Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Confirmed: Philippine Navy Acquires AgustaWestland AW-159 Lynx Wildcat as its Future Ship-based Anti-Submarine Warfare Helicopter

Previously MaxDefense discussed in several blog entries and in the MaxDefense FB community page, the Department of National Defense's (DND) then ongoing project for the Philippine Navy (PN), the Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition Project (ASHAP). This project is part of the PN's Horizon 1 stage under the umbrella of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program (RAFPMP).

Funded under Republic Act (RA) 10349, the Philippine Navy planned to acquire two (2) ASW helicopters that will be working together with another important PN project, the Frigate Acqusition Project (FAP), which will be discussed separately in another blog entry. The aircraft's mission is primarily, to conduct anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), and maritime patrol, while secondary missions are Search and Rescue (SAR), and passenger & cargo transport. The project also involves the acquisition of an initial batch of air-launched munitions for the helicopters, as well as an Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package.

AgustaWestland's AW-159 Lynx Wildcat will be delivered to the Philippine Navy after winning the Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition Project.
Photo copyright by Przemyslaw Burdzinski and taken from Planespotters.net website.

More discussions about the ASHAP can be found on previous MaxDefense blog entries below, and readers, especially those new to the project or new to MaxDefense blogs, are encouraged to read them:

1. Importance of ASW Helicopters for the Philippine Navy...Why Block their Acquisition? - dated March 31, 2014, discussing the importance of an ASW helicopter for the Philippine Navy;

2. Its a Cat Fight for the Philippine Navy's ASW Helicopter Acquisition Program - dated July 11, 2014, discusses the Technical Specification of the project, the events before the 1st stage bidding of the ASHAP, and the possible bid submissions of AgustaWestland and Airbus Helicopters-PTDI Joint Venture;

3. The Fight for the PN's ASW Helicopter Still On, and Possible Acquisition of the FASGW(H) Sea Venom Missile for the Helicopters - dated October 22, 2014, was a discussion after the the ASHAP 1st stage bidding failed. It also discusses the possible entry of the MBDA Sea Venom missile into the Philippine Navy.

Airbus-PTDI offered a navalized variant of the AS565 Panther helicopter, to be built under license by PTDI in Indonesia.
Photo copyright Augustas Didzgalvis and taken from Airliners.net website.

Pre-Win Short History of the Project:

During the first stage bidding held on October 2014, only two companies, Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland Ltd. and French-Indonesian partnership Airbus Helicopters-PTDI joint venture, submitted their bids to the DND. AgustaWestland was said to have offered the AW-159 Lynx Wildcat, while Airbus-PTDI offered a navalized version of Airbus' AS565 Panther helicopter, licensed built by PTDI in Indonesia.

As indicated in previous Supplemental Bid Bulletins with DND's replies to queries made by Airbus-PTDI, it appears that they had some difficulties meeting requirements of the project, including a need for the manufacturer to have supplied a helicopter with a capability for ASW and ASuW in the past 10 years to foreign armed forces. It turns out that Airbus' Panther was supplied to foreign armed forces with either ASW or ASuW capability only in the past 10 years. Only AgustaWestland's bid was considered responsive after the bid opening ended, declaring them the Single Responsive Bidder and automatically disqualifying Airbus-PTDI from the race.

Other prospective bidders like Bell Helicopter Textron did not submit a bid.

Second stage bidding was made in 2015, with AgustaWestland complying with the technical, legal, financial, and other requirements stipulated in the specification. This automatically brought them to a lengthy Post Qualification stage, which they passed by late 2015 after having delays in the side of the Philippine government with regards to sourcing funds.

In the end, the DND issued a Notice of Award (NOA) to AgustaWestland sometime between February and March 2016, and a contract was finally signed on March 29, 2016 at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. The contract is worth Php 5,362,762,748.56, and will involve the delivery of AgustaWestland's AW-159 Lynx Wildcat naval helicopter. It is unclear though if the DND already provided a Notice to Proceed (NTP) to AgustaWestland, signifying to proceed the preparation and manufacturing of the helicopters and acquisition of subsystems and munitions.

The Philippine Navy joins the Royal Navy and the Republic of Korea Navy as the 3rd operator of the type. It would be used in tandem with the new frigates to be built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers of India.

A copy of the Notice of Award given by the DND to AgustaWestland.
Photo taken from PhilGEPS website, as raised by Herbie @ PDFF Forum.

AgustaWestland's Cat:

It was confirmed in the past by MaxDefense sources, and seconded by reports made by IHS Jane's and local media, that AgustaWestland's offer was the AW-159 Lynx Wildcat, a new product by the company but is a further development to the proven Lynx & Super Lynx series of naval helicopters. It is actually one of the newest naval helicopters in the market today, with the first production naval variant received by the Royal Navy only at the end of 2013, and in entering service in 2015.

The Lynx (above) and the Lynx Wildcat (below) flying side by side and can be used to differentiate the two naval helicopters. The shape may have similarities, but the Lynx Wildcat is a totally different bird that has little similarities in parts, equipment, and performance with its older stablemate.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

The Wildcat is capable of both Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), and could be armed with a variety of air-launched munitions, including anti-submarine lightweight torpedoes, small and medium anti-ship and air-to-ground missiles, rocket and gun pods, plus pintle-mounted machine guns.

It is equipped with a Selex Galileo Seaspray 7000E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar to scan for surface targets, an L-3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical/infrared nose turret, and possibly the Thales Compact FLASH dipping sonar for submarine detection, which was chosen for use by South Korean Wildcats.

