDI-Airbus and any other manufacturers will be given a chance to match or exceed AgustaWestland's newest baby either by the specs or by the price. So far MaxDefense sources confirmed that the navalized Panther's unit price is several million dollars cheaper than the Wildcat, although in terms of capability, the Wildcat exceeds the Panther in several attributes. Add to that the earlier win of AgustaWestland to supply smaller naval helicopters to the PN in the form of 5 AW109E Power helicopters, which gave them an advantage in terms of supply chain, training, maintenance, and cooperation agreements.

So is the DND and PN handing the silver platter to AgustaWestland? Although it looks like it, until the bidding proceeds and all bid submissions are opened, validated, and passed the post bid qualifications, we cannot really say. There are instances that manufacturers fail the post-bid qualifications, although the chances are slim. 

MaxDefense will be following this major acquisition program with updates on the bottom part of the blog to be added later on, and more information on the comments and replies that will mount up later on.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Updates and Analysis on the Close Air Support Aircraft Project of the Philippine Air Force

With the Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF) starting its tender submission for the bid to acquire 6 Close Air Support aircraft, MaxDefense will give an update on its earlier blog entry analyzing the possible offers that can be considered.

DND releassed their invitation to bid on May 2014, with a Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) of Php 4.968 billion (about US$ 113 million) for 6 aircraft plus integrated logistics support (ILS). The latest Supplemental Bid Bulletin released by the DND reschedules the bid submission and opening to July 11, 2014. MaxDefense believes that the bidders requested for the rescheduling for them to be able to provide an offer that is fair for both the vying manufacturer/supplier, and the receiving customer.

Originally the PAF CAS program was supposed to be a US FMS acqusition program, with it being closely related to the USAF Light Air Support (LAS) aircraft program. Delays on the implementation of the US program due to legal and political confict between Embraer/Sierra Nevada and Hawker Beechcraft may have been a major issue for the FMS deal to fall out. With the PAF in urgent need of an OV-10 replacement, it is logical for the PAF to go through with its own acquisition route.

The favorite, Embraer EMB-314 / A-29 Super Tucano, where the technical specifications was said to have been taken from.
Photo taken from ARC Forums website.

As expected, MaxDefense confirms that majority of those listed in the previous blog entry are interested in the PAF CAS acquisition project, these includes Embraer (Brazil) with their EMB-314/A-29 Super Tucano, Korean Aerospace Incorporated (KAI - South Korea) with the KT-1 / KA-1 Woongbi , IOMAX USA with the Archangel Block 3 BPA , Beechcraft Defense (USA) with AT-6 Texan. Also shown interest on the project are Pilatus Aicraft (Switzerland), Pacific Aerospace Ltd. (New Zealand), and EADS-CASA Airbus Military (EU). Possible contenders, although highly unlikely, are the Aero L-159 ALCA from the Czech Republic, and the Yakolev Yak-130.

MaxDefense expects EADS-CASA Airbus Military to offer a variant of the PZL-130 Orlik ACS if they proceed, but may not be able to comply with the requirements. It is also expected that Pilatus Aicraft and Pacific Aerospace Ltd. may not submit a bid as they do not have any product that can fit the requirement. Also interesting is IOMAX's decision to move away from the Air Tractor-based platform it sold to the UAE (and now with Jordan) to the Trush 710-derived Block 3 BPA. 

Technical Specifications Summary:
The DND released some important information on the specification of the aircraft, which was said to be loosely based on the specifications of the Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano. This include the following details:

