Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Philippine Army's Shore Based Missile System Project, and Issues on Re-Aligning its Budget for Other Projects

Since China decided to intensify its claim of almost the entire South China Sea based on its 9-dash or 10-dash line, and its ambitions based on the "Island Chain Strategy", Asian countries, especially those with disputes with China, have become concerned of their capabilities to defend their territories and interests. This includes the capability to acquire Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) systems, which involves countering a superior opposing force by limiting it's area of free & safe access using asymmetric systems like missile batteries to guard sea and air spaces. 

The Philippines, being a front-line state affected by China's Island Chain Strategy, has been a subject of several defense analysis by major think-tanks (an example is provided here from RAND). And with its limited defense budget, A2/AD capabilities are among those suggested for acquisition by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). And the good news is, the Philippine defense planners were studying these options too with its plan to acquire Shore Based Missile Systems (SBMS).

This is the Type 88 Surface-to-Ship missile system, developed and made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan. This is a correct example of a Shore Based Missile System.
Photo taken from Wikimedia.

As part of the Revised AFP Modernization Program, the Philippine Army (PA) was chosen to acquire and operate the SBMS, officially the project name used by the Department of National Defense (DND) and AFP to describe a land-based mobile anti-ship missile system. 

Highly mobile, they can be repositioned anywhere in the country that is accessible by road network and can be airflown by the Philippine Air Force's C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, and can be hidden from aerial or satellite reconnaissance systems if necessary. The budget allocated by the DND for this project is Php 6.5 billion (around US$144 million) to acquire 12 missile launchers and its associated detection, guidance, and support systems

MaxDefense cannot post all other desired or specified technical information on the system due to security reasons. The project did not pass through the public tender acquisition format.

A typical anti-ship missile battery composition includes the launch system (left), a fire control system (right), and a radar system (not shown). Above shows a NSM coastal battery.
Photo taken from Naval Forces Magazine website.
The BrahMos mobile autonomous launcher for land-based batteries. The system includes the missile launcher canisters built together with the fire control and communication systems together in a single vehicle.
Photo taken from India's DRDO website.

Recent press releases by some media groups released some information to the public of plans to re-align the budget to acquire the Shore Based Missile System to acquire Force Protection Equipment. 

The Issues:

There are 2 issues being brought out to the public in this MaxDefense blog entry. One is the plan to realign the project's budget to fund another Army project, and the second is the choice made by the Army and DND should they continue with the project.

Issue # 1: Realignment of Budget from the SBMS to Acquisition of Force Protection Equipment:

Since the issue was brought out to the public by a recent article of Manila Standard Today (different from The Manila Times), and another from Interaksyon. MaxDefense believes it is safe enough to discuss the project and its issues.

The Philippine Army's commanding general, Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, has reportedly been asking the AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Pio Catapang, to defer the acquisition of the Shore Based Missile System, and instead re-align budget to acquire force protection equipment for the Army's infantry units. The report did not indicate if such move was approved or not, although it is among the projects worth more than Php 60 billion affected by the delay due to the President's review of the revised AFP Modernization program, as previously reported by the media.

According to the press report by Manila Standard Today, Lt. Gen. Iriberri's believes that there are changes in the internal security landscape due to the issues surrounding the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), and the prevalent use of IED by the enemies of the state, especially the communist terrorist group New People's Army (NPA).

While the intentions of the CG-PA is good and unquestionable, MaxDefense has reason to see it in a different perspective. Several questions can be raised on the good general's proposal. Here are just some examples:

- Why choose the SBMS project for re-alignment?
- Why not request for additional funding instead of re-aligning another project's budget?
- What happened to the previous projects to acquire force protection equipment?
- Is the CG-PA expecting a worse-case scenario (or is there already a confirmed threat) should the BBL fail to make it for approval and implementation?

The SBMS is among the most important projects that Pres. Aquino wanted for immediate implementation, since it would be a "poster boy" of a strong deterent against external threats. It could also be an acquisition that can boost his campaign to ask the people's support to continue his initiatives by voting his annointed one in 2016. It is amusing that this project was chosen by CG-PA for cancellation and not other projects within or outside the Army's scope. But being the priciest PA project, and with the next most expensive related to the CG-PA's initiative to improve infantry fighting capabilities, it made sense. 

The next priciest modernization project for the Army after the SBMS is the Night Fighting Equipment, like those installed on the rifle shown above. Obviously this is in line with the CG-PA's plan to improve the fighting capabilities and protection of infantry units.
Photo taken from UDMC's official FB page.

But what about those previous acquisiton projects for force protection equipment? If you all remember, there were several attempts to acquire Force Protection Equipment for the Philippine Army, and most failed to be implemented. There's the project to acquire 44,000 for the Army and Marines worth around Php2 billion, which until now is still pending after being awarded to Achidatex Nazareth Elite - Colorado Shipyard joint venture.. Then there's a failed contract for 3,480 units for the Army that was supposed to be supplied by UM-Merkata - Stone of David. Then there's another emergency procurement of 1,000 units that was terminated after failing tests. Until these projects are implemented, MaxDefense believes there is no immediate need yet to acquire more by canceling a very important territorial defense capability project.

So what happened to the earlier project for Force Protection Equipment awarded to Achidatex Nazareth Elite-Colorado Shipyard joint venture. Why not implement this first?
Photo taken from Achidetex Nazareth Elite's website.

But the most probable answer is an anticipation by the CG-PA that a failure to pass the BBL would mean the resurgence of fighting between Moro rebels/terrorists and government forces. This is a foresight by the Army's high command that is reasonable and commendable. But even without the BBL's cancellation, it is already expected that not all will be happy, and continued fighting against splinter groups of the MILF and MNLF, NPA, the Abu Sayaff and JI groups operating in Mindanao is still expected. So what's new?