The Seaspray 7000E is a AESA multi-mode surveillance radar. Its solid-state transmitter improves its performance and maintainability than conventional radar, has a maximum range of 200 nautical miles, and could track up to 200 targets simultaneously, including small crafts. The use on Wildcats by the Royal Navy was its first launch customer, and it is likely that the Philippine Navy would also be using the same surveillance radar for its own fleet of Wildcats.

It is unclear which dipping sonar will the Philippine deal include, but MaxDefense believes that the PN may follow the South Koreans by adapting the Compact FLASH dipping sonar from Thales. This is a smaller version of those used by the US Navy with their MH-60R Seahawks, and are designed for smaller helicopters although the Royal Navy use them on the humongous AW-101 Merlin helicopters.

Currently the AW-159 is cleared to fire the British Sting Ray lightweight torpedo, while it is still being cleared to fire the new MBDA Sea Venom short-range anti-ship missile, which will replace the Sea Squa used by the older Super Lynx family, as well as the smaller Thales Martlet Lightweight Multirole Missile. 

In South Korean service, the Wildcat is also cleared to fire the Israeli-made Rafael Spike NLOS missile and the LIG Nex1 K745 Blue Shark torpedo. MaxDefense sources confirmed that Rafael is in talks with the Philippine Navy and AgustaWestland regarding the supply of these missiles to go with the delivery of the Wildcats. It appears that the Spike NLOS is gaining traction due to its immediate availability compared to the Sea Venom which is expected to only enter service with the Royal Navy by 2018, so it is not expected to be carried by the Philippine Navy Wildcat when it arrives. But it could be an option for the PN if they wish to have a bigger missile for use against ships instead of the Spike NLOS. Rafael's recent win to supply the PN with the Spike-ER for the Multi-Purpose Attack Crafts (MPAC) could also help push Rafael's offer.

It is also worth mentioning that there were indications that the PN prefer to use the Blue Shark torpedo, based on the Supplementary Bid Bulletin documents included in the Philippine Navy's Frigate Acquisition Program. 

The AW-159 can be equipped with the Sea Squa's successor, the MBDA Sea Venom anti-ship missile (foreground).
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

The helicopter is said to be the right size for the Philippine Navy's requirements, being smaller than the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk from the US, and the NH90 FFH from Europe, but larger than the Airbus Helicopters AS565 Panther from France, which was actually the only other contender of the Wildcat in this contest. This also makes the helicopter cheaper than the Seahawk and the NH90, but is said to be more expensive than the Panther.

Bill of Quantities for AgustaWestland's Bid:

Based on the Bill of Quantities submitted by AgustaWestland together with their bid, the helicopters itself costs only a little over half of the total contract amount. The helicopter's subsystems, notably the sensors, and initial load-out of ammunition took a huge share of the contract amount. The sensors are the helicopter's primary component, which makes the helicopter a versatile naval system for surface surveillance, ASuW, and ASW.

It also shows that acquiring ammunition is not cheap, and being a new user of such munitions, it is expected that the Philippine Navy will have to acquire more and maintain enough supply of warshot munitions in preparation of conflict, and program for live fire exercises once in a while. 

The BOQ also clearly shows what the deal includes. From the list above, it is comprehensive enough to allow the PN to be gently moulded from zero to a proficient and capable user of the entire system, with sufficient mission essential equipment, support, training, and logistics included in the deal.

With the Philippine Navy starting to have such capabilities, it would be easier for them to acquire additional units in the future, as long as they follow the same mindset of including essential training and maintenance support packages in the contract.

The AW-159 Wildcat, with labelling of its components for reader's understanding.
Photo taken from Finmeccanica.

Early Delivery Reputation:

With AgustaWestland's previous deliveries of the smaller AW-109E Power helicopters to the Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force, they were able to do so in a shorter span of time than what is stipulated in the contract. It is possible that AgustaWestland could also do the same with the AW-159 Wildcat, although it would be produced in a different factory than its smaller stable mate. The Wildcat will be built in AgustaWestland's facility in the United Kingdom, whereas the AW-109 were built in Italy.

Delivery is expected to be made in late 2018, although it is hoped that AgustaWestland can make a shorter delivery time even if production of the Wildcat for the British and South Korean navies are in full swing. This could allow the Philippine Navy to start training their men in the Philippines, and make the Wildcat unit into full operational status even if the new frigates are not yet available.. At a temporary basis, the Wildcat can be stationed with the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates and conduct ship-based training not only for the pilots, but also for the ship and maintenance crews.


Yes finally, after several attempts in the past to acquire a real ASW naval helicopter, the Philippine Navy is getting some. As more helicopter-capable naval assets become available, it is expected that the PN will request for more units as part of the Horizons 2 and 3 phases of the Revised AFP Modernization Program. MaxDefense will update its readers on this project, as it progresses until the next administration after those of Pres. Benigno Aquino III. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Propmech and SAAB wins Philippine Navy's Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel Upgrade Phase 3B Project

The Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) recently released a copy of the Notice of Award for the Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel (JCPV) upgrade Phase 3B project. with the project awarded to a joint venture between Filipino company Propmech Corporation, and Swedish defence company SAAB A.B. 

This project was previously discussed in a MaxDefense blog released in October last year. For those who haven't had any idea about the project, please read the blog entry with the link provided below.

To summarize, the JCPV Phase 3B involves the upgrade and rehabilitation of the Oto Melara 76mm Compact naval gun, and upgrade of Electro-Optical Fire Control System and Sensors for a single Jacinto-class patrol vessel.

BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37), one of the Jacinto-class patrol vessels of the Philippine Navy. MaxDefense believes that this ship will be receiving the upgrades under the JCPV Phase 3B project.
Photo taken from Wikimedia.
The Notice of Award from the DND, which was received by Propmech-SAAB JV's representative as of December 2015.
Photo taken from Timawa defense forum c/o 40niner_com.

