Your 1st in Philippine defense

The return of the self propelled howitzer is coming soon!

The Philippine Army is close to acquiring 155mm self-propelled howitzers

Let us welcome BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39)!

The Philippine Navy finally welcomes its latest asset, the Pohang-class corvette BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39)

Hermes 450 MALE UAVs arriving soon!

MaxDefense presents the first photo of the Elbit Systems Hermes 450 MALE UAV of the Philippine Air Force!

Elbit's Skylark 3 UAV coming soon!

The Philippine Army just made a massive order for several UAV types from Israel.

Philippine Navy and HHI launches BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150)

The Frigate acquisition project reaches a milestone with the launching of BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150).

The Philippine Navy's first Combat Management System from Saab

The Philippine Navy introduces the first CMS in PN service, the Saab 9LV Combat Management System on PS-35

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Why the Philippine Air Force will be better-off with the Bell AH-1Z Viper for its AH Needs

With the relations between Turkey and the United States, as well as with several NATO countries souring up due to Turkey’s plan to invade Northern Syria and fight the US-backed Kurdish fighters, as well as its acquisition of Russia’s S-400 Triumf advance long rage air defense system and very close relationship with Russia, it now appears that Turkey could be at the receiving end of strong economic sanctions from its allies, in addition to those already imposed to Turkey.

This may include cutting off access on US or even select NATO military technology for both existing assets of the Turkish Armed Forces, but also on the Turkish defense industry which includes large Turkish companies like Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), ASELSAN, Otokar, FNSS, and many more.

MaxDefense would not discuss more on the issues between Turkey and the US, since it is not really the meat of this entry, nor has so much to do with the Philippines. But it affects any arms acquisition by the Philippines from the Turkish defense industry considering several AFP Modernization Program projects actually considered, shortlisted, or even selected Turkish defense products.

One of them is on the Philippine Air Force’s Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project, which is a Horizon 2 phase Priority Project under the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

Bell AH-1Z Viper of the US Marine Corps. The AH-1Z is being pushed for the PAF's Attack Helicopter requirements. Credits to original source of photo.

Issues on Selecting the TAI T129 ATAK Attack Helicopter:

MaxDefense has discussed numerous times in both our blogs and in our social media posts that the Philippine Air Force’s Technical Working Group (TWG) for the AH project has selected the TAI T129 ATAK attack helicopter after evaluations against other offers including the Bell AH-1Z Viper, the Russian Helicopters Mil Mi-28N Night Hunter and Mil Mi-35 Hind, Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian, Airbus Tiger, and other models including light helicopters.

The TAI T129 ATAK attack helicopter which was the original selection made by the PAF. Credits to original source of photo.

Turkey offered to supply “around 7-8” units of T129 ATAK under a Government-to-Government (G2G) deal based on the Php12.8 billion budget allocated by the Philippines Department of National Defense (DND) on the project, while also supplying more units to form a complete squadron under a Turkish government-supported soft loan deal.

 MaxDefense previously supported the acquisition of the T129 ATAK since it was the selection and decision made by the PAF’s TWG and Defense Acquisition System Assessment Team (DASAT) itself, supported by the PAF’s then Commanding General Lt. Gen. Galileo Kintanar and approved by Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana. This is despite MaxDefense hearing that one of those involved in the irregularities in the Frigate Acquisition Project in 2016-2017 is backing up the T129 sale for reasons that we only believe is irregular.

The T129 ATAK of the Turkish Land Forces. Credits to original source of the photo.

While the deal looks to be good, suddenly Turkey was involved in political squabble with the US and its other NATO allies over its decision to acquire the Russian S-400 Triumf advance long range air defense system, which led to Turkey being kicked-out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program and getting sanctions from the US and some NATO allies like the UK. Sanctions that included access to important parts and subsystems for the T129 ATAK attack helicopter like the the Rolls-Royce LHTEC CTS800-4A turboshaft engines, and several other avionics.

Turkey is having difficulty getting LHTEC turboshaft engines for its T129s, due to the recent spat it has with the US and other NATO allies like the UK. 

Even after the S-400 acquisition by Turkey, it already is apparent that US and UK are not willing to supply Turkey with the LHTEC turboshaft engines. This was apparent with the T129 orders from Pakistan, although it was partly because Pakistan is also in the sanctions list of the US government. MaxDefense sources from the defense industry confirmed that while Pakistan was sanctioned, Turkey’s own sanctions also affected the Pakistani T129 deal. This is now even expected to become worse with the planned invasion of Turkey in Northern Syria and the spat with the US on the issue of Kurdish militants.

Obviously the TAI T129 ATAK attack helicopter is a good, reasonably priced attack helicopter, no doubt about it. But the political issues hitting Turkey would definitely affect the T129 deal with the Philippines. So MaxDefense believes that it is best for the Philippines to just move away from the deal and avoid the risk of Turkey not able to deliver the helicopters to the Philippine Air Force because of their own problems with the supply of important helicopter components.

The T129 ATAK performing aerobatics to show its capabilities during an air show. Credits to original source of photo.