Why only Force Protection Equipment?

And if this BBL failure happens, it's not only force protection equipment that the Army needs, but also more armored vehicles, mine/IED protected vehicles, and drone surveillance equipment. But these projects are not included in the AFP Modernization Program slated for until 2017, so why were these equipment not requested? MaxDefense previously discussed the need to acquire MRAP-like vehicles due to the surge in the use of landmines and IED by terrorist groups especially the NPA. But it would be best to acquire them by requesting a budget for it, free from the need to re-align other projects. Other AFP Modernization Program projects were given additional budget after the end-user defended the need to acquire them, like the acquisition of ex-USMC KC-130T for the Philippine Air Force which was not originally included in the 2010-2017 requirement. So how did the PAF did it?

Issue # 2: Acquisition of a Coastal Defense System based on a Rocket Artillery System instead of a real, proven Anti-Ship Missile System:

Should the PA and DND continue to implement the SBMS project, another issue that MaxDefense sees is more appalling; the decision to acquire the Israel Military Industries (IMI) Coastal and Island Defense System, based on the Lynx self-propelled rocket artillery system instead of a real, proven, land based anti-ship missile battery system. So far, this is the only product IMI is offering for coastal defense requirements.

IMI's has been actively promoting the entire system since 2014, with the system offered to Kazakhstan for its Protivokorabelniy Raketniy Kompleks Beregovoy Okhrani (PRKBO), and was also offered to Southeast Asian countries during the Singapore Airshow 2014. Vietnam confirmed the existence of the system in their coastal defense units. The Philippines was definitely among those offered with this system as the AFP had a delegation to the show before.

IMI's CIDS, which makes use of its guided rocket and Delilah cruise missile for land-based coastal defense.
Photo snipped from IMI's website.

Although the entire system includes targeting information from coastal surveillance radars and unmanned aerial vehicles, it is still unclear if the offer to the Philippine Army encompasses the entire package, especially when the system can be linked to the almost operational National Coast Watch System which already has the coastal surveillance radars in place/to be placed. It would be also possible that if this system be introduced, it would be linked to any future maritime patrol aircraft the Philippine Air Force and Navy would be getting.

The IMI Lynx Self-Propelled Rocket Launching System:

The IMI Lynx was originally developed to launch various artillery rockets against fixed land targets, in a similar fashion as a normal gun-based artillery like the 155mm howitzer. Through its development, IMI was able to expand the type of rockets the Lynx could launch. It now includes the following projectiles:

- Soviet Era 122mm BM-21 GRAD unguided artillery rocket system with a 20-kilometer maximum range;
- Soviet Era 220mm BM-27 Uragan unguided artillery rocket system with a 38-kilometer maximum range;
- IMI's 160mm LAR-160 unguided artillery rocket system with a 45-kilometer maximum range;
- IMI's Trajectory Corrected Rockets (TCS) for unguided rockets with a maximum range of between 40 to 50 kilometers;
- IMI's 160mm LAR-160-based Accular guided rocket with a maximum range of 40 kilometers;
- IMI's 303mm Extended Range Artillery Rocket (EXTRA) navalized guided and unguided rocket system with a maximum range of 150 kilometers;
- IMI's 370mm Predator Hawk long range guided semi-ballistic rocket with a maximum range of 250 kilometers;
- IMI's Delilah-GL ground launched cruise missile with a range of 180-250 kilometers

The IMI Lynx mobile rocket launching system, seen here configured to launch the Delilah-GL cruise missile. Up to 2 can be carried in a single lorry.
Photo taken from IMI's website.

Looking at the list above, the only possible systems that can be used by the IMI Lynx mobile rocket launcher system as an effective shore based defense system are the navalized guided version of the EXTRA, the Accular rocket version of the LAR-160, the Predator Hawk guided rocket and the Delilah-GL cruise missile. All other rocket types does not have the range nor the guidance system to be able to hit a moving target.

Based on the information provided in IMI's own website and product brochures:

- The Accular has a 35kg warhead, and the Lynx can carry up to 26 rockets in 2 launch pods using its LAR-160 rocket launcher. 
- The guided EXTRA rocket has a 120kg warhead, can carry high explosive or cargo-carrying submuntion including 500 IMI Bantam sub-munitions or bomblets, and the Lynx can carry up to 8 rockets in 2 launch pods. 
- The Predator Hawk has a 200kg explosive-fragmentation warhead, and Lynx can carry 4 rockets in 2 launch pods. 

All guided rocket systems has a claimed hit accuracy Circular Error Probable (CEP) of 10 meters. 

- The Delilah-GL cruise missile has an electro-optical or IR guidance system, armed with a 30-kilogram high explosive warhead although IMI claims that this could be increased since the original warhead was designed to minimize collateral damage in urban land-attack use.  

The Lynx can carry a mix of all the rocket systems it can carry, in this case a mix of the EXTRA and LAR-160 systems with EXTRA and Accular guided rockets in CIDS form.


Guided rockets will be fed with the target information before launch, and will be be approaching the target from a high trajectory level, in the same approach as its unguided variants and unlike anti-ship cruise missiles. It will be guided to its target by a GPS-augmented inertial navigation system. 

The high approach speed and high angle of attack is a positive attribute to the guided rocket system compared to an anti-ship cruise missile flying just a few feet above sea level at subsonic speed. It would be difficult for point defense gun systems like the Phalanx or the Chinese Type 730 CIWS to shoot it down. It smaller size could also be an advantage as it would be more difficult to detect and hit, even by missile CIWS like RAM. This is the same principle as to why the Chinese have been pouring its resources in developing the DF-21D "carrier killer" anti-ship ballistic missile.