The Joint Venture:

Propmech Corporation has been involved with several Philippine Navy projects for many years now, being the prime contractor for the Multi-Purpose Attack Craft Mks I, II and III; the Tagbanua-class Landing Craft Utility; and several refurbishing or upgrade projects of existing ships of the Philippine Navy including the Tomas Batilo-class patrol gunboats.

SAAB A.B is a new entrant to the AFP Modernization Program, although they have been offering a lot of their products to the Armed Forces of the Philippines for decades now. As a group, they manufacture and supply radars, surveillance subsystems, underwater systems, and fighter aircraft.

Being the winner of the JCPV Phase 3B project, it is still unclear how the 2 companies will divide the work, but based on previous experience we can have some guestimate on what they might possibly do.

Both companies have been industry leaders in their own field, with Propmech leading in the local scene with successful naval projects in their portfolio, while SAAB is a global leader in defence. Combining their strengths is expected to produce results for the JCPV Phase 3B project of the Philippine Navy.

Project's Scope of Works:

Saab will definitely provide the subsystems and technical know-how for the upgrade of the fire control system and sensors.

Currently, SAAB has in products in its line-up that may suit the needs of the project, specifically the EOS-500 electro-optical director, which is ideal for the Oto Melara 76mm Compact and the MSI Seahawk 25mm naval gun systems. Currently the Jacinto-class patrol vessel utilizes a single Radamec 1500 series EO/IR FCS on top of the bridge, and is used to direct both the 76mm and 25mm guns towards a single target.

SAAB's products are among the best in the industry, and its use in the Philippine Navy would indeed be a leap forward to improve the ship's capability. 

Currently the JCPV uses the Radamec 1500 series EO/IR FCS (top photo, in red circle) acquired more than a decade ago, and it will be replaced with a new system. SAAB is expected to use its EOS-500 electro-optical director for the JCPV Phase 3B's requirement to improve the Fire Control System of the ship.
Top photo taken from Timawa.net defense forum, bottom photo taken from Saab's website.

It is expected that SAAB won't be using its more capable, heavier, and costlier CEROS 200 fire control radar, which is only effective if the ship will also have semi-active surface-to-air missile systems which is not possible on the JCPV due to size and weight considerations. Combined with the 9LV Gun Control Module, the EOS 500 would be suitable enough for use on the automated gun systems of the ship against surface and aerial targets.

SAAB also manufactures the CEROS 200 lightweight fire control radar. But it appears that a Fire Control Radar is not among the products required for the JCPV upgrade project.
Photo taken from SAAB's website.

MaxDefense believes that Propmech, being the local representative of the joint venture, will be in-charge of the physical work, coordination, and installation of subsystems of the ship. The work will be conducted in a facility that they have a subcontract with, as they don't have their own shipyard. 

As a joint venture, Propmech-SAAB would probably get a sub-contractor supply the navigation radar system, and for the rehabilitation and upgrade of the Oto Melara 76mm Compact naval gun, which are currently not a trade speciality of both companies. Saab does not have a navigation radar in its product line, and it is unlikely that they will use their more expensive 3D surveillance radar systems like the Sea Giraffe family for this project.

Upgrade and rehabilitation of the 76mm Oto Melara naval are not core competencies of Propmech and Saab, so it is expected that they will get a subcontractor to do the job for them.
Photo taken from Len Joson's collection.

There are no further information yet on what ship will be undertaking the JCPV Phase 3B based on information from DND or PhilGEPS. 

But MaxDefense sources indicated that the most possible ship to receive this upgrade is BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37), which is scheduled for dock works in Cebu very soon. 

Problems and Deficiencies of the Program:

This was already discussed in the previous blog entry, but for discussion's sake, MaxDefense is reviving this again in this blog entry.

1. Separating a single ship's project instead of consolidating the two projects into one for all 3 ships of the class is something MaxDefense does not agree with. This opens the possibility that there will be 2 different groups winning the project, one each with their own different products, logistics train, and trade competency. This means we could see a single class of only 3 ships but having 2 different navigation radars, fire control systems, electro-optical and radar directors, and processes in rehabilitating the 76mm Compact gun. MaxDefense believes this is absurd and illogical.

MaxDefense was already told by other sources that there is already a winning bidder for the Phase 3A project, and it is not Propmech-SAAB JV. This will be discussed later on as more accurate information comes in.

Among the bidders for the JCPV Phase 3A project is Ultra Electronics, which manufactures its own EO/IR Fire Control System (above). If another company wins the 3A phase instead of Propmech-SAAB, it means that 1 ship may have a different EO/IR FCS systems, as well as a navigation radar system.
Photo taken from Ultra Electronics website.

2. It is also yet unclear if the budget allocated by the DND and Philippine Navy is enough for the bidders to use a military-grade tactical navigation radar instead of a commercial-spec one. According to sources, military grade radar has better performance in detection of small targets like asymmetric threats, stealthy patrol boats or surface combatants, or even periscopes, which is normally difficult to detect using a commercial-spec navigation radar. But it is costlier than standard commercial-grade navigation radar.

Also, MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Navy should have used the upgrade program to improve the use of the Jacinto-class ships into domain awareness platforms with the introduction of at least a 2D air & surface search radar system. The navigation radars won't be able to provide aerial surveillance information as it is mostly used for surface detection, and at best, near sea level (very low level) aerial detection. 

The PN should have used most of its platforms to provide a wider maritime and aerial domain awareness capability and contribute to a bigger picture to a wider group. The JCPV project is a missed chance for such capability to be introduced to the class.

