|President Aquino meets French president Francois Hollande in Paris.|
Photo taken Mr. Christian Hartmann c/o Reuters.
France-Philippines Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA)
The 2 countries already have a previous DCA and the one signed in France this week updates and further strengthen this defense agreement. This paves the way for the the French government to assist the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and for allowing French companies to supply the Philippines with weapons platforms, systems, and defense-related goods and services. This also allows the Philippines to tap French assistance in other defense-related issues like training and education, warship visits and military aircraft stop-overs, and others.
Previously, the Department of National Defense (DND) indicated that a DCA is important in paving the way for defense acquisitions with certain companies and governments where the supplier is based. Such examples of previous DCA signed by the Philippine with other countries are those with Canada, South Korea, Indonesia, and the United States. This paved the way for the AFP and DND to acquire military assets from the said countries, with the Bell 412 CUH and VIP helicopters from Bell Textron Canada, FA-50 Fighting Eagle jets from Korea Aerospace Industries, and Strategic Sealift Vessels from PT PAL of Indonesia.
What the French are (and possibly) offering:
Current defense acquisitions and awards made by the DND and AFP include the C-295 medium lift tactical transport aircraft from Airbus Military, based in France. Aside from Airbus Military, French or part-French companies like MBDA Systems, Thales Group, STX France, Dassault Aviation, Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter), Nexter Group, and DCNS have shown interest, are offering, or are competing for contracts to supply various defense systems to the AFP.
Airbus Military, aside from its offer to supply the Philippine Air Force's (PAF) requirement for Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft (LRPA), has reportedly offered "a newly designed aircraft for disaster management", which can be provided by the French government through a possible Official Government Assistance loan to the Philippine government. MaxDefense sources, and analysis of previous plans of the AFP points to an offer for 2 units of the Airbus A400M Atlas transport aircraft, which can be considered as a dual-use asset for combat support and humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. MaxDefense previously tackled the need to more dual-use military assets for this requirement in a previous MaxDefense entry. Airbus has also recently won to supply the PAF with medium tactical transports with its C-295 aircraft.
|Airbus was reportedly offering the A400M Atlas to the Philippines through the French government assistance.|
STX France is one of the shipbuilders qualified to bid to construct the Philippine Navy's (PN) 2 new light frigates. Aside from that, STX France and other French shipbuilders like DCNS are offering or preparing for a possible tender for the long awaited Offshore Patrol Vessel requirement and other combat and support vessels for the Philippine Navy.
|DCNS and other French shipbuilders are interested in upcoming projects for the Philippine Navy. Photo above shows DCNS' Gowind-class Offshore Patrol Vessel design.|
MBDA Systems are currently offering assorted missile systems to the Philippine Navy for their upcoming and current naval and air assets, the Philippine Air Force, and to the Philippine Army (PA) for air defense systems. According to MaxDefense's PN sources, MBDA has a strong chance of getting some or all the missile system requirements for the upcoming new frigates. MaxDefense believes that the offers include the MM40 Exocet anti-ship missile, and any of their 3 naval anti-aircraft missile systems: the Mistral short range man-portable air defense missile, the vertical launch (VL) version of the longer ranged Mica missile, and the newer Common Anti-Air Modular Missile system (CAMM).
The Mistral is also being offered to provide air defense systems for the PN's current major naval assets; and the Lightweight Multirole Missile and Sea Viper for their AW109 Power naval helicopters and the upcoming ASW helicopters. They are also offering the Exocet anti-ship missile coastal battery version and Mistral to the PA for their missile system requirements. The PAF was also being offered to use the air-launched version of the Exocet missile for its upcoming LRPA acquisition.
|A computer generated illustration of an AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat fitted with both the Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) and the Sea Viper missile.|
Photo taken from IHS-Jane's website.
