Your 1st for Philippine Defense

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The Philippine Coast Guard receives thousands of firearms bought from Israel Weapons Industries

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The Philippine Army will be adding new capabilities with Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge to come soon!

Jordan continues its assistance to the AFP!

The Philippine Army confirms receiving M14 Enhanced Battle Rifles from the Jordanian government!

The Philippine Army finally orders the Elbit ATMOS 155mm SPH?!

At last the Philippine Army finalizes its order for 2 batteries of Elbit ATMOS 155mm Self Propelled Howitzers!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Philippine Army's Light Tank and Wheeled APC projects awarded to Israel's Elbit Systems


With the Philippines looking at reopening itself to business despite COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, it looks like the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP are doing the same now.

As the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) confirming the release of funding for the initial 15% of the total project costs of the Light Tank and Wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) Acquisition Projects of the Philippine Army (PA), we now believe its time to announce the results of both projects.

The Sabrah light tank using the GDELS ASCOD 2 tracked armored vehicle platform. Photo from Elbit Systems.

And the Winner is:

To those following MaxDefense for a long time, they already know our style of doing things, of how we drop bits and pieces of information everywhere, bring in related information as clues, give info on what's happening around the world that may affect certain projects, and push our community members to look for them and think for themselves.

And so far, MaxDefense is happy that more people are understanding our way of bringing in information. 

Not surprising, many of our community members guessed who the winners are for both the Light Tank and Wheeled APC APC Acquisition Projects.

And yes, MaxDefense Philippines can finally confirm that the winner for both projects is none other than Elbit Systems Land & C4I of Israel, working closely with the Israeli Ministry of Defense, which received the Notice of Award (NOA) for the projects a few months ago.

Elbit Systems was working with General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS) and Excalibur Army/Czechoslovak Group to offer the Sabrah Light Tank family using the ASCOD 2 tracked armored vehicle and the Pandur II 8x8 wheeled armored vehicle are platforms.

Also, Elbit Systems was working with IVECO Defense Vehicles for the Wheeled APC project, which offered to use the Guarani 6x6 wheeled APC. 


The Sabrah Light Tanks using the GDELS ASOCD 2 tracked, and GDELS-Excalibur Army Pandur II 8x8 wheeled armored vehicles as platforms (top), and the IVECO Guarani, all offered by Elbit Systems Land & C4I to the Philippine Army. Top photo from Elbit Systems, above photo from IVECO.


What Happened in the past few months:

MaxDefense previously mentioned in past posts and blogs, as well as in our extension Philippine Defense Resource, that as as October 2019, the Department of National Defense (DND) already released a Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) that points to the Light Tank and Wheeled APC Projects to be acquired through Government-to-Government (G2G) process.

This was later affirmed in April 2020 with the PA and DND finally confirming that the project would be undertaken with the Israeli Ministry of Defense's International Defense Cooperation Directorate (MOD-SIBAT). So far, IMOD-SIBAT has assigned only Elbit Systems as their proponent.

The DND was already preparing the details and terms for the project's contract when the Philippine government decided to stop international travel and close the country due to COVID-19 pandemic. 

This delayed the entire process since both the Light Tank and Wheeled APC projects were among those affected by the realignment and diversion of funding as covered by Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal and One Act.

The Light Tank's 1st MYCA allocation worth Php1,422,649,800.00 provided under GAA FY2019, and the Wheeled APC's 1st and 2nd MYCA allocations worth Php339,780,000.00 and Php792,820,000.00 as provided by GAA FY2019 and FY2020, respectively were among those included in the fund diversions/

But not all was lost. Due to the realignment, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the DND revised its funding plan for FY2020, by identifying which projects from the original GAA FY2019 and FY2020 are the most important. Among those considered important were the Light Tank and Wheeled APC projects. This allowed both projects to be re-assigned with funding of what remained of the GAA FY2019 and FY2020 funds.

Thus, the 1st MYCA for the Light Tank worth Php1,422,649,800.00 and the 1st MYCA for the Wheeled APC worth Php339,780,000.00 were restored. They only adjusted the project's delivery schedule which is now to be completed by 2022 instead of 2021. The 3rd and final MYCA allocations for both projects were also moved to be funded under FY2022. This revision was approved by the DND and national government on May 2020, and paved the way to continue with the finalization of both projects.