The Philippine Navy should have opted to provide the Jacinto-class patrol vessels with a air & surface search radar that is more capable in detecting surface and aerial targets than the standard navigation radar. A 2D system like the Terma Scanter 4100 (above) would have been a great addition to allow the JCPV to contribute further in maritime and aerial domain awareness capabilities of the Philippine Navy.
Photo taken from Terma's website.

3. With the DND acquiring missile systems from Rafael Advanced Systems for the upcoming MPAC Mk.3 to be built by Propmech-Lung Teh joint venture, would it not be better if the JCPV was also considered by the Philippine Navy to be installed with a lightweight air defense system like a MANPADS-based type? But since the ship won't be installed with an air search radar (as discussed in Item #3), even a short ranged one, this would be rendered ineffective against fast moving targets with just using the visual detection.

A VSHORAD air defense component like the MBDA Mistral Simbad system would have been a great addition to the ship's upgrade program. A single mount on the superstructure would not be heavy enough to create top-weight problems that are inherent with the Jacinto-class patrol vessel's design.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

How About Phase 3A Project?

MaxDefense sources informed that the DND already awarded the JCPV Phase 3A Project to another contractor, although this needs further clarification just to be sure. As the information relayed says, the winner was not Propmech-Saab, but another group. It is expected that if the project was only awarded recently, the Notice of Award might only be released in a month or two. 

MaxDefense will provide more information later on, upon confirmation of these information. In the meantime, stay tuned on our Facebook page which will probably be the first place MaxDefense will post additional information on the project.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Philippine Navy's Frigate Acquisition Program Finally Moves in 2016! New Technical Specification Released and Tender Soon

Finally, after more than a year of waiting, we finally get publicized confirmation that the Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) is moving ahead with finalizing the tender for the Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP) for the Philippine Navy (PN).

The DND has posted in its website a very important Supplemental Bid Bulletin (SBB) dated February 2, 2016, that is the basis for bidders for their submission of bids. It contained revisions to the original technical specifications included in the earlier 1st stage bidding held on December 4, 2013. The changes correspond to the outcome of planning and consultation for more than 2 years since the DND determined the 6 complying bidders eligible to continue on the later stages.

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering's FFX-2 design (above), and Hyundai Heavy Industries' HDF-3000 design (below) remains a favorite, but modifications might be needed.

But there is no confirmation if the tender would be a repeat of the 1st stage bidding in the past, or if this is for the 2nd stage bidding assuming the 1st stage done last 2013 was considered good. For discussion's sake, we presume that this is the 2nd stage, with the 6 proponents from 2013 still vying for the project.

For continuous information and deeper information, MaxDefense suggests that readers go through earlier blog entries related to this project, listed as follows:

1. An In-Depth Look at the Philippine Navy Frigate Program of 2013 - an initial analysis made by MaxDefense in the absence of technical specifications, and basing it on the capabilities found on the Maestrale-class frigates.

2. Philippine Navy Frigate Acquisition Project - An Analysis of the 1st-Stage Bidding Specifications - discusses the background of the project, the initial technical specifications released by the PN and DND, and an analysis of what can be expected based on these information.

3. Updates on Philippine Navy's Frigate Acquisition: 6 Bidders Qualified for the 2nd Bid Stage - discussed the pre- and post- bidding results of the 1st stage bidding done on December 2013, and an analysis of what the bidders could be offering.

4. A Frigate for $200 Million for the Philippine Navy? Why Not! - a discussion on why MaxDefense believes the budget allocated by the DND might provide the PN with a frigate-like ship in some way or another.

Most of the SBB contained revisions to the Technical Specifications (TS), and this new version actually is more specific to what the Philippine Navy needs, and replaced or updated several clauses. MaxDefense believes that most are improvements and are self-explanatory in nature for those who have some understanding to the project. But for discussion's sake, let's put MaxDefense's opinion in print with the blog entry.

Previous reports and discussions have confirmed that Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), one of the qualified bidders from South Korea, originally offered a derivative of their HDF-3000 design in which the Incheon-class frigate of the Republic of Korea Navy was derived.

Hyundai Heavy Industry (HHI) may need to tweak their HDF-3000 design (basis for Incheon-class frigate) to meet certain requirements of the Philippine Navy, including the use of CODAD configuration for the propulsion, and the need for space for a VLS system. 

Also, based on the website of Navantia, a qualified bidder from Spain, it appears that they have previously offered a derivative of their Avante 2200 Combatant design, which came from a design family for corvettes and offshore patrol vessels. It is still possible that Navantia will offer their larger LF-4000 Light Frigate design with some revisions to meet the PN requirement.

Navantia has offered the Avante 2200 Combatant design (above) to the Philippine Navy, but meeting the requirements based on the new SBB may also need some rework by Navantia. Another alternative but something that may be costly is the LF-4000 light frigate design (below).
Photos taken from Navantia's product brochures.

Garden Reach Shipbuilding & Engineering (GRSE) was also quoted in previous reports that they have offered a derivative design based on the Indian Navy's Kamorta-class large anti-submarine corvette which is closer to that of a light frigate designs.

The Kamorta-class large anti-submarine corvette of the Indian Navy, built by GRSE. A derivative of this design was said to be the one offered to the Philippine Navy.

Recently STX France also released a revised design for their New Generation Floreal Frigate (NGFF) design, which is has a basic specification that is very close to the PN Frigate's requirements.

STX France has refreshed their design for the New Generation Floreal Frigate (NGFF), which MaxDefense believes was offered by them to the Frigate Acqusition Project. 

The 2 other bidders, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) and STX of South Korea has not made any previous press release on what design they have offered to the DND-PN, but both are expected to be using derivatives from late designs.

