Saturday, April 19, 2014

Helicopters as Alternative Way to Supply PH Outposts in Kalayaan Islands

The difficulty encountered by the Department of National Defense (DND) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to relieve and replace its troops, and sending provision and supplies to its troops stationed in the BRP Sierra Madre at the Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) outpost was recently highlighted. A civilian ship of the government, BRP Fort San Antonio (AM-700) was sent to Ayungin Shoal for a second attempt to resupply and relieve troops at the AFP's outpost there when China Coast Guard vessels attempted to block the Philippine vessel. This aggression was captured on film by local and foreign media invited to the voyage, making the Chinese aggression in the Kalayaan Group of Islands (KIG) public. It was a good move by the Philippine government as part of its efforts to show to the world what is exactly happening on this side of the globe. 

With skill and some luck, the second attempt to reach the outpost was successful, but until when can the AFP do the same to freely access a part of Philippine territory and EEZ. The Philippine government must always consider changes in the way the Chinese until try to control the area. It is expected that the China Coast Guard will make adjustments to their naval blockade and make sure that a repeat of the successful passage of a Philippine vessel will be harder or impossible next time.

The BRP Sierra Madre (LT-57), the only outpost the Philippine government has at the Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) which is being claimed by China but is under control by the Philippines.

A China Cost Guard vessel attempting to block the civilian Philippine supply ship heading towards Ayungin Shoal.

So far, the Chinese are unable to stop aerial resupply missions, wherein the Philippine Navy (PN) previously use their BN-2 Islander light utility aircraft and flying low over the BRP Sierra Madre and drop supplies. Stopping them can only be done by either forcing them away using fighter aircraft, which is already an aggressive move but can still be disregarded by AFP aircraft. Other ways to stop aircraft attempting to supply the outposts is by radar-locking the aircraft, which is already a serious threat from the aggressor being a signal of a probable missile launch, or by shooting down the PN aircraft. Although the Chinese may not do the last 2 possibilities, it can do the first example but the AFP aircraft can always disregard them.

The BRP Sierra Madre being overflown by a Philippine Navy BN-2 Islander aircraft attempting an airdrop.
Photo taken from WESCOM, AFP website.

With this, MaxDefense suggests the use of medium or heavy-lift helicopters, which can operate from naval or civilian ships several miles away from the Chinese blockade. These helicopters have the endurance, size, and payload capacity to carry men and supplies from a distance, and can fly over the Chinese naval blockade. Supplies can be dropped on the deck of BRP Sierra Madre and on allocated spaces provided on far-flung outposts in the KIG in a similar way as a vertical replenishment (VERTREP) usually done in naval operations.

Vertical Replenishment:
Also known as VERTREP, this is a method of dropping supplies to ships or outposts similar to the BRP Sierra Madre. Supplies can be carried underneath helicopters using specialized slings or cargo nets, and are delivered by hovering the helicopter over the drop area and manually releasing the load from below. The Philippine Navy is currently learning this supply process using their newly-acquired AW109 Power helicopters as part of their skills and capability improvement. 

A US Navy MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter doing a VERTREP of supplies. A similar procedure can be done by the AFP to supply outposts in the WPS in case Chinese provocations and naval blockades persist in the near future.
Photo taken from

Suggested Helicopters:
So far, only the Philippine Navy's Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates have the capacity to carry helicopters capable enough to do major VERTREP missions, and are only equipped with small helicopters like the AW109 Power which are not really designed for this capability. But these frigates' flight decks are capable of accepting 10-ton class helicopters, there are very few helicopters that can be suggested for this requirement.

The most obvious helicopter is the Sikorsky MH-60S "Knighthawk", which is the primary VERTREP helicopter of the US Navy. It was designed to do these missions, and can also be a viable candidate for the PN's requirement for transport helicopters for its upcoming Strategic Sealift Vessels (SSV). The PN could acquire 4 units, 2 assigned for each of the future SSV, and can be temporarily assigned to other PN ships for duties such as supply runs.