As early as August 2020, MaxDefense already received confirmation that the DND has released Notices of Awards (NOA) for both projects to Elbit Systems Land & C4I, which also represented their partners in the project.

When Elbit Systems formally included the Sabrah Light Tank family into their portfolio as posted on their website since last August 2020, it was actually a heads-up that something positive already happened. The information was also confirmed by MaxDefense sources who were familiar with the project.



And since the Wheeled APC would be closely tied to the Light Tank Project, it was expected that it would also be reaching the same milestone.

With the funding allocation for both projects already released, its only a matter of time for both project to proceed further.

How the Projects were Won?

Honestly, these 2 projects are one of the tightest competitions in the AFP Modernization Program due to it not undergoing public tender, which means decision making from the Philippine Army and DND are based on other factors aside from price.

In this case, Elbit Systems' best selling point was the inclusion of Battlefield Management System, Command & Control, Fire Control, and Communication systems that are common and compatible, or to be compatible with existing and future networked systems that the PA and the AFP are introducing. And obviously, Elbit's competitors in both projects cannot offer subsystems that are compatible to what the AFP will be using.

The installation of the Elbit Torch-X battlefield management system, the Combat NG command and control system, and the E-LynX software defined radios on the Sabrah ASCOD 2, Sabrah Pandur II, and the Guarani vehicles would allow seamless networked connectivity to each other and to other units using the same systems.

While Hanwha Defense did offer to install a Korean-made BMS into its Light Tank and Wheeled APC offers, it does not work with the Israeli BMS and communications system already in use or ordered by the Philippine Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.


Both the Torch-X battlefield management system (top) and the E-LynX software defined MANET radio (above) would be installed on the Sabrah tanks and Guarani wheeled APCs.


Another selling point is the non-usage of Belgian-made turrets and guns, due to the ongoing arms export restrictions made by the Wallonia regional government of Belgium against the Philippines. Since Elbit's competitors on the Light Tank  Project, Hanwha Defense-Otokar JV and PT Pindad, using John Cockerill's C3105 turret and 105mm guns made in Belgium, it is expected that there are chances of delays or problems that may happen should the Light Tank project be awarded to the losing proponents.

Sabrah's turret was made by Elbit Systems with assistance from the Israel Defense Force's Ordnance Corps MANTAK (the same designer of the Merkava tank's turret), replacing an earlier proposal that used the Oto Melara Hitfact turret. The changes were made due to the requirement for an autoloading system, a better firing arc for the gun, and lower cost.

The Sabrah's turret was made by Elbit Systems with assistance from the Israel Defense Force's Ordnance Corps MANTAK, the same team that designed and built the Merkava tank's turret. Photo taken from Elbit Systems.


Other factors also were considered, including the lack of users of PT Pindad's Harimau tank, and better performance by the winning products over their competitors, although those mentioned above are said to be the main reasons.


Why Guarani 6x6 for Wheeled APC, and not Pandur II 6x6?

Another main point that many of our readers have been asking, is why did Elbit Systems offered to use the IVECO Guarani 6x6 for its Wheeled APC offer, rather than use the GDELS/Excalibur Army Pandur II 6x6?

Commonality should have been a factor in deciding to go with Pandur II 6x6 since it shares a lot of parts and traits as the Pandur II 8x8 that Elbit offered for the Wheeled Tank component of the Light Tank project.

According to Army sources, it was the Philippine Army's Technical Working Group who actually decided to go for the IVECO Guarani, as Elbit Systems offered both the Guarani 6x6 and Pandur II 6x6 for the project. But it appears that Pandur II was more expensive than the Guarani, since Guarani benefits from cheaper Brazilian labour and steel compared to the Pandur II which is produced in the Czech Republic.

The Pandur II 6x6 wheeled armored vehicle, which is also among those offered to the Philippine Army. Credits to original source of the photo.

Also, if Elbit Systems offered to use IVECO's Italian-made SuperAV 8x8 wheeled armored vehicle for the Wheeled Tank component of the Light Tank project, it would also be more expensive than the Pandur II 8x8, thus the decision to stick with Pandur II 8x8.

Honestly, this is one of the flaws in the Philippine defense procurement, as it makes more sense for the Philippine Army to have chosen the Pandur II 6x6 if cost is the only issue.