As rocket systems also fly faster than turbojet-powered cruise missiles, it can reach its target faster. And since it will approach the target faster too, it would be difficult to kill using short range hard-kill systems like gun or missile CIWS systems. 

Cost is another advantage of using these rocket systems. Development of these systems was greatly influenced by costs, as IMI claims it can develop an effective system without the high costs of anti-ship missiles. 

Meanwhile, the Delilah-GL would be a guided missile system, with the same characteristics as most surface-to-ship missile systems. It has almost the same range as most familiar anti-ship missiles, and has the capability of autonomous navigation and go-around, and redesignation of target while in flight. It is also capable of loitering capability and not immediately going to its target when necessary.  


On both the Accular, EXTRA, and Predator Hawk guided rockets, MaxDefense has some doubts on the capability to hit moving, highly defended targets like frigates and destroyers. It is expected that the system will be used against small, fast surface moving targets, cruising at around 30 knots (55 kilometers per hour) which is the maximum speed of most major warships in the neighborhood. Although IMI claims that the rocket can be used to hit moving targets, this is not yet highly proven compared to anti-ship missiles. Even against a fixed target, IMI claims that the hit accuracy CEP is only 10 meters. A moving target will obviously be more difficult to hit and the hit accuracy CEP would probably increase from the claimed 10 meters. That would be enough to increase the miss probability against a frigate-sized warship. To improve its probability of hitting, MaxDefense believes that there will be a need to fire several rockets against a single target.

The IAI/IMI EXTRA 303mm artillery rocket.
Photo taken from IMI's website.

Vietnam bought the EXTRA rocket artillery system to equip their coastal defense artillery forces, but previous discussions by MaxDefense to some Vietnamese military officers last year indicated that the system would not be sufficient enough to destroy enemy ships but would be useful in attacking a large cluster of incoming amphibious assault force using submunitions, or bombarding islands like those in the Spratlys or Paracel Islands. But with the Philippines being a signatory of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, it is expected that the version the PA intends to get will not include such.

A footage from Vietnamese media showing off the coastal artillery unit's EXTRA guided rocket system mounted on a fixed launcher. According to the report, its primary purpose is to defend Vietnam from seaborne landing.

Being a guided rocket system without an autonomous navigation capability, it could be prone to jamming. A few seconds delay in the transmission of information from the targeting system due to jamming could allow the rocket to miss its target by a hundred meters or more. 

While the Delilah-GL is a very good cruise missile, MaxDefense believes that the warhead size is too small. At 30 kilograms or more, it is far from the warhead sizes of most anti-ship cruise missiles in service: Harpoon warhead is at 220 kilograms, the Naval Strike Missile at 125 kilograms, the French Exocet MM-40 at 145 kilograms, the Japanese Type 88 at 225 kilograms, and the upcoming Long Range Anti Ship Missile (LRASM) at 450 kilograms. Even the old AGM-119 Penguin missile has a warhead size of 120 to 130 kilograms. So the Delilah's warhead is somewhere between 4 to 8 times smaller than the usual anti-ship cruise missile! 

The Delilah's warhead size is similar in size as the new Sea Venom, which is scheduled to replace the ageing Sea Skua short range anti-ship missile.

The Delilah cruise missile, which is available in air, ground, or sea-launched variants.
Photo taken from IMI's website.
MBDA's Sea Venom missile, which has a similar warhead size of 30 kilograms.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

Based on the claims by MBDA on the capability of Sea Venom, the 30 kilogram warhead was designed for effective use against, and MaxDefense quotes, "emerging Fast Attack Craft and Fast Inshore Attack Craft ranging between 50 to 500 tons, and traditional corvettes, while only severely damaging or incapacitating larger vessels through precision aim point selection".

Lets say IMI can increase the size of the warhead as they claim, it could be possible that this would affect its maximum effective range. If the Delilah can be configured to carry a 54 kilogram warhead, it would still be too small compared to its anti-ship contemporaries. MaxDefense doubts that the increase would have huge impact in performance against larger ships, and if it still requires precision aim point selection then that would be difficult to do especially if the target is operating within a well protected battlegroup. This problem could be more visible if used against larger ships like large amphibious assault ships and small aircraft carriers which may not even make a sufficient dent as they were designed to take in some damage without affecting too much its primary capabilities.

To summarize the above, the guided rockets may not have the accuracy of anti-ship missiles, while the Delilah-GL cruise missile does not have the punch of purpose built anti-ship cruise missiles. Used in combination, it could inflict damage but could not be enough to be considered a major threat against enemy naval forces.

Cost Issues?

MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Army and the DND knows of the disadvantages of using IMI's CIDS as compared to conventional land-based anti-ship cruise missile systems. But an important factor has been factored in that made them decide on acquiring this system, and MaxDefense believes that it is the cost.

With only around Php 90 billion to spend, the AFP Modernization Program has a really big issue of filling a lot of requirements with a very small budget spread in a long period. Php 6.5 billion is already 7.2% of the budget for the entire AFP, so it might be difficult to justify further allocation without affecting several other projects funded by the Modernization program. 

To give readers a perspective, a good example of a recent acquisition of land based anti-ship missile system is by Poland. In 2014, Poland ordered a second batch of Naval Strike Missile (NSM) Coastal Defense System from Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace of Norway for US$177 million. Although the numbers of launcher systems were not provided, it would definitely be less than their original order worth US$263 million in 2008 to acquire six quadruple truck-mounted missile launchers, two TRS-15M ODRA-M truck mounted radar systems, six fire control and three command vehicles. It also includes 48 NSM missiles.