Quantity: 6 brand new, factory new aircraft, fully aerobatic
Landing Gears: Retractable 
Flight Capability: Inadvertent Instrument Meteorological Condition (IIMC) and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) capable;
Cruising Speed: minimum of 220 knots indicated airspeed (KIAS)
Endurance: minimum of 2 hours and thirty minutes (2.5 hrs) at armed configuration at normal cruising speed without auxiliary tanks
Seating Configuration: dual tandem seating
Payload: at least 3,000 lbs, with at least 5 hard points, and at least 600 lbs capacity for each hard point. 
Service Ceiling: at least 25,000 feet
Short Take-off and Landing Capability: maximum 3,000 meters take-off and landing roll @ Maximum Gross Take-off Weight (MTOW)
Power Plant: New turbine engine(s), time between overhaul of at least 3,000 flight hours, suitable for tropical (hot, humid and high altitude environment), restart ability within 15 minutes after shutdown. 
Weapons Systems: all weather capability, capable of multiple munition mix loading, and capacity for 2 50-caliber machine guns either built-in or using gun pods 
Avionics Systems: compatible or better with current data bus MIL-STD 1553
Flight Instrument
- Day Visual Flight Rules (DVFR), Night Visual Flight Rules (NVFR), and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR);
- Heads Up Display (HUD) with integrated flight performance, navigation, and weapons targeting and delivery in day and night environment;
- 2 Multi-function Display for front and rear cockpits, 5x7 inches showing aircraft flight performance, navigation, targeting, and tactical mission system display;
- Hands-on Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) for both front and rear cockpits;
Navigation Equipment:
- Basic equipment for IFR flights, brand new and calibrated for sustained high G-forces;
- Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System (GPS/INS)
- Digital Moving Map, compatible with Night Vision Goggles (NVG),
- at least 1 unit VOR/ILS;
- at least 1 unit IFF Transponder;
Fire Control System:
- compatible or better with current data bus MIL-STD 1553
-capable of Air to Air, and Air to Ground modes;
- Equipped with EO/IR capable of FLIR, Imaging, and Targeting System, with Laser Designator and Rangefinder, NVG compatible;
Airframe: rated for minimum of 12,000 flight hours
- Zero-Zero ejection seat, with life raft, survival and First Aid Kit, and Emergency Located Transmitter Device per seat
- Front and Rear Cockpit armor plating, ballistic tolerance up to 7.62mm ammunition;
- Jettison-able external stores;
- Equipped with Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and Missile Alert Warning System (MAWS)
- Equipped with Chaffs and Flares
Environmental System:
- Equipped with On-Board Oxygen Generation Systems (OBOGS),
- Cockpit Temperature Control / Equipment Cooling,
- Anti-G System
The KAI KA-1 Woongbi light attack aircraft, which is a stablemate of the PAF's incoming FA-50 aircraft.
Photo taken from website.

With the specifications allegedly resembling that of the Super Tucano, it only means one thing - the PAF is interested in the Super Tucano, and the bidding is for compliance of government acquisition laws, and as a way to see if there are other available models in the market that can match the Super Tucano in specification and pricing. The technical specifications can already show who can be knocked-out for non-compliance. Remember that the DND Bids and Awards Committee is strict in enforcing the compliance requirements, as shown in previous tenders for PAF aircraft.

MaxDefense tries to breakdown the technical specifications versus the possible aircraft candidates. For simplicity, the candidates are shortlisted with the most possible candidates: Embraer's A-29B Super Tucano, KAI's KA-1 Woongbi, Beechcraft Defense's AT-6C Texan II, IOMAX's Archangel Blk. 2 and Blk. 3. The PZL-130 Orlik ACS is taken out as it cannot meet majority of the requirements by a far margin, while the Yak-130 Mitten and L-159B ALCA was said to not have shown interest in the project and may cost higher than the ABC.

Aircraft in Service:
The DND specifies that the aircraft must be in service with the armed forces of its source country, or with 2 other foreign armed forces.

- The Super Tucano is in service with the Brazilian Air Force, and with more than 7 other air forces. 
- The armed variant of the Texan II is in service with the Greek Air Force, and only has the Iraqi Air Force as its other buyer. The trainer version of the Texan II, the T-6, is in service with the US Air Force and Navy, and with 7 other air forces. 
- Only Peru ordered the KA-1 so far, although the KT-1 series is in service with the South Korean Air Force and 2 other air forces. 
- The Archangel Blk. 3 is still under development and has not received any orders, although the older Blk. 1 is in service with 2 Middle Eastern air forces, and the Block 2 has been ordered by the UAE Air Force. 