But buying new helicopters means that it will take some years before the first helicopter becomes available, so MaxDefense also suggests the acquisition of EDA helicopters in the meanwhile either by grant or reduced price purchase. MaxDefense suggests the Boeing Vertol CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters that are being replaced in the US Marine Corps, and are readily available for transfer to allies like the Philippines. Sea Knights were previously used by the US Navy for VERTREP missions until they were replaced by the MH-60S. These helicopters can be carried by the PN frigate's flight deck and are capable of VERTREP operations. Reportedly the US has been offering the CH-46 to friendly nations, and can be requested by the DND as part of the US' defense assistance to the Philippines.

A US CH-46 helicopter doing VERTREP.  The US has a lot of readily available CH-46 helicopters that can be obtained via EDA grants.
Photo taken from

Aside from ship-based helicopters, the AFP could also consider acquiring larger transport helicopters that can be deployed from Palawan to supply its outposts in the KIG, and at the same time be used for other missions like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and troop transport. 

Other Possible Helicopter Suggestions:
The DND has been looking at acquiring larger helicopters than its current assets, but has always given priority to replace its ageing UH-1H fleet while also having consistent budgetary issues that has been plaguing the Philippine armed forces for several decades now. But with the move to improve the military's transport and HADR capability may have opened the possibility to acquire them due to their size, range and payload in carrying supplies. This was suggested earlier by MaxDefense in an earlier blog entry, and it appears that the DND has shown interest on acquiring such assets and has been looking at this capability that may be included in its future defense procurement projects. 

Coming from the mainland Palawan which is more than 100 miles from the outposts, they could store the supplies inside the helicopters, and deliver them by hovering low and dropping them on specialized platforms installed on the ship deck which will safely break the fall of the supply containers. 

For heavy-lift helicopters, MaxDefense suggestions include the CH-53 Super Stallion/Sea Stallion and the CH-47 Chinook, both of which are available for Excess Defense Articles (EDA) transfer from the US government. The DND may even opt to buy a couple of new Boeing CH-47F Chinooks or the Sikorsky CH-53K Super Stallions if budget permits, although getting EDA would be an easier route due to cost considerations.

Surplus CH-53D Sea Stallions can be obtained from the US military stocks, after refurbishing that will probably be shouldered by the Philippine government.
Photo taken from

Another alternative are the smaller but still capable medium-lift helicopters, which are also currently not available in the PAF or AFP's inventory. MaxDefense suggests the Eurocopter's EC725 Super Cougaror AgustaWestland's AW101. These helicopters are reportedly cheaper to acquire, operate and maintain as compared to larger helicopters like the Super Stallion. 

The Eurocopter EC-725 Super Cougar is a medium helicopter currently in use or ordered by other ASEAN armed forces like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Photo taken from
Another worth considering for the medium helicopter is the AgustaWestland AW101, the example above being operated by the Royal Air Force.
Photo taken from

Some issues that hinders the acquisition of heavy and medium-lift helicopters for the AFP are mostly on the costs of procurement, operation, and maintenance. Operating a squadron may indeed be cost prohibitive to the AFP, but operating a small fleet of at least 3 or 4 heavy-lift helicopters might be sufficient for the basic requirements of the AFP and in supporting resupply missions. Aside from this, the helicopters can be used for combat and peacetime search and rescue, air assault missions, and transport requirements to areas without airfields. 

These large helicopters may not need to be operated at the same tempo as the smaller combat utility helicopters of the PAF. The availability of other rotary assets like the UH-1H and W-3A, and Bell 412 with the PAF means that the AFP has a lot of helicopter options to use in case the heavy lift helicopters are considered too much for a certain mission. This is the same concept to the reason why the Philippine Air Force (PAF) maintains and procures different transport aircraft sizes like the C-130, C-295 and NC-212. 

Preparation of BRP Sierra Madre for VERTREP:
For the BRP Sierra Madre, it would also be best if the AFP can make structural modifications on the ship's deck to make it suitable for dropping supplies carried underneath the helicopter, and not necessarily for the helicopter to land. Recent photos of the outpost shows massive degradation of the steel deck that may not be able to carry loads brought upon by a heavy-lift helicopter. 

