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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Philippine Air Force set to receive delivery of several new air and ground assets within 2020

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is expecting several new assets to arrive in the next few weeks, which will certainly boost the overall capability of the service considering its limited number of assets.

Delays on delivery were encountered on all of them due to a variety of reasons, with COVID-19 the most obvious and unintentional.

Here are the air assets that we can expect to arrive soon:

1. Refurbished upgraded C-130 Hercules Heavy Tactical Airlifters from US EDAs:
The acquisition of refurbished and upgraded Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft, together with Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package, is among those included in the Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects that was given in-principle approval by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte in June 2018.

Originally, the plan calls for the acquisition of a single C-130H/T Hercules heavy tactical transport aircraft from US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) at an overall cost of Php2,080,000,000.00. The huge budget is due mostly to the upgraded avionics, the spares and logistics support, and other ancillary costs rather than the airframe itself.

Air transport has long been a problem of the PAF, and the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) Philippines has recommended to the US Department of Defense to assist the PAF in building this capability.

For this project, the US stepped in to assist by providing assistance through US Foreign Military Financing (FMF program, which now allowed the PAF to acquire two (2) refurbished and upgrade C-130 Hercules aircraft instead of just one. The overall cost of the project went up to Php2.5 billion, but the PAF is now just shouldering around Php1.6 billion, while the US Department of Defense paid for Php900 million worth of the project. This allowed the PAF a savings of around Php400 million which is was able to use in other modernization projects that encountered shortfall in funding.

The original delivery date for the C-130s was supposed to have happened earlier, with the first aircraft expected in early 2019, and the second aircraft before the end of 2019. This was confirmed in a speech made by former Commanding General Philippine Air Force (CGPAF) Lt. Gen. Galileo Kintanar (ret) in September 2018, and again reiterated in another speech during the service's Christmas Party in December 2018.

MaxDefense sources confirmed that the reason for delays was because of the delayed release of funding from the Philippine government, which has always been a problem in most modernization projects.

The Department of National Defense (DND) confirmed in a press release last week that based on their status reports, the first C-130 Hercules will be arriving within July 2020, and the second will arrive before the end of 2020.

Since the statement was based on a status report rather than an updated field information, there is still possibility that the arrival of the first aircraft will be delayed as COVID-19 has made things difficult globally. Although at best, we can still possibly expect its arrival within this 3rd quarter of 2020.

The arrival of these C-130s will certainly boost the PAF's existing fleet of three (3) operational C-130s operated by the Mactan-based 220th Airlift Wing, although only 2 aircraft are available at any given time since the third unit, a C-130T, is undergoing Inspection and Repair As Necessary (IRAN) procedures in Europe. The PAF also has a non-operational 1960s model C-130B which is expected to be retired from service soon, and a written off C-130H, which was cannibalized for parts after suffering damage from a fire in 2019.

One of the PAF's C-130T Hercules, which is a former US Marine Corps KC-130T, refurbished, upgraded and acquired by the PAF but without the refuelling capability. Photo credits to Jon Melo through

2. Brand new Embraer A-29B Super Tucano close air support aircraft:
The PAF is expecting the arrival and delivery of six (6) Embraer A-29B Super Tucano close air support aircraft from Brazil.

These aircraft were acquired under the PAF's Close Air Support Aircraft (CASA) Acquisition Project, which is part of the Horizon 1 Phase Priority Projects, and are meant to complement the PAF's existing fleet of Rockwell OV-10A/C Bronco attack aircraft and Aermacchi SF-260TP armed trainers with the 15th Strike Wing.

The aircraft were originally meant to start delivery by late 2019 for the first batch of three (3) aircraft, and the second batch by early 2020. But Embraer encountered issues and requested for time extension that will allow them to start delivery by February 2020, which the DND allowed.

A-29B Super Tucanos of the Afghan Air Force. Photo credits to the US Air Force.

It was later on delayed further due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, which further pushed the delivery date. Several dates were proposed but it was pushed back as well. 

The DND has announced in a press release last week that the aircraft are expected to be delivered to the PAF by 29 July 2020 based on the same status report as mentioned on the C-130 thread above. But MaxDefense has doubts on this since we received information from PAF and foreign sources that 2 countries that were supposed to provide transit to the 6 aircraft have declined on the transit plans.