The NSM Coast Defense System's truck mounted missile launcher together with the truck mounted TRS-15 radar.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

This first order from Poland is already less than the Philippine Army requirement for 12 launchers, but it already exceed by almost twice the budget allocated in the SBMS project. Thus, a SBMS using the Kongsberg NSM Coastal Defense System based on Poland's experience is more than $440 million (around Php19.8 billion) or higher considering inflation due to the initial deal being closed several years ago. That's almost 3 times higher than the budget allocated for the SBMS project!

A cheaper alternative can be seen with Vietnam's acquisition of the K-300P Bastion-P mobile coastal defense missile system from Russia. In 2006, Vietnam acquired a Bastion-P system for $150 million, which is close to the budget the Philippines allocated for the SBMS. But this was in 2006, and if inflation is considered, the deal could be somewhere near to $200-300 million by now. A single Bastion-P system consists of one or two command, control and communications vehicles, up to four self-propelled launch vehicles with two missiles each, and up to 3 reload transport vehicles with 3 missiles each. 

Vietnamese coastal defense troops with their K300P Bastion-P mobile missile launcher vehicle. Each vehicle can carry 2 P-800 Onix (Yakhont) supersonic anti-ship cruise missile.

Does the PA and DND have Php 19.8 billion for the SBMS Project? MaxDefense believes it has none. But can the Philippine government allocate Php 19.8 billion for a similar system as those bought by the Poles? MaxDefense believes the government definitely can, as long as it has the initiative and strong support of the AFP's drive to modernize its capabilities.

Dual Use System:

Another consideration that MaxDefense believes the Philippine Army made is that aside from being a coastal defense asset, the Lynx MLRS system can also be used for land-attack missions using both guided and unguided rockets, and even the Delilah-GL missile. There were previous press releases by the DND that the system would also be used for attack on ground targets. This will definitely improve the Philippine Army's artillery forces capability with the introduction of a rocket artillery capability that is currently not available in its inventory. This would be in-line with plans for the Philippine Army to use its existing artillery systems for secondary use as coastal artillery as part of its doctrines.

MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Army will not be adapting the option to use submunitions on the EXTRA free flight rocket, as the Philippines is among the signatories of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This is among the issues discussed and gave importance by President Aquino during his meeting with the DND and AFP early this year.

In comparison, Vietnam already uses the Lynx, Malaysia and Indonesia both operate the Brazilian ASTROS-II system, Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar all use Soviet era MLRS systems, Thailand uses a mix of homegrown DT-1 and Chinese made systems, while Singapore operates the expensive, American-made HIMARS MLRS system. The presence of Lynx MLRS in its inventory would allow the Philippine Army to be at par with its regional contemporaries.

The Lynx MLRS in its standard form can be used to fire rocket artillery against land targets, which the PA can use when not designated for coastal defense. Photo shows the Lynx armed with the LAR-160 artillery rockets.
Photo taken frim IMI's website.

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MaxDefense's Conclusion:

Although the concern of Lt. Gen. Iriberri is commendable considering his care for his troopers, MaxDefense believes that re-aligning funds from the SBMS project is not the best way. MaxDefense suggests that the Philippine Army first realize the earlier projects to acquire Force Protection Equipment that would allow them to acquire around 36,000 units for the PA and almost 10,000 units for the Philippine Marine Corps. The Army already has existing inventory of force protection equipment by the thousands, so if fully utilized, they can have almost 50,000 troops (more than 50% of the Army's full troop numbers) with the equipment. 

The Philippine Army can again request for more protection systems, this time to include not only armored vests, but also better kevlar helmets, boots, goggles, vest-integrated carriers, knee and elbow protection, and other infantry provisions in the next phase of the AFP Modernization Program. And to fully keep our troops safe from IED and roadside bomb threats, consider acquiring more MRAP or MRAP-like armored vehicles designed to protect troops against these threats. 

It would be very easy to conclude that the Philippine Army will need something better than the IMI Coastal & Island Defense System. But it would actually be the Philippine government, not the Philippine Army, that could make it possible to acquire an anti-ship cruise missile battery. This is possible if the Philippine government could increase its funding to allow the PA to consider acquiring them. But this is too late for now, with the government already curtailing spending as election season starts from October this year. 

There can be 3 choices for now, either: 
- proceed to acquire the IMI CIDS based on the Lynx MLRS, enough to equip at least 3 batteries of 4 mobile launchers each;
- consider acquiring a coastal defense system based on anti-ship missiles, but only enought to equip a battery or 2 underequipped batteries;
- request additional funding through special means, either by diverting funds from other projects of the AFP Modernization Program or by external sources, but this could take more time and might not allow the DND to close a deal before it can be considered a midnight deal by October 2015.

MaxDefense believes that the first 2 options can be made.

Is there still hope?

MaxDefense believes that there is still hope, but the chances are slim considering that the DND and AFP does not give emphasis on acquiring Russian weapons systems like the Bastion-P. The most possible the Philippines can get a true anti-ship missile battery is from India with its BrahMos coastal missile battery. But with the Indian offer dismissed before for reasons that cannot be disclosed to the public, the chances for an AShM option is very slim.

Then there is the issue of DND officials being critical to offers made by IMI, as reported previously by some controvertial and unreliable media personalities and newspaper group, wherein IMI's appointed company to represent them in the Philippines was said to be very close to certain DND officials. Although until now this is still considered hearsay until proven in courts, MaxDefense believes that this could also be another possibility.

India's BrahMos is really the best and most possible option against the Lynx, but that will depend if  India can make the offer more affordable, and if the DND can even put their attention on the offer.
Photo taken from

MaxDefense sources confirmed that recently, the DND has been open again in offers made by several anti-ship cruise missile manufacturers, but it has not been confirmed if these offers are for the SBMS project, or for other naval and air force projects that will require them in the near future. 

