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Monday, August 9, 2021

The Philippine Navy's new Corvette Acquisition Project moves closer to reality, as more details are revealed

 
The Philippine Navy (PN) has been pursuing the acquisition of new guided-missile Corvettes as it continues to improve its combat capability as part of the service's modernization program.

Two new corvettes are eyed under the Corvette Acquisition Project (CAP), as part of the Horizon 2 Priority phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP) which covers acquisition projects between 2018 to 2022.

Currently, the CAP is delayed based on the Philippine Navy's programming, as they were hoping that a contract would be signed by 2020 to allow the first ship of the class to be delivered by late 2023. But COVID-19 pandemic has affected the program, including the sourcing of funding by the Philippine Government.

But lately, MaxDefense Philippines received information from sources that it appears that the program has progressed quietly but significantly, and that the Philippine Navy and Department of National Defense may have already decided on who the winning shipbuilder  would be as of this writing.



The Corvette Acquisition Project:

The acquisition of new corvettes are among the priority projects of the Philippine Navy, and has been in its Desired Force Mix procurement plan since the early 2010s. According to the PN plans, they intend to have at least 12 corvettes completed and/or ordered by the time the Horizon 3 phase of the RAFPMP is completed by 2028.

This is part of the Philippine Navy's planned acquisitions under Horizons 1, 2 and 3 phases of the RAFPMP, indicating their desire to acquire 6 corvettes under Horizon 2. In the end, funding for only 2 new corvettes were approved for funding by the Duterte administration. Photo credits to Philippine Navy.


So far, that plan has not pushed through as planned, as only 1 second-hand corvette has been acquired by the PN between 2013 to 2020, in the form of the former Republic of Korea Navy Pohang-class Flight III corvette now known as BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39).

Under the Horizon 2 phase of the RAFPMP, the Philippine Navy originally requested for the acquisition of 6 corvettes back in 2016, which was reduced to 4 in 2017, before the approved quantity was reduced further to just 2 in June 2018.

The Philippine Navy has been conducting pre-procurement preparations for the Corvette Acquisition Project since the start of the Horizon 2 phase of the RAFPMP in 2018.

Back in May 2018, MaxDefense Philippines released a blog entry discussing some of the preliminary technical requirements for the project as provided publicly by the Philippine Navy. For those who have not read it yet, you may do so on link provided below:

"Philippine Navy releases Basic Requirement for the Horizon 2 Corvette Acquisition Project" - first published 12 May 2018.

The technical requirements provided in that list has evolved over the past few years, with MaxDefense Philippines receiving updates from sources although we were asked not to publish it since there are differences in how the Corvettes would be procured compared to the Frigate Acquisition Project back in the Horizon 1 phase in 2015-2016.

While the Frigate Acquisition Project was a public bidding where technical requirements are published as required by RA 7898 Revised Government Procurement Act, the Corvette Acquisition Project will be procured via Negotiated Procurement through Government-to-Government (G2G) process, as allowed also by RA 7898 and by RA 10349 Revised AFP Modernization Act.

Being a G2G project, the technical requirements and specifications need not be published publicly, although we were allowed by sources to see what are required by the program.



Possible Corvette Technical Equipment Fit-out:

The Basic Requirements released by the Philippine Navy back in 2018 is believed to have evolved for the last 4 years, so we expect the requirements back then to have changed.

But while changes were made, we expect some requirements to remain the same. The experience in acquiring the Jose Rizal-class frigates from South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) could be also used as a template for the Corvette project, due to commonality concerns.

Thus, it is possible to use the Jose Rizal-class frigates as template on what the corvette may look like.

This includes the following requirements and characteristics:

Hull:
* Length
: previously the PN proposed that the corvette should be more than 80 meters minimum, but the PN is expected to favour a larger ship, preferably close or even similar to the size of its Jose Rizal-class frigates.

* Displacement: this will be dependent on the final size and fit-out of the ship, but we expect the PN to to shift its requirements, probably having a ship weighing at least 2,000 tons.

* Speed
: to keep purchase and sustainment costs down, it is expected that the PN would stick to its original requirement of having a maximum speed of at least 25 knots, preferably more at 80% maximum continuous rating (MCR), similar to the Jose Rizal-class. This allows them to skip the need for a gas turbine engine.

* Propulsion
: as mentioned above, the PN may prefer to use a purely diesel-only propulsion set-up, or at best, a hybrid diesel-electric system. But most likely no gas turbines as the PN is still allergic to using them due to fuel cost and efficiency issues.

* Endurance
: the PN is expected to have the new corvette to have at least 3 weeks (21 days) minimum of endurance, although it is preferred to have at least 4 weeks (28 days) and will depend on final design.

* Range
: a typical minimum requirement of up to 4,000 to 4,500 nautical miles at cruising speed is expected, typical to most warships of this size.

* Aviation Facilities
: a multipurpose hangar and helicopter landing deck are definitely required, and are expected to have capacity for at least a 10-ton naval helicopter which would allow operating helicopters like the AW-159 Wildcat and AW-109 Power (already in service with PN), and larger helicopters including the S-70/SH-60/MH-60 Seahawk and the NH90 naval helicopters operated by allies and close security partners like the US, Japan, and Australia. It is also expected that the ship design should also allow for operating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).

Weapons:
* Main Gun:
76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid naval gun, which makes more sense than shifting to the slower (100 rounds per minute) Hyundai WIA 76mm gun, as the PN already operates Oto Melara 76mm guns for decades. The Hyundai WIA gun remains a possibility if the PN selects a Korean design, and the shipbuilder insists to stick to it considering the acquisition is through G2G process, giving the shipbuilder some sort of power over the PN.

* Secondary Gun/s:
30mm automatic cannon. This could be dependent on the ship's supplier, but could potentially be either the ASELSAN SMASH, the BAE Systems Mk. 38 Mod. 3, or the MSI Defence Seahawk DS30. The SMASH in already in service with the Jose Rizal-class, while the Mk. 38 Mod. 3 and Seahawk DS30 are similar to the Mk. 38 Mod. 2 and Seahawk DS25 that are already in service in other PN ships.

* Gun-type CIWS
: the PN is expected to have the winning shipbuilder offer a CIWS for the corvettes. While the PN expressed its preference for the US-made Phalanx 20mm CIWS, this could again be dependent on the ship's country of origin, considering the countries shortlisted to supply the corvettes have their own national CIWS programs.

* Torpedo Tubes: two triple 324mm anti-submarine torpedo tubes, which could be the SEA TLS-TT similar to those installed on the Jose Rizal-class. Torpedoes to be used would be dependent on ship supplier's country of origin but there is a big chance that the PN may stick to LIGNex1's K745 Blue Shark lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes from South Korea for commonality with the PN's current inventory.

* Anti-Ship Missiles: should a Korean shipbuilder win, it is expected that the LIGNex1 SSK-700 C-Star anti-ship missile would be the staple offer. But it is also possible for the MBDA MM40 Exocet Block II due to the PN's preference for the missile.