DSME could be offering a design based on stealthier derivative of the DW-2500 frigate design (above) or a larger version of the corvette design (below) they offered to Malaysia last year. The DW-3000 FFX-2 design might also be possible but it chances of being offered is slim as it is a more expensive design that might not fit the budget.

Technical Specifications Re-Unwrapped:

Majority of the clauses remain exactly the same, or with only rewording made to further define and clarify what the DND meant. 

1. Increased Sea State for Operations:

Previously the TS specified that the ship must be capable of withstanding Sea State 6 (or with waves height maximum of 6 meters) based on the World Meteorological Organization's Sea State Code. It was now increased to withstanding up to Sea State 7 (or with wave height maximum of 9 meters). This improves the survivability of the ship in bad weather, as well as improving its seakeeping capability.

The SBB also defined the operating environment of the ship's systems, and everything remained the same to not have degradation of ASuW, AAW, and EW capability at Sea State 5, Helicopter Operations at Sea State 4, and RHIB operations at Sea State 3. The only change was on the requirement for ASW stated to not degrade at Sea State 4.

2. Ship's Length and Displacement Defined, Performance Remains the Same:

The SBB provided a minimum figure for the ship's required length, now indicated to be at least 95-meters long. The previous TS only stated as per function of design as long as it meets the overall requirements. Breadth and depth remains to be dependent on the ship's overall design according to the shipbuilder

The displacement was also indicated now to be at least 2,000 tons

This is quite a surprise since MaxDefense believes that they should have specified a longer length and larger displacement for the frigate, at least equal or greater than 105-meters long and displaces at least 2,300 tons. Contemporary frigate designs are somewhere in this size, which allows the ship to accommodate more space for futureproofing requirements which will be discussed later on in this entry.

Performance-wise, the frigate will still have a 4,500 nautical mile minimum range @ 15 knots cruising speed. Maximum continuous speed is at 25 knots minimum but it should be at 85% Maximum Continuous Rating for 24 hours (page 3). This means that the ship could have a higher maximum speed than 25 knots for short-time sprints when needed.

3. Changes on the Environmental Conditions: 

The Ambient Operating Conditions for the ships were changed dramatically (page 4). Previously it corresponded to tropical operating conditions, but are now changed to allow the ship to operate in colder weather as well.

This could be an item that was corrected from before due to the ability of ships to normally operate in cold weather, although it could also support the additional statement in the ship's capability clause that it would be able to perform in joint maritime operations, probably with allied or friendly countries in regions outside the tropics.

4. Hull Form and Layout Defined, and Allocation of Space for VLS and TASS:

There were changes in the clause for hull form and layout, adding the emphasis for stealthiness and availability of spaces and power requirements for fitted for but not with (FFBNW) items (page 4, 6-7), particularly an 8-cell Vertical Launch System (VLS) for surface-to-air missile (SAM) and Towed Array Sonar System (TASS) (page 6-7). MaxDefense believes that the VLS space could be behind the main gun, while the TASS is normally at the stern after the helicopter landing deck.

In addition to space, the SBB also specified the need for the power supply to be sufficient enough to not only meet the current requirements of the ship, but also in anticipation of the addition of a VLS and TASS systems in the future (page 9). The dimensions are closer to the requirements to install the 8-cell Mk.41 VLS Self-Defense Module from Lockheed Martin rather than the SYLVER VLS from France.

The absence of these systems was anticipated due to the budget allocated. It could also provide details on the presence of TASS acquisition as part of Horizon 2 phase of the Philippine Navy's modernization program.

The dimensions provided in the SBB appears to be close to the dimensions of the standard 8-cell Mk.41 VLS, which can be used to launch the ESSM missile. 

5. Propulsion Layout Defined:

The SBB now specifically indicated that the preferred propulsion layout for the frigates is the Combined Diesel and Diesel (CODAD) configuration. This is a departure from the CODOG found in the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates sourced from the US. 

The decision might be based on previous reports on the consumption expenses of gas turbine fuel which normally are more expensive per gallon, and are consumed faster than diesels. But this also means that the frigates should have enough space for 4 diesel engines, which are normally larger in dimension that gas turbines. This configuration also supports the required maximum speed of only a minimum of 25 knots, which is lower than conventional frigate designs of around 28 knots and up.

Here is a simple diagram showing the basic idea of how a CODAD (above) and CODOG (below) works. The new frigate is prefered as a CODAD design, while the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigate uses the CODOG configuration.

6. Emphasis on Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Protection:

Not indicated in the old TS, the SBB now requires the ship to have the capability to work in an area contaminated with Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical agents. The ships should have NBC citadels or protected areas, wash-down and decontamination systems, and NBC protective equipment for crew (page 12).

Proponents are required to provide NBCprotected areas, decontamination systems, and protective gear for the warship's crew and enable the ship to fight in such conditions.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

7.  Tactical Data Link:

The shipbuilder must provide a tactical data link and appropriate radio for tactical communication, while also providing space and and readiness to accept Link 16 and Link 22, which appears to be installed separately by the Philippine Navy. 

The use of anti-air warfare Link 16 and maritime data Link 22 enables the ships to be interoperate with military units from the US or allies using similar systems. It also means that the Armed Forces of the Philippines would be standardizing its tactical data links to these systems.

Previously the old TS indicated that the AFP is still in the process of choosing the TDL it would be using, although there were already indications that Link 16 will be used by the FA-50PH and AW-109E aircraft of the Philippine Air Force. 