For the Philippine Navy alone, there are the requirement for the new frigates which are expected to be awarded to a shipbuilder soon; a system for exisiting PN ships like the Gregorio del Pilar-class, Jacinto-class, and some others; and a small short range system to be considered for the Anti-Submarine Helicopter project. The Philippine Air Force will probably start considering their own acquisition as well to equip the planned Long Range Patrol Aircraft and possibly the P-3C Orions it is negotiating with Japan.

MaxDefense hopes that whatever decision made by the DND to acquire for the SBMS project, must be effective enough to provide the country with a A2/AD capability while still considering to acquire a superior system and/or additional units to cover more areas of the country as part of the next phase of the AFP Modernization Program.

July 5, 2015:
MaxDefense wants to clarify the issue being brought out by a certain defense forum regarding the release of information on the Shore Based Missile System project, which was made by MaxDefense on July 4, 2015.

First off, MaxDefense is familiar with the concept of secrecy especially in divulging any information related to the defense capability or procurement of the country. Just because MaxDefense is not divulging its sources and is not working together with these defense forums, doesn't mean that MaxDefense sources aren't reliable or capable of knowing what information can be released or not.

Secondly, the information released by MaxDefense regarding this project has nothing to do with MaxDefense sources, because all the information were based on information already released to the public via news reports or press releases made by the DND and AFP / Philippine Army themselves. Aside from news reports and press releases, MaxDefense made use of information coming from online sources, like the product list and press releases by IMI, defense and security related websites, and other online sources that can be accessed on the blog entry by clicking the phases that are in green

As early as 2013, there were already limited information that the PA is planning to acquire the SBMS project either via limited bidding or government-to-government process. It was also the media who released the information that the company involved is Israel Military Industries (IMI) even though there were already indication that IMI was among those who offered their systems to the DND.

With IMI involved, it is impossible that only MaxDefense can make such conclusion that the CIDS was involved. Even people who are familiar with defense products can know that there is only 1 product that IMI can provide, and that is the Coastal & Island Defense System that IMI has been publicly offering since 2013. MaxDefense has NOT CONFIRMED that this is exactly what the DND is acquiring for the Army, and MaxDefense has NOT CONFIRMED that the information on CIDS came from any source. It is a product of research, experience, and analysis of MaxDefense. Let us not assume that MaxDefense is too smart and other people are too dumb to not know about this, not in this era of internet and social media.

Third, other than those released by MaxDefense to the public, there are any other information about the SBMS, the issues involving it including the reasons of delay, and the plan of CG-PA to re-align the budget because these information are not yet publicly released by the DND, PA, any government agency, or by any press reports. Although MaxDefense is expecting more information to be released very soon, it will not be MaxDefense that will initiate these public releases.

And lastly, MaxDefense will respect any decision by the DND or AFP to take down the blog entry should they find it too revealing. 

MaxDefense will be continuously updating this blog entry as necessary. Thank you for your continued support of MaxDefense.

July 7, 2015:
The news is finally out to the public. Inquirer has finally posted more details of the re-alignment project discussed in the blog entry earlier. It was MaxDefense policy not to be the first one to break such news to the public.

MaxDefense will be discussing more on this issue on the next blog entry which will augment our earlier one.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Philippine Air Force Flight Plan 2028 - A Mid-Year 2015 Progress Update on the PAF's Horizon 1 & 2 Asset Acquisition and Bases Development

Previously, MaxDefense discussed the Philippine Air Force's (PAF) medium term goal (2015-2022) under their organization plan titled PAF Flight Plan 2028. Most of the entry was devoted to the PAF's equipment acquisition and organizational changes until 2022 that will allow the establishment to achieve their goals to build a capability to detect, identify, intercept, and neutralize intrusions in the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone from Area Readiness 4 to 3 by 2022. For those who weren't able to follow, you may read our earlier blog entry by clicking the links below:

The Philippine Air Force's Medium Term "Flight Plan" for an Effective Air Defense Capability


Other Acquisition Plans of the Philippine Air Force for its Medium Term "Flight Plan"

The advancement of the flight plan as of mid-2015 has produced modest results so far, with the program still in the early stages and is still about to gain traction.

This blog entry is a mid-year 2015 update on the progress made by the PAF in accordance to its Flight Plan 2028's acquisition of assets and bases development. Other factors of the Flight Plan like doctrines, training, human resources, and others are not discussed here.

KAI FA-50 and Munitions Acquisitions:

The PAF ordered 12 FA-50 from KAI, with the 1st 2 units expected to arrive either December 2015 or January 2016.

The PAF initially reported in the past that the first 2 units of the FA-50 lead-in fighter trainers it ordered from South Korea's KAI will be delivered by early December 2015, but it will depend on the capability of KAI to meet the schedule. Recent PAF information releases shows that there might be some changes in this, which could see the first 2 FA-50 delivered as late as the end of January 2016. The rest of the 10 units will be delivered by batches from 2016 until 2017.

Pilot training was provided for 3 PAF pilots with high flying time and experience with the PAF's AS-211 Warrior light jet aircraft. Pilot training was done at KAI's facility in Sacheon City, and in ROKAF's 1st Fighter Wing at Gwangju Air Base and 16th Fighter Wing at Yecheon Air Base. Ground crew training for maintenance will also be provided to existing Air Defense Wing personnel, which is scheduled from June to November 2015 in South Korea.

Officials from the Philippines led by President Benigno Aquino III (center) during the group's visit to view the KAI FA-50 at an airbase in Busan, South Korea in December 2014.

The DND and PAF is also expecting to award the contracts with a combined worth of around Php 4.5 billion ($99 million) to supply air launched munitions for the FA-50 by September 2015, if all issues regarding budget and procurement can be cleared by Malacanang and the DND before August 2015. Among those in the acquisition are short range air-to-air missiles on the same category or better than the Sidewinder AIM-9L/I-1 that was originally planned, air-to-ground missiles like the AGM-65 Maverick, 20mm cannon ammo, and countermeasures including chaffs and flares. No confirmation yet though if the air-to-air munitions will include medium-range beyond visual range (BVR) missiles similar to the Derby missile.