This means that the Super Tucano is the only real compliant aircraft if based on the actual armed variant only, although if the DND will consider derivatives, then all shortlisted aircraft can be considered.

Although in service with the US Armed Forces and other air forces in the trainer variant, the AT-6C light attack aircraft variant is only in service with Greece, and Iraq as the only other country that ordered.
Photo taken from

Landing Gears - All except the Archangel Blocks 2 and 3 BPA have retractable landing gears. Although IOMAX, in their previous press releases, will try to improve on aerodynamics of the Block 3, the aircraft is still non-compliant to this requirement.

The IOMAX Archangel Block 3 still features a fixed landing gear, which is non-compliant to the technical specifications.
Photo taken from IOMAX website.

Crusing Speed - The Woongbi has a cruising speed of 297 knots, the Super Tucano at 281 knots, the Texan II at 278 knots. No official details yet on the Archangel Block 3, but the original Block 2 has a cruising speed of 180 knots although IOMAX is looking at aerodynamic improvements to reach the requirement. With the bid submission scheduled 2 weeks from now, it seems impossible for IOMAX to make changes in their aircraft to suite the PAF specifications.

Endurance - The Archangel Blocks 2 & 3 lords this requirement, as it has a maximum endurance of 10+ hours in ISR (unarmed) mode, and it is expected that in full armed configuration it can meet this requirement. The Super Tucano officially indicate that it has an internal fuel endurance of 3.4 hrs, although it did not indicate if in armed configuration. Woongbi's maximum loiter time is 5 hours, probably unarmed. 

The IOMAX Archangel Block 2 has the most to offer in terms of endurance and payload capacity.
Photo taken from Flightglobal website.

Payload and Hard Points - All aircraft, except for the Woongbi, can meet the payload requirement of 3,000 lbs. total. The Woongbi and Super Tucano has 5 hard points, the Orlik has 6 hard ponts, while the Texan II and Archangel Blk.3 has 7 hard points. It is confirmed that the Super Tucano and Archangel can meet the 600 lbs capacity for each hard point. The Texan II may not meet the required 600 lbs capacity per hard point for all the 7 that it has, and same for Wongbee for all its 5 hard points. 

Service Ceiling - All aircraft meets this minimum requirement, with the Woongbi, Super Tucano, and Texan II exceeding 30,000 feet, while the Archangel Block 2 barely meeting at 25,000 feet. IOMAX claims that the Archangel Block 3 may have a higher service ceiling than the Block 2.

STOL Capability - Not much is provided by manufacturers on this regard, but information taken from other sources claim that the Woongbi and Texan II may have problems meeting the required take-off and landing rolling distance provided in the technical specifications. 

Turbine Powerplant - this is a tricky part, since turbofan-powered aircraft like the Aero L-159 ALCA and Yakolev Yak-130 can also be considered turbine engine-powered aircraft. The specs shows openness to multi engined platforms. All comply this requirement. 

Weapons and Fire Control Systems - It is expected that the requirement must at least exceed what the PAF's upgraded OV-10s can currently do. All shortlisted aircraft models can be armed with 2 50-caliber machine guns, although only the Super Tucano has them internally without the need for gun pods. MaxDefense believes that being built-in would be an added advantage as it can provide more hard points for other munitions, sensors, and fuel instead of being carried as a gun pod. The requirement includes an Air to Air modes for the Fire Control System, which might not be available for almost all the shortlisted aircraft models except for the Super Tucano and the Texan II. Adding this feature means that it must also be able to carry weapons to shoot down aircraft. So far, the Super Tucano is cleared to carry the AIM-9L Sidewinder, the Israel Python 3 & 4, and the Brazilian MAA-1A Piranha missiles. The AT-6 is said to compatible with the AIM-9L Sidewinder but acceptance tests are not yet made until now.