The Guarani's 8x8 variant, called the SuperAV, was said to be more expensive than the Pandur II 8x8 as it was built in Italy by IVECO's main production line rather than in Brazil. 


The Future:

It remains to be seen if a Contract was already signed between Elbit Systems Land & C4I and the Department of National Defense, but the recent release of funding for both projects only means that this could be coming, or might have already been done since a contract can be signed with or without the funding allocation released by the DBM in favor of the DND. What MaxDefense can confirm through, is that there is no Notice to Proceed (NTP) yet, since the funds were only released last 21 October 2020.

The release of NOA favoring Elbit Systems is another milestone reached by the DND and the Philippine Army in implementing the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program. This also means that the only project meant for the Philippine Army's Armor Division is the M113 Firepower Upgrade Project, which MaxDefense Philippines discussed in a blog entry back in April 2019.

Since the Philippine Army originally requested for 144 Light Tanks and 114 Wheeled APCs in its original Horizon 2 Phase Proposal submitted in 2017, it remains to be seen if the Philippine Army will pursue the acquisition of 116 more light tanks and 86 more wheeled APCs under the Horizon 3 phase of the RAFPMP, which runs from 2023 to 2027.

Anyway, MaxDefense Philippines would like to congratulate the Philippine Army, the Department of National Defense, Elbit Systems, General Dynamics European Land Systems, Excalibur Army / Czechoslovak Group, IVECO Defense Vehicles, and their local agents for pushing these 2 projects forward.

Project Summary:

Light Tank Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 23 October 2020.

* End User: Philippine Army (Armor Division)

* Quantity: 18 tracked and 10 wheeled tanks, 1 armored command vehicle, 1 armored recovery vehicle.

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php9,484,332,000.00

* Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) Procurement with Israeli government

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

* SARO Release: SARO-BMB-D-20-0017126 dated 15 October 2020, released 21 October 2020, worth Php1,422,649,800.00 for 15% initial payment.

* Winning Proponent: Elbit Systems Land & C4I

* Product for Delivery: 

    - 18 Sabrah ASCOD 2 tracked tanks
    - 10 Sabrah Pandur II 8x8 wheeled tanks
    - 1 ASCOD 2 Armored Command Vehicle 
    - 1 ASCOD 2 Armored Recovery Vehicle
    - All tanks to be equipped with Elbit turret and 105mm gun, E-LynX SDR, Torch-X BMS
    - Unspecified amount of 105mm tank gun ammunition

* Contract Price: Php9,484,332,000.00

* Residual Price: Php0.00

* First post by MaxDefense: 15 November 2015

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PALightTankAcquisition

* Status: Notice of Award (NOA) released in favor of Elbit Systems Land & C4I on 3rd quarter 2020. Contract and Notice to Proceed (NTP) pending.


Wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 23 October 2020.

* End User: Philippine Army (Armor Division)

* Quantity: 28 units

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Priority Projects of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php2,265,200,000.00

* Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) Procurement with Israeli Ministry of Defense.

* Source of Funding: General Appropriations Act (GAA) starting FY2020

* SARO Release: SARO-BMB-D-20-0017340 worth Php339,780,000.00 (15% initial payment) dated 19 October 2020, released 21 October 2020.

* Winning Proponent: Elbit Systems Land & C4I

* Product for Delivery: 

    - 28 units of IVECO Guarani wheeled 6x6 Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) 
    - Mounted with a manned turret armed with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and 40mm automatic grenade launcher
    - Options to alternatively equip with remote-controlled weapon station (RCWS) with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun.
    - Equipped with Elbit Torch-X BMS, E-LynX SDR

* Contract Price: Php2,265,200,000.00

* Residual Price: Php0.00

* First post by MaxDefense: 15 November 2015

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag:
 #PAWheeledAPCAcquisition

* Status: Notice of Award (NOA) released in favor of Elbit Systems Land & C4I on 3rd quarter 2020. Contract and Notice to Proceed (NTP) pending.

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First edit and release: 23 October 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Philippine Air Force to start receiving its Rafael Spyder Ground-Based Air Defense System in 2021


It has been a while since our last blog entry on the Philippine Air Force's (PAF) Ground Based Air Defense System (GBADS) Acquisition Project. Our last blog entry on the project, which was posted on 26 December 2018, talks about the selection of the Rafael SPYDER Air Defense System (ADS) for the project.