Structural strengthening will improve the ship deck's capability to accept heavy load of supplies without the risk of giving way due to weight. This may include works that may affect the so-called "status quo" of not building structures on the disputed territories, although the works can be made inside the ship without being noticed by Chinese or other foreign surveillance aircraft, ships or satellites. The only concern on this is bringing in the construction materials needed, which might be done by another supply run via ships similar to the usual procedure the AFP does its supply missions. 

The BRP Sierra Madre's deck must be structurally strengthened to accommodate supplies stowed underneath the heavy lift helicopter.
Photo taken from

Aside for preparation for VERTREP, the ship is in dire need for repair works and improvement of facilities. The entire ship is literally falling apart and becoming unsafe for those Marines stationed there. This is another consideration why the AFP and DND must think of ways to physically improve the outpost and improve the living conditions there. 

Other outposts in the KIG, like those on Patag, Panata, Kota, Lawak, Parola, and Pag-asa islands, at Rizal and Balagtas reefs must also be improved, although this may have serious implications that will give other claimants their own reasons to do the same for their occupied areas. A simple provision of supply dropping point  by helicopters can easily be prepared without doing major construction works.

Other outposts like those in Patag Island have enough space for helicopters to land. Accessing the island from to bring supplies from ships requires the use of rubber boats to avoid stranding the supply ships.
Photo taken from

Monday, March 31, 2014

Importance of ASW Helicopters for the Philippine Navy...Why Block their Acquisition?

The DND finally announced to the public their intention to acquire 2 anti-submarine helicopters, as discussed in several MaxDefense entries. Although the media reports point to AgustaWestland's AW159 Wildcat, it is still actually too early to speculate which exact model will be acquired. According to MaxDefense sources, there is no specific choice yet, although the Wildcat and the Seahawk are likely frontrunners.

A link to one of the local news reports can be accessed HERE.

The invitation to bid for 2 ASW helicopters has recently been released, amd will be conducted as a 2-stage process. This is similar to the bidding procedure of the PN's 2 new frigates. ABC remains the same as discussed in previous MaxDefense blog, at Php 5.4 billion for both helicopters, including Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package and training for air and ground crew. Deadline of submission of bids will be this coming April 24, 2014.

Why do we need to acquire Anti-Submarine Helicopters anyway?

A US Navy MH-60R with dipping sonar during one of it's sorties.
Photo taken from

These helicopters are specialized in supporting naval vessels in detecting, tracking, and destroying hostile submarines and surface ships that enters our territory or threaten our sea assets and national security as a whole. The helicopters work hand-in-hand with the underwater detection systems of naval vessels and other aircraft like Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The speed and range of the helicopter increases the ship's detection and weapon launching radius. If properly coordinated, the pairing of these assets increases the detection probability, ability to defend the ship from torpedo attacks, and speeds up neutralizing the submarine threat. This is possible as the helicopter and naval vessel can share information via data link, with detection capability provided by the helicopter's onboard dipping sonar system, and other detection systems like sonobuoys and magnetic anomaly detection systems. This in turn gives a better situation awareness to the navy, and allows them to destroy the submarine threat if necessary.

To improve on this capability, the Philippine Navy is in the process of procuring of 2 new frigates with ASW capability, and this is where the 2 ASW helicopters will be attached. Other ships of the PN are planned for upgrades to include submarine detection capability, while the Philippine Air Force is on its way to procure Maritime Patrol Aircraft which can also do ASW duties.

Aside from ASW helicopters, MPA can also assist in doing ASW duties.  The PAF is on its way to procure at least 2 MPA that may have submarine detection capabilties.
Photo taken from .

ASW helicopters don't work alone.  The misconception of many is that the ASW helicopter does the work for the frigate, which is incorrect. A better explanation of how ASW helicopters work can be seen in a video from the Singapore Armed Forces:

MaxDefense confirms that there are indeed reports that Chinese and other country's submarines are operating within our archipelagic waters, and that itself is a very strong reason why the PN is beefing up its ASW capability after losing its place as one of the best ASW navies in South East Asia from the 1960s until the late 1970s. 