The AIM-9L/I-1 Sidewinder (above) is the so-called natural choice of the PAF for the FA-50's requirement for short range air-to-air missile, although it is still unclear if the PAF is open to award a contract to other missile systems like the Israeli Python missile.
Photo taken from Wikicommons.

Air Defense Surveillance Radar System Acquisition:

The DND has already awarded the contract for 3 air defense surveillance radar systems to IAI-Elta of Israel for the Elta ELM-2288 AD-STAR system. It is not expected for the radars to be in the country within the year, but the first system could be delivered and online by 2nd quarter of 2016. As part of the deal, a gap filler radar is expected to be fielded by the PAF using a radar system provided by IAI-Elta as part of the deal. Originally MaxDefense posted that this radar system will be used to help secure the airspace as part of the APEC Summit in November, so it is expected that the system will be activated before November 2015.

The IAI-Elta ELM-2288 AD-STAR air defense surveillance radar system.
Photo taken from IAI-Elta website.

Long Range Patrol Aircraft Acquisition:

Currently, the re-bidding for the acquisition of 2 units Long Range Patrol Aircraft (LRPA) has not yet started as of this writing, without formal confirmation from the PAF on the reason why. But recent agreements between the Philippine government and the US and Japanese governments might have an impact on this project. Previous press reports indicated that the both the US and Japanese governments may provide the Philippines of used and refurbished Lockheed P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, either by grant or sale. There was previous information indicating the possibility of the Americans providing between 1 or 2 units, while Japan may provide somewhere between 2 to 4 units. If traced back to the PAF's Flight Plan 2028, the PAF is planning to acquire 4 LRPA in 2 batches, targetted to arrive by 2016 and 2020, respectively.

Should the plan to acquire P-3C Orion from either the US and/or Japan comes to fruition, it is expected that the PAF and DND may totally cancel the acquisition of new platforms, subject to the performance and longetivity of the P-3s and availability of additional funds after 2020.

Japan and the US are being touted to provide the Philippines with the Lockheed P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, either by sale or grant, to improve the maritime surveillance and domain awareness capability of the country.

Repair of PAF Air Bases and Air Stations:

Several existing facilities of the PAF are slated, or are currently undergoing repair and rehabilitation as part of the Flight Plan, to enable them to accept the upcoming new PAF assets.

Among those already in the advance stages are the basing facilities for Search and Rescue (SAR) units of the PAF at Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan and the Sanga-Sanga Air Station in Tawi-Tawi which were awarded last year.

Also being prepared is the new base for the 15th Strike Wing, which is scheduled to vacate their home base at Antonio Bautista Air Base (Sangley Point) in Cavite to give way to civilian development. The unit will be transfering to the Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro, which was transfered to PAF after civilian traffic was permanently transfered to the new Laguindingan Airport.

Other basing projects are being prepared to accommodate several new upcoming assets:

1. Antonio Bautista Air Base (Palawan), Basa Air Base (Pampanga), and Subic International Airport (Zambales) will be prepared and refitted to accomodate air defense aviation assets, which will include the AS-211, the FA-50, the future MRF. It is also expected that all 3 air bases will also benefit from construction work related to the PH-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which is still waiting for approval with the Supreme Court, and possibly the Philippine Senate.

Subic Intenational Airport is expected to be turned-over to the Philippine Air Force to host air defense and territorial defense assets due to its close proximity to the West Philippine Sea conflict areas.
Photo taken from Philippine Airspace blogsite.

2. The facilities at the Paredes Air Station in Ilocos Norte, Gozar Air Station in Lubang Island, and Salakot Air Station in Palawan were chosen to accept the first batch of Air Defense Surveillance Radar systems from Israel. It was reported previously that these air stations will be undergoing repair and rehabilitation works to enable the acceptance of new radar systems, as well as other support systems related to its function.

This is how Gozar Air Station looks like in the late 1960s when the Americans were helping the Philippine Air Force maintain the facility. Today it is in poor shape and requires rehabilitation work.
Photo taken from

3. Fernando Air Base (Batangas), Antonio Bautista Air Base (Palawan), and Edwin Andrews Air Base (Zamboanga) are scheduled for improvements to accomodate Long Range Patrol Aircraft / Maritime Patrol Aircraft assets, which includes erection of additional hangar and support facilities. The bases are expected to be partially ready by 2016.

4. Ground Based Missile Air Defense assets will also be requiring their own facilities, and the initial bases to receive these assets are the Paredes Air Station (Ilocos Norte), Gozar Air Station (Lubang Island), and Basa Air Base (Pampanga). The missile systems will be working hand-in-hand with the Air Defense Surveillance Radar, while at the same time are expected to defend these radar and air defense facilities from air attacks.

The PAF's upcoming 780th Ground Base Air Defense Group is scheduled to receive guided missile air defense systems to defend air bases and radar sites from air attacks. 

5. Command and Control Facilities will be erected at the PAF Headquarters in Villamor Air Base, and will probably connected to the C4ISTAR system being developed for the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines.

6. Basing support systems will be improved together with the improvement of the airstrip and facilities at the Rancudo Air Station in Pag-asa Island, Kalayaan Group of Islands in the West Philippine Sea. Currently the runway is in poor condition, and plans to repair it has not been moving forward due to the government policy in relation to its case with the United Nations against China.

7. The use of Crow Valley Gunnery Range in Tarlac for aerial gunnery and bombing practice will be reimplemented, aside from the use of the range for ground military training and testing purposes. The Flight Plan includes a program on rehabilitating the facility for air force use.