The aircraft were supposed to have their 2nd technical stop in Marrakech, Morocco, but the Moroccan authorities have only allowed a fuel stop and not an overnight stay for the pilots. Meanwhile MaxDefense also received info the India, which was supposed to be the flight's 6th stop, also declined although it is still unclear if they declined a stop or an overnight stay for the pilots.

If these stops were declined, it would push back the delivery date by a few days at best, although MaxDefense is still hoping that these countries would provide solutions to allow the pilots involved in the delivery to rest.

An A-29B Super Tucano of the Colombian Air Force. Credits to original source of photo.

MaxDefense also wondered why Embraer did not allow for a delivery using large transport aircraft like those Antonovs used during delivery of other air assets to the PAF. MaxDefense sources confirmed that the contract cost did not allow for this, which is said to be more expensive than flying the 6 aircraft halfway around the world.

Another issue that remains to be seen is the availability of the wing-mounted internal machine guns, which are originally from Belgium's FN Herstal. Last year MaxDefense received confirmation from sources that this is one of Embraer's problems since the Philippines has been imposed with an arms sales restriction by the Belgian government, specifically the Walloon Region where FN Herstal is based. The Walloon Government is a major shareholder FN Herstal.

It was confirmed to MaxDefense that Embraer would source the machine guns from somewhere else, although it may not be delivered with the aircraft should deliveries proceed in late 2019 and early 2020. But since the delays pushed the delivery of all aircraft to July-August 2020, it is possible that the machine guns were already acquired and installed on the aircraft.

The aircraft will be operated by the 16th Attack Squadron, 15th Strike Wing, which is now operating the SF-260TP armed trainers. It previously operated the OV-10 Bronco, but apparently a switch was made between the 2 squadrons, literally all members of each squadron as well as their assets were switched. 

The new Super Tucanos will be assigned together with the SF-260TP Warrior armed trainers of the 16th Attack Squadron (formerly 17th Attack Squadron). Photo credits to Philippine Air Force,

As explained to MaxDefense, the 16th Attack Squadron now operates all single-engine fixed wing attack aircraft, so the A-29Bs and SF-260TPs would be combined, while the OV-10s being twin engine aircraft are re-assigned to the 17th Attack Squadron. Eventually the SF-260TP armed trainers will be relegated to combat training roles, while the OV-10 Broncos will be retired most likely between 2022 to 2024, as the PAF plans to acquire more A-29B Super Tucano aircraft in the future.

The aircraft to be delivered will have the following temporary serial numbers: PT-ZZU, PT-ZZS, PT-ZZQ, PT-ZZO, PT-ZZN, and PT-ZZM

An A-29BB Super Tucano bound for the PAF and in PAF colors, with temporary serial number PT-ZZM, was seen conducting flight tests in Brazil last year. Photo credited to Brazilian planespotter Leonardo Santana.

3. Brand new Sikorsky S-70i Blackhawk combat utility helicopters:
Another new capability will be arriving soon with the Philippine Air Force, and these are the Sikorsky S-70i Blackhawk combat utility helicopters for the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing.

These helicopters were acquired under the Combat Utility Helicopter (Phase 3) Acquisition Project, which is also part of the Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects under RAPFMP. They are built in Poland by Sikorsky's subsidiary, PZL Mielec.

Although 16 units were ordered under a US$241.461 million deal, only the first batch of six (6) units will arrive this year. The rest of the orders will be delivered to the PAF in 2021. Take note that these are COMBAT UTLITY HELICOPTERS and are not related to the Armed Blackhawks offered by Sikorsky for the PAF's Attack Helicopter (Phase 2) Acquisition Project

While an exact delivery date is still unavailable, MaxDefense believes that they will start arriving by August 2020, based on the availability of photos of the helicopters conducting flight tests in Poland. Also as seen on the photo below, it appears that at least one of the helicopters has already been completely painted and most likely completed flight tests, and was readied for delivery.

One of the 6 S-70i Blackhawk helicopters for delivery this year, appears to be ready for delivery. Photo credits to Polish planespotting group EPRZ.

Originally Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana mentioned that the PAF would get the first batch of 2 helicopters before the end of 2019, but this did not push through since the deal was not signed earlier than expected, putting the PAF orders in a queue after those of the Polish government's orders.

So far MaxDefense has not heard of any issues regarding the deliveries, which is actually good news. 

MaxDefense would like to take this opportunity to post photos of shared by Polish aviation photographer Marcin Bobro, which were exclusively shared to MaxDefense Philippines. The aircraft involved is one of the incoming 6 units for delivery this year.