To those in doubt, a photo of RPS Negros Occidental firing anti-submarine torpedoes during RP-US ASW Exercise "Dolphin I" can be seen in Gorio B's Flickr account HERE, as a proof that the PN did have ASW capabilities before.

So Why Block It's Acquisition?

Immediately after the announcement, the project was being brought into the limelight by Isabela congressman Rodolfo Albano III, which was reported by local media HERE. Although his alternative platforms for immediate acquisition are understandable (more C-130s and helicopters for HADR operations, his reason for not acquiring these helicopters and blocking the acquisition of the FA-50 jets are not. His reasons are too shallow and seeMaxDefense sees this as a problem that needs to be taken a deeper look by the government.

As explained in earlier replies to comments regarding this issue, MaxDefense believes that there could be reasons why Cong. Albano is doing this, either:
  • He is misinformed and stupid enough to make such comments without further research; 
  • He wants to get media mileage for blocking the acquisition, to make him look good to the public or to boost his and his family's image to the voting public;
  • He supports other government projects that can be funded well if the AFP Modernization Program is blocked or diverted to other projects;
  • He sees the modernization of the AFP as a threat to his interests;
  • He is a Chinese lapdog, and is among a few possible people that can be in the payrolls of the Chinese government.
If his reason to block these purchases is the first reason, this can still be corrected by DND lobbying and information drive to inform the congressman and his team. Strong and consistent lobbying by the DND to Congress and Senate can be made to inform them properly of their plans, reasons, and decisions. In return these politicos can understand the concept of the defense procurement and planning and may support the DNF and AFP in getting what they need They also need to know the implications of not having these capabilities. This is currently a weak point of the DND that needs to be given more effort.

Frigates with ASW capabilities are being procured by the PN. ASW helicopters increases their capability two-fold, and make their purchase relevant. Why block this project?

But this is not the first time the congressman and other lawmakers made similar efforts to block AFP projects to modernize its capability by relating it to arms race against China. If the Americans can arrest a erring senator because of national security threats to the Philippines aside from illegal activities, there is more reason for the Philippine government to do the same to safeguard its defense and interests in national security. Who knows what we can find in these lawmaker's closets - criminal and illegal activity? Sabotage? Plunder? Treason? We don't know and we won't know unless the government investigates. 

Defense goes hand-in-hand with development. Other countries have the same concept, and does not leave their defense capability vulnerable. The Philippines' closest southern neighbor, Malaysia, has a fleet of AgustaWestland Super Lynx 300 ASW helicopters in its arsenal.

It must be remembered by everyone that the country's constitution states that the Filipino people has an obligation to defend the country and keep its sovereignty for whatever the cost, and this can only be done by having the right tools to do the job. The government must investigate these people and their actions and words be taken seriously. MaxDefense believes that there might be more to their usual reason of diverting the AFP modernization funds to development projects, only stupid people can be made to believe on that.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Acquisition of FA-50 SAA/LIFT and Bell 412 CUH for PAF, 3 Oil Tankers for the PN

Finally, the impending contract signing for the purchase of 12 FA-50 Fighting Eagles from Korea Aerospace Industry (KAI) to fulfill the Surface Attack Aircraft/Lead-in Fighter Trainer (SAA/LIFT) requirement is becoming a reality. Contract signing is scheduled tomorrow, March 28, 2014, 3:00pm at Tejeros Hall, AFP Commissioned Officer's Club, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. 

The KAI FA-50 was selected as the PAF's new SAA/LIFT aircraft.

Aside from the SAA/LIFT acquisition, also for signing tomorrow will be for the purchase of 8 Bell 412 helicopters for the combat utility helicopter (CUH) and VIP transport requirements from the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC). Both projects were procured via government-to-government (G2G) deals.

The initial 8 new Bell 412 helicopters are also coming in for the PAF, reportedly as combat utility helicopters to take the place of the W-3A Sokol and eventually replace the UH-1H Huey.