The PAF’s 2nd Choice – The Bell AH-1Z Viper

MaxDefense received several confirmations from defense, military and industry sources that ranked below just after the T129 in PAF’s evaluation is the actually the Bell AH-1Z Viper, which is to be honest, MaxDefense’s own choice based on our personal evaluation of the products offered.

The PAF’s TWG and DASAT ranked Bell’s AH-1Z Viper as its 2nd best option, and according to our sources, actually scored higher than the T129 ATAK in terms of performance. The only reason it lost to the T129 was because it costs more to acquire, and is expected to cost more to sustain than the T129 ATAK. So its actually just because of money.

Performance-wise, the PAF scored the Viper higher than ATAK. But it is more expensive than ATAK which made PAF choose the ATAK from Turkey. Photo taken from Wikipedia.

While TAI offered to provide 7-8 T129 ATAK attack helicopters based on PAF’s budget, Bell Helicopters actually offered 5 AH-1Z Vipers for the same price. Let MaxDefense also use this opportunity that this is based on an updated information since MaxDefense previously mentioned that Bell was only able to offer 3 to 4 units. It’s actually 5 units.

In addition, Bell also offered to assist in getting US government support in a possible US Foreign Military Financing (US FMF) program to assist the Philippines’ DND for a soft loan package to acquire additional units to form a complete AH-1Z Viper squadron.

Bell offered to supply up to 5 brand new AH-1Z Vipers for the PAF's budget, while the US government offered to provide financing via US FMF program for more units. Credits to original source of photo.

Performance-wise, the Bell AH-1Z Viper trumps over the TAI T129 ATAK, being faster, more agile, and has a better climb rate. But the main advantage of the AH-1Z Viper is that it is marinized, meaning it was made with consideration of operating in naval or near-seawater environment like the Philippines. Remember that the AH-1Z was made with the US Marine Corps in mind, with the helicopters mostly based at sea on a navy amphibious assault ship, or on US Marine air bases near the coast.

This is very important in the case of the Philippines as corrosion on aircraft is the deadliest enemy of any aircraft operated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Even deadlier than the Chinese military, and is a daily threat to any aircraft.

Main advantage of Viper is its designed to operate over sea and naval environment like the Philippines, something that the T129 and other competitors do not feature. Credits to original source of photo.

Another advantage of the AH-1Z due to its being a marinized helicopter is that it can safely and conveniently operate from any navy ship with landing and hangar facilities. Its rotorblades can be folded just like any naval helicopter of the Philippine Navy, so it can be stowed in hangars like those found in the Del Pilar, Jose Rizal, and Tarlac-class ships.

The introduction of the PAF on operating and sustaining the Viper’s older ancestor, the single-engine Bell AH-1S Cobra through the donation  made by the Jordanian government, actually helps the PAF in understanding the entire Bell Cobra/Super Cobra/Viper family. While the Viper does not share major components with the older Cobra, it does share in opening a logistics train with Bell, which is already an advantage in itself since the PAF has been a long-time customer of Bell Helicopters due to it operating the venerable UH-1H Huey, as well as the Bell 205A and Bell 412HP/EP utility helicopters.  This is something absent with TAI since the PAF has no experience operating any aircraft made by TAI.

The Bell AH-1Z Viper. Photo credits to original source.

With the US being a user of the AH-1Z, the PAF also stands to benefit from US assistance in supporting the helicopters in case of emergencies. Examples may include if PAF fails to secure enough spare parts due to reasons beyond its control, or in training or improving PAF personnel and pilot skills in operating the AH-1Z Viper similar to what the US does with other similar assets operated by both the AFP and US Military (the recent AAV exchange between Philippine and US Marine Corps is a prime example).

A Bell AH-1Z Viper on a US Navy amphibious assault ship during Joint Exercises between US and Philippine forces. Photo credited to

The AH-1Z Viper can be armed with the standard 2.75” unguided rockets already in service with the PAF, as well as the BAE Systems APKWS-II guided rockets, which is about to be introduced to the AFP soon. It can also be armed with the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, which was confirmed by a MaxDefense source to be sellable to the PAF and DND.

The AH-1Z Viper was also said to be easily adaptable to use other munitions like the Elbit Systems GATR guided rocket which is also being introduced to the PAF, as well as standard gun and rocket pods already used by the PAF on its AgustaWestland AW109E Power and MD Helicopters MD-520MG Defender light attack helicopter fleets.

If the DND decides to go for the Vipers, it would be under US Foreign Military Sales (US FMS) and Foreign Military Financing (US FMF) program, and Bell could deliver the first batch of Vipers as early as 2021. Apparently the US Marine Corps is ok to divert some of the helicopters in the production line to the PAF.

The Other Main Reason to Select the Bell AH-1Z Viper

Aside from the AH-1Z Viper’s best attributes and the US government’s offer to assist in procuring additional units via financing options, there is actually another reason why its best to go with the Viper.