8. Gun Systems: 

8a. Primary 76mm Gun

The main gun was previously identified as a 76mm naval gun, but is now determined to have a 120 rounds/min capability (page 31). Our previous analysis indicated that it could be a battle between Oto Melara and Hyundai Wia, which both produces a 76mm naval gun system. But Hyundai Wia's model has a ROF of 100 rounds/min, well below the requirement. Oto Melara's 76/62 Super Rapid complies with the 120 rounds/min spec. Although not indicated, a stealth shield would probably be offered.

The primary gun should have its own fire control radar with built-in electro-optical tracking system, integrated to the Combat Management System (CMS), and can track surface, air, and missile targets at a minimum of 30 knots, Mach 1, and Mach 3, respectively (page 33).

The Oto Melara 76/62 Super Rapid gun appears to be the only choice due to Hyundai WIA's gun not reaching the required rate of fire. Photo taken from Wikipedia.

8b. Secondary Guns:

For the secondary gun/s, it was previously indicated to be a minimum of 1 remote stabilized gun, but the SBB specified it to have a caliber between 30mm to 40mm (page 31). This is a departure from the use of 25mm remote stabilized gun in Philippine Navy ships, specifically the Mk.38 Mod.2 used in the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, and the MSI Seahawk guns mounted on the Jacinto-class corvettes. 

A separate electro-optical tracking system shall be provided for the secondary gun, and must be integrated as well to the CMS (page 33).

Korean shipbuilders can source theirs as Hyundai Wia manufactures a 40mm naval gun, while other options for them may include the newly developed Mk.38 Mod.3 naval gun produced by BAE Systems and Rafael using a 30mm gun from ATK, or the Mk.46 Mod.2 gun weapon system similar to those installed on the Freedom and Independence-class LCS that uses the Bushmaster II 30mm gun. Being a Mk.38 user, the Philippine Navy may prefer the Mk.38 Mod.3 design although the proponents are free to choose their designated system as long as they are within the specs.

Heavy machine gun requirements remain at a minimum of 4 units, probably manual operated (page 31).  The Philippine Navy normally use the Browning M2 50-caliber machine guns for its naval requirements.

The Philippine Navy might be interested in the Mk.38 Mod.3 30mm RCW gun built by BAE Systems and Rafael, but proponents might be given a free hand to choose what gun they would offer as long as it is within the technical specifications.

Korean proponents might take advantage to promote home-grown products like the Hyundai WIA 40mm naval gun, which appears to be the same gun being used on DSME's DW-2500 frigate scale model as secondary guns. Photo taken from Hyundai WIA's website.

8c. Provision for CIWS:

To avoid confusion, the SBB did not call the secondary gun system as a Close In Weapons System (CIWS), since it is now a designation for a system that will be installed in the future. The proponents are required to provide space and power requirements for a future CIWS (page 31). No mention if it would be a missile or gun based system.

MaxDefense sources previously confirmed that the Philippine Navy was trying to negotiate for the sale or transfer of refurbished Phalanx 20mm CIWS (above) from the US government. But MaxDefense hopes that the Philippine Navy consider the SeaRAM missile CIWS system (below) instead as it is more effective in defending the ship against modern and future anti-ship cruise missiles.

9. Missile & Torpedo Systems:

The DND previously announced a separating the acquisition of the weapons system from the hull, with a budget of Php 2.5 billion and Php 15.5 billion, respectively taken from the previous Php 18 billion ABC. It appears though that this is still in effect, although it is not clear if the Php 18 billion ABC was still divided for the ship and weapons, or if the DND decided to use the entire Php 18 billion for the ship, while a separate acquisition project for the ammunition (missiles and gun rounds) will be made.

Thus as indicated on theSBB, only the launchers will be provided by the proponents with the ship. This applies for the anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as the torpedoes.

Further support to this is the removal of the number of ammunitions required to be provided by the proponent (page 50).

Also, it was not specified that the missiles must be supplied by manufacturers have a Memorandum of Understand (MOU) on Logistics and Defense Industry Cooperation with the corresponding Implementing Arrangement, or has a Defense Cooperation Agreement or maintain diplomatic relations with the Philippines. MaxDefense believes that most missile manufacturers are based on countries with diplomatic ties with the Philippines, but only a few has an MOU or DCA including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Australia, Israel, Canada, India, South Korea, Japan, and China (yes, China is a defense partner of the Philippines).

Another added clause is that the missiles should be of a proven design, and not those that are still being developed.

9a. Anti-Ship Surface-to-Surface Missiles (SSM)

For the anti-ship missile system, the new TS improved the required minimum range to 150 kilometers (from 50 kilometers) and minimum cruise speed to mach 0.8 (previously defined as minimum subsonic speed). The missile must have sea-skimming capability, fire and forget, and has an active homing radar seeker and enhanced Electronic Counter Counter Measure (ECCM). The range now co confirms the type as a standard long range anti-ship missile system in the same category as the Boeing Harpoon Block II, the MBDA Exocet Block 3, LIG Nex1 SSM-700K Haeseong (C-Star), and the supersonic BrahMos missile.

The additional clauses immediately take out the possibility of having the Saab RBS-15 from Sweden (no MOU), the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile from Norway (no MOU), and the Gabriel V Advance Naval Attack Missile from Israel (which is still under development).

MaxDefense believes that the anti-ship missile requirement for the frigates will be fought between the MBDA Exocet MM40 Block 3 (above), the SSK-700K Haesung (middle), and the BrahMos missile (bottom), depending on the preference of the proponents. Credits to owners of the photos.

9b. Anti-aircraft Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM)

As with the SSM requirement, the additional clauses on source and use of proven design also affects the SAM requirement of the frigate.

Changes in the clauses from the old TS include the change from a single quad-launcher to two twin-launchers. This means there would be 2 trainable launchers instead of just 1. Range remains at 6 kilometers minimum, with an infra-red (IR) or semi-active homing seeker, with IR counter counter measures and/or ECCM capability.