The Rafael SPYDER Air Defense System, which was selected for the PAF's GBADS Acquisition Project. Photo credits to Rafael.


What Happened Since December 2018:

Back in December 2018, MaxDefense announced that the Philippine Air Force has selected the Rafael SPYDER ADS for its GBADS requirement, beating out other competitors including offerings from Germany, South Korea, Russia, India, and other countries.

Despite the selection in December 2018, a Notice of Award (NOA) was only provided to Rafael in June 2019, and a contract was only signed between Rafael and the DND by 3rd quarter 2019.

3 batteries of SPYDER Air Defense System are covered in the contract, with each battery having a classified number of Missile Firing Units (MFU), a Command and Control Unit (CCU), and other support vehicles and systems.

As part of the contract, an initial 15% of the contract worth Php1.027 billion was released in June 2019, which constitutes the 1st of 3 Multi-Year Contractual Authority (MYCA) for the project. The Philippine government is expected to release the 2nd and 3rd repayments by 2020 and 2021.

Not much have happened after, since the contract was already signed and all the PAF needs to do is wait and do inspections as the units bound for the Philippines are manufactured, while the Philippine government allocates the multi-year funding for it until 2021.

A SPYDER SR/ER ADS missile firing unit. Photo credits to original source.

The Good News:

Let's start with the good news.

Based on the project's contract between the Department of National Defense (DND) and Rafael Advance Defense Systems (Rafael), the delivery of the 3 batteries of Rafael SPYDER Air Defense System for the Philippine Air Force would be in 2021.

Also, Rafael could be delivering, or may have already delivered the initial deliverable as part of the project, including equipment for training, testing and support equipment, and spare parts for the PAF's SPYDER Air Defense System within 2020.

These development means the Philippine Air Force is getting closer in having a ground based air defense missile system to defend critical air bases and other interests.

Rafael Python V and Derby missiles. Credits to original source of photo.

The Bad News:

Now for the not so happy news.

Previously MaxDefense reported that the SPYDER ADS that the Philippine Air Force could be getting could be the SPYDER-MR (Medium Range) version, since the PAF's pre-procurement evaluations, PAF and DND documents about the project, and information from sources all pointed out to a medium-range system to be procured under the GBADS Acquisition Project.

Back then there were only 2 options available for the SPYDER ADS: the SPYDER SR (Short Range) which has a maximum engagement range of 20 kilometers, and the SPYDER MR (Medium Range) with a maximum engagement range of 60 kilometers.

The infographic above shows the difference between the SPYDER SR and SPYDER MR. The PAF appears to have ordered the SPYDER ER which is essentially a SPYDER SR but using I-Derby ER extended range missiles.

This was further reinforced by the fact that a separate requirement was planned for a short-range system, which was supposed to be part of the Horizon 2 phase, but was moved to the Horizon 3 phase from 2023 to 2028 due to funding shortage. Originally the PAF was planning to acquire 3 Medium Range and 4 Short Range GBADS Batteries as part of Horizon 2.

The PAF was interested in the Thales Force Shield Short Range GBADS before it was decided to move the SHORAD section of the GBADS Project to Horizon 3 phase. Photo taken from Thales.

But based on recent documents from the government, and information provided by defense sources and contributors, the Philippine Air Force appears to be only getting the SPYDER ER (Extended Range), which is essentially a SPYDER SR including the use of the SR's shorter-ranged radar system, but will be capable of using the Rafael I-Derby ER extended range missiles that allows a maximum engagement range of 35-40 kilometers on a clear day.

SPYDER ER ADS uses the same IAI Elta EL/M-2016 ATAR radar used by the SPYDER SR ADS. The PAF already has one EL/M-2016NG radar in service.


This means that the fire control radar of the PAF's GBADS will also be the less-capable IAI Elta EL/M-2016 ATAR radar similar to the one donated by IAI Elta to the PAF as part of the Air Surveillance Radar Phase 1 project. This is instead of the longer ranged, more capable IAI Elta EL/M-2084 3D AESA radar that has better detection ranges and is the same radar used in the Iron Dome system.

Aside from using the SPYDER ER, it also turns out that the PAF will be getting the minimum configuration for a typical SPYDER ADS battery, in terms of number of launchers and support system. This means less teeth than expected to defend air bases from airborne threats.

Saving Grace:

Despite the bad news, there is still some saving grace that can still save this project in the years to come.