Crow Valley Gunnery Range in Tarlac, as seen during the 1980s before the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. The facility will be rehabilitated by the PAF for aerial gunnery and target bombing training purposes.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

Reactivation of the 105th Fighter Training Squadron and 5th Fighter Wing:

The PAF is scheduled to reactivate the 105th Fighter Training Squadron (105th FTS), which is the primary unit tasked to train pilots that are to be assigned to fly air defense aircraft like the AS-211 and FA-50. The unit previously operated T-33 Shooting Star and S-211 trainer jets in the past to prepare pilots to fly the F-5A/B Freedom Fighter and other PAF fighter aircraft in the past. It was expected that the activiation could be made by May 2015, although there is no confirmation yet if this was realized by now.

To consolidate its air defense aircraft assets, the PAF is also on its way to reactivate the 5th Fighter Wing (5th FW), its foremost air defense unit since the PAF's inception, to replace the current Air Defense Wing. This could become a reality by 2016. The 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron will return back to the 5th FW, and is expected to be the unit to receive the FA-50s. Like before, the 5th FW will be based in Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga, although they would also be expected to operate from other bases including the Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, and the Subic International Airport in Zambales, which is expected to be converted to a PAF air base with emphasis on territorial defense.

The PAF will revive the defunct 5th Fighter Wing to replace the Air Defense Wing. The 6th Tactical Fighter Squadron will be returned back to the unit, together with the reactivation of the 105th Fighter Training Squadron

Horizon 2 Asset Acquisitions:

The PAF has already started the acquisition planning for several assets that will be acquired as part of the Flight Plan's Horizon 2 phase, which is from 2017-2022. The PAF expects the acquisition planning for at least 6 systems to be completed by end of June 2015, and the procurement stage to proceed afterwards. Procurement for these systems may depend, and could either be by negotiated procurement or by public tender.

1. Ground Based Air Defense System:

With the formation of the 780th Ground Based Air Defense Group (780th GBADG) and the basing facilities in several PAF facilities to house the unit's assets, it is now expected that the PAF will be acquiring missile-based air defense systems. Previous press releases by the DND, AFP, and PAF pointed out to at least two systems: the SPYDER (Surface-to-Air PYthon & DERby) system from Rafael and IAI of Israel, and the Hawk XXI from US company Raytheon. Other systems were reportedly offered but official confirmations were not made as to what models were among those considered by the PAF or DND. There is no confirmed choice yet as of this writing, and anything can happen even after previous reports of interest from the DND, AFP, or PAF existed. MaxDefense previously covered the possibility of acquiring the SPYDER in a blog entry dated June 18, 2013.

3 systems are planned for acquisition by 2016, and another 3 systems are to be acquired by 2020. Each system will be based on one of the PAF's air bases or air stations, and are assigned to defend PAF facilities and nearby areas from air attacks.

2. Heavy Lift Helicopters:

To improve the helilift capability of the PAF, the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing will be diversifying their fleet aside from its light combat utility helicopters by adding heavy lift helicopters into its inventory. Much empahsis was given by the PAF's lack of large helicopters that could carry huge amounts of cargo and personnel to areas without airfields as shown during the rescue and relief operations after the Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in 2013. The PAF relied on US Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey to carry heavier load on affected areas, releagating the PAF's small UH-1H Huey and the Canadian Armed Forces CH-146 Griffon (similar to what the PAF's upcoming Bell 412EP) to lighter duties.

Great consideration will be on the helicopter's ability to load and unload cargo and men from a rear ramp, a feature present on two choices being eyed by the PAF if they decide to go brand new: the Boeing CH-47 Chinook of the US, and the AgustaWestland AW-101 from the UK. 2 units are eyed for procurement by 2019, and another 2 by 2022, although MaxDefense believes that the numbers and the schedule could change depending on funding and future decisions by the PAF to prioritize this project in anticipation of more HADR missions from natual disasters. It is also still unclear if the PAF will consider acquiring refurbished units due to the greater numbers it could acquire as compared to new ones using the same budget. 

Previously, Boeing announced a global offer to sell refurbished and modernized CH-47 Chinooks to friendly countries at a considerably lower price than their new CH-47F. The PAF could be among the possible buyers.

The Boeing CH-47F Chinook could be among those being eyed by the PAF for its heavy lift helicopter requirement should they consider new builds. If they prefer refurbished, Boeing could also offer refurbished ex-US Army CH-47Ds as a cheaper alternative.
Photo taken from Boeing's website.

3. Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft Acquisition:

As the FA-50 comes into service and prepare PAF's pilots into flying more advanced combat aircraft, the PAF has also started the acquisition planning to acquire multi-role fighters (MRF). Originally the PAF Flight Plan 2028 indicated a requirement to order an additional 12 SAA/LIFT aircraft, possibly more FA-50 from KAI, to beef up the PAF's requirements. But that could change due to the FA-50's limited capability compared to contemporary fighter aircraft fielded by its neighbors, particularly China. 

The FA-50, as discussed in several forums including in MaxDefense, is considered a bridge for the PAF from its existing aircraft and technology to modern fighter aircraft. Its size has affected a lot of performance factors, limiting the aircraft to light combat aircraft capable of air policing, point interception, and ground attack roles. Even South Korea will only be using the FA-50 to replace the F-5E/F Tiger II, while replacement for the F-4 Phantoms will be of a more capable type. 

The FA-50 has a limited range, limited carrying capacity, limited weapons compatibility, limited radar range and technology, and can be considered as totally substandard compared to larger, more expensive, and more capable fighter aircraft. This could become a deciding factor in the PAF's decision to skip acquiring more SAA/LIFT and instead start investing in acquiring multi-role fighters.