S-70i Blackhawk bound for the Philippine Air Force with temporary serial number SP-YVC conducting flight tests in Mielec, Poland. All photos credited to Polish planespotter Marcin Bobro, who is a MaxDefense Philippines community member.

4. Elbit Systems Hermes 900 medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles

Among the incoming air assets, this is the only one that already has partial delivery made earlier, and that the rest of the orders will be coming in before the end of 2020.

We’re talking about the Elbit Systems Hermes 900 medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (MALE UAVs), wherein the first batch of 3 units forming a complete system were already delivered to the PAF starting late 2019.

Six (6) more Hermes 900 UAVs in 2 systems, including all their associated components and support equipment were confirmed by the PAF in their latest service news magazine to be arriving before yearend.

These are currently the most advanced surveillance platforms in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), as it invest heavily on unmanned platforms for surveillance purposes. 

The acquisition of the Hermes 900 is part of the PAF’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Acquisition Project, which is also part of the Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects of the RAFPMP.  Aside from the Hermes 900, Elbit Systems also delivered a complete system using the smaller Hermes 450.

These UAVs will be operated by the PAF’s 300th Air Intelligence and Security Wing, which also operates the manned Cessna 208BEX Grand Caravan ISR aircraft and three groups of Boeing Insitu ScanEagle II small UAVs.

The first two Hermes 900 UAVs of the PAF (other one in the background, tail only shown. Serial numbers 9001 and 9002. Photo shared exclusively to MaxDefense.

5. Aviation Engineering Equipment:
Aside from air assets, there are also several land assets that will be delivered to the Philippine Air Force. Majority of which are engineering equipment acquired under the PAF's Aviation Engineering Equipment Acquisition Project, which is also a Horizon 2 Phase Priority Project that will boost the capabilities of the 355th Engineering Wing.

These assets would be used to construct and maintain PAF bases and facilities, while also allowing assistance during emergencies.

Out of the 32 lots, at least 20 of them were already awarded to winning proponents, majority of which have a delivery deadline before the end of 2020. 

6. Raytheon AIM-9L/I-1 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles:
Also scheduled for delivery are more Raytheon AIM-9L/I-1 Sidewinder short range air-to-air missiles, as part of the PAF's Fighter/Surface Attack Aircraft/Lead-in Fighter Trainer (F/SAA/LIFT) Munitions Acquisition Project Lot 1 - Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles under the Horizon 1 Phase Priority Projects of RAFPMP.

The delivery for these missiles, which are manufacturer in Germany by Diehl Raytheon Missile Systeme GmbH, are already delayed since they should have had completed their deliveries by February 2020. 

MaxDefense also have reasons to believe that among the reasons for the delay was due to testing failure related to of a certain lot of missiles bound for the PAF, which pushed Diehl Raytheon to manufacture and test another lot to meet quality standards.

These missiles will be used by the 5th Fighter Wing to arm their KAI FA-50PH Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft, although these missiles could also be used by the PAF's upcoming fleet of A-29B Super Tucanos for limited air-to-air combat capabilty.

The AIM-9 Sidewinder family was already leading on the PAF's evaluation early on even before procurement phase started. Credits to original source of photo.
Project Summaries:

C-130H Hercules with Avionics Upgrade and ILS Acquisition Project

Note: edit as of 10 July 2020

* End User: Philippine Air Force (220th Airlift Wing)

Quantity: 2 aircraft

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php2,080,000,000.00

Acquisition Mode: US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) Program

* Source of Funding: Majority through GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund,paid via Multi-Year Obligatory Allocations (MYOA), and US FMF funding.

* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: US Department of Defense

Product for Delivery: C-130H Hercules heavy tactical transport aircraft, refurbished and upgraded by US-designated contractor.

* Contract Price: approx. Php2,500,000,000.00, but PAF only paid Php1,600,000,000.00.

* First post by MaxDefense: August 2018

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag/s: #PAFC130Acqisition 

Status: Originally scheduled for delivery starting early 2019, delays pushed delivery to 2020. DND confirmed delivery of 1st aircraft by July 2020, 2nd aircraft before end of 2020.

One of the PAF's C-130T acquired from US EDA. Credit to original source of photo.