Representing the Philippine government is AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista. Aside from the representatives of CCC and KAI, the Ambassadors of South Korea and Canada will witness the historic contract signing together with the Korean Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) president and other government and defense officials.

The FA-50 was chosen as the PAF's "stepping stone" and interim fighter while awaiting for the government to acquire multi-role fighters for them. Candidate FA-50 pilots and ground crew will be trained in South Korea as part of the deal, which in turn will become FA-50 instructors themselves for future cadre pilots. While churning in pilots ready for further training to handle MRFs, the FA-50 will also be used as an interim fighter for air policing and patrol duties over the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone (PADIZ) and EEZ.

The FA-50 will bring-in a  new generation of fighter-ready pilots for the PAF.
Photo taken from Korean Aero website.

Meanwhile, the Bell 412 was originally the PAF's choice for the CUH requirement until the W-3A was chosen by the DND after winning the tender for the CUH acquisition project after a number of attempts. With the W-3A Sokol decided to better serve the PAF as a Search and Rescue (SAR) asset, the PAF went for another attempt to acquire new CUH, this time through government-to-government dealings with CCC for the Bell 412.

PAF's Bell 412 CUH might have close resemblance to Canada's CH-146 Griffon, which saw service with Canadian armed forces assisting in relief efforts after Typhoon Yolanda.

Aside from these air assets, the Philippine Navy is set to receive 3 oil tankers as a donation from the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC). A memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed yesterday, March 26, 2014 to formalize the donation. These ships were previously assets of the now defunct PNOC Shipping and Transport Corporation (PSTC), a wholly owned subsidiary of PNOC. Although no news yet on which ships will be acquired, PSTC oil tanker assets are mostly below 3,000 gross metric tons in displacement. Although small, these ships are assets that would boost the PN's capabilities in terms of resupply and underway replenishment.

The PNOC Emilio Jacinto (top) and PNOC Lapu-Lapu (below) are just among the oil tanker assets of the PSTC. No confirmation yet on which oil tankers are to be turned-over to the PN.
Photos taken from Feehily04's Flicker page (top) and MarineTraffic website (below)

More details will be discussed in succeeding MaxDefense blog entries in the coming days. In the meantime, let us celebrate the upcoming contract signing marking the official purchase of the 2 aircraft platforms for the PAF.


March 28, 2013:
Finally, contract signed for 12 KAI FA-50 lead-in fighter trainers, and 8 Bell Textron 412 combat utility and VIP helicopters.

Photo from KAI's Facebook page.
KAI has officially counted the PAF's FA-50 orders. Illustration above shows expected T-50 series possible sales projected by KAI.
Photo taken from KAI's Facebook page.

Photo taken from AFP.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

AFP Increases Orders for New M4 Rifles to 63,000 units

Related to an earlier blog entry by MaxDefense (see "3 Projects to Modernize the Assault Rifle needs of the AFP" dated December 18, 2013) regarding new rifles for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, it appears that the Department of National Defense (DND) has increased its order for new M4 rifles from American arms manufacturer Remington Arms Company. Initial reports from last year indicated that the order is only for 50,629 units worth Php 1,944,261,591.66, or around Php 38,402 per rifle (by average, without considering other parts of the contract). But during the announcement made by President Noynoy Aquino during the graduation rites of cadets from the Philippine Military Academy batch 2014, the numbers were raised to 63,000 units worth at around Php 2.4 billion

The AFP continues to use the venerable M16A1 series rifles, which first saw action in the Vietnam War. The photo above shows Marines from the US and Philippines during Balikatan 2009 Exercises, with USMC using M16A4 while the PMC still uses the old M16A1.
Photo taken from USMC website c/o Wikimedia.

By simple math, Php 2.4 billion for 63,000 rifles means that the average unit price might still stand as the original signed contract price, thus it may be possible that the DND used its option to increase the order. 

The Philippine Army's Special Operations Command (SOCOM) uses the M4, although regular army units still uses the longer and old M16A1. The introduction of the Remington R4 starting this year will change that.