Since the SPYDER Air Defense System can be configured and re-configured depending on the end user's requirements, the Philippine Air Force can still improve the system once it is in service.

Additional firing units and supporting systems can be ordered later on and added to the existing SPYDER ER batteries. This can be done either as part of another phase of the AFP Modernization Program, or a gradual improvement that can be done by the PAF without relying on the AFP Modernization Program.

Also, it appears that the Philippine Air Force will be acquiring additional GBADS as part of the Horizon 3 phase covering fiscal years 2023 to 2028, as it plans to increase coverage of air defense systems to more location in the country.

And hopefully, this time the PAF may include longer-ranged systems including medium range (beyond 50 kilometer range), and long range systems.

With the South Koreans becoming more active in the AFP Modernization Program, MaxDefense won't be surprised if the KM-SAM could be selected for the PAF's GBADS requirements in the future, if not additional and more advanced versions of the SPYDER ADS. Photo credits to original source.


Until then, all we can do now is to wait for the deliveries to start coming in. MaxDefense would provide up-to-date information about this project, which will be covered by our extension page exclusively handling modernization projects, the Philippine Defense Resource.

"Ground Based Air Defense System (GBADS) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force"


Project Summary:

Ground Based Air Defense System (GBADS) Acquisition Project

Note: Edited as of 03 October 2020


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


* Quantity: 3 batteries


* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP)


* Project ABC:
 Php6,846,750,000.00


Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) deal with the Israeli government

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


* SARO Release: 
      - 1st Tranche: SARO-BMB-D-19-004325 dated 04 June 2019 worth Php1,027,012,500.00 (15% Downpayment), released 06 June 2019
      - 2nd Tranche: SARO-BMB-D-20-0011482 dated 09 June 2019 worth Php2,396,362,500.00, released 11 June 2020.
     
* Winning Proponent: Rafael Advance Systems Ltd. (Israel)

Product for Delivery:
     - 3 batteries of Rafael SPYDER Air Defense System
     - Associated radar systems, command and control systems, support vehicles, and ammunition (Python 5 and Derby missiles)


* Contract Price: Php6,846,750,000.00

* Residual Price: Php0.00

First post by MaxDefense: 18 June 2013


* Searching Hashtag: #PAFGBADSAcquisition

* Status: Notice of Award (NOA) released in favor of Rafael Advance Systems Ltd.
 Delivery of initial batch expected to start early-mid 2021. 1st tranche payment released in June 2019, 2nd tranche payment released in June 2020. 

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First edit and release: 03 October 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Philippine Air Force plans to acquire at least 21 surplus Bell UH-1H Hueys from South Korea

The Philippine Air Force's 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing (205th THW) celebrated its 58th Founding Anniversary today, 24 September 2020.

As part of the program celebrating this milestone, PAF Air Mobility Command Commander Maj. Gen. Simeon Felix confirmed that the Philippine Air Force is intending to acquire additional air assets from South Korea, in the form of used Bell UH-1H Huey combat utility helicopters previously operated by the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA).

One of the Bell UH-1H Huey combat utility helicopters of the Republic of Korea Army. Photo taken from and credited to Hoon114's Blog.


This coincides with reports from South Korea that the South Korean Ministry of Defense has recently approved the potential transfer of retired military helicopters to the Philippine government, which MaxDefense Philippines posted on its Facebook community page last 15 September 2020.

The Republic of Korea Army operated the UH-1 Huey since December 1968, with more than 120 units operated over the years. The ROKA finally retired the type last 31 July 2020, and will be replaced by the locally-made and larger KAI KUH-1 Surion combat utility helicopter

The Republic of Korea Army has retired the UH-1H Huey helicopter last 31 July 2020, and will be replaced by the KUH-1 Surion helicopter. Photo taken from and credited to Bemil Korean Defense Page.


This is a needed boost since the Philippine Air Force is grappling with lack of sufficient utility helicopters that would allow it to provide support to military units around the country.

According to Maj. Gen. Felix, the PAF's Technical Working Group will be conducting an inspection of the helicopters being offered by the South Korean government by November 2020. It still remains to be seen in funding is available. Despite donated, the Philippine Air Force will still need to pay for other expenses including logistics and shipping, repair, training, and other ancillaries and administrative costs. This might still be worth a few hundred million pesos, unless if the Philippine Navy could assist in bringing in the helicopters using their Tarlac-class landing platform docks to help reduce the cost.