MaxDefense believes that the DND is looking at the Mistral very short range air defense (VSHORAD) system from MBDA France using Simbad-RC launchers, or LIG Nex1's Chiron missile from South Korea, which also has a trainable remote weapons station for 2 or 4 missiles. STX France, Navantia, and Garden Reach may be in favor of using the Mistral-Simbad system, while HHI, DSME, and STX will probably be using the Chiron.

The MBDA Mistral in Simbad-RC launcher system (above) and LIG Nex1's Chiron missile system (below) are among those expected to be offered by proponents for the SAM requirement based on the specified requirements of the SBB.
Photos taken from MBDA & LIG Nex1's product brochures.

 9c. Ship-launched Lightweight Torpedoes

The ship must be installed with trainable triple-torpedo launchers on each side of the ship. The new TS does not need the proponent to supply the torpedo, but the launchers must be capable of launching specified torpedoes capable of operating from 10 to 600 meters deep, and a minimum range of 2,000 meters, with active, passive, or mixed homing guidance, and with torpedo counter countermeasures capability.

Source and being a proven design clauses as indicated for missiles is also applicable to torpedoes.

Interesting slip on the SBB was the specified storage requirement for Blue Shark air-launched torpedoes for the anti-submarine helicopter, which probably meant the Korean K745 Chung Sang Eo lightweight torpedo made by LIG Nex1. Up until the release of the SBB, it was still unclear if the DND has already chosen an air-launched torpedo tied to the Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition Project, so the appearance of the Blue Shark is something worth considering.

It is expected though that Korean proponents may prefer to use torpedo launchers that could use the Blue Shark torpedo. MaxDefense also expects that European proponents may be looking at the Eurotorp MU90/Impact torpedo.

Both torpedoes have the same size and there were even suggestions that the Blue Shark was developed based on the MU90/Impact. Both torpedoes are said to be capable of being launched from similar torpedo launchers so there would not be an issue of compatibility.

10. Sensors Systems 

10a. Navigation Radars

The SBB now requires 2 navigation radars with solid state receivers and a minimum of 200W peak power. One is X-band, the other is S-band. The radars should have digital pulse compression and doppler processing (page 15), allowing it to have a clearer picture even in the presence of strong clutter and poor weather.

MaxDefense sources confirmed at least 1 company, Kelvin Hughes, pushing for their Sharpeye Solid-State naval navigation radar for the new frigate, but also for the Jacinto-class patrol vessel's upgrade program and for the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates. Another interesting product that could be offered is the Thales Scout Mk. 2 naval tactical radar.

It could also be possible that the proponents will only include standard commercial marine navigation radars, probably those made by Furuno or Kelvin Hughes which are cheaper but lack features that are available on tactical naval navigation radars.

The requirement for navigational radars is close to the specifications of the Kelvin Hughes Sharpeye Solid State tactical navigation radar, although commercial models can also be considered if price is an issue.

10b. Air/Surface Search Radar:

The old TS required only a 2-dimensional (2D) air search radar for range and bearing with a minimum instrumented range design of 80 nautical miles plus a separate 2D surface search radar. The SBB revised this to a 3-dimensional (3D) air and surface search solid-state radar system, with an instrumented range of 100 nautical miles for air targets and 40 nautical miles for surface targets, a minimum detection range of 200 meters, and capable of tracking up to 750 air and surface tracks (page 34).

The improvement on the radar system is drastic as 3D air/surface is now standard on most contemporary warships in the region.

MaxDefense believes that European shipbuiders (STX France and Navantia) may use the Thales Smart-S Mk.2 3D or the BAE Systems Artisan 3D air/surface search radar for their offers, although Thales appears to be at the forefront on this since it is said to be cheaper, and Thales have been in close contact with the Philippine Navy for several years now in marketing the Smart-S Mk.2 system for the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates and even the Tarlac-class LPD. 

Korean shipbuilders (HHI, DSME, and STX) may opt to use the LIG Nex1 FFX 3D radar fitted in their Incheon-class frigates, or the Israeli EL/M-2238 STAR naval 3D radar from IAI-Elta. Garden Reach may also opt to use the EL/M-2238 radar as it has done for Indian Navy ships.

The Thales Smart-S Mk.2 (above), the LIG Nex1 FFX Radar (middle) and the IAI-Elta EL/M-2238 STAR 3D radar (below) are among those expected to be offered by the proponent bidders to fulfill the 3D Air/Surface Search Radar requirement based on the new SBB.

10c. SONAR System:

The SBB now indicate that it should operate in Medium Frequency during active mode, and Low Frequency during passive mode. It should also be capable of operating in coastal or littoral waters. An addition is on the Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) system that can be used in ASW to identify the impact of temperature on sonar propagation and acoustic range prediction. 

Among those required by the DND to provide space and power requirement for future is for a Towed Array Sonar, which would be acquired separately.This was not present in the previous TS.

11. Electronic Warfare:

Not much changes were made on the requirements for Electronic Support Measures (ESM), and the Decoy Launching System requirements remains the same, with a minimum of 6 tubes per each side of the ship, with at least 3 decoys for missiles and 3 for torpedoes (page 36).

12. Combat Management System:

An addendum found on the SBB for this item is that the CMS should be a proven design that is being used by at least 1 frigate of the manufacturer's country of origin, or at least by 1 frigate each from 2 other foreign countries. Prototypes or still in-development CMS will not be accepted by for the project (pages 36-37)

Thales' TACTICOS appears to be at the forefront of CMS products globally, and might be the choice of Navantia and STX France, as well as by Garden Reach, STX, DSME and HHI if their indigenous CMS systems are not accepted.