Avionics, Flight Instruments, and Navigation System - All shortlisted aircraft are compliant to the avionics requirements of the specifications, and can be configured according to the PAF requirement. Although there are specifics details indicated in the specifications that may require several manufacturers to modify their standard systems, or will require them to confirm with the DND/PAF if their offer / counter-offer is acceptable for merit. We'll leave this to experts on the field with this matter.

Survivability - So far, the Archangel Block 2 are not equipped with ejection seats, while the Archangel Block 3 is planned to be installed with such system. Instead, IOMAX offers a crash-resistant seating and roll-cage for the Archangel Block 2. 

As some say, the devil is inbthe details. And as expected, the Super Tucano still appears to be the aircraft to beat for this competition, in the same way it won its way to the top for the USAF LAS Program. Although the AT-6C Texan has the backing of extensive program to fit the USAF requirement and is capable of matching some of the features of the Super Tucano, it loses out in a lot of essential capabilities like payload, endurance, and STOL capability. This might be due to its smaller size, and being an aircraft that was closely taken from an existing training aircraft. This is the same problems encountered by the even smaller KA-1 Woongbi. 

The Archangel Blk. 3 is a promising aircraft, with its strong endurance and payload capabilities, and proven rough airfield operating capability. But being an aircraft still in development, it may not be able to catch-up to the tender submission this coming July 2014. Thus it is expected that IOMAX will submit the Archangel Blk. 2 for the PAF CAS bidding, which falls short on several requirements like cruising speed, ejection seat and landing gear requirements. The best counter-offer they can provide is the pricing, wherein several sources indicate that it costs far less to acquire the Archangel compared to the Super Tucano. This will enable the PAF to acquire more than 6 aircraft for the same budget, if it allows such offer to pass through the stringent requirements.

The Super Tucano trumps as a more balanced aircraft, with a proven track record and reputation with the aviation industry and military forces, a design that has CAS as its strong point, and a good political tool for the Philippine government to have closer relations with far away Brazil. 

The point that it was chosen by the PAF as the basis for its CAS specifications means that the PAF acknowledges the Super Tucano's strengths. And without a close competitor to meet all its capabilities, it means that the Super Tucano still has the strongest chance of being able to pass through all the technical requirements. MaxDefense believes so as well. 

The only question now is the costs - did the PAF provide an ABC that will fit the Super Tucano's acquisition costs, together with all the goodies and support the PAF required? Let us see in the next few weeks from now. Till then, MaxDefense will update this blog entry as more details come into place.

July 5, 2014:
The DND has again reset the bid submission and opening for the CAS acquisition program, from July 11 to July 23, 2014. MaxDefense is still checking the reasons but media reports says that the DND did not give any specific reason.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Overview on ROKN's Pohang-class Corvettes, and Transfer of 1 ship to the PN

Aside from the earlier report of a scheduled transfer of a Landing Craft - Utility (LCU) and rubber boats from South Korea to the Philippine Navy, MaxDefense also confirm reports that surfaced on June 5, 2014 that the South Korean Ministry of Defense will transfer a Pohang-class corvette to the Philippine Navy before the end of 2014. The Philippines' Department Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed the impending transfer in their released official statement dated June 5, 2014, while the Department of National Defense (DND) through its representative  Mr. Peter Paul Galvez confirmed the transfer as well.

What is still being confirmed as of this writing is the version of the Pohang-class corvette to be given to the Philippine Navy (PN). There are currently 3 sub-classes for the entire class range, having different and improving configuration as the class matures. Also being confirmed are the included sensors and weapons system in the transfer. 