Close Air Support Acquisition Project

Note: edit as of 10 July 2020

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

Quantity: 6 aircraft

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 1 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php4,968,000,000.00

Acquisition Mode: Public Bidding

* Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund,paid via Multi-Year Obligatory Allocations (MYOA) process

* SARO Release: 
  - SARO-BMB-D-17-0015476 dated 25 September 2017 (1st tranche payment) worth Php730,889,700.00, released 25 September 2017;
  - SARO-BMB-D-19-0003657 dated 16 May 2019 (final tranche covering 2nd and 3rd tranche) worth Php4,141,708,300.00, released 17 May 2019 

* Winning Proponent: Embraer S.A (Brazil)

Product for Delivery: Embraer EMB-412 (A-29B) Super Tucano

* Contract Price: Php4,872,598,000.00.

* First post by MaxDefense: 11 July 2013

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag/s: #PAFCASAcquisition #PAFACASAAcquisition

Status: Originally scheduled for delivery starting November 2019. Delays occurred and pushed delivery to July-August 2020 for all 6 aircraft.

One of Colombia's Super Tucano aircraft. Credits to original source of photo.

Combat Utility Helicopter (Phase 3) Acquisition Project

Note: edit as of 10 July 2020

* End User: Philippine Air Force (205th Tactical Helicopter Wing)

Quantity: 16 aircraft

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php12,100,000,000.00

Acquisition Mode: Negotiated Procurement (Government-to-Government) with Polish Government, with US Government support and approval

* Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund,paid via Multi-Year Obligatory Allocations (MYOA) process

* SARO Release: 
  - SARO-BMB-D-17-0025076 dated 20 December 2017 (1st tranche payment) 

* Winning Proponent: Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. through Polish subsidiary PZL Mielec

Product for Delivery: Sikorsky S-70i Blackhawk International

* Contract Price: US$241,461,699.39 (approx. Php12,556,008,368.00)

* First post by MaxDefense: 03 July 2016

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag/s: #PAFCUHAcquisition #PAFACUHP3Acquisition

Status: Contract signed 21 March 2019, Notice to Proceed released 16 April 2019. Delivery of first batch of 6 units to proceed within 3rd-4th quarter 2020. 10 units for delivery by 2021.

PAF S-70i Blackhawk undergoing flight test. Photo credited to Marcin Bobro.

Unmanned Aerial System (Level 3) Acquisition Project

Note: Edited as of 29 June 2020.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (300th Air Intelligence & Security Wing)

* Quantity: 4 systems (12 UAVs and supporting systems)

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:
 Php8,470,000,000.00 (whole project)

Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) between Philippine Department of National Defense and Israel Ministry of Defense

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

* SARO Release: N/A

* Winning Proponent: Elbit Systems Ltd.

* Contract Price: Php8,470,000,000.00

* Residual Price: Php0.00

* First post by MaxDefense: 08 August 2017

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag:  #PAFUASAcquisition #PAFHermes900UAS 

* Status: First Hermes 900 UAV delivered September 2019, first complete system of 3 Hermes 900 UAVs delivered as of December 2019. Two other systems (6 UAVs) expected to be delivered before end of 2020.

A Hermes 900 UAV in Fernando Air Base, Lipa City. Shared exclusively to MaxDefense by a community member.


Aviation Engineering Equipment Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 24 January 2020.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (355th Aviation Engineering "Beavers" Wing)

* Quantity: Multiple lots with multiple quantities

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php674,764,600.00

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

* Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund

* SARO Release: TBA

* Product for Delivery: see "Project Breakdown" below.

* Lots with Awarded Contract: 22 out of 32 lots worth Php446,510,386.00 

* First post by MaxDefense: 31 March 2019

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PAFAviationEngineeringEquipmentAcquisition #PAFAEEAcquisition

* Status: Pre-procurement, procurement, and post-procurement phases ongoing depending on lots. 

The PAF's 355th Aviation Engineering Wing was among the recipients of the AFP's acquisition of Civil Engineering Equipment from China, which is a separate project from the PAF's own Aviation Engineering Equipment acquisition project. Photo taken from AFP's FB page.

F/SAA/LIFT Munitions Lot 1 - Short Range Air-to-Air Missile Acquisition Project

Note: Edited as of 14 September 2019.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (Air Defense Command)

* Quantity: classified quantity

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 1 Phase Priority Project of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:

Acquisition Mode: Negotiated Procurement (Government-to-Government) deal with the US through US Foreign Military Sales (US FMS) program

* Source of Funding: GAA Funded

* SARO Release: SARO-BMB-D-17-0012038 dated 08 August 2017, released 09 August 2017

* Winning Proponent: Diehl Raytheon Missile Systeme GmbH (Germany)

Product for Delivery:  "a few hundred" Raytheon-Diehl AIM-9L/I-1 Sidewinder IR-guided air-to-air missile. Exact quantity not provided due to OPSEC reasons.