Following the president's announcements, Remington may start delivery of the 1st batch of rifles within the next few months, which was per original contract. This will enable the military to start the massive repair and refurbishing of old M16 rifles, using the services of the Government Arsenal (GA) without affecting the availability of rifles for each serviceman. A more elaborate explanation on the GA M16 refurbishing works can be found in the earlier MaxDefense blog (see 1st paragraph).

The Remington R4, their version of the M4 carbine.
Photo taken from Remington Arms Company website.

The increase in contract for more Remington rifles doesn't necessarily mean as a loss to the Government Arsenal (GA), which has an ongoing rifle production project based on the M16/M4 family. The GA, which is looking for a partner for the rifle production in its facility in Limay, Bataan, may consider Remington's offer as its position is now stronger as opposed to its other major arms manufacturer competitors like Colt. This may allow GA to manufacture the R4 (designation of Remington's M4-based rifle) under license provided by Remington Arms Company, and provide the manufacturing technology, technical know-how, and skills to GA.

Modernizing the army always starts with modernizing the infantryman, and what better way to start this by giving them a dependable rifle they can use to do their job. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Re-tender of 155mm Towed Howitzer and Ammo Acquisition for PA and PMC

The Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) has subjected the 155mm Towed Howitzer with Ammunition acquisition program to a re-bid, after the initial attempt failed. The bid invitation is available at DND's BAC website. The projects Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) still stands at Php 438,620,000.00 for 12 units of 155mm towed howitzer, 240 rounds of 155mm high explosive ammunition, and integrated logistics support package. Pre-bid conference  was scheduled last March 11, 2014, while the bid submission is scheduled on March 25, 2014.

The DND released another Invitation to Bid for the 155mm Towed Howitzer with Ammunition acquisition project in February 2014. ABC still remains, as well as the number of units for acquisition.

Previous reports indicated that Israel-based company Elbit Systems Land and C4I was the front-runner of the first tender, but their bid was ultimately rejected after DND found its submitted documents incomplete and non-complying. Elbit Systems is the owner of Soltam Systems, a company specializing in manufacturing howitzer systems including the Philippine Army's M-71 howitzers. Another reported bidder was Stone of David, also known as Joavi Philippines, which was involved in several major tenders for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the last several years. Stone of David was said to offer a Serbian or Bosnian-made howitzer based on the Yugoslavian version of the Soviet M46 howitzer using 155mm caliber instead of the original 130mm, probably produced by the same company that made the Philippine Army's new 81mm M69B mortars (which Stone of David supplied as well).

Hyundai WIA's KH179 (above) may not be offered again due to cost considerations, although MaxDefense is still hopeful that Hyundai WIA will re-consider and submit a bid.

The Yugoslavian version of the Soviet M46 howitzer, using a 155mm caliber gun instead of Soviet 130mm, might have been offered by Stone of David. It may be sourced from either Serbia or Bosnia.
Photo of M46 howitzer taken from

An earlier MaxDefense blog entry speculated that Korea's Hyundai WIA will take part on the initial tender, but that they did not submit a bid. Also missing is the favorite among the AFP, the BAE Land System's M777. This might be due to the budget allocated by the AFP, as both Hyundai WIA's KH179 and BAE's M777 may cost higher than what the AFP can afford. It is expected that both Elbit Systems and Stone of David may return to re-bid for the project, and MaxDefense still expects Hyundai WIA and BAE Land Systems to pass on this project.

A simplified version of Elbit Systems' Soltam ATHOS 155mm Towed Howitzer might be offered to the Philippine Army and Marine Corps' requirements.
Photo taken from Army-Guide website.

MaxDefense's Opinion:
Based on information gathered and observation of events, MaxDefense believes that Elbit Systems has the highest chance of bagging this project, possibly with an offer based on a simplified version of the automated Soltam Athos System. This is related to the growing relationship between the Israeli military and defense industry, and the AFP. MaxDefense sources have already indicated a very active lobbying of Israeli systems to executive branch of the government, the DND, and the AFP. This is evident with the recent awarding or being shotlisted for defense projects by Israeli companies without undergoing tender: 

  • Elbit recently got awarded with a contract to provide 28 upgraded M113 armored vehicles for the PA; 
  • IAI-Elta Systems Ltd. was shortlisted as among the leading choices to supply the 3 air defense and surveillance radar systems for the Philippine Air Force.
  • Although tendered, IAI-Elta Systems was one of the winning bidders for the establishment of Coast Watch Systems for the Philippine Navy. 