* Air Defense Missile System: the PN is said to be looking for 16-cell VLS. Among those floated in the past include the use of Mk.41 VLS with Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), the MBDA VL-MICA or MBDA CAMM/Sea Ceptor system, or the K-SAAM using K-VLS system.

Sensors:
* Main Radar
: it is expected that the PN will be requiring for a more powerful, much modern radar than the Hensoldt TRS-3D Baseline D air/surface 3D radar installed on the Jose Rizal-class. It would be remembered that HHI previously offered the much modern NS-100 series 3D AESA radar to the PN. It is expected that the Hensoldt TRS-4D or the Thales NS-1000 series AESA radar would be preferred for the corvettes.

* Secondary Surface Search Radar
: it is also expected for the PN to stick to the Kelvin Hughes Sharpeye surface search/navigation radar system.

* Fire Control Radar
: the PN currently operates the Leonardo Selex NA-25X with the Jose Rizal-class frigates, although for the corvettes it could be a much improved variant like the NA-30S which allows guidance for semi-active surface to air missiles (depends on what the SAM system the PN will select). French and Korean alternatives could also be a possibility, depending on the winning shipbuilder.

* Hull Mounted Sonar
: since the PN is already using the Harris 997, and is installing the ELAC Nautic Hunter hull-mounted sonar on the Del Pilar-class frigates, it is possible that the PN may stick to either of the two models for commonality. Thales Underwater Systems Bluewatcher is another potential if PN and the shipbuilder sticks to Thales subsystems.

Other sensors that we expect to be installed on the new corvettes include Communications and Radar Electronic Support Measures (C-ESM and R-ESM), Electro-Optical Tracking System (EOTS), a Towed Array Sonar System (TASS), Countermeasures Launchers, Secondary Surface Search/Navigation Radar System, and Tactical Air Navigation System (TACAN).

The  PN is also expected to specify for the ship, especially the Combat Management System (CMS), to be able to integrate to the US Tactical Data Link 16 (TDL16) and Tactical Data Link 22 (TDL22).

Competitors:

Back in 2018, MaxDefense Philippines listed down potential competitors for the project. This included Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) with their MEKO A100 corvette design, The Netherlands' Damen with their Sigma light warship design, South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) with a modified design of their HDF-2600 used for the Jose Rizal-class frigate, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) with a new design based on a reduced Daegu-class frigate, and India's Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) with the same design offered to the PN before for the Frigate project based on a modified Kamorta-class design.

But this appears to have changed. MaxDefense Philippines received information from sources that only a few shipbuilders have made it into higher level of negotiations with the PN and DND:

1. Dutch shipbuilder Damen, which has offered its SIGMA light warship designs;
2. France's Naval Group, which offered its Gowind 2500 corvette design;
3. Turkish shipbuilder ASFAT made an offer based on its MILGEM family of warships including variants of the Ada-class corvette and Istanbul-class light frigate;
4. Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) has pitched its new HDC-3100 which is an improved variant of the Jose Rizal-class (HDF-2600) light frigate.

Damen's Offer:

It is unclear which specific design did Damen formally offered, although MaxDefense Philippines that it could be either the SIGMA  the SIGMA 10514, which is the baseline design used for the Indonesian Navy's Martadinata-class frigate and Mexican Navy's Reformador-class ocean patrol vessel.

The SIGMA 10514 design, this example as the Martadinata-class frigate of the Indonesian Navy. Photo credits to original source.


Combat and Sensor suites are said to be locked with using Thales products as Thales and Damen appears to have an arrangement of exclusivity. Thales products may include the TACTICOS Combat Management System, the NS-100 series AESA air/surface search radar system, STIR 1.2 EO Mk. 2 fire control radar, Kingclip hull-mounted sonar, CAPTAS-2 towed array sonar, and others. It is highly possible that the subsystems are similar to original offer made by HHI to the Philippine Navy for the Frigate Acquisition Project before it was switched (despite PN's disapproval) to a less-capable but cheaper alternatives.

Weapon systems include the 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid gun, MBDA MM40 Exocet anti-ship cruise missiles, a choice of 30mm remote-controlled weapon system and gun/missile-type close-in weapon system, 12 or 16-cell MBDA VL-MICA air defense missile system, and a two triple torpedo tubes.

One of Damen's selling point is the potential to build one of the corvettes in the Philippines through a local partner. Currently Damen is represented in the Philippines by Propmech Corporation, but it remains to be seen who will they partner with to build a corvette as Propmech appears to be incapable of doing this on their own.

Damen's SIGMA series of light combat ships, with the SIGMA 9313 and SIGMA 10514 among those that could potentially fill the PN's requirements. Photo credits to Navy Recognition.

Naval Group's Offer:

We received confirmation from Philippine Navy sources that Naval Group's offer is centered on the Gowind 2500 corvette design similar to the one being built for the Egyptian Navy as the El Fateh-class. 

The ship is around 102 meters long, a maximum width of 16 meters, and a displacement of around 2,500 tons, and is powered by diesel engines using Combined Diesel and Diesel (CODAD) configuration. This allows a maximum speed of up to 25 knots, a range of around 4,0000 nautical miles at 15 knots, and an endurance of 21 days.

This is also a shorter, slightly smaller version of the Maharaja Lela-class light frigates being built for the Royal Malaysian Navy, which is based on the Gowind 3100 design.

While the original Gowind 2500 uses Combined Diesel and Electric propulsion configuration, the offer to PN was said to have been changed to Combined Diesel and Diesel (CODAD). Photo credits to Naval Group.

The Gowind 2500 has a helicopter landing deck and hangar for a 10-ton helicopter or unmanned aerial vehicle.

The combat system revolves around the Naval Group's SETIS Combat Management System, and uses Thales subsystems including the NS-100 3D AESA radar or the non-AESA SMART-S Mk. II air/surface search radar, and other Thales sensors similar to those offered by Damen's corvette design.

Also like Damen, weapon systems include the 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid naval gun, MBDA MM40 Exocet Block II anti-ship cruise missiles, a choice of 30mm RCWS, 16-cell MBDA VL-MICA air defense system, and two triple torpedo tubes.

Naval Group is also open to building one of the corvettes in the Philippines, and we were told that they have secured a local partner in case the Philippine Navy select them for the project.

The Gowind 2500 corvette. Photo credits to MBDA.

ASFAT's Offer:

MaxDefense Philippines received confirmation from sources that Turkish state-owned defense group ASFAT, which represent several Turkish shipbuilders, has offered a variant of the Ada-class missile corvette for the Philippine Navy project.

The Ada-class is currently in service with the Turkish Naval Forces, and a derivative design was used for an order for the Pakistani Navy. The design offered to the Philippine Navy is said to be very similar to the export design used for the Pakistani Navy, which is slightly larger and heavier, uses a Combined Diesel and Diesel (CODAD) propulsion configuration, and includes a VLS system.