* Contract Price: 

* First post by MaxDefense: 
20 June 2015 

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PAFFSAALIFTMunitionsLot1Acquisition #PAFFA50MunitionsLot1Acquisition #PAFFA50SRAAMAcquisition

* Status: Project awarded in 2017. Delivered started late 2019, delivery is expected to be completed before end of 2020.

A ROKAF FA-50 with an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile.Credits to original source of photo, for reference only.
First post and edit: 12 July 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Philippine Air Force to Procure Medium Lift Aircraft under Horizon 2 Modernization Phase

To further improve its airlift capabilities as a follow-on to previous improvements made in the previous years, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is embarking on the acquisition of additional medium tactical transport aircraft for the 220th Airlift Wing.

Under the Horizon 2 priority projects phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP), the Philippine Air Force has received approval to pursue the Medium Lift Aircraft Acquisition Project, which eyes the purchase of three (3) new medium lift tactical transport aircraft.

Currently, the PAF already has the Airbus-CASA C-295M medium lift transport aircraft, and its very highly likely that the same aircraft would be acquired under this project. But that is being challenged by several proponents, with Indonesia's PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) being among the most aggressive with their CN-235-220 aircraft.

A PAF C-295M during delivery flight from Europe. Credits to original source of photo.


The PAF has received three (3) Airbus-CASA C-295M medium tactical transport aircraft under the Capability Upgrade Project (CUP) projects of the AFP Modernization Program's Medium Lift Fixed-Wing Aircraft Acquisition Project. This was after beating Italy's Alenia Aerospace with the C-27J Spartan.

Based on the old specifications used for the abovementioned project, it is closely based on the Airbus C-295M's specs, although pricewise MaxDefense received info from sources several years ago that the C-295M was also cheaper than the C-27J.

The C-27J Spartan once competed against the Airbus C-295M under the PAF's Medium Lift Fixed-Wing Aircraft Acquisition Project a few years ago. It lost to the C-295M. Photo from Military Machines website.

These aircraft started to replace the Fokker F-27 Friendship which have been in service with the PAF since the late 1950s. The surviving units were relegated to troop transport duties or have undergone major maintenance work. The ability of the C-295M to carry pallets also allowed it to take some of the missions that are usually carried out by the PAF's small fleet of Lockheed C-130 Hercules heavy tactical transport aircraft.

More medium lift aircraft means the PAF can relegate the ageing Fokker F-27 Friendship fleet to other roles, or even retire them permanently. Credits to original source of photo.

As the PAF continues to grow in terms on ability to maintain a larger fleet, as well as giving more importance on the ability of the PAF to respond to emergencies, the PAF has requested for the acquisition of additional transport aircraft under the Horizon 2 phase of the RAFPMP.

So far MaxDefense has not seen the specifications as of this writing, all those we learned that the Department of National Defense (DND) has already released a Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) with a decision that involves direct negotiation with the preferred proponent.

The C-295 as compared to the C-27J, C-130 and C-130J-30 on cabin length. Photo from Airbus Military.

Competing Proponents:
As of this writing, the proponents vying for the project are Airbus-CASA with the C-295, and PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) with the smaller CN-235-220.

While PTDI's CN-235-220 is smaller than the C-295, it is also cheaper. Sources confirmed that PTDI intends to offset the size difference by including an offer on top of 3 CN-235-220 aircraft. MaxDefense believes that it would be an NC-212i Aviocar small tactical transport aircraft, which is already in service with the PAF.

PTDI's CN-235-220M is also being offered to the PAF for the Medium Lift Aircraft project. Top photo from Asia Pacific Defense Journal, bottom photo from

MaxDefense believes though, that Airbus-CASA may win this project, due to commonality issues with the existing C-295Ms in the PAF's fleet, which is now 4-aircraft strong.

As of early 2020, the PAF's Medium Lift Aircraft Acquisition is among those planned for implementation and initial funding this year. And being an asset that would be useful not just for military operations but also to support the government's Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) capabilities during emergencies, it is highly likely that the government will give priority to it even if funding will become scarce due to the negative economic and social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the PAF's C-295M aircraft. Photo credits to Miguel Cenon.