The South Korean government has approved handing-over a Pohang-class corvette to the Philippine Navy. Above is ROKS Gunsan (PCC-757).
Photo taken from

Understanding the Korean Naval Shipbuilding in the 1980s:
The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the massive industrialization efforts of South Korea gaining ground, backed by fast expanding economy and government support for self sufficiency. The ROKN embarked on a massive shipbuilding program to prove their gains and experience from the local manufacture of their earlier Chamsuri-class patrol boat (Tomas Batillo-class in the PN) in the 1970s.  This led to the Fast Frigate Korea (FFK) and Patrol Combat Corvette (PCC) projects, which ultimately became the Ulsan-class frigate based on the HDF-2000 design, and Donghae-class corvettes(PCC Flight I) based on HDC-8000 design. The first ship of the Donghae-class, the ROKS Donghae (PCC-751) was commissioned to the ROKN in 1983, but according to Korean sources, the design encountered sea-keeping issues on the open seas due to the hull's small size, and it ROKN requested for a re-design of the PCC program using an enlarged version of the HDC-8000 design, and decided to end the production of the Donghae-class corvette at 4 units. The resulting design, the HDC-1200, which became a class of its own despite huge similarities with the earlier Donghae-class design. This design ultimately became the ROKN's Pohang-class corvette (PCC Flight II). 

Compared to the older Donghae-class, the Pohang-class is 10 meters longer, and around 0.3 meters wider and deeper. This resulted to better sea-keeping attributes on open seas, and ROKN decided to continue the PCC program using the design. Improvements on machinery, habitability, weapons and sensors fit were also made to maximize the usage of the hull enlargement.

Note: A derivative design based on the Donghae and Pohang-class ships was made for the Korean Maritime Police (Coast Guard), called the Hankang-class, which is lightly armed and less capable than its naval counterparts.

The ROKS Suwon (PCC-752), the 2nd ship of the Donghae-class corvettes.

The Pohang-class corvette:
The Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) operated a maximum of 24 locally-made Pohang-class "combat corvettes", of which 21 are still in active service as of June 2014. Being a derivative of the Donghae-class, the Pohang-class provided increased size and improved performance, and improvements on sensors and weapons systems fit including accommodation for anti-ship missile systems.  The lead ship of the class, ROKS Pohang (PCC-756), was commissioned to the ROKN on December 1984, while the last unit, ROKS Gongju (PCC-785), was commissioned on July 1993. Construction for the ship class was divided to 3 of South Korea's foremost naval shipbuilders in the 1980s, Korea Tacoma Shipbuilding (now Hanjin Heavy Industries), Hyundai Heavy Industries, and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.

Note: Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering are both contenders for the upcoming new frigates for the Philippine Navy.

The class have the following details technical details:
Dimensions (length x beam x depth): 88.3m x 10.0m x 2.9m;
Displacement: 1,220 tons at full load;
Speed: 32 knots maximum using gas turbine;
Range: 4,000 miles at 15 knots
Crew: 95 

The Pohang-class is divided into 3 sub-classes, each being an improvement over the other:

PCC Pohang-subclass (PCC Flight II)
This is the so-called surface warfare version (ASuW), originally conceived as the only version with anti-ship missiles. The sub-class covering 4 ships (PCC-756 to PCC-759). These are equipped with: 
- 1 x GE LM-2500 gas turbine, 2 x MTU 12V956 TB82 diesel engines at CODOG configuaration;
- Raytheon AN/SPS-64(v) surface search/navigation radar, Signaal WM-28 Fire Control System, Signaal LIOD optronic director, Signaal Sewaco ZK combat data system;
- 1 x Oto Melara 76mm/62 Compact gun, 2 x MM38 Exocet anti-ship missile launchers, 2 x Emerlec Twin 30mm guns, 2 x triple Mk. 32 324mm ASW torpedo tubes, 2 x Mk.9 Depth Charge racks.

The ROKS Mokpo (PCC-759), the last ship of the ASW sub-class.