The Thales Group has been also actively involved in offering its defense and security products, mostly on electronics, radars, sensors and surveillance systems, command and control systems, system integration and subsystems. It is involved and actively pushing its products for several of the AFP's current and upcoming projects, including the PAF's LRPA, surveillance systems, and aircraft subsystems; PN's new frigates & SSV, and ship upgrades for its current assets, GHQ-AFP and PA's C4ISR and battlefield radars system, and many others.
|Thales' Captas towed array sonar might be one of the products being offered to the Philippine Navy.|
Aside from new defense systems, the agreement paves the way for the French government to also possibly offer excess defense articles to the AFP. As a major military power that is experiencing some economic downhill like other European countries , it is expected that France has a lot of EDAs or systems that are about to be taken out French military service that they can offer at a lower price or as grants should the Philippines not be able to afford brand new systems.
This deal definitely helps the Philippine government pursue its plans to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and provide a closer defense relationship between the two republics.
Airbus A400M Atlas being offered?:
|Comparing the 3 foremost large transport aircraft of the Western world: the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III (left), the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules (middle), and the Airbus Military A400M Atlas (right).|
Photo taken from Key Publishing website.
This can be considered as a surprise move by Airbus and the French government. If confirmed as offered through official French government loans, this could actually be a win-win situation both for the Philippines and France for several reasons. Aside from the announced reason of assisting the Philippine government in increasing and improving its HADR capability, the move can actually be considered as both economically and politically for the French government for the following reasons:
1. Accepting the offer means a successful sale for France. By loan or not, the Philippines will still be paying for them, thus can still be considered a positive economic news and export for France and Airbus. This will definitely make a small share of revenue and jobs for France.
2. With lowered sales numbers for the A400M from its original buyers like Spain, Germany and the UK, and South Africa cancelling their previous orders, Airbus and the French government together with its partners are looking for ways to find other customers to acquire the aircraft and re-build the numbers it needs. Getting the Philippines to join its current customers is one way of reducing the burden of reduced sales and growing unit costs to cope up with the projected profit and cover development costs of the aircraft. If France decides to offer those it previously committed to buy but decided to cancel, it definitely helps France to share its burden to the Philippines.
3. Getting more customers to have A400M in their inventories will help market the aircraft further to other countries. This is a proven sales strategy that is also applicable to military aircraft. Being considerably more expensive than the smaller Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules and the soon available Embraer KC-390 from Brazil, only a few countries showed actual interest on the Atlas. Making it easy for countries to afford the aircraft by providing financial assistance may help increase the the number of users of the A400M.
4. Airbus might be betting that having the A400M in PAF's inventory will definitely allow the Airbus to possibly get additional orders later on should the PAF replace the legacy C-130 Hercules in its fleet, or if money becomes a non-issue to enlarge the heavy transport fleet from its current numbers.
5. The deal gives France the moral and political vote of confidence and support from the Philippine government and its people, while also gaining positive points to President Francois Hollande, his administration, and the French people for its generosity.
If France really wanted to just assist the Philippines to have a reasonable capability to airlift goods and services during HADR operations, there are several other alternatives they could have offered instead of the hulking A400M. For ODA, they can offer the Airbus Military C-295 transport aircraft similar to what what the PAF ordered recently, although technically the C-295 is more of a Spanish product (being from CASA, now part of Airbus Military). France can also offer larger helicopters than what the PAF currently uses like the Airbus Helicopters EC725 Super Cougar which have good range and capable of airlift operations from hard to reach areas, although these are also expensive. The French government could also provide alternative means to aid the Philippines aside from ODA, like granting retired but still usable and immediately available assets like ex-Armee de l'Air C-160 Transall transport aircraft or Puma helicopters.
|Instead of the Airbus A400M, why not more of the smaller, more practical and already upcoming Airbus C-295? Although being a Spanish product, the French may prefer to sell something that they really can say as theirs.|
Whatever the real reason is, the A400M is still a well-desired asset of any air force, and having them in PAF service is better than nothing at all.
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September 22, 2014:
To clarify MaxDefense readers: Official Development Assistance (ODA) is not applicable to warfighting equipment. It is only applicable to promote economic development and welfare assistance. HADR operations can be considered a welfare assistance, thus only dual-use military equipment can be considered, which includes airlifters like the Airbus A400M. Fighter aircraft, frigates, and the like can't be considered for ODA loans.