The Pakistan Navy's "initial" design variant of the Ada-class MILGEM I corvette shows several differences to the original Turkish variant, including the use of VLS, different weapons and sensors suite, etc. This design has been changed later on, although the general configuration of this variant is similar to the one offered to the Philippine Navy sans Western sensors and weapon suit. Photo credits to Defence Turkey Magazine.


The Combat System revolves around the HAVELSAN GENESIS Combat Management System from Turkey, which is said to be open architecture. MaxDefense Philippines also received confirmation that Turkey was willing for the transfer of technology of the GENESIS CMS to allow the Philippine Navy to reconfigure it to its own needs without relying on HAVELSAN or ASFAT. This is one of its major advantages over other shipbuilders.


No specifics has been shared yet to MaxDefense Philippines with regards to the sensor suite, but it is expected that sensors from Thales or Leonardo would be used including the air/surface search radar system, fire control radar, electro-optical systems, and sonar.

As for weapons, it will have the 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid gun, 30mm ASELSAN SMASH naval gun, a choice of anti-ship missiles that include the Boeing Harpoon and MBDA MM40 Block II Exocet, and a selection of VLS and VLS-launched air defense missiles from Europe or USA including the VL-MICA, Mk. 41 VLS with ESSM, and others.

Turkey may also offer its new ROKETSAN Atmaca, but the missile is still under development and may not be acceptable at the moment.

ASFAT has also opened the possibility of offering a derivative of the upcoming Istanbul-class light frigate as well, which is larger, heavier and longer than the Ada-class, but will have more space and endurance than the Ada-class.

The only issue with the Istanbul-class is said to be the price, which is beyond the Php14 billion/ship budget of the Philippine Navy. But considering the project is financed via soft-loan, additional funding might be allowed if the PN believes the larger ship is a better option.

Another advantage of ASFAT is their offer to build one of the corvettes in the Philippines through a local partner.


A comparison between the Ada-class corvette (above) and Istanbul-class frigate (below), both of which are products of the Turkish Navy's MILGEM programme. Take note the specs of the Ada-class shown above is based on Turkey's domestic model. Offer to PN is said to be slightly larger, slower and heavier.


Hyundai Heavy Industries' Offer:

MaxDefense Philippines has received confirmation from industry and Philippine Navy sources that HHI has indeed offered their HDC-3100 (also known as HDF-3100) design for the PN's Corvette Project.

The design is an improved and enlarged version of the HDF-2600 design, which was the baseline design used for the Jose Rizal-class frigates built for the Philippine Navy in 2017.

Of the shipbuilders shortlisted, only HHI was able to publicize their design, and according to our sources, HHI was very specific on the CGI they released to what the proposal is to the Philippine Navy.

As expected, the ship's combat systems revolve around the Hanwha Systems Naval Shield Integrated Combat Management System (I-CMS), and will be having its latest Baseline 3 variant similar to those to be used on the Republic of Korea Navy's FFX-III frigates.

It would be remembered that Hanwha Systems presented the Naval Shield Baseline 3 to the Philippine Navy during ADAS 2018.

Photo shows former PN FOIC Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad (ret) being briefed on the Naval Shield Baseline 3 ICMS by a Hanwha Systems official during ADAS 2018. Photo taken from Hanwha Systems.

MaxDefense Philippines is still waiting for further confirmation on the sensor and weapon systems suite offered by HHI, but was told that those seen in the CGI from HHI is exactly what HHI offered to the Philippine Navy. So with this, we'll use HHI's HDC-3100 CGI for basis of our analysis.

The ship is larger than the Jose Rizal-class frigates - with a length of at least 114 meters and a width of 14.8 meters, with a displacement of around 3,100 tons. Compare this to the Jose Rizal-class at around 107.5 meters long, 13.8 meters wide, and displaces at around 2,600 tons.

Comparison between the HDC-3100 (above), the HDF-3000 frigate aka Incheon-class (middle), and the HDF-2600 frigate aka Jose Rizal-class (bottom). The HDF-2600 and HDC-3100 both have a maximum speed of only around 25 knots due to lack of gas turbine engines, while the HDF-3000 is equipped with a GE LM2500 gas turbine in CODAG configuration allowing for higher speeds. Photo credits to HHI.

Looking at the CGI, starting from the front end:

Main gun is a 76mm caliber, with a choice of either the Hyundai WIA 76mm gun with 100 rounds per minute capacity, or the Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid gun with a 120 rounds per minute capacity. Most likely the Philippine Navy will insist on Oto Melara as it is already in service with the PN, although as mentioned earlier, HHI may insist to use the Hyundai WIA gun considering the project is financed through soft loan and the South Korean Government may have an upper hand during negotiations.

A 16-cell Vertical Launching System (VLS) can be found behind the 76mm main gun, and it appears to be the VLS for the MBDA VL-MICA air defense missile system, capable of firing 16 VL-MICA surface-to-air missiles.


The front end of the HDC-3100, with the CGI showing what appears to be a Hyundai WIA 76mm naval gun, and a 16-cell VLS that fits the appearance of the MBDA VL-MICA air defense system. Cranes are also visible beside the VLS launchers, which will assist in loading/reloading launching boxes on the VLS system. Photo taken from HHI.

The VL-MICA VLS, container and launcher, which is similar to the ones in the HDC-3100 CGI. 


The ship's mast also show what appears to be a Hensoldt TRS-4D AESA air/surface search radar system, a Kelvin Hughes Sharpeye navigation and secondary surface search radar system, a Selex ES NA-25X fire control radar, VSAT/satellite communications (SATCOM) system antennas, a Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) system antenna, and Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) antennas.

It also shows four Countermeasures Launchers, most likely the Terma C-Guard system.

Mast and bridge section of the HDC-3100 design. Photo taken from HHI.


Superstructure midsection shows an open deck before the funnel, but covered from the funnel to the rear, which improves reducing radar cross section compared to the HDF-2600 / Jose Rizal-class.

Two rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) are seen but covered by a retractable gate, while the triple torpedo launchers were moved to a lower deck and is covered also by a retractable gate.

Also seen are two quadruple launchers for anti-ship missiles, most likely the LIGNex1 SSM-700K C-Star anti-ship cruise missiles.

Another retractable gate can be seen behind those for the RHIBs, which are open-able during launching of anti-ship missiles and not burn the ship's superstructure walls.

Midsection of the HDC-3100 design. Photo credits to HHI.


At the hangar superstructure, the upper deck features a gun-based Close-in Weapon System (CIWS), which appears to be similar to Hanwha Systems' CIWS-II design, although there is no visible medium-caliber RCWS.

MaxDefense Philippines believes that a redesign of the hangar's upper deck would be made to allow the CIWS to sit on a higher platform, and allowing a RCWS to be at a lower position.

Hangar section of the HDC-3100 design. Photo credits to HHI.


A helicopter landing deck can be found on the aft, expected to have a capacity of at least 10 tons, enough to allow the AgustaWestland AW-159 Wildcat, Sikorsky MH-60 Seahawk, or even the NH Industries NH90 naval helicopter.