The AH-1W SuperCobra of the US Marine Corps. Credits to

MaxDefense received confirmation from sources that the US government actually offered to grant the Philippine Air Force with at least twelve (12) used Bell AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters as part of US Military Assistance Program to the Philippines. But that is only possible under two conditions:

1. That the DND and PAF will award the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project to Bell Helicopters with the AH-1Z Viper, and

2. The Philippines will commit to properly maintain and sustain the Super Cobra helicopters, in accordance to standard US requirements for every defense article they sell or donate to anyone. In short, they just want the PAF to take care of these helicopters.

Reasonable conditions, if you ask me.

PAF personnel preparing for an orientation flight by their USMC counterparts during a joint PH-US exercise. Credits to original source of photo.

The US is willing to transfer the helicopters under a “hot transfer” from by the US Marine Corps. For those who do not know, “hot transfer” means that the US Marine Corps will just simply hand-over the helicopters directly from their control to the Philippine Air Force. One good example is when there are military exercises in the Philippines between US and Philippine militaries, the USMC can simply hand-over the helicopters they brought in after the exercises. This means the PAF will save money on shipping them from US yards or bases to the Philippines (which usually is a problem encountered by the AFP due to lengthy approval of funding requests for even this most basic requirement).

PAF pilots getting instructions from USMC pilots on the Bell AH-1W SuperCobra. Photo from Dvids.

The Super Cobras are mostly around 30 years old now, but are still capable assets compared to even many new armed or attack helicopters in the market. These helicopters can also be upgraded (although probably paid separately by the PAF) later on to AH-1Z Viper standards, as the USMC originally planned to upgrade them until they changed their mind and decided to buy new Vipers instead.

Based on information we received, the US was willing to start hot transfer of some of the AH-1W Super Cobras as early as next year if the DND signs the US FMS contract before yearend.

Hot transfer of USMC AH-1W SuperCobra is said to be possible should the PAF proceed with a deal with the US government. Credits to original source of photo.

With the PAF planning to acquire more single-engined AH-1F Cobras which are even older than the AH-1W Super Cobras, the PAF would be better off getting the AH-1Ws instead. The Jordanian Cobras would be relegated to training role for these incoming assets.

The PAF is expecting to receive ex-Jordanian AH-1S Cobra, which the PAF could use to train future pilots of both the AH-1W SuperCobra and AH-1Z Viper. Credits to original source of photo.

PAF’s Anticipation of T129 Deal Failure:

To further support the plan to acquire either the used Super Cobras or new Vipers, the PAF’s 15th Strike Wing itself was said to have already started pushing for this acquisition as an alternative to the TAI T129 ATAK.

Apparently many in the PAF already anticipates that the DND will reach a stumbling block in the deal with Turkey, and they have prepared an alternative based on acquiring used Bell AH-1W Super Cobras, and if possible, new Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters.

With the MD Helicopters MD-520MG Defender fleet already in need of a replacement soon, the 15th Strike Wing believe that going for used AH-1W Super Cobras is the fastest and best alternative they have.

It would be remembered that several PAF pilots and ground crew have already been receiving some experience with the Bell AH-1W Super Cobra since these helicopters are regular participants in yearly PH-US joint military exercises like Exercise BALIKATAN and KAMANDAG.

A PAF pilot going for orientation flight with a USMC pilot on an AH-1W SuperCobra during a PH-US joint exercises. Photo credits to Dvids Hub.

MaxDefense’s Opinion: 

With the end of 2019 approaching fast, sources from the DND confirmed to MaxDefense that they need to make a decision by November 2019 and to have a contract signed with the winning supplier before Christmas comes. This is because the funds allocated for the project will need to be returned to the national treasury if it is unused or unallocated by 31st December 2019.

MaxDefense believes that selecting the Bell AH-1Z Viper is currently the best choice the PAF and DND has to avoid further delays to the already long delayed Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project.

Steering clear of the Turkey-US spat is necessary at this moment to avoid having issues the Philippines’ own defense procurements. And since it appears that the end-users themselves are also in favour of the combined Viper & Super Cobra offers, it is indeed the best solution the PAF can ever have now.

The only trouble now is getting anti-US Philippine Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to approve the deal. We hope Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Sec. Hermogenes Esperon can do the miracle of making Pres. Duterte calm down and make the right decision.

Project Summary:

Attack Helicopter (Horizon 2) Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 09 October 2019.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (15th Strike Wing)

Quantity: no specific quantity, cost dependent

* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:
 Php13,800,000,000.00, potential addition using soft loan/financing with assistance from helicopter source's government

Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) procurement process

* Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund, to be paid via Multi-Year Obligation Authority (MYOA) process.

* SARO Release/s: 

* Winning Proponent: TBA

Product for Delivery: TBA

* Contract Price: TBA

* First post by MaxDefense: TBA

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PAFAHAcquisition 

* Status: DND in the process of a final decision.


First post, edit and release: 09 October 2019
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

Monday, September 30, 2019

Philippine Navy's Corvette Acquisition Program - Jose Rizal-class Flight II?