PCC Gimcheon-subclass (PCC Flight III)
This is the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) version, covering 4 ships (PCC-761 to PCC-765, skipped PCC-764). Changes on the combat data system and secondary guns, and addition of another 76mm gun plus a hull-mounted sonar system, and absence of anti-ship missile system as compared to the earlier sub-class.
- 1 x GE LM-2500 gas turbine, 2 x MTU 12V956 TB82 diesel engines at CODOG configuration;
- Raytheon AN/SPS-64(v) surface search/navigation radar, Signaal WM-28 Fire Control system, Signaal LIOD optronic director, Raytheon AN/SQS-58 hull mounted sonar replacing the original Signaal PHS-32, Ferranti WSA 423 combat data system;
- 2 x Oto Melara 76mm/62 Compact gun, 2 x Breda twin 40mm/70 guns, 2 x triple Mk. 32 324mm ASW torpedo tubes, 2 x Mk.9 Depth Charge racks, 1 x Mistral / Chiron MANPADS launcher added later on.

The ROKS Gimcheon (PCC-761), part of the ASW sub-class.

PCC Jinhae-subclass (PCC Flight IV & V)
This is an improved re-design that incorporates the ASW and ASuW capabilities, unlike the earlier 2 sub-classes. The use of space-saving Harpoon tube launchers instead of the older MM38 Exocet boxed launchers enabled the ship to carry more missiles while also having the ASW capability. The diesel engine was also changed from MTU to SEMT-Pielstick brand. This sub-class covers 16 ships (PCC-766 to PCC-784, skipping PCC-770, 774, 780 and 784). PCC Flight V started from PCC-778, the difference being the Marconi and Radamec sensors system installed are licensed-built versions from Samsung.
- 1 x GE LM-2500 gas turbine, 2 x SEMT-Pielstick 12 PA6 V280 diesel engines at CODOG configuration;
- Marconi ST1810 surface search/navigation radar, Marconi ST1802 fire control radar, 2 x Radamec 2400 optronic system, Raytheon AN/SQS-58 hull mounted sonar replacing the original Signaal PHS-32, Ferranti WSA 423 combat data system;
- 2 x Oto Melara 76mm/62 Compact gun, 2 x Breda twin 40mm/70 guns, 2 x twin RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers; 2 x triple Mk. 32 324mm ASW torpedo tubes, 2 x Mk. 9 Depth Charge racks, 1 x Mistral / Chiron MANPADS launcher added later on.

The ROKS Wonju (PCC-769), a ship classified under the Jinhae-subclass.

So far, 3 Pohang-class ships are out of service as of June 2014: ROKS Pohang (PCC-756) was decommissioned from the ROKN in 2009 and was turned to a museum ship in Pohang City, ROKS Gunsan (PCC-757) was decommissioned in 2011 and is awaiting decision on its fate after an offer to transfer the ship to the Colombian Navy did not push through. The most famous ship of the class, the ROKS Cheonan (PCC-772), was sunk in 2010.

Transfer to the Philippine Navy:
There is no definite information yet on which ship will be for transfer. According to the DFA and DND announcements, the specific ship for the PN is still in active service with the ROKN as of this writing. Usually a navy selects the older and worse-condition ship of the class for decommissioning ships, so the most expected ship that fits this bill would be either of the 2 remaining ASuW versions, the ROKS Gyeongju (PCC-758) and the ROKS Mokpo (PCC-759). It is to be noted that ROKS Gunsan (PCC-757) was already decommissioned from the ROKN since 2011, so it may not fit the description. The PN would be lucky if they receive a more capable version.

The expected transfer date is before the end of the year, and previous announcements indicated that ship's systems would be intact upon transfer unlike what the PN experienced with the Hamilton-class cutters from the US. There are confirmations from MaxDefense sources that the ship could be "almost entirely intact as it is depending on approval from foreign governments holding rights to approval of arms transfers", and if these approvals are met, we can expect the ship to be in the Philippines before the end of the year.

New systems for the PN:
A small ship in the eyes of many, it packs several naval systems that are currently not available with the PN. Assuming that the PN will get the earlier ASuW version, the following are expected to give the PN the technology and knowledge boost it needs:

There are several systems in the ship that is not available in the PN's inventory or knowledge base. This small ship surely is helpful to the PN's goal to improve its capability. 