The helideck section. Photo credits to HHI.


Take note that since this is a basic CGI of the HDC-3100 design, further improvements can be made once the Critical Design Review (CDR) is done. One would remember that the pre-CDR CGI of the Jose Rizal-class is slightly different from the final output.

Compared to its other competitors, HHI did not offer to build any corvette in the Philippines. Instead, all work will be in HHI's Ulsan naval shipyard. Apparently, this allows to lower down cost, compared to providing technology transfer which is expensive vis a vis the project's budget.

Why Focus on HHI's Corvette Offer?:

Readers may have noticed that our analysis for the corvette offerings of the 4 companies are more comprehensive on HHI's HDC-3100 compared to the 3 other offerings from Turkey, France and The Netherlands.

This is because so far, HHI has released more information publicly than the other 3 companies. This could only mean 1 thing - that HHI may have already reached a certain level of advancement on the project compared to the other 3 companies.

This is not just because of the availability of a CGI of its offer, but also based on information provided by Philippine Navy and industry sources to MaxDefense Philippines.

Apparently, HHI and the South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) has already advanced more in its negotiations with the Philippine Navy and Philippines Department of National Defense (DND), to the point that Terms of Reference (TOR) is already being prepared, which would lead to a Notice of Award (NOA) being given to HHI.

Terms of Reference is the document that is a guideline that would be part of the contract between the two parties, and having this arranged with a certain company only means that deal is almost nearing completion.

Not only that, we also received confirmation from South Korean sources indicating that HHI's naval shipyard in Ulsan has already started preparation in anticipation of an award and eventual construction of the new corvettes (MaxDefense Philippines thanks its South Korean sources for this information).

This can be also corroborated by the lack of further discussion between the Philippine Navy / DND team and the 3 other shipbuilders. In comparison, HHI's executive vice president and director for Marketing and Sales Mr. Moon Young Park was meeting the Philippine Navy leadership as late as 03 August 2021.

HHI Executive VP and Director for Marketing and Sales Mr. Moon Young Park meets PN leadership on 03 August 2021 in Manila. Photo credits to Philippine Navy.


Does this mean HHI is the Winning Shipbuilder?:

Not necessarily, or not yet. While they have the highest chance of getting the project, until a Notice of Award is given, a Contract signed and the Notice to Proceed issued, everything can still happen.

The biggest obstacle though is lack of funding from the national government - if the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) does not release the initial funding for the Php28 billion project, the deal won't push through. This can happen even if Malacanang approves the deal to proceed.

Another is on the delays in implementing the project. This could be due to lack of funding (as stated earlier), or because of bureaucratic red tape. If this project does not reach contract signing before the end of the 2021, it can be considered a "midnight deal" if still pushed just months before the national elections in May 2022.

But another factor that can delay the project will depend on the Philippine Navy - will HHI and the PN reach an agreement on the deal's details while it is still clear for a deal to proceed?

We expect that HHI would be pushy on its offer, and may steamroll the Philippine Navy's Technical Working Group (TWG) and Leadership especially now that the deal is through soft loans by the shipbuilder's country of origin. If both parties agree on the final inclusions of the deal, then the Philippine Navy can pass the burden to complete the deal to the DND and the National Government.

=============

MaxDefense Philippines will continue to monitor the developments on this project, especially that the Philippine Navy is not publicizing the details of the project due to its G2G nature, unlike the previous Frigate Acquisition Project that was acquired through public bidding.

We are still hopeful that the government would finalize the deal before the end of year 2021, no matter who the winning shipbuilder and corvette design would be selected.


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First edit and release: 09 August 2021
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Philippine Coast Guard's first 97-meter Multi-Role Response Vessel to launch soon

 

The Philippine Coast Guard is expecting good news in the next dew days.

Its largest ship acquisition to date, the 94-meter Multi-Role Response Vessels (MRRV) it ordered from Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, will reach an important milestone this week.

But before that, our previous report that the new MRRVs are in fact 97 meters long, not 94 meters as suggested during the conceptual and contract signing phases of the project.

The first ship of the class, with hull number 9701 (97 meters, hull 01) which is still unnamed yet, is scheduled for launching on Monday, 26 July 2021 at MHI's shipyard in Japan.

Hull number 9701 is the first ship of the class of this new 97-meter MRRV for the PCG. Majority of its external components including radar and other subsystems are already installed on the mast. Photo shared to MaxDefense Philippines by sources.

While there is still no name decided as of this writing, MaxDefense Philippines was told that a female hero's name would be used.

Among those in the shortlist of names are Melchora Aquino, also known as the revolutionary Tandang Sora, and Teresa Magbanua, a Filipino revolutionary who also participated in resistance against the United States during the Philippine-American War, and Japan during World War II.

Photos of the ship during its final few days before launching are shown below. Note the hull number 9701, and the aft of the ship still without a name painted on it.


The aft of the ship, showing the helicopter deck and hangar opening., twin screws and dual rudder. Take note, no name has been painted on the ship yet. Photo shared to MaxDefense Philippines by sources.


The launching of the first ship of the class marks a major milestone for the project, and is remarkable considering the quick turn-around time from contract signing to construction.

The ship will have its final fit-out works to proceed afterwards and will be done with the ship already floating at pier. 


This will be followed by at-pier tests of its subsystems, before conducting its sea trials which will later on involved personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard.


No doubt, its a ship for the Philippine Coast Guard. Photo shared to MaxDefense Philippines by sources.


The new 97-meter Multi-Role Response Vessels were based on a revised Kunigami-class offshore patrol vessel used by the Japan Coast Guard, as shown below. 


Some photos of Kunigami-class large patrol vessels of the JCG. Credits to original sources of the photos.


While the ship's length was increased to 97 meters, it is expected that the basic requirements originally set for the project may remain, or will be very close to the final product.

Basic technical requirements of the MRRV, as indicated in the tender documents. Photo taken from DOTr/PCG bid documents.


The ship has an overall length of 96.6 meters, a maximum width of 11.5 meters, a draft of 4.3 meters.

Delivery is still expected to be made by early May 2022, if no issues will be encountered considering COVID-19 pandemic is still a worldwide issue that may affect the movement of parts and technical personnel involved in completing the ship.

Construction of second unit with hull number 9702 is currently ongoing, and is expected to be launched by November 2021. This means the second ship is currently ahead of schedule, which is good news for the PCG as well. 

Project Summary:

94-meter Multi-Role Response Vessel Acquisition Project

Note: Edited as of 22 July 2021:

* End User: Philippine Coast Guard

* Quantity: 2 nos.

* Project ABC: Php7,000,000,000.00

* Acquisition Mode: Limited Source Bidding

* Source of Funding: Official Development Assistance (ODA) by Japan JICA, ODA Loan No. PH-P263.

* Winning Proponent: Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co. Ltd.