There are indications that Israel may be offering refurbished 155mm towed howtizers, probably Soltam M-71s (above) similar to what the PA is using.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

There is a strong indication that Israel is pushing to supply the AFP with several military systems and equipment consisting of new and surplus but still usable systems. This includes several types of missile systems, armored vehicles, gun systems for land and naval applications, patrol boats, artillery, radar and sensors systems, combat aircraft and helicopters. This possibility of purchasing used/refurbished artillery systems from Israel may affect the decision in awarding the contract for the new 155mm towed howitzers, as it gives Israeli products a strong edge due to commonality in supply chain, maintenance, and training.

MaxDefense awaits for more information regarding this project and will inform its readers of any updates, as the 155mm towed howitzer project was given less attention with the SAA/LIFT acquisition project based on the KAI FA-50 is gaining traction these past weeks. 

March 28, 2014 - Elbit Systems Land & C4I wins the tender to supply 12 units of 155mm towed howitzer and ammunition for the Philippine Army and Marine Corps. Elbit System's bid was reportedly at Php 368,837,332.00 for the entire package, which is lowed than the project ABC of Php 438,620,000.00. Offer was reportedly the ATHOS system, probably in 39 caliber model.

Elbit System's ATHOS 155mm Towed Howitzer, said to be the next 155mm towed artillery system for the PA & PMC.
Photo taken from Elbit System's website.

More updates from MaxDefense when information starts to trickle down.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

PAF Confirms Acquisition of C-295 as its Medium Lift Fixed Wing Transport Aircraft

After finally getting confirmation from DND sources, MaxDefense is confident to announce the recent award of the medium lift fixed wing aircraft procurement project by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to Airbus Military/CASA for the C-295 aircraft. This was after Airbus Military was chosen over PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI - Indonesian Aerospace) with its CN-235, and Alenia Aermacchi of Italy with its ATR-42 (yes, they did not offer the C-27J) for the 2nd bidding attempt made by the DND. PT DI and Alenia Aermacchi's bids were found unacceptable by the DND's Bids and Awards Committee. Airbus Military's bid was at Php 5,288,609,983.99, which is lower than the budget allocated by the AFP.

Airbus Military's C-295, which was awarded recently by DND for the PAF's Medium Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft acquisition project.

The project is currently being questioned by losing bidder Alenia Aermacchi over its claim that both of its competitors in the project, Airbus Military and PT DI, are actually strategic partners and are linked together by the production of CN-235 (PT DI's offer) and C-295 (Airbus Military's offer) by both aircraft manufacturer's facilities. Although Alenia's complaints have been brought to the DND, there was no formal complaint filed by them against the decision of the DND to award the project to Airbus Military. PT DI's bid was rejected by the DND as the aircraft being offered was not compliant, the CN-235 cannot carry the required number of passengers and paratroopers due to its shorter fuselage size. Alenia Aermacchi did not submit a bid due to its ongoing complaint, although they submitted the ATR-42 during the 1st bid attempt. More of this issue was discussed in an earlier MaxDefense blog entry, which can be found on the following links:

C-295 Only Eligible Bid for PAF's Medium Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft Acquisition Program (January 14, 2014)
Tech Specs Released for PAF's Medium Lift Fixed Wing Transport Aircraft - Is there a Sure Winner? (October 25, 2013)
PAF's Medium Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft Program - A Simple Analysis of the 3 Contenders (October 23, 2013)

Poland is a user of the Airbus Military C-295.