The Philippine Navy (PN) and the Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) have recently been very open in its planned acquisition of assets under the Horizon 2 phase, including how they plan to acquire assets, or from where are they planning to acquire them.

In the case of the PN, among the priorities that it had already mentioned publicly are the acquisition of brand new Corvettes, Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV), Landing Platform Docks (LPD), Missile-armed Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts (FAIC-M), and Submarines.

Out of the projects above, only the Landing Platform Dock project will be acquired through Public Bidding, and the bidding process is still ongoing as this entry was written. All others are to be acquired through Direct Negotiations or Government-to-Government (G2G) deals between the DND and its foreign counterparts.

MaxDefense believes that out of those in the list for G2G procurement, the Corvette and Offshore Patrol Vessel projects are the most urgent ones. But in this case, let's only talk about the updates on the Corvette Acquisition Project.

With the awarding of the project happening very soon, it would be fitting for MaxDefense to discuss the project again based on newer information.

A scale model of the Jose Rizal-class frigate as provided to the DND by Hyundai Heavy Industries. Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense by a source.

Recap on the Corvette Acquisition Project:
Since MaxDefense posted its last blog entry on the Corvette Acquisition Project more than a year ago on May 2018, let's have a recap of what the project is and what is it all about.

Previously MaxDefense posted information on what we believe would be the general technical requirements of the corvettes based on information we gathered back then. Here are what we posted back in 2018 just for readers to recall:

- Corvette shall be of proven design (as required by Republic Act 10349);
- Designed to operate in tropic environment, within Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and beyond;
- Fit for service in Surface Warfare (SuW), Anti Air Warfare (AAW), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Electronic Warfare (EW) missions;
- Able to survive Sea State 6 or higher;
- Must be able to accommodate AW159 Wildcat or SH-60 Seahawk naval helicopters;
- Endurance of 20 days or longer;
- Displacement between 1,500 to 2,700 tons;
- Length between 80 meters to 105 meters;
- Speed at full displacement at 25 knots or higher;
- Accommodation for 70 personnel or more;
- Ship designed with low Radar Cross-Section (RCS);
- Able to accommodate container mission modules;
- Launch and recovery of two 7-meter RHIBs;
- Satisfy international maritime safety and environmental compliance standard.

Armaments may include:
- Main Gun: 76mm/62 Super Rapid;
- Secondary Gun: 1 x 30mm Machine Gun System;
- 2 x 4 Surface-to-surface Missiles;
- 2 x 8 Surface-to-air Missiles;
- 2 x Triple Torpedo Launchers;
- EW Suite;
- Chaffs and Decoys

Back then, 
MaxDefense received solid confirmation that among those who already made serious offers are:

- ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) of Germany with their MEKO A100 Corvette family,
- Damen of the Netherlands with their SIGMA small warship family,
- Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) of South Korea with a modified design based on the HDF-2600 / Jose Rizal-class frigates,
- Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) with their a modified Kamorta-class design,
- Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) with a new design based on the larger Daegu-class frigates;

MaxDefense was also told that other shipbuilders like Naval Group of France, Navantia of Spain, Saab Kockums Naval Solutions of Sweden, and Goa Shipyards of India have shown interest to submit their offers.

This inforgraphic on the Corvette Acquisition Project was made public by the Philippine Navy on May 2018. But the requirements provided in this are aready superceded by a revised list of requirements included by the Philippine Navy in their RFIs to potential shipbuilders. Photo shared exclusively to MaxDefense by a source.

Updates on Technical Requirements:

Just before the end of 2018, MaxDefense received a more accurate general technical requirement on the Corvette Acquisition Project, which further refined what were being asked for the proponents to provide compared to the requirements prior to that.

While the revised requirements did not went too far from the earlier list we posted above, this gave us more clarity on what the Philippine Navy would want in their corvettes, as follows:

- Minimum length of 80 meters, no limit on maximum length;

- A draft of equal or greater than 4 meters,
- A maximum of speed of at least 25 knots at 80% Maximum Continuous Rating,
- Endurance of at least 20 days, and operating range of at least 4,000 nautical miles,

- Displacement of between 2,000 to 2,500 tons
- Helicopter Landing Deck capacity of at least 10 tons capacity,

- A hangar for at least one 10-ton helicopter,
- A minimum complement of 80 officers and sailors,
- Having unrestricted ship and subsystem operability at Sea State 6
- Includes two 7-meter Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat for Ship-boarding
- Low Radar Cross-Section, Low Infra-red design,
- Low Underwater Radiated Noise and Low Magnetic design
- Includes a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare citadel
- Tier 3 diesel engine rating

Sensors Fit:

- Two Navigational (X & S-band) Radars
- 3D Air/Surface AESA Radar with Identification Friend or Foe (IFF),
- A Fire Control Radar,
- An Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS),
- Hull Mounted Sonar (HMS), 
- Towed Array Sonar System (TASS),
- Incorporating Tactical Data Link 16 and 22 (which are PN-supplied) ,
- Naval Communications-Electronic Support Measures (C-ESM),
- Naval Radar-Electronics Support Measures (R-ESM),
- Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN), Satellite Communications (SATCOM)
- Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD)