* Product for Delivery: 2 nos. modified Kunigami-class 97-meter patrol vessel

* Contract Price:
 JPY14,550,000,000.00, approx. Php6,790,000,000.00

* Searching Hashtag: #PCG94mMRRV #PCG97mMRRV

* Status: Notice of Award (NOA) released 17 January 2020 in favor of Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. Contract Signing and release of Notice to Proceed (NTP) held on 07 February 2020. First steel cutting held on December 2020. Launching for first ship of the class scheduled by 26 July 2021. Second ship construction ongoing, scheduled to launch on November 2021.

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First release: 22 July 2021
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines



Friday, July 2, 2021

Philippine Air Force selects its future advance trainer aircraft to replace SIAI Marchetti S.211 jet trainers

 
Back in October 2014, MaxDefense Philippines wrote a blog entry asking if it was already time for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to replace its dear SIAI Marchetti AS.211 Warrior advanced jet trainers.

"Is it Time to Replace the Philippine Air Force's S-211 Aircraft?" - first posted on 07 October 2014.

That time, the AS.211 Warrior was not just the most capable trainer in the PAF, but was also the most capable combat aircraft in the entire PAF fleet, due to the absence of proper multi-role fighters or light combat aircraft, or even a modern close air support aircraft. The PAF's current fleet of FA-50PH Fighting Eagle supersonic light combat aircraft and the A-29B Super Tucano light attack aircraft were not yet available to the PAF in 2014.

Normally when we write something, we are actually providing clues on what's already being prepared. In 2014, we already received information that the PAF may include the need for new intermediate-advanced trainer aircraft to replace the AS.211 Warrior by the mid 2020s, with the new aircraft to be acquired either as part of the 2nd List of Horizon 1 phase, or with the Horizon 2 phase.

Even before 2014, studies were already started by the PAF on what its future training curriculum and phases would be, and what kind of training equipment are needed, including aircraft, flight simulators, and others. 

And with the AS.211 Warrior fleet reaching 30 years of service by the early 2020s, it was found that it would probably best to start replacing the AS.211 Warrior trainer jets with a newer, more modern, more efficient, more dependable, more forgiving, and more advanced trainer aircraft.

Now, that time has come, as the Philippine Air Force starts the acquisition of a new trainer aircraft, and selecting its choice for procurement.

A KT-1 Woongbi operated by the Republic of Korea Air Force. Photo credits to Wikipedia.


The Trainer Aircraft Acquisition Project of the PAF:

The Philippine Air Force is in the market for new trainer aircraft which would be used for intermediate-advance pilot training.

Th new aircraft would be replacing the SIAI Marchetti AS.211 jet trainer, which has been in use with the PAF since the early 1990s. The type is already entering 30 years of service with the PAF in the next couple of years, although it is believed that the PAF would keep the AS.211 flying together with the new trainer for jet proficiency training and for low-intensity combat and surveillance roles.

One of the PAF's AS.211 Warrior jet trainer aircraft.

The aircraft would be slotted between the SF-260F basic trainer, and the FA-50PH Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft which also doubles as  lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) for future fighter pilots.

12 units are planned for procurement with an Approved Budget for Contract (ABC) worth Php4.2 billion. It is planned to be procured through Multi-Year Contractual Authority (MYCA), and could be a Government-to-Government (G2G) transaction with the winning manufacturer's country of origin.

MaxDefense PH is still confirming if these new aircraft would be assigned with the 5th Fighter Wing's 105th Fighter Training Squadron at Basa Air Base in Pampanga, or with the Air Education and Training Command in Fernando Air Base in Batangas. Since it is expected to replace the AS.211, it is possible that it would be with the 5th Fighter Wing.

The AS.211 is employed as a light attack aircraft and patrol aircraft, and is capable of using assorted munitions including AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile and Paveway II laser guided bombs (both not shown), free fall bombs, and rocket pods. Photo credits to Peter Ho.

Aircraft Models for Consideration:

According to MaxDefense Philippines air force and defense industry sources, the PAF Technical Working Group (TWG) for the Trainer Acquisition Project were looking at several options, which include the following aircraft models:

1. Embraer A-29B Super Tucano - the PAF already operates the A-29B in the light attack and close air support role with the PAF's 15th Strike Wing, and is a practical choice for commonality. But it was said to be too capable for the trainer role, and all the added capability also increases the overall price of the aircraft.

A-29B Super Tucano of the Philippine Air Force. Photo credits to AFP Public Information Office.

2. Beechcraft Textron T-6C Texan II - currently one of the most widely used basic-advance trainer aircraft in the world, with the US military itself using it for their training requirements. The AT-6 Wolverine lost to the A-29B Super Tucano for the PAF's Close Air Support Aircraft program, although it is still pushing the T-6C for trainer requirements due to issues on the A-29B as trainer aircraft as mentioned above. Thailand ordered the trainer and light attack variants of the T-6.

The AT-6 Wolverine light attack and T-6C Texan II trainer aircraft. Photo credits to original source.

2, KAI KT-1 Woongbi - South Korea has been very active in marketing their defense products to the Philippines, and the KT-1 has been one of the first products they started marketing as early as the early 2000s. And with the sale of the FA-50PH Fighting Eagle years ago, KAI has established a foothold in the Philippine Air Force and DND. Within the ASEAN region, Indonesia is currently using the KT-1B.

The KT-1T, operated by the Turkish Air Force. Photo credits to original source.

4. Aero Vodochody L-39NG - one of the jet trainer aircraft offered to the PAF, the L-39NG is the latest version of the successful L-39 Albatross family of advanced jet trainer aircraft. The L-39NG makes use of the latest avionics systems and uses the American-made Williams International FJ44 turbofan engine. Vietnam ordered 12 units, which will start delivery by 2023.

The L-39NG jet trainer aircraft. Photo credits to Armada International.

5. Pilatus PC-21 - this is the latest trainer aircraft from Switzerland's Pilatus Aircraft, known for the  successful PC-7 and PC-9 advanced trainers. The PC-21 is said to be the most advanced in the selections despite using a turboprop engine. But it is also one of the more expensive options, which could be am issue for the a stingy market like the Philippines. Currently, Singapore uses the PC-21 for advanced flight training.

Two PC-21 trainer aircraft of the Swiss Air Force. Photo credits to Swiss Air Force.

6. Leonardo Aermacchi M-345 High Efficiency Trainer (HET) - part of Leonardo's family of trainer aircraft, the M-345HET is a latest variant of the original SIAI Marchetti S.211 jet trainer already in service with the PAF. It uses a similar but improved airframe but with everything else updated to the latest technology include glass cockpit, more powerful but efficient turbofan engines, among others. No regional air force uses the type although the Italian Air Force is a major user.

The Aermacchi M-345 HET from Leonardo. Photo credits to Leonardo.

 
PAF Selects its Next Trainer Aircraft:

In 2020, MaxDefense Philippines started liaising with PAF sources on what they are looking for as their next trainer aircraft. 

Apparently, groups within the service are divided if they would prefer a jet-powered aircraft, or will they return to turboprop-powered aircraft models, considering the AS.211 Warrior is already powered by turbofan jet propulsion. 