It is expected that the aircraft will be operated by the PAF's 220th Airlift Wing based in Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan, Cebu, probably with the 221st Airlift Squadron which operates the Fokker F-27 Friendship that the C-295 intends to complement and replace in the near future. It is also expected that follow-up orders will be exercised by the PAF, which may see the fleet increase from the initial 3 ordered. Per contract, the expected delivery of the 1st aircraft will be by May 2016, but this can be moved earlier depending on Airbus Military's production schedule. Based on the post bid qualification  inspections, it also appears that the PAF orders will be manufactured by the CASA-Airbus Military facility in Seville, Spain rather than with PT DI's facility in Bandung, Indonesia.

The C-295 is expected to compliment and eventually replace the Fokker F-27 Friendship with the 220th Airlift Wing of the PAF.

It is expected that the actual contract will be signed between the AFP and Airbus Military within March, 2014. 

With the C-295's win, it also solidify its chances in getting shortlisted for the PAF's Maritime Patrol Aircraft project. MaxDefense sources confirmed that the US-route that was being sought after by the PAF is not yet 100% confirmed, and the C-295 and other new models could still be chosen. To simplify training, logistics and maintenance, aircraft commonality might be considered, this recent win will push the C-295 forward in the race. Previous reports confirmed that Alenia Aermacchi is offering an ATR-42 or ATR-72 based MPA platform for the PAF, while PT DI's CN-235 platform is also being offered. 

Chile's C-295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

MaxDefense will provide further updates on this project as the project progresses from production to delivery.

Monday, February 24, 2014

+2 AW109 Helicopters for PH Navy, Separate ASW Helicopter Project Announcement Expected Soon

AgustaWestland recently confirmed the contract signing with the Philippine Navy (PN) for the order of 2 additional AW109 Power naval helicopters for the PN Naval Air Group (PN-NAG), as an extension of an earlier contract for 3 units. The contract includes training and intergrate logistics This will bring the PN-NAG AW109 fleet to 5 units, which they will be using for a variety of naval missions including maritime surveillance, search and rescue, and maritime security. These helicopters are configured to operate from ships or from shore bases.

One of the PN's AW109 Power naval helicopters.
Photo taken from AgustaWestland website.

The PN confirmed that these 2 additional units will be armed, although no specific mention on how different they are from the 1st batch of naval helicopters delivered in 2013. There were previous indication that they will be more capable than the first 3 units, and due to this they are expected to be the specific units that will be embarked aboard the 2 Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates.

MaxDefense expects that the only difference these 2 helicopters will have with the earlier 3 units delivered will be in terms equipment installed, with a possible electronic counter-measures (ECM) system and armaments launching capability, possibly rocket launchers or gun pods, which can also be installed on the earlier 3 birds already in service with the PN. MaxDefense believes that these 2 helicopters may still not be able to carry torpedoes or missiles due to the absence of detection capabilities.

The initial 3 AW109 Power naval helicopters during commissioning rights. 2 more additional units was recently ordered by the PN from AgustaWestland, with expected delivery within this year.

Besides these helicopters, the PN is expected to announce updates on its procurement plans for an initial of 2 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters that will be embarked on the future new-built PN frigates that may enter service starting in 2017. The helicopters are expected to be larger and more capable than the AW109 Power naval helicopters, and will be able to conduct anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare missions. Previous DND and PN procurement plans indicate that the ASW helicopter project will have a budget of around Php 5.4 billion (around $120 million, or $60 million per helicopter). The budget itself indicates that this would be far capable than the AW109 Power.

Both the Sikorsky MR-60R Seahawk (above) and AgustaWestland AW159 Lynx Wildcat (below) may be considered for the PN's future ASW helicopters. 

MaxDefense believes that at the price range and capability required by the PN, this  may be a competition between the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk, AgustaWestland AW159 Lynx Wildcat, Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter) AS565MB Panther, and the AgustaWestland-Airbus Helicopters NH90NFH. But MaxDefense sources have indicated the PN's preference for the MH-60R Seahawk due to compatibility and interoperability with US and allied naval forces. The US, Australian, and Japanese navies all use the Seahawk series as their embarked ASW helicopter, as well as other Asian navies like that of Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.

MaxDefense will be updated on both the additional AW109 and the upcoming frigate-based ASW helicopters as more information comes.