The government intends to pay for the project under a Multi-Year Obligatory Allocations (MYOA), in 3 payments starting 2020. This would enable the DND and AFP to start procuring the project even when they do not have the full project contract amount yet, and maximizing the Philippines' limited budget.

Project Summary:

Medium Lift Aircraft Acquisition Project

Note: edit as of 10 June 2020

* End User: Philippine Air Force (220th Airlift Wing)

Quantity: 3 aircraft

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php5,288,609,984.00

Acquisition Mode: Negotiated Procurement (Government-to-Government) with still unidentified country.

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

* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: TBA

Product for Delivery: TBA

* Contract Price: TBA

* First post by MaxDefense: 

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag/s: #PAFMediumLiftAircraftAcqisition 

Status: Scheduled for negotiations by 2020. Initial funding for project allocated under AFP Modernization Funding for 2020. Currently Airbus-CASA's C-295 and PTDI's CN-235-220 under consideration.

First post and edit: 10 June 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Philippine Navy Plans to Acquire Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile System from India

Several news reports from both the Philippines and India have been made on the planned acquisition of BrahMos land-based anti-ship cruise missiles for the Philippine Army, as the Philippine Army also confirmed their plans based on the press releases and infographics they have shown to the public during internal occasions since late 2019.

In the last report from an Indian news outlet, Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Jaideep Mazumdar confirmed that the Philippine and Indian sides will continue discussion and finalize the deal for the export of Brahmos land-based missiles systems to the Philippines once the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions are eased, with the hope of closing the deal within 2020.

But it appears that the Philippine Army is not the only interested party in acquiring the Brahmos missile system. In fact, another branch of service has moved far closer to making that happen than the Philippine Navy, based on information MaxDefense received from Indian and Philippine sources.

As our headline says, yes, the Philippine Navy, on behalf of the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC), is also set to acquire Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile Systems from India. And they might get it first before the Philippine Army.

This has been in our draft section for more than 6 months now, and it looks like now is the best time to report this development.

The 2nd List of Horizon 2 Phase Requests for Land Based Missiles:

The 2nd List of Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP) actually included 2 similar projects requested by 2 different branch of services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

One is the Land-Based Missile System (LBMS) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Army with a requested budget of Php10 billion, and the Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile System (SBASMS) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy with a requested budget of Php18.9 billion.

After separate evaluations made by the 2 service branches, it appears that both got into a conclusion that India's BrahMos land-based missile system is the best option they have.

While the Philippine Army is looking at having a missile system that can be used to attack naval targets and possibly land targets, the Philippine Navy appears to be looking more on hitting enemy ships from great distances.

According to MaxDefense's sources from defense and industry sources, the Philippine Navy was able to make the request for such system earlier than the Philippine Army. But after the Frigate Acquisition Project fiasco, the Philippine Navy's previous leadership under former Flag Officer in Command (FOIC) Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad decided to keep the project under wraps to avoid attention. 

So far, MaxDefense has not heard or observe anything irregular on the project.

The Philippine Army previously disclosed its interest on the Brahmos missile system for its Land Based Missile System (LBMS) Project. Photo shared exclusively to MaxDefense.

The Philippine Navy's Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile System Project - A Background:

The Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile System (SBASMS) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy was actually raised due to the Philippine Navy's disappointment on the decision by the Philippine Army to shelve an old project, the Shore-Based Missile System(SBMS) which was cancelled back in 2015 by the Philippine Army leadership led by then Philippine Army Command General Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, who decided that the Philippine Army would rather spend the Php6.5 billion budget of the project for other essential projects.

One of the main purposes of the SBMS project was to assist the Philippine Navy in providing limited Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities in the West Philippine Sea including the Kalayaan Island Group, despite its limited range if deployed in Palawan.

The idea was to help give the Marines (which are under the Philippine Navy) a better chance to fight off a potential naval invasion of the KIG by Chinese or any other potential enemy force.

Back then, the Philippine Army has selected the IMI Systems Coast & Island Defense System (CIDS) which is essentially 2 batteries of land-based rocket launcher systems based on the IMI Lynx rocket-missile launching system, and the IMI Extended Range Artillery (EXTRA) guided rocket munition.