So far, only the Aero Vodochody L-39NG and the Leonardo Aermacchi M-345HET were the jet-powered offers, so if the PAF selects a jet-powered trainer, we can definitely find it easier to see what they could have chosen.

But by late 2020, we received confirmation that the PAF TWG prefers a turboprop-powered trainer aircraft, taking out both the L-39NG and M-345HET from the shortlist.

By 2021, we started receiving word from several sources that the PAF TWG has identified its top choice for the project, and has began negotiations with the top selection. And it was identified as KAI's KT-1 Woongbi, with another aircraft model believed to be Beechcraft Textron's T-6C Texan II coming in second.

This has become more apparent when we received confirmation last June 2021 that the TWG's recommendation was already approved and signed by PAF Commanding General Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes, and has already been submitted to the DND, with Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana approving the recommendation for submission to Malacanang and the Department of Budget and Management.

As usual, this would be dependent on DBM if funds are available, and with Malacanang for final approval.

The KAI KT-1 Woongbi as seen in KAI's official brochure, which was also posted as part of the PAF Symposium 2021 Virtual Showroom. Photo credits to KAI.

The KT-1 Woongbi trainer aircraft:

The KT-1 Woongbi is a single-engine basic-intermediate trainer aircraft designed jointly the South Korean Agency of Defense Development (ADD) and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). It is currently built by KAI, and was the first indigenous aircraft developed to meet the requirements of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF).

The aircraft was said to be loosely based to the Pilatus PC-9 trainer aircraft.

Newer versions of the aircraft can be equipped with glass cockpit configuration, and avionics can be changed and improved depending on requirements, including use of Night Vision Goggles (NVG), heads-up display, multi-function display, hands-on throttle and stick configuration, among others.

It also has an armed version called the KA-1, which can be used for weapon training or light attack requirements. It can be armed with gun and rocket pods, bombs, and missiles, with an option to install Forward Looking Infra-red (FLIR) turrets and laser range finder.

KAI has marketed the KT-1 as part of an integrated training package when paired with the KAI T-50 Golden Eagle advanced/lead-in fighter trainer jet.

The KT-1 was developed from the KTX Program for the ROKAF in 1988, with prototypes built by 1991. It made its maiden flight on November 1991, and was named "Woongbi" in 1995.


The KT-1 started serial production in 2000, with the ROKAF being its first customer with orders made in 1999 for 85 units. The ROKAF received their first aircraft in 2000, with deliveries completed in 2002.

A follow-on order was made by the ROKAF in 2003 for 20 KA-1 armed trainers, which can be armed with gun and rocket pods for use as weapons trainer aircraft.

The Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) became the first export customer of the KT-1 Woongbi, with an initial order for 12 KT-1B aircraft in April 2003 to be paid by barter with 8 Indonesian-made CN-235 transport aircraft. The TNI-AU eventually ordered 17 KT-1B which was used by the service for basic training and for aerobatic display with the Jupiter Aerobatic Team.

Indonesian Air Force KT-1B Woongbi aircraft with the Jupiter Aerobatic Team. Credits to original source of photo.

In 2007, KAI and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) signed a US$553 million deal to supply 55 KT-1T trainers for the Turkish Air Force. The first 5 aircraft would be built at KAI's plant in South Korea, while the remaining 50 aircraft would be locally produced by TAI in their plant near Ankara. Deliveries started in 2010 and completed in 2014.

KT-1 Woongbi of the Turkish Air Force. Photo credits to Savunma ve Havacilik.

In 2012, the Peruvian Air Force ordered 10 KT-1P trainers and 10 KA-1P light attack aircraft as part of a US$208 million. KAI built the first 4 aircraft which were delivered in 2014, while SEMAN locally assembled the rest of the order. SEMAN delivered the first locally assembled KT-1 and KA-1 aircraft to the Peruvian Air Force on April 2015.

A KA-1 Woongbi armed trainer of the Peruvian Air Force. Photo credits to Wikipedia.

Senegal ordered 4 KT-1S in 2016, with all aircraft delivered to the Senegalese Air Force by 2020. They are KAI's first export customer in Africa, where the South Korean government is hopeful to gain success in exporting their defense products

What's Next:

With the selection already made, it is now up to the DND and PAF to complete negotiations with KAI on final pricing, package inclusions, delivery schedule and payment terms.

This would become the basis for the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the project, before a contract can be signed between the DND and KAI.

MaxDefense Philippines believes that a contract could be signed before the end of the year, but that will depend on how fast (or slow) the DND is in processing the procurement of this project.

If a contract is signed and Notice to Proceed (NTP) is released in favor of KAI within the year, the first batch of aircraft could be delivered to the PAF as early as 2023.

Take note that all these estimates are based on the DND proceeding with KAI, and not changing their decisions during the next few months. Should an agreement between the DND and KAI fails to take off, moving to the next possible model and restarting all procurement processes will definitely delay the project by at least a year.

Anyway, MaxDefense Philippines hopes that everything goes well with this project.

Summary:

Trainer Aircraft Acquisition Project

Note: Edited as of 02 July 2021.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (5th Fighter Wing or Air Education Training Command)

Quantity: 12 aircraft minimum


* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP


* Project ABC:
 Php4,200,000,000.00 (approx. US$86 million)


Acquisition Mode: Negotiated Procurement (Government-to-Government)

* SARO Release:
 TBA


* Winning Proponent:
 TBA, expected to be Korea Aerospace Industries

Product for Delivery: TBA, expected to be KAI KT-1 or KA-1 Woongbi


* Contract Price:
 TBA


Status: PAF TWG selected KAI's KT-1/KA-1 Woongbi, recommendation approved by CGPAF and submitted to DND. MaxDefense PH received confirmation that SND already approved procurement of Trainer Aircraft based on KAI's offer.

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First release: 02 July 2021
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines



Sunday, June 6, 2021

Philippine Air Force makes final push for Multi-Role Fighters with Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen


The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has started to make its final chance to push for the acquisition of new Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) aircraft, as securing funding for modernization projects has reached the final few months.

And based on information MaxDefense PH has gathered from sources from the Philippine Air Force and from the defense industry, the Technical Working Group (TWG0 for the Multi-Role Fighter Acquisition Project has revised its recommendation and go with the Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen fighter aircraft from Sweden.

This was approved by Philippine Air Force leadership led by PAF Commanding General Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes, as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) led by AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana.

If information provided to MaxDefense PH are correct, this has been already passed to the Department of National Defense (DND), which now has the ball in securing final approval from Malacanang to secure funding requirements.

The Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen. Photo credits to CZDefence.

From F-16 Viper to JAS-39 Gripen:

2019 - 2020: Selecting the F-16 Block 70 Viper:

MaxDefense PH reported previously that the Philippine Air Force Technical Working Group has selected the Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 70 Viper in 2019, and was already submitted to the Department of National Defense for approval by the National Government.