Since these helicopters were from the US, approval to transfer the helicopters to another country is needed from the US government. MaxDefense Philippines expects the US government to have no objections to transferring these helicopters to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing currently operates a mixed fleet of former US Army Bell UH-1H Hueys, former German Army Dornier-Bell UH-1D Delta and Super Delta Hueys, and new Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters.


The PAF currently operates the Bell 412EP (top), the UH-1D Delta Huey (above) and the UH-1H Huey combat utility helicopters. Photos credited to original sources.


But the recent fatal incident involving one of the Dornier-Bell UH-1D Delta Huey helicopter in Cauayan, Isabela province last July 2020 has stressed the entire fleet since the Delta & Super Delta helicopters have been grounded while investigations continue on the crash.

The PAF's Commanding General Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes also confirmed during the recent congressional hearing on FY2021 for the Department of National Defense (DND), the 205th THW has 10 more UH-1H Hueys that are in need of funding to allow their rehabilitation and retire to service.

Despite expecting 6 brand new Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters this year and 10 more Black Hawks in 2021, the Philippine Air Force is still desperately short of combat utility helicopters considering its ideal quantity is at least 130-140 units to make sure that 100 combat utility helicopters are available at any given day.


The PAF is preparing to receive its first batch of 6 Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters by October-November 2020, although these helicopters are not expected to be fully operational until 2021. 10 More S-70i Black Hawks are arriving in 2021. Photo shared to MaxDefense by aviation photographer Marcin Bobro.


The PAF also plans to acquire 16 brand new Mil Mi-171 transport helicopters from Russia, but has hit a roadblock due to inability to go around the sanctions posed by the US government's Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Apparently the Russian and Philippine governments have failed to find a way for the Philippine government to pay for the helicopters since banking institutions are not willing to assist for fear of backfire from CAATSA.

Thus, acquiring surplus UH-1H from South Korea, which MaxDefense Philippines learned to be at least 21 units, would definitely help the PAF reach a higher operational capability in the short term.

MaxDefense expects that these helicopters won't be operating for too long considering their age, but it could be good enough to provide an interim solution while the Philippine government is looking for ways to acquire more brand new Combat Utility Helicopters to eventually replace all their ageing UH-1 Huey fleet.

This early, MaxDefense Philippines thanks the South Korean government for assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines in improving its capabilities.

Congratulations to the Philippine Air Force and the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing for reaching a new milestone in serving the Filipino people. Photo taken from 205th THW's Facebook page.


With relation to this new development, the planned transfer of surplus helicopters for the Philippine Army's Army Aviation Regiment (PA AAR) is still in the planning stage, although MaxDefense Philippines previously received information that the PA AAR is also interested in acquiring surplus combat utility helicopters as an interim measure while it starts building up its fleet.

It still remains to be seen though if the PA AAR will also be getting helicopters from South Korea, or from other countries like Japan and the US. 

The recent news wherein Senator Francis Tolentino mentioned about the donation of 4 UH-60 Black Hawk combat utility helicopters and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters to the Philippine Army still remains a plan, as the Philippine Army contingent to inspect the condition of the helicopters 

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First edit and release: 24 September 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Philippine Naval Special Operations Group receives 1st batch of new Fast Boats


The Philippine Navy (PN) has recently received the initial deliveries of new Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB) that it acquired for the Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG) under its Fast Boat Acquisition Project.

Three of the six newly delivered RHIBs that arrived as the first batch of Fast Boats for the Philippine Navy. Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense Philippines.

The project, which is funded under the 2nd List of Horizon 1 phase, was meant to provide the NAVSOG's Special Boat Unit (SBU) with new additional boats to complement older fast boats in service, while also increasing its operational capabilities.

The Fast Boat Acquisition Project:

The Philippine Navy included the acquisition of thirty (30) brand new fast boats for the NAVSOG SBU under the proposed PATROL BOAT LIGHT ACQUISITION PROJECT as part of the 2nd List of Horizon 1 phase, with a proposed budget of Php450 million., or around Php15 million for each boat.

This was later revised due to budget issues, with the Philippine Navy renaming the project as the FAST BOAT ACQUISITION PROJECT, with a reduced budget of only Php300 million for twenty (20) brand new boats.