Combat Systems:
- Combat Management System with Tactical Data Link
- Integrated Platform Management System,

- Integrated Bridge Control System,
- Integrated Communications System,
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle component
- Chaffs & Decoys

Weapon Systems:
- 1 x 76mm Super Rapid gun,

- 2 x quadruple anti-ship missile launchers,
- 1 x Close-In Weapon System (CIWS),
- At least 1 x 30mm secondary gun,
- 2 x triple torpedo launchers
- At least 1 x 8-cell Vertical Launching System (VLS)

So far, the requirements above are actually close to global standards of current corvette designs, and was actually an improvement over the Jose Rizal-class frigate that Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) is set to deliver to the Philippine Navy next year.

Most of the requirements for the corvette as indicated in the above list are not really that far from the Jose Rizal-class frigate, but there are some changes that could greatly enhance the ship compared to its frigate sister. Credits to the original source of the photo.

Among the most notable differences with the Jose Rizal-class are the following:

* Use of a 3D AESA radar, which they learned when HHI replaced the 3D AESA radar it offered during the bidding to a different radar model using older technology. Specifying an AESA radar would force the proponent to provide it in their offering.
* Inclusion of a Towed Array Sonar System (TASS) which would effectively improve the ship's submarine-hunting capability instead of just relying on a Hull-Mounted Sonar. In the Jose Rizal-class, this is a Fitted For But Not With (FFBNW) item.
* The specs includes the incorporating of Tactical Data Link 16 and 22, which the Philippine Navy would supply but the shipbuilder should allow easy integration into its system. Mistakes in the Frigate Acquisition Project on being not too specific on this matter resulted to allowing a product not proven to integrate with Link 16 to be used.
* Use of Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), which enables voice communication to be made in long distances, which is good for law enforcement missions. It is also a good defensive sound weapon against terrorists, illegal fishermen, and others.

A Long Range Acoustic Device as mounted on a warship. This can be used not just for long distance voice communication but also as a sound weapon against terrorists or other nearby threats. Credits to original source of the photo.

* Requirement for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle component, which will actually extend the eyes and ears of the warship by improving surveillance and camera range, and can also be used for targeting over the horizon for the ship's anti-ship cruise missiles.

The Philippine Navy has already done tests on using Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from ships like the Del Pilar-class as seen here. A VTOL but conventional flying UAV like the one above can be what the PN is looking for the corvettes. Photo shared to MaxDefense by a community member.

* Increased quantity of anti-ship missile launchers from 4 to 8, which was one of the issues of the Jose Rizal-class when the PN decreased the requirement to just for 4 launchers to fit the tight budget. In today's improving electronic warfare, hard and soft kill systems, launching a single or even two anti-ship missiles against a capable surface warship might not necessarily equate to a sure kill.

Requirement to include at least an 8-cell VLS and a CIWS, both of which are FFBNW items in the Jose Rizal-class. This means the corvettes would be ready to receive short or medium-range surface-to-air missiles that improves the warship's overall capability on the get-go. Based on how slow the PN does procurement, we do not expect the Jose Rizal-class to have their VLS and CIWS in the next 2-3 years.

Requirement to include Communication-EMS which is another step forward from just relying on Radar-ESM for identification, detection and interception of electronic signatures, as in the case of the Jose Rizal-class and Del Pilar-class ships.

Aside from these major differences, it appears that the Philippine Navy is looking for a warship design that is smaller than the Jose Rizal-class but will have more equipment installed once delivered.

Considering the higher budget provided for the Corvette Acquisition Project than on the construction of the Jose Rizal-class frigates, it is expected that the corvettes will have additional or even better subsystem fit-out, more weapons and sensors, and will be benefiting from experience from the design and construction of the frigates.

Up until the pre-procurement phase, MaxDefense noted that only certain shipbuilders really pursued the project with seriousness, and these are:

- Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), with a derivative of the HDF-2600 / Jose Rizal-class design;

- Damen, with the SIGMA family, with offers ranging from the SIGMA 9813, 9814, and 10514 designs;
- Naval Group with the Gowind-class corvette design;
- Goa Shipyard with a derivative of their Saryu-class offshore patrol vessel;
- Turkish Ministry of Defense with a derivative of the Ada-class corvette;

HHI's offer is technically a design based on Jose Rizal-class frigates, but will need to be revised to meet the requirements. They have the highest chance of being selected since they already have experience working with the Philippine Navy, and will not have difficulty in having a final design approved due to its similarity to the Jose Rizal-class. Their quick construction turn around as shown on the construction of the Jose Rizal-class is also something that has been noted well by both the DND and PN. Another advantage is their ability to help the Philippine Navy lobby for the transfer of excess warships from the South Korean government. 

An update on the Jose Rizal-class frigate design was offered by HHI for the PN's Corvette Acquisition Project. Photo credited to original source.