The PAF was said to stick to the original plan, as negotiations continued with the US Government and Lockheed Martin with the F-16 Viper deal. In the process, the offer made by Lockheed Martin was for 12 new F-16C/D Block 70 Viper fighters, as well as 2 to 4 used F-16D Block 30 or 40 Fighting Falcon fighters hot-transferred from the US Air National Guard.

A CGI of the F-16C Block 70 Viper. Credits to original source of photo.

If the contract was signed and Notice to Proceed (NTP) were released by early 2020, deliveries were said to be made starting 2024 for the F-16 Block 70 Vipers, although hot-transfer of used F-16 Block 30 or 40 Fighting Falcons will be made within 1 to 2 years from release of  NTP, which is somewhere around 2021 or 2022.

Training would be conducted in the mainland United States with US Air Force or US Air National Guard units, while succeeding training would also be conducted in the Philippines as part of regular deployment of US military personnel under the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement.

The US will also provide an option to the Philippine Air Force for grants of additional F-16C/D Block 30 or 40 Fighting Falcons, although upgrades to Block 70 Viper standards would be paid for by the Philippine government.

Based on information we received back in 2019, the offer made by the US government was to be transacted through US Foreign Military Sales (US FMS) program, and would cost higher than the Php61.2 billion budget proposed by the PAF. Figures MaxDefense PH received back in 2019 was close to US$1.4 billion (Php70 billion), which is almost Php9 billion off the PAF's budget. This excludes munitions.

The Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper (above) was among those showcased re-opening of Basa Air Base and the Balik Basa 2018 reunion. Photos shared by a MaxDefense community member who wish to remain anonymous.

While the PAF selected the US offer for F-16 Vipers, funding has become a problem. The DND was asked to find ways to add more funding to the MRF Acquisition Project on top of the Php61.2 billion approval in-principle back in 2018.

But also by 2nd quarter of, 2020 COVID-19 global pandemic has affected the Philippine government spending and economic output, and the government was pressed to divert funds to pandemic-related expenses. This has not just affected the Multi-Role Fighter Acquisition Project, but several other projects of the Revised AFP Modernization Program that were even in more advanced stages than the Multi-Role Fighter project.

This also made it impossible for the national government to allocate more funding to the MRF Acquisition Project based on the F-16 proposal, and it has become apparent that the project will stall.

One of the flyers from Lockheed Martin marketing the F-16 Block 70 to the Philippines. Photo shared by one of our contributor who was present during one of LM's marketing sessions with the Philippine defense and military officials.


Also, by 3rd quarter of 2020, Lockheed Martin came back with a revised proposal. Since the issuance of contract has been pushed back by a year, their previous pricing and delivery commitments cannot be honored and have to be adjusted. The new proposal from Lockheed Martin for 12 new F-16C/D Block 70 Vipers has went up, and is now closer to US$1.6 billion (Php78 billion) excluding munitions.

Delivery was also pushed back. From 2024 for the 1st batch, it has been moved to 2025 to 2026 if the contract and NTP has been signed and released by early 2021. No changes were made on the hot transfer delivery of used F-16 Fighting Falcons, which still remains at 1 to 2 years from NTP release.

Dilemma:

With these new developments, it has become apparent that the allocated funding for the MRF Acquisition Project is not enough, and is short by almost Php17 billion following Lockheed Martin's latest offer.

The PAF was asked to return to the drawing board if it still wishes to continue with the project, as it has become apparent that getting additional funding would not be possible in the next 2 to 3 years due to poor economic activity of the country, funding issues with the government, and the Visiting Forces Agreement cancellation adding in the list of issues that affect any offer from the US Government.

A few options has been looked at by the DND and PAF. This includes:
1. Revising its selection and re-open negotiations with Saab and see if their previous offer with the Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen could hold ground or could even be made better,

2. Looking at diverting funds from the MRF Acquisition Project and instead look at the possibility of acquiring additional FA-50PH Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) which costs less than half of the MRF Project. This is considering the acquisition of more FA-50 light combat aircraft is actually planned under the Revised AFP Modernization Program's original Horizon 2 proposal before funding was reduced to Php300 billion and PAF needed to revise its program.

As shown on the original Horizon 1-3 program submitted by the DND in 2017, PAF actually requested for 24 Multi-Role Fighters and 12 Fighter/Surface Attack Aircraft/Lead-in Fighter Trainer Aircraft under the Horizon 2 phase. This was reduced to 24 MRFs and 0 F/SAA/LIFTA, until the final Horizon 2 plan was reduced to 12 MRFs and 0 F/SAA/LIFTA. Photo screengrabed from DND document shared to MaxDefense PH.

3. Another option was to move the project to Horizon 3 phase and wait for the next administration to continue this program.

Obviously pushing the project back to Horizon 3 was not an acceptable option, considering the PAF is expected to request to procure more Multi-Role Fighters in that phase, as shown on the table above.  Pushing the Horizon 2 MRF project to Horizon 3 would affect their ability to procure more MRFs and meet their targets by end of Horizon 3.

While acquiring more FA-50PH is among the options, it was not a popular decision among PAF leaders and Air Defense Command leaders and officers. The point of acquiring the FA-50PH back in Horizon 1 phase was to prepare the PAF for MRFs under Horizon 2. Getting more FA-50s without making a significant jump to more capable aircraft does not make sense.

A scale model of the JAS-39C Gripen was displayed in Basa Air Base during the "Balik Basa 2018" reunion. Photo shared by a MaxDefense PH community member.

Best option among the three options is to re-negotiate with Saab, and try to push down Saab's proposed cost to make it acceptable to the national government.

2020-2021: Shift to Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen:

While MaxDefense PH does not have much more details on how negotiations between the PAF/DND and Saab/Swedish government pushed through, an agreement was reached by 2nd quarter of 2021.

According to PAF and industry sources, the PAF TWG for the MRF Acquisition Project has re-submitted its recommendation selecting Saab's offer, and was approved by PAF and the GHQ AFP for submission to the DND.

JAS-39C/D Gripen of the Czech Air Force. Photo credits to Saab.

12 new Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen fighters will be supplied by Saab, plus an addition 2 units would be provided by Saab free of charge. All fighters would be upgraded to the latest MS20 standard with improved combat systems and avionics including the use of the latest PS-05 Mk.4 fire control radar.

Although MaxDefense PH does not have an actual figure to the agreed price, sources confirmed that it is slightly less than the Php61.2 billion budget allocated for the project.

Contrary to what was believed back in 2018, Saab will not include any Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft similar to its deal with Thailand in the past.

Apparently the proposal was already submitted to the Department of National Defense (DND) as of early June 2021, and Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana himself was said to be very supportive of the project.

This is currently the most expensive defense project ever to be undertaken by the Philippine Government.


Saab brought in a full-size mock-up of the JAS-39C Gripen during ADAS 2018 defense exhibition in Manila last September 2018. Interesting note on the 2nd photo showing its features. Photos shared by MaxDefense community members who attended the expo.