The IMI EXTRA is capable of delivering a 120 kilogram warhead with a maximum range of around 150 kilometers. MaxDefense sources from IMI Systems later on confirmed that it can actually go beyond 150 kilometers. The system was also capable of launching other munitions including the Delilah cruise missile which was among the future capabilities offered to the Philippine Arm should it have proceeded with the SBMS project.

The IMI CIDS based on IMI Lynx launcher and IMI EXTRA guided munitions. Photo credits to original source.

Fast forward to 2016, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, specifically then AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations (J3) BGen. Noel Clement submitted a "wish list" to the AFP leadership that includes "a singular shore-based capability (eg. Brahmos) to provide strategic-level firepower to defend the country".

From the statement made by J3, who eventually became AFP Chief of Staff from September 2019 to January 2020, it already appears that there was already sentiments from the military leadership on acquiring a more capable missile system than what the IMI CIDS can offer, with the Brahmos even cited as an example.

With the Philippine Navy left out by the cancellation of the Philippine Army's SBMS Project, the service then made a commitment to make sure that they will have their own shore based missile system, and won't be reliant on the Philippine Army.

This time, instead of a guided rocket system, both services are after an actual surface-to-surface missile system, which can do sea-skimming flight and course changes while flying to its target - something the guided rockets like the IMI EXTRA cannot do.

The Brahmos, like most anti-ship cruise missiles, fly at low levels of less than 15 meters from sea level. Photo taken from Pakistan Defence forum.

Advantages on Selecting the Brahmos Missile System:

According to our sources, several models were considered by the Philippine Navy and Philippine Army, including Russian, Indian, Korean, and European solutions. In the end, both services agreed on acquiring India's Brahmos land-based missile system for the following reasons:

1. The Philippine government has been actively promoting an "Independent Foreign Policy" that is "Friends with all, Enemies of none". This includes expanding its sources of weapon systems, which includes considering products from India in which the Philippines has a growing relationship with. So far, India has failed to supply a more relevant weapon system to the Philippines aside from Force Protection Equipment (body armor, helmets) from MKU Ltd., and Thermal Imagers from Tonbo Imaging. Awarding this project to India gives the Philippines a good opportunity to expand relations with India.

2. Both services agreed to have a supersonic missile for consideration, rather than the usual subsonic missile used by most Western countries. A supersonic missile would be more difficult to intercept by hard kill solutions like gun and missile-based Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWS) due to its speed and ability to close the gap faster.

The missile also does an S-manoeuvre just before reaching its target, which makes interception even more difficult considering it is doing so while flying at supersonic speeds.

Gun-based CIWS like the Chinese Type 818 as shown above could be useless against supersonic sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missiles like the Brahmos. Credits to original source of photo.

3. Having a supersonic missile means having a bigger kinetic energy upon impact. It means that a single missile could have devastating effects even to ships as large as a destroyer or cruiser, not just because of the warhead it carries, but also the force it bring at such speed.

4. Supersonic missiles also cover distances at a shorter time than subsonic missiles, which gives the target a smaller reaction time. 

5. The Brahmos missile carries a 300-kilogram semi-armor piercing warhead, which can penetrate and damage even the toughest ship hull armor plating.

6. While Russia can also offer supersonic missiles, CAATSA issues remain a problem. Going with India means buying something comparable without the CAATSA issues with it.

7. Pricing is very competitive for the Brahmos missile system. Apparently comparable Western products are far more expensive and more difficult to obtain due to the system's tactical and strategic value. 

A subsonic anti-ship missile like the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile can do this damage on a frigate-sized warship. The Brahmos carries a larger warhead, and approaches its target at a faster speed, enabling more damage due to its warhead and kinetic energy. Credits to original source of photo.


While the Brahmos missile is a potent weapon, it also has disadvantages.

1. One cannot just fire anti-ship missiles at anyone anytime, unless fired upon. Should the Philippines be the first to fire in anger using this weapon without using other means to push away a naval threat, it could be a reason for a war to happen, and for world opinion to be against the Philippines.

2. The SBASMS has no other use other than to fire against enemy ships, or if the land attack missile is used, it can fire against enemy land targets. But that may not even happen during the entire serviceable life of the weapon system unless a real conflict between the Philippines and other countries happen. Thus, the weapon is more of a deterrent against other countries, which is exactly one of the main purpose of the Area Access / Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy.