Damen has offered several designs of their SIGMA family of small warships, with MaxDefense believing that the SIGMA 9814 originally offered to Vietnam being the most feasible based on the requirements. It has partnered with local marine contractor Propmech Corporation and was looking at other local shipbuilders for partnership that would allow them to build some of the corvette's modules locally, and probably have the ship assembled locally too. Damen has an existing shipyard in Vietnam and agreements with PT PAL in Indonesia, which could ether be a good or bad news depending on their benefits or disadvantages.

The SIGMA 9814 corvette design, which Damen offered to Vietnam a few years ago. Credits to the original source of the photo.
Naval Group's Gowind-class was said to be the favorite among officers from the Offshore Combat Force, but is also the priciest. Its cost already exceeded the budget although apparently the French government offered to assist by providing soft loans to cover the cost difference. Perception within the Philippine Navy is that the Gowind-class would have the highest quality in the offerings, although this is debatable due to improving quality from other countries.

The Gowind-class corvette was offered by Naval Group to the Philippines. The same design was selected by Malaysia for its Littoral Combat Ship (Maharaja Lela-class), and the Egyptian Navy (above). Credits to original source of photo.

Goa Shipyard Ltd. benefits from its participation on the Brazilian Navy's Tamandare corvette project, offering the same platform to the Philippine Navy as what they offered to Brazil. Based on feedbacks from our sources, Goa's offering was said to be the cheapest, but concerns on using an offshore patrol vessel design rather than a derivative of a small warship design could be an issue.

The Saryu-class OPV, which is the basis for Goa Shipyard's offer. Credits to the original source of the photo.
Turkey's offer using the a derivative of either the Ada-class corvette or the larger Istanbul-class frigate designed for and used by the Turkish Naval Forces is another interesting one, considering they are also open at having the ship built locally with a local partner, and offering transfer of technology should they win the project. The offer made by Turkey also exceeded the budget although a primary reason was due to the technology transfer proposal which is actually an investment for the future of Philippine naval shipbuilding.

The Istanbul-class frigate design, which is to be built for the Turkish Naval Forces based on the smaller Ada-class corvette. Both designs were offered to the Philippine Navy. Photo taken from Navy Recognition website.

Other shipyards did provide offers but were not really serious due to different circumstances. This includes ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), Navantia, Fincantierri, Austal, BAE Systems, Mazagon Dock, and STX.

Months leading to the Project Approval:
MaxDefense received confirmation as early as March 2019 that Hyundai Heavy Industries appears to be the leading shipbuilder in the race to build the PN's new corvettes. This was after Naval Group and Damen was said to have lost interest in the project for reasons MaxDefense would rather not discuss in the public.

The Turkish government  was said to have been pushing hard for their offer to be shortlisted, but it appears that decision makes within the DND and PN were already fixed on who would be the selected shipbuilder.

MaxDefense's sources later on confirmed that HHI's offer was the most favoured for a number of reasons both legal and, as our sources mentioned, "obvious extra-legal" reasons that is related to how the Philippine Navy and DND ended up on dealing with HHI for the Jose Rizal-class frigates in 2016-2017.

HHI's latest offer was considered "unsolicited", as it was not tailor-fitted based on the Philippine Navy's posted requirements. Instead, it was a combined offer by HHI with backing from the South Korean government that not only covers the construction of the corvettes and the subsystems in it, but also other issues like defense cooperation, excess defense article, financing, and other matters that may include political reasons. For discussions, let's focus on the reasons they does not involve "extra-legal" matters.

It was later on confirmed that during the Joint Command Conference in Malacanang last 07 May 2019, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana submitted for the DND's project approval proposal and recommendation based on HHI's unsolicited offer, which means that it was already evaluated and selected by both the PN and DND beforehand. It validated earlier information provided to MaxDefense on HHI's offer being the most likely selection.

Pres. Duterte and Defense Sec. Lorenzana. Credits to original source of photo.

Pres. Duterte gave the green light to proceed with the Corvette Acquisition Project based on HHI's unsolicited offer, which means the DND and PN were given the freehand to finalize negotiations with HHI and the South Korean government.

HHI's Unsolicited Offer: Jose Rizal-class Flight II

According to MaxDefense's naval and defense sources, the HHI offer was actually an improved Jose Rizal-class frigate, with enhancements made on the sensors and subsystems, performance, weapon systems, and added features that goes with the ship.

It is expected to have a similar hull and base design as the Jose Rizal-class, but might have some adjustment in terms of displacement, length and width, and other physical dimensions to allow the added features or replaced subsystems.

It is safe to say that the corvettes offered by HHI are actually a follow-on to the Jose Rizal-class, which can be labelled as Jose Rizal-class Flight II considering South Korea has been doing a similar method of improving an existing design as they are built in numbers. In this case, it is highly possible that HHI is still constructing / fitting-out the Jose Rizal-class frigates once the contract for the corvettes are signed.

Due to these changes, MaxDefense now believes that these corvettes could be larger and heavier than the original Jose Rizal-class frigates. Among the changes that we expect are the use of larger diesel engines, having larger fuel tanks, more spaces and allowance for weight and power for additional weapon and sensors, more or larger diesel generators, possible use of alternative power sources to compensate on the additional weight, and more crew and storage spaces to accommodate more crew.