Potential Problems that Needs Settling Soon:

While the project is believed to be only needing Malacanang approval for the funding to be made available and the contract to be signed, there are still issues that needs to be settled soon.

1. Time Issues:

The administration of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte has almost reached the final 1 year, as he will be ending his 6-year term by 30 June 2022. 

But in terms of approving projects and releasing funds and approving projects, the Duterte administration actually only has a few months to go for projects to become cleared from potentially being classified as "Midnight Deal" projects.

The Multi-Role Fighter Acquisition Project should be able to have its contract signed and NTP (including initial funding) released by 1st quarter of 2022 at latest. That means around 9 months from now.

If not, the DND would be in a better position to postpone and contract signing and funding release until a new administration and DND leadership comes in by July 2022. This is similar to what happened to the Frigate Acquisition Project.

But this means threatening the project's continuity and legacy, as shown also on the Frigate Acquisition Project. While the succeeding administration did not cancel the Frigate project, it was altered to their benefit. And despite contract signing made during the Duterte administration, it does not solidify Duterte's claim that the project is his legacy, especially when the previous administration have made press releases prior to change in leadership that they were halting the contract signing out of respect of the next administration.

2. Need for Philippine - Sweden Defense Cooperation Agreement: 

A mechanism to allow Government-to-Government (G2G) deals between the Philippines and Sweden needs to be settled immediately, before a contract can be signed between the DND and Saab. This could either be a Defense Cooperation Agreement, of Defense Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Both the Philippine and Swedish governments should start working out the agreement as soon as possible, as this is needed even before a contract could be signed between the DND and Saab. 

The JAS-39C/D Gripen:

While MaxDefense PH has mentioned many times that the F-16 Block 70 Viper was the more superior aircraft than the JAS-39C/D Gripen, that does not make the Gripen a poor aircraft.

It only means that the Viper edges the Gripen in several features and capabilities due to its improvements compared to previous generation F-16 variants, which also made it more expensive than the Gripen C/D variant.

Our previous analysis of the Gripen did not touch on performance values as these information can be obtained from other websites that are more familiar with fighter aircraft. Instead we just listed features where it outshines the F-16 Block 70 Viper.

The Saab JAS-39C Gripen. Photo credits to original source.

Positive Notes:


1. The current JAS-39C/D Gripen being offered to the PAF is said to be in the latest MS20 standard, and includes the PS-05 Mk. 4 pulse doppler radar, which is considered among the best non-AESA fire control radar for fighter aircraft in the world.

The Mk.4 variant has made significant improvements over older variants of the PS-05 radar, including improved range, ability to detect low Radar Cross Section targets, enhanced jammer suppression, and improved missile-lock performance.


Some info on PS-05 Mk. 4 capability compared to older variants of the radar. Photo credits to Gripen News' Twitter account.

2. The JAS-39C/D Gripen is cheaper to procure than the F-16 Block 70 Viper, at least in the Philippine competition as explained earlier in this blog. This allows savings in initial procurement cost.

3. There's the still debatable but widely accepted concept of Gripen's low operating cost, quick turn-around time, less requirements for infrastructure and manpower, and simplicity of overall operation.


Fast turnaround and reduced crew requirements are among the key features Saab was said to win against the F-16 Viper. Photo credits to Saab and Flight Global.

This means savings in sustainment compared to the F-16 Block 70 Viper in every flight hour, reduced and simplified crew requirements, and most likely cheaper maintenance.

Saab claims that a team led by 1 technician and 5 semi-skilled personnel can re-arm, refuel, and turnaround a single Gripen fighter configured for air-to-air mission in 10 minutes, which is not expected to be possible with the F-16 Viper.

4. The Gripen uses the same engine design as the PAF's FA-50PH fleet, the Volvo RM12 turbofan engine which is essentially a version of the GE F404 engine that is already familiar with the PAF's maintenance and logistics team.

The JAS-39C/D Gripen uses the Volvo RM12 afterburning turbofan engines, essentially a GE F404 engine in the same family as those used by PAF FA-50PH light combat aircraft. Photo credits to Saab.


5. The JAS-39C/D Gripen uses the Meteor BVRAAM, which is said to be the best in its class. This is on top of the compatibility with several other munitions including the AIM-120 AMRAAM, MBDA MICA, and the IRIS-T missiles.

The MBDA Meteor medium-range air-to-air missile, said to be the best in the world, is compatible with the JAS-39 Gripen. Photo credits to AIN Online.

6. MaxDefense sources from the PAF confirmed that Saab guaranteed the delivery of the first 4 to 6 aircraft within 18 months (1.5 years) after Contract Signing and and release of Notice to Proceed. If PAF signs up for an MRF by 2021, it means the PAF could get their Gripens starting 2023, far earlier than the F-16 Viper standard delivery time which is around 4 years or 2025.

One of the JAS-39 Gripen in Saab's production line, and is almost complete. Photos taken from SvD Naringsliv.

7. Despite the variant already superceded by a new one in the form of the JAS-39E/F Gripen NG, Saab has made a commitment to fully support the continued development and improvement of the Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen through the next 30 years.

Roadmap for JAS-39C?D Gripen as committed by Saab to its international customers. Photo credits to Richard Smith's Twitter page.

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With the DND and PAF determined to get this project ahead before it becomes too late, MaxDefense PH hopes that their request to make the Multi-Role Fighter Project funded by the National Government would be given priority, considering the limited time available.

Saab, which has an office in Manila, should also work hard to make sure it uses all its available resources including getting support from the Swedish government to push the Duterte administration to make the project happen within the year.

Summary:

Multi-Role Fighter Acquisition Project (Horizon 2)

Note: Edited as of 06 June 2021.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (5th Fighter Wing)

Quantity: 12 aircraft or more


* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP


* Project ABC:
 Php61,200,000,000.00 (approx. US$1.25 billion)


Acquisition Mode: Negotiated Procurement (Government-to-Government)

* SARO Release:
 TBA


* Winning Proponent:
 TBA, expected to be SAAB AB.

Product for Delivery: TBA, expected to be Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen


* Contract Price:
 TBA


Status: PAF TWG selected F-16C/D Block 70 Viper on August 2019. PAF approved selected on September 2019, and DND approved selection on 30 October 2019. Despite approval, pricing issues and lack of funding has stalled negotiation with Lockheed Martin and re-opened the line of communications with Saab as of 3rd quarter 2020. MaxDefense PH received multiple information confirming PAF TWG releasing new recommendation to proceed with Saab's offer, which was selected due to affordability/pricing issues, and delivery schedule. Recommendation was approved by CGPAF Lt. Gen. Paredes. As of June 2021, DND is said to prepare submitting proposal to Malacanang based on Saab's offer.

The Saab JAS-39 Gripen C and Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper remain as the only shortlisted contenders for the PAF's MRF Acquisition Project, with the Viper selected in 2019, but was retracted due to several issues. By 2021, Gripen was selected for procurement. Photo taken from Aviatia.net.

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First release: 06 June 2021
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines




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