The initial basic technical requirements were as follows:

* Length:                    Function of design
* Beam:                      Function of design
* Draft:                       0.50-0.60 meters
* Displacement:         Function of design
* Speed:                     Not less than 45 knots at full throttle at full load
* Range:                    150-200 nautical miles
* Complement:          3 boat crew + 8 passengers
* Gun Mount:             1 x .50 cal machine gun (front)
* Hull Type:                Function of design (not wooden)
* Propulsion:              At least 2 diesel-powered outboard motors
* Seaworthiness:        Operate at Sea State 2, Survive at Sea State 3
* Delivery Period:      12 months

This requirement will become the basis although it can be further improved. One example is the gun mount, which was later on increased from one mount to three mounts (1 front, 2 rear).

Several proposals were floated during the planning stage, which includes options using a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) design, and several options using Fibre-Reinforced Plastic (FRP aka Fibreglass) and Aluminium hull designs.

All options vary in size, displacement, speed, range, complement, propulsion, delivery times and cost.

The cheapest appears to be similar to the FRP-hulled boats, made locally and used by Philippine National Police Maritime Group (PNP-MG) with 3 outboard motors, which can be acquired for less than Php4 million each. The most expensive option includes the US-made Small Unit Riverine Craft (SURC) which is used by the Philippine Marine Corps and US Marine Corps, and the US Special Operations Craft - Riverine (SOC-R) used by the US Navy which cost around Php35 million each.


Among the options raised by the Philippine Navy include locally-made FRP hulled boats similar to those used by the PNP Maritime Group (top), the Small Unit Riverine Craft SURC (middle), and the Special Operations Craft - Riverine SOC-R (bottom). Credits to original sources of photos.

In the end, it appears that the Philippine Navy settled with their original plan to acquire RHIBs. But it remains to be seen if the quantity was reduced from 20 units to less than that. This is because there was a request made in 2017 to reduce the quantity from 20 units to just 10 units, using the same budget.

But since RHIBs of this size does not cost more than Php12 million each, it is possible that the proposal remains at 20 units, subject to further confirmation.

Use of Diesel-Powered Motors:

Another point of interest will be the decision of the Philippine Navy to specify the use of diesel outboard engines rather than petrol powered as most boats today.

Apparently the decision of the Philippine Navy has strong ties to experience by the US Navy, which has specified the use of diesel-powered motors for boats carried by US Navy ships, instead of petrol powered motors that can produce higher power output and allow higher operating speeds.

As explained to MaxDefense by one of our contributor from the defense industry, the US Navy started implementing the use of diesel fuel for small boats after a ship accident in 1995 that caused an explosive gasoline fire. This made the US Department of Defense directive to remove all gasoline powered engines and gasoline fuel tanks about US Navy ships from 2010.

With the Philippine Navy following suit for safety reasons, it only means that the chances of these new fast boats being deployed aboard larger Philippine Navy ships like the Strategic Sealift Vessel / Landing Platform Docks, or even Offshore Patrol Vessels or other current and future surface combatants are quite high.

Not only will the boats be conforming to the directive on removing gasoline powered engines and fuel tanks aboard Philippine Navy ships, but it also allows for the ease on storing fuel since most Philippine navy ships are diesel powered and have sufficient diesel fuel stored. Fast boats using diesel fuel allows for simplicity and commonality in fuel logistics.

The use of 4 outboard motors instead of 3 as originally planned could also be due to the use of diesel motors, which have lesser power output than gasoline powered motors. 

Delivery to the Philippine Navy:

After a public bidding conducted without fanfare, the winning bidder was Solanda Enterprises - Pacficfortia Marine Technologies Joint Venture, with a bid amount of Php228,130,000.00. This is Php71,780,000.00 lower than the allocated budget. A Notice of Award (NOA) was released in favor of the winning proponent on 27 February 2018, with the Notice to Proceed (NTP) released on 01 March 2018.

Solanda Enterprises is the local distributor of Mercury marine engines, while Pacificfortia Marine Technologies carry the Treton brand of RHIBs. This means that based on their products, it can be assumed that the boats with be made by Treton and would be powered by 

Based on the contract, the products should be for delivery within 1 year, or by March 2019.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released the full amount of the contract on 08 March 2018, which enables the winning proponent to start the construction of the boats.