Being unsolicited, it is highly possible that HHI would either have fixed the subsystems to be used, or will allow the Philippine Navy to choose but up to a certain degree of not exceeding specific budget allocations unless the PN shoulders or agrees to pay more. At best, it may still follow the basic requirements of the Philippine Navy like the use of a 3D AESA radar, etc.

Up until June 2019, the PN is still in negotiation with HHI on the final fit-out of the corvettes, including additional subsystems that were not part of the proposal. Apparently HHI's offer may not have exceeded the budget allocated by the Philippine Navy, which is now pegged at Php24 billion (US$ 461 million) for 2 corvettes (or an average of Php12 billion or US$230 million per ship) excluding ammunition which will be acquired under a separate sub-lot worth Php4 billion.

Additional Pohang-class Corvettes on the Table:
Among the inclusions made by HHI for the Philippine Navy and DND to consider was that they will again lobby for the transfer of more retired Pohang-class corvettes to the Philippine Navy if their HHI is awarded the project.

This is exactly the reason why the Philippine Navy and DND were both confident that their request for 2 more Pohang-class corvettes, and possibly more units will be granted by the South Korean government.

So far, not even the French, Indian, or Turkish offers could match that.

The introduction of more Pohang-class corvettes means the Philippine Navy could now have reason to decommission and dispose of its remaining World War 2-era warships like the Rizal-class and Malvar-class patrol vessels by 2020.

HHI apparently promised to help lobby on the transfer of more Pohang-class corvettes retired by the ROKN, should HHI win the CAP. Photos taken from the Philippine Navy. Credits to the Philippine Navy.

MaxDefense's Opinion and Forecast:
MaxDefense believes that since HHI was the one that made the proposal, it is highly possible that it would include subsystems that are made in South Korea. It may also have features found on the new Daegu-class frigates of the Republic of Korea Navy, although it could be using more imported components than its Korean counterpart.

Both HHI and the PN could probably take a cue to the new Daegu-class frigates (FFX-II) of the ROKN, which is just US$40 million more expensive than the PN new corvettes. The Daegu-class uses a larger 127mm naval gun, a larger size, and a more complicated CODLOG configuration of propulsion involving the expensive Rolls Royce MT30 gas turbine and Leonardo DRS electric motors. These could have contributed to the higher cost per ship. Photo taken from Navy Recognition website.

Among those expected to be carried over from the Jose Rizal-class frigates are the following:

* Combat Management System, which may still use the Hanwha Defense Systems Naval Shield I-CMS. Since development of Baseline 3 is not yet completed, it is highly possible that the corvettes will receive a later version of Baseline 2.

It is highly expected that HHI would offer the Hanwha Defense Systems Naval Shield I-CMS Baseline 2.xx again for their proposed new corvettes.Commonality with the JRCF becomes a key reason. Photo shows the CMS consoles for BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151). Credits to original source of photo.
* Anti-ship Cruise Missile with the LIGNex1 SSM-700K C-Star missile. Among all weapons, the C-Star is the most likely Korean weapon to be made standard on the corvettes.
* 76mm Naval Gun using the Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid gun, which is becoming the standard naval gun of the Philippine Navy together with the older Oto Melara 76mm Compact gun.
* 30mm Secondary Gun using Aselsan SMASH 30mm RCWS, which still remains to be one of the most affordable in the market. Having them already in the Jose Rizal-class makes it more feasible.
* SEA Triple Trainable Torpedo tubes, which also makes sense due to commonality.
* Lightweight Torpedoes with the LIGNex1 K745 Blue Shark lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes, which is also becoming the standard lightweight torpedo of the PN,

MaxDefense is also expecting improvements, including the following:
* 3D AESA radar using the Hensoldt TRS-4D radar, which is essentially an AESA version of the older non-AESA TRS-3D installed on the Jose Rizal-class.

Hyundai, with approval by the South Korean government may be pushing for their corvette offer to include the K-VLS vertical launching system, which would enable them to push for the export of the K-SAAM missile defense system and the KM-SAM medium-range surface-to-air missile. Photo taken from The Mess, credits to original source of the photo which appear to be from a Korean website.

* The K-VLS 8-cell Vertical Launching System, wherein the frigates may be fitted with at least 1. Should the PN be successful of having two 8-cell VLS, it is still highly possible that at least 1 could be using the K-VLS to allow the use of Korean-made missiles. This means possibly offering also the LIGNex1 K-SAAM Sea Bow anti-missile missile system, and/or the LIGNex1 KM-SAM Cheolmae 2 medium range surface-to-air missiles.

While still unconfirmed, among those that were being considered for inclusion on the new corvettes include two 8-cell VLS for surface-to-air missiles, diesel-electric hybrid propulsion for silent running during ASW operations, an additional 30mm naval gun, a more comprehensive Electronic Warfare suite, among others.