As reported by the PAF, they are about to finish the acquisition planning by the end of June 2015 and will be deciding soon on how the DND could implement the acquisition by either negotiated bid or through public tender. If the PAF will replace more SAA/LIFTs with the MRF, then they expect the PAF to have its new fighters by 2019. Should this happen, it is expected that the PAF may initially acquire 12 units, and may order another 12 units a few years later as part of its Horizon 2 (2017-2022) phase. 

Recently, Saab reported that the PAF has asked questions regarding their JAS-39 Gripen, but admitted that no formal process has started yet. Saab has been active in pushing their Gripen, and has been present in several of the PAF's annual Air Power Sympotiums and at ADAS 2014. 

Saab eyes the Philippines as a possible JAS-39 Gripen user, boasting of its low acquisition, maintenance, and operating costs,  STOL, quick turn-around rate, and ease of maintenance as its main points.

MaxDefense also expects American companies to push hard for their wares should the DND and PAF confirm an existing MRF acqusition project, with Boeing expected to bring their F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and Lockheed Martin their F-16C/D Blk. 52 or F-16V. 

Due to pricing, MaxDefense believes that other European offers like the Eurofighter and the Dassault Rafale will probably pass on this project. This could change, however, if easy payment schemes, counter-trade, or alternative payments sponsored by the manufacturer's government could be offered and is acceptable to the Philippine government, similar to what France offered to Egypt when they accepted to acquire Rafales, its munitions, and FREMM frigates for the Egyptian Air Force and Navy. A Russian offer might be possible from either MAPO-MiG and Sukhoi, but MaxDefense highly doubts the PAF's interests on such.

Lockheed Martin is expected to offer their F-16C/D Blk. 52 or F-16V Viper should the PAF open a MRF acquisition project.
Photo taken from Lockheed Martin.

4. Aerial Early Warning and Control System Acquisition:

Another important project to fill in the gaps of the air defense capabilities of the PAF is for the acquisition of Aerial Early Warning and Control System (AEWACS) system. This is expected to be operated by the 300th Air Intelligence and Security Group (300th AISG)

The Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.
Photo from Kevin Whitehead - Jetwash Images c/o

MaxDefense received information that among the strongest offers were those made by Saab for its Erieye AEWC system, which Saab is offering together with its JAS-39 Gripen. Should Saab captures the MRF project, it is expected that a counter-offer involving the Erieye AEWC system could be provided by Saab, similar to what they provided to Thailand. 

Also a possible strong contender due to its recent wins in the Philippine military is IAI-Elta, which recently also have agreements with Airbus to supply the AEWC AESA radar systems for the C-295AEWC variant. With the PAF already a C-295 operator, its not far fetched for them to choose the Airbus-Elta offer.

An American offer could also be possible, with the Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, which was recently sold to Japan and is being actively marketed in the Asia Pacific region. 

Another possible offer could come from India, with their newly developed AEWC by India's Defence Research & Develpment Organization, which it recently showed-off using an Embraer ERJ-145 business jet platform.  

The PAF could have the choice of aircraft platform it wishes to use, and MaxDefense believes that Airbus' C-295 and Embraer's R-99 (EMJ-145) could be strong platform contenders, given Embraer's strong position to bag the pending Close Air Support Aircraft (CASA) project of the PAF. 

India has developed a new indigenous AEWC system, installed on an Embraer ERJ-145 business jet designated as a R-99 replacing the Saab Erieye.
Photo taken from AIN Online website.

5. Unmanned Aerial System and C2 Center:

The PAF has also released information on the impending completion of the acquisition planning for an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) and Command and Control (C2) Center. The PAF also expects the acqusition planning to be completed by June 2015, although no definite deadline was announced on when they expect these assets to be in service.

The UAS could supplement the different surveillance systems presently available or being acquired by the PAF and the AFP as a whole. Being a maritime country with no land borders, it is expected that any UAS system will take maritime surveillance as its main role, assisting the LRPA/MPA assets of both the PAF and PN (yes, the PN are still expected to use their BN-2 Islander limited MPA) in detecting surface targets. 

Previously Elbit Systems of Israel presented the PAF with an offer to use its Maritime Hermes 900 UAS as maritime patrol assets, gaining positive response from PAF and PN representatives. 

Elbit previously presented the Hermess 900 Maritime Patrol UAS to the Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy for their maritime patrol requirements, either as a stand-alone asset, or to complement other maritime patrol aircraft assets.
Photo taken from Elbit System's website.

The C2 Center will be used to closely coordinate and control all PAF aerial assets, radar systems, airbases and air stations from its headquarters in Villamor Air Base. It is also expected to be interconnected with the AFP's C4ISTAR system which the AFP intends to acquire very soon. This enables the AFP to have total control of all its units and assets during operations.

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Being a mid-2015 report, this analysis is still subject to change, still being in the early part of the entire Flight Plan. But it is expected that the PAF will be using this to chart their course of action in the near future in a similar fashion as the Philippine Navy's Sail Plan 2020. So MaxDefense advices its readers to take this interpretation of the PAF Flight Plan 2028's mid-2015 report as dependent on the PAF and may not be 100% accurate.

Although the plan looks good, the PAF should also consider the threat at hand, with China already banging its feet inside Philippine EEZ and interests in the West Philippine Sea. Instead of being too reliant on this Flight Plan, MaxDefense believes that the PAF should also consider an alternative option emphasizing on a faster phased modernization dependent on the DND and AFP high command's ability to push its goals to the National Government (Executive and Legislative). Although it is already unexpected for the Aquino administrtion to do something better than what is already laid beforehand, the PAF should push harder for more funding and support to hasten its modernization and strengthening in the face of Chinese aggression.