It appears that Solanda Enterprises - Pacificfortia Marine Technologies JV failed to deliver the boats by March 2019, as we have noted that the first batch of 6 boats were delivered only last August 2020.


The new boats are seen here being delivered to the Philippine Navy's Sangley Point Base in Cavite last August 2020. Photos exclusively shared to MaxDefense Philippines.

It still remains to be confirmed if the boats were indeed from Treton, since MaxDefense sources mentioned that the boats were probably built in South Korea.

From the photos, it shows that the boats are powered by 4 outboard motors, most likely diesel-powered Mercury motors.

The boats appear to be not yet inducted to the Philippine Navy, as training is still ongoing although it is expected to happen in the next few months. The NAVSOG SBU afterall are already training and experienced in operating these type of boats, and are familiar with the equipment installed on the boats.


NAVSOG operates several RHIBs in its fleet, although the new one appears to be larger than the one shown above. Photo taken from and credited to VJNorz's Flickr page.


It also appears that the Philippine Navy procured several new automatic grenade launchers and machine guns which would be installed on these new fast boats. We received photos confirming this, although we were asked not to post them to protect our source.


It remains to be confirmed though if these were acquired separately, although most likely they were.

It also remains to be seen on when the rest of the boats will be delivered to the Philippine Navy. So far, no new deliveries were confirmed to MaxDefense by our sources, although it is expected that more boats will arrive within the year.

Congratulations to the Philippine Navy for these new additions to the fleet!

Note: MaxDefense tried to delay the release of this blog hoping that more boats would be delivrered. But it appears we have to wait for sometime for the rest of the new boats to arrive.


Project Summary:

Fast Boats Acquisition Project

Note: Edited as of 23 September 2020


* End User: Philippine Navy (Naval Special Operations Group)


* Quantity: at least 10 boats (exact quantity still for confirmation)


* Modernization Phase: Second List of Horizon 1 Phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP)


* Project ABC:
 Php300,000,000.00


Acquisition Mode: Public Bidding

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


* SARO Release: SARO-BMB-D-18-0004636 dated 08 March 2018


* Winning Proponent: Solanda Enterprises - Pacficfortia Marine Technologies Joint Venture


* Contract Price: Php228,130,000.00


* Residual Price: Php71,870,000.00


* First post by MaxDefense: 27 July 2018 


* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag:  #PNFastBoatAcquisition


* Status: Awarded to Solanda Enterprises - Pacificfortia Marine Technologies JV on February 2018, and Notice to Proceed was released on March 2018. Delivery scheduled for March 2019, delayed. First batch delivered on August 2020. More batches expected.

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First edit and release: 23 September 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Philippine Air Force receives full delivery of Elbit Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 medium altitude long endurance UAVs


MaxDefense received confirmation from military and industry sources that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has received full delivery of all nine (9) Hermes 900 and four (4) Hermes 450 medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (MALE UAV) from Israeli defense company Elbit Systems Ltd.


A Hermes 900 UAV during demonstrations at Fernando Air Base in Lipa, Batangas. Photo shared exclusively to MaxDefense.

The Philippine Air Force was expecting the delivery of 3 Hermes 900 and 1 Hermes 450 unmanned aerial systems (UAS) each comprising 3 UAVs, ground control system and support equipment, plus a spare used Hermes 450 UAV included by Elbit Systems as part of the deal, bringing a total of 13 flying UAVs.

MaxDefense was first to report on the existence of the Philippine Air Force's Unmanned Aerial Systems Acquisition Project and the planned procurement of Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 UAVs back in August 2017, as part of the Horizon 2 phase priority projects of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

The PAF UAS Acquisition is actually the first big-ticket project of the Philippine Air Force under the Horizon 2 phase, as it was pushed even before the Horizon 2 phase was approved by Pres. Duterte in 2018.




The Hermes 900 (top) and Hermes 450 (above) as seen in PAF markings. Photos shared exclusively to MaxDefense.

Delivery Completion by 2020:

According to our sources, the last batch of Hermes 900 UAVs arrived in the Philippines last August 2020, although Elbit Systems' contract with the Department of National Defense (DND) is not yet complete as Elbit will need to complete all other requirements including establishment of ground facilities, training, logistics support and spares.


Hermes 900 production line in Elbit's facility in Israel. Photo taken from and credited to Elbit Systems Ltd