Unlike ships and aircraft, like the Jose Rizal-class frigate above and the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter on top, truck based systems cannot really move in a huge area, and has no other use rather than to launch missiles. Ships and aircraft on the other hand can move and be made available at certain areas of the country, while can also be used for other missions aside from being a missile launch platform. Credits to original source for the top photo, while above photo originally from Bemil Korean defense page.

3. Being land based means it is only bound within the land areas of the Philippine mainland. It is unsafe to send the system in the Kalayaan Island Group due to it being easy to be targeted by ship, land or submarine launched missiles, or by missiles launched by combat aircraft. Truck based means its mobility is also limited unlike ships or aircraft that carry anti-ship missiles which can move around a wider area and the platforms can be used for other purposes.

4. Related to the third reason, the Philippines being an archipelago means that it would not be easy to move around the truck-based weapon system without using ships or aircraft. For example, if it is deployed in Palawan, it would be dependent on the availability of roads to move around. Without transport ships or aircraft, it would be stuck within Palawan Island only.

5. It remains to be seen if India could export the newer version of the Brahmos land-based surface-to-surface missile variant, which increased the range from 290-300 kilometers to 500 kilometers. If the Philippines still get the older, shorter-ranged variant, the missile might not be able to cover the entire Kalayaan Island Group and West Philippine Sea/Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone even from the fringes of the Philippine Mainland.

Infographic above shows an example of how the coverage of a standard Brahmos shore-based missile system would be like, if deployed in Batanes, Zambales, Palawan, and Tawi Tawi. Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal would be covered but will be very limited, while not the entire KIG will be covered too. This is based on the original 290-300km range of the Brahmos missile. Infographic by MaxDefense Philippines.

MaxDefense is still trying to get confirmation from sources if the Philippine Navy, as well as the Philippine Army's Brahmos missile systems would be the newer variant which now has a 500 kilometer maximum range.

Despite the range, it might not be covered by Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) restrictions since the warhead is less than 500 kilograms, which is within the MTCR allowances.

To compare with the earlier infographic, this time we considered that the maximum range of the Brahmos missile system that both the PA and PN will be acquiring is 500 kilometers. Notice the huge difference in terms of coverage. Not only can they cover a huge portion of the country's EEZ with less deployments, it can also cover the entire Kalayaan Island Group, Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, and could even reach friendly neighbours in case relations become sour in the future for some unexpected reasons. Infographic by MaxDefense Philippines.

While the Philippine Army is only after 2 batteries, the Philippine Navy is after 3 batteries of Brahmos anti-ship missile systems. Combined, this will give the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines with a total of 5 Brahmos anti-ship missile batteries which it could deploy in several locations, mostly facing the West Philippine Sea and to the northern end of Luzon facing the Luzon Strait and Babuyan Channel.


With the COVID-19 crisis still hitting the Philippine economy hard, it remains to be seen though if this project will be given priority once everything goes back to normal. 

But MaxDefense already received confirmation that, despite the COVID-19 restrictions, online training has began for select Philippine Navy, or more specifically, Philippine Marine Corps personnel. This includes theories and basic knowledge on missile systems, and on operating and maintaining the Brahmos missile system specifically.

This could be a good sign that the project would most likely be pushing thorough, despite the hefty price tag.

Stay tuned to MaxDefense Philippines for more updates regarding the Philippine Navy's Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile System (SBASMS) Acquisition Project, as well as the Philippine Army's Land-Based Missile System (LBMS) Acquisition Project.

Typical connectivity of Brahmos missile system in coastal defense, this example as employed by the Indian armed forces. Credits to original source of photo.

Project Summary:

Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile System Project

Note: Edited as of 31 May 2020.

* End User: Philippine Navy (unspecified unit, most likely the Philippine Marine Corps)

* Quantity: 3 batteries on Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile Systems

* Modernization Phase: 2nd List of Horizon 2 phase

* Project ABC:
 Php18 billion

Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government deal with India

* Source of Funding: AFP Modernization Trust Fund

* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: TBA

Product for Delivery:
      - 3 batteries of BrahMos land-based supersonic anti-ship missile systems, including supporting vehicles and subsystems, spare parts and ammunition, and ILS. 

* Contract Price: 

* First post by MaxDefense:

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PNSBASMSAcquisition

* Status: Senior Defense and Military Leaders approval done, approval from DBM and Office of the President still pending. Final negotiations on hold due to Covid-19 travel and business restrictions, as well as potential funding issues due to funding diversion.

First post and edit: 31 May 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

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