Corvette or Frigate? 
If the new corvettes are essentially slightly larger Jose Rizal-class frigates, does it mean that they are actually frigates and not corvettes?

Or since the new corvettes the same or slightly larger than the Jose Rizal-class frigates, does it mean the Jose Rizal-class are actually corvettes and not frigates?

Considering the Philippine Navy plans to have 6 frigates and 12 corvettes as part of its Sail Plan 2028, where do we categorize the new corvettes and Jose Rizal-class frigates?

If MaxDefense is to answer the question, I believe the Jose Rizal-class should be reclassified as corvettes, and the new corvettes remain as corvettes too.

Why, you ask? Despite the classification of both ships becoming moot due to similarities in capabilities and size? Simple.

First of, if the Philippine Navy classifies them as corvettes, they are now compelled to acquire larger warships that they can classify rightfully as frigates. It won't matter if by paper the Philippine Navy becomes frigate-less until 2023. At least we know that the PN would now be looking at larger warships, with length probably exceeding 120 meters and displacement exceeding 4,000 tons, with more space for power generation, larger and more powerful sensors, and more capable weapon systems.

The Philippine Navy can even consider the new Type 31e frigate of the UK, whose basic price is within the Php18 billion budget allocated by the PN. The ship is large enough for future growth including installation of advanced air defense systems. Photo taken from BBC.

Secondly, the PN has to base its classification on the actual ability of the ships As per the PN's Classification Guidelines as of May 2016, a "Corvette" is a surface ship designed for anti-submarine warfare, and displaces between 540 to 3,000 tons (or well within the displacement of both the Jose Rizal-class frigate and the new corvettes). 

Meanwhile a "Frigate" is a surface ship designed for both ASW and Anti-Aircraft Warfare (AAW), and displaces between 2,000 to 5,000 tons. Despite the Jose Rizal-class frigates slated to have an 8-cell VLS, that would not be enough for it to be classified as an AAW asset, since the missiles are most likely just to defend itself against incoming aircraft or anti-ship cruise missiles. A real AAW asset means having the capacity to provide air defense not just to itself but also an entire battle group, and having longer-ranged air defense capability. This means being armed with more VLS launchers, more powerful air defense radar and combat system, and use of long range air defense missiles like the Barak-8, Aster-30, or SM-3 missiles.

Lastly, if a more powerful ship like the new corvettes are classified as corvettes, is it not logical to classify less powerful and probably slightly smaller warships like the Jose Rizal-class as corvettes too?

And the Philippine Navy must have already realized this before too. Why is that?

Based on the original submissions made by the Philippine Navy to procure additional frigates as part of the Horizon 2 Priority Projects, they have actually allocated a budget of Php18 billion (around US$380 million in 2016, most likely excluding ammo) for each future frigate in 2016. That is far higher than the current allocation of Php12 billion (around US$230 million in 2019, excluding ammo) for each new corvette, or the Php8 billion (US$170 million in 2016 excluding ammo). 

Even Indonesia, which just recently commissioned the Martadinata-class frigates, is now looking at larger frigate designs like the Danish Iver Huitfeldt-class or the Damen's Omega frigate for their needs. The Martadinata-class based on Damen's SIGMA 10514 is similar is size and quite similar in capability as the Jose Rizal-class frigates. Credits to original sources of both photos.

It would also be remembered that Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad, in a recent press interview, mentioned that a new large frigate may cost around Php60 billion (around US$1.15 billion). Although his cost estimates were too high (even European navies pay less than US$1 billion for AEGIS-equipped air defense frigates), the idea is that they are looking at frigates with similar capabilities and obviously larger size than the new corvettes or the Jose Rizal-class frigates in the future.

MaxDefense will try to monitor this project, considering everything can still change since there is no contract nor even a Notice of Award released in favor of any shipbuilder. MaxDefense was told by sources that the NOA could be released before the end of October 2019, with a contract potentially ready for signing before the 2019 Christmas Holidays kick in.

More of the updates coming on the Corvette Acquisition Project will be posed by MaxDefense in its resource page for the project. It can be accessed on our website's AFP Modernization Projects portal, or through the link provided below:

"Corvette Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy" - first posted on 17 August 2019.

Take note that all analysis posted in this blog entry are based on current information provided to MaxDefense, and may not be 100% accurate. But we try to be as close to the facts and truth as much as possible.

Project Summary:

Corvette Acquisition Project

Note: Edited as of 17 August 2019.

* End User: Philippine Navy (Offshore Combat Force)

* Quantity: 2 ships and assorted ammunition

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php28,000,000,000.00 (both lots)

* Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) Procurement

* Source of Funding: From other sources, to be paid via Multi-Year Obligatory Allocations (MYOA).

* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: TBA

* Product for Delivery: TBA

* Contract Price: TBA

* First post by MaxDefense: 25 June 2013

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PNCorvetteAcquisition #PNCAP

* Status: Pre-Procurement phase ongoing. Final negotiations ongoing with Hyundai Heavy Industries, award and contract signing exepected before end of 2019.

First edit and release: 29 September 2019
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