13. Helicopter Support:

The SBB now includes a dimension for the landing deck, at least 21.8m long  x 13.5m wide, and should be able to support a 12-ton helicopter class. It is also now required to have a deck landing grid with a diameter of at least 2.75 meters, and withstand tensions of at least 12 metric tons. This allows for helicopter launching or landing to be possible even in poor weather.

 The flight deck is also required to have a rail-less traversing system for securing the helicopter from the hangar to the flight deck (pages 37-38).

The hangar is now specified too to be able to house a 10-ton class helicopter, with a free space of 15.6 meters long x 7.24 meters wide x 5.7 meters high (pages 38-39).

It is also apparent that the specified requirements for the helicopter support equipment is very specific now, and has clarified a lot of items that were not indicated before in the old TS. An aviation shop requirement was also included now, which would be adjacent to the hangar (page 47).

The deck landing grid (above) and the harpoon from the helicopter that grips with the deck landing grid to secure the helicopter (below). Top photo taken from DCNS website.

The diagram taken from the SBB shows the minimum hangar dimensions, and lashing of the ASW helicopter. The helicopter used in the diagram is actually the AgustaWestland AW-159 Wildcat, which is now undergoing post-qualification inspections before a Notice of Award is provided.

14. Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boat and Operation Support:

The RHIB is now identified as a 7-meter long class, with accommodations for a minimum of 10 people, can run at least 30 knots, and have mounting for a 50-caliber machine gun.

15. Design Ownership Advantage:

Among the most interesting part of the SBB is the presence of a clause that allows builder to either grant the ownership of the frigate's design to the Philippine Navy, or grant a license to the Philippine Navy to manufacture/build the design.

This means that this would allow the Philippine Navy to use the same design again to build for the projected additional frigates without having to pay for additional costs of using the same again with the proponent. This could even allow for local manufacture of succeeding ships, similar to what the Indonesians got for acquiring the Makassar-class LPD from Daesun Shipbuilding of South Korea.

Separate Acquisition of Ammunition:

The absence of the ammunition requirements in the SBB as opposed to the previous TS means that they would be acquired in a different program and timeline, as they require shorter period of time to produce and deliver and will be supplied by different manufacturers. But nonetheless, they should be ready before the ship is launched to avoid a disaster similar to what the Philippine Air Force's FA-50PH fleet experienced. Once the ships are ready, it is only a matter of time before the live ammunitions are required for training, familiarity, and readiness to any unwanted or unexpected situations.

Since the proponents will be the one doing the offer for specific guns and launchers, the acquisition of ammunition may not need undergo tender process, except for the primary, secondary, and machine gun ammunition. If the PN is already decided in acquiring the Blue Shark torpedo for the ASW helicopters, it could also mean they might have already been decided in using the Blue Shark for the frigates too.

What Do We Expect:

With the DND already scheduled the tentative bid submission and opening schedule to February 16, 2016, even after delays it is already certain the project is underway and will be awarded soon, probably within the 1st quarter of the year. MaxDefense sees the deadline as too close to the SBB releasing, so expect changes in the bid submission schedule.

With the information on the frigate project being too tight, everything can still happen under the sun especially on the designs being offered by the proponents. Of course MaxDefense hopes that that the PN get the best within its budget, but expect strong political and commercial efforts exerted by foreign governments and companies to happen. This project is just the beginning, and if we follow the revised Horizon plans of the PN to be followed, we are expecting 5 more new guided-missile frigates to be awarded within the next few years.

MaxDefense also expects that once the awarding is made, we can have a clear picture of what to expect if the Philippine Navy proceeds with their plan to upgrade the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, and the upcoming Pohang-class corvette (which probably would be getting either Korean or French systems). This is due to the concept of commonality in its systems, especially that the PN is new to modern naval systems and would not want to complicate things by having more than 1 type for each module.

The awarding of the frigate will benefit the Philippine Navy's other ships, including the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates (above), and the upcoming Pohang-class corvette (below), if upgrade programs are to proceed later on.


March 23, 2016:

MaxDefense received several confirmation from its various sources within the DND and the Philippine Navy, that the March 17, 2016 schedule for the bid submission and opening for Frigate Acquisition Project pushed through. 

Out of the six original bidders that passed the 1st stage bidding held more than a year ago, only four submitted a bid. These four companies are Navantia of Spain, Garden Reach Shipbuilding & Engineering (GRSE) of India, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) of South Korea, and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) of South Korea.

Of the four bids, only two were considered by the DND as responsive, those from GRSE and HHI. In the end, GRSE was declared the lowest calculated responsive bidder for the project, with HHI declared the second lowest. It is expected that the DND and Philippine Navy will be conducting the Post Qualification stage as early as possible. Should GRSE fail during the post qualification stage, GRSE's bid will be considered disqualified, and HHI will be given the chance to try and pass the post qualification stage.

It was discussed before in the MaxDefense blogs that GRSE was offering a derivative of the Indian Navy's Kamorta-class large anti-submarine corvette, with design changes in the superstructure to accommodate requirements specified by the Philippine Navy. GRSE was also reported to collaborate with French defense company Thales to supply the TACTICOS Combat Management System. 

Meanwhile, HHI has offered a derivative of their HDF-3000 series frigates, which was also the design used for the Incheon-class frigate of the Republic of Korea Navy. There were changes made by HHI to the design also to fit in the requirements specified by the Philippine Navy, as well as changes on propulsion from the standard CODOG used by the original design, to CODAD as specified by the PN.

It is expected that the project will be awarded to the winning bidder before Pres. Aquino steps down from office. 

MaxDefense will update this blog entry as more information becomes available.