1. It uses the GE LM-2500 gas turbine engine - although the PN is not a stranger to naval application of gas turbines thanks to the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, the LM-2500 is somehing new to them. It is much modern, more powerful, and is one of the most widely used gas turbine engine for warship application in the world.

2. Presence of ASW weapons - the ship is equipped with ASW torpedo launchers and depth charge racks - weapons that the PN have not used since the early 1980s. This would re-introduce the organization to such weapons which are expected to be present in upcoming warships.

3. The anti-ship missile system - the PN has never equipped its ships with anti-ship missiles in the past, although it has been planning to do so since the 1970s. Although the ship's MM-38 Exocet missile is already nearing obsolescence, it could still be a good training and learning platform for the PN while waiting for plans to introduce newer systems.

4. Warship design that is younger than all its major surface action assets - it should be taken into consideration that the Pohang-class' design is far younger than the PN's World War 2-era warships, its Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, and even its British made Jacinto-class ships. MaxDefense is not familiar with the Pohang-class' advantages in warship hull design, but it is expected to benefit from maturity of technology over older designs. This could provide the information and technology base for the PN's future ship design and building programs under the Naval Research and Development Center's (NRDC) project.

What the PN should be doing by now:
Being a warship with more capable systems than the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, the PN should be readying the crew that will be assigned to the ship. MaxDefense expects that South Korea will provide training to the initial PN crew. Instead of getting crew members from the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, MaxDefense suggests getting mixed crew members from the Rizal or Miguel Malvar-class ships plus those with experience from the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates. They should all be provided with introductory training aboard the PN's frigates first before sending them to Korea. This could be done by using both the PF-15 and PF-16 simultaneously as training platforms for the next few months.

Aside from the ship crew, the PN must build up its maintenance and support base to maintain the ship's more complicated mechanical, electrical, sensors and weapons systems. MaxDefense expects the corvette to be more complicated than the US-made frigates, and this should be given attention by the PN.

Inside a Pohang-class corvette's bridge. This is probably from a Jinhae-subclass version and may have some differences with the older ASuW version.
Photo taken from namacha @

It is expected that the ship will need refurbishing and repair once it becomes available, its not new after all. It is a common practice for navies to stop refurbishing works once a ship is nearing its retirement date, even large organizations like the US Coast Guard does the same. The PN should already prepare the budget and start planning on the necessary works it needs to do with the ship based on previous/future inspections. It is not impossible that the ship may require some repair works as a precautionary measure before sailing on its own to its new home in the Philippines.

Aside from repairs, the PN should consider maximizing the use of the ship by upgrading it later on with better engineering, sensors, and weapons systems, and increasing its service lifespan. Not only is it needed to keep the ship in full readiness for several more years, but also to improve its capability as a front-line naval combatant, and in compliance of DND's rules on acquiring used assets.

The ROKN installed MANPADS launchers on later versions of the Pohang-class, several years after commissioning them. The PN could consider to do the same to improve the ship's defenses as the ASuW versions are not expected to have these. The photo above is from a later mdoel of an actual Pohang-class ship, used to mount a single Mistral or Chiron missile system.

For the PN high command, the approval of such transfer from South Korea should be followed with aggressiveness to get more. As more Incheon-class frigates come into service with the ROKN, they are expected to release more Pohang and Ulsan-class ships soon. These used but still capable Korean warships would be the best solution for the PN to immediately upgrade its fleet as a short to medium term solution, and this could only be attained if the PN can fight and lobby for government support to request the South Korean government to allow more transfers either as grants, donations, or priority sale. So far, MaxDefense can confirm that DND is in talks with South Korea's MoD not only for more corvettes, but other assets as well. Let's see the outcome of these talks and hopefully more good new will come in the next few months.

Of course there will be trade-offs on such request, and it may include our military's preference to acquire new military equipment from South Korea. It is to be noted that the AFP is in full-swing to acquire several weapons systems that South Korea is able to provide. MaxDefense does not see anything wrong with giving the South Koreans more access to our defense market as they have competitive defense products, for as long as these meet the AFP's operational requirements and price is reasonable and competitive.

It is expected that this deal would be discussed for some time until the ship actually arrives on Philippine shores. MaxDefense will provide more information regarding this deal later on.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Philippine Navy to Receive Excess LCU from South Korea

The Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) confirmed the transfer of a transport vessel, rubber boats, and computers to the Philippine government after the Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin's visit to South Korea. Reports have been sketchy so far, with the mainstream media reports commonly claiming the ship to be an LCU (Landing Craft-Utility), but some describing it as a ship that has a helicopter landing pad and space to carry more than 200 troops. The latter description does not fit an LCU but is more like a large landing ship like a Landing Ship Tank (LST) which is also present in South Korea's naval inventory.

The US-designed and made LCU-1610, which is the basis of the Korean LCU-70 and LCU-80 classes.
Photo taken from website.

MaxDefense sources confirmed that the navy is not getting an LST, and the reports are correct that the Philippine Navy (PN) is indeed getting an excess LCU from South Korea of the LCU-70 Mulgae-class, a Korean version of a US designed LCU-1610. It is expected to arrive before the end of the year if the deal runs smoothly.

These are made by Korea Tacoma using a design provided by Tacoma Boatbuilding Company of the US, thus the transfer to the Philippines may require US government approval, which was actually confirmed by DND officials in one report. This class are being replaced by newer Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC) by the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) on amphibious operation use, and are currently relegated to minor transport roles. Some units were already decommissioned, while others are scheduled for decommissioning which may include the unit for transfer.

ROKN LCU-77, an example of the older Mulgae-class LCU. A similar craft is scheduled for transfer to the PN soon.

Being a small amphibious craft, its limited dimension does not allow carrying more than 200 troops as reported earlier, and the absence of a helicopter landing pad due to size constraints also cancels out helicopter operations. A report from another news organization taken from Philippine Navy spokesman Cmdr. Gregory Fabic confirms MaxDefense's information that the ship for transfer is indeed an LCU.

According to open sources, the LCU has the following specifications in its present state:
Dispacement: 415 tons
Dimensions (Length x Beam x Draft): 41.1m x 8.8m x 1.8m
Crew: 14
Range: 560 nautical miles
Speed (maximum): 13 knots

They are currently armed with Oerlikon 20mm guns similar to some of the Philippine Navy's older ships, although the newer versions are armed with 20mm Sea Vulcan turrets similar to those found in the Philippine Navy's Tomas Batillo-class and Conrado Yap-class patrol boats. It would still be possible that the landing crafts will be transferred without its armaments, depending on the negotiation between the Philippine and South Korean governments.

ROKN's LCU-76, transporting KM-250 trucks which the AFP also has.
Photo taken from baba1905 blog @

MaxDefense is still awaiting further confirmation on the said transfer. Also, it would be noted that MaxDefense previously received confirmations from DND sources that the Philippine government was asking for more excess defense material transfers from the South Korean government as grants or for bargain sale, which includes combat and transport naval assets, and this LCU transfer may just be the beginning of the said request.

LCUs in Philippine Navy Service:
The Philippine Navy has been operating LCUs for many years, and currently it operates 5 LCUs from 3 distinct classes. It still operates 3 WW2-era LCUs of the American LCU-1466 class, the BRP Subanon (AT-291), BRP Bagobo (AT-293), and BRP Tausug (AT-295). 

It also operates 2 new large locally-made LCUs, the BRP Manobo (BU-297) and the BRP Tagbanua (AT-296), both units are the first of their own class. 

The BRP Tausug (AT-295) of the Philippine Navy, formerly a US LCU-1466 class used by the US military.
Photo taken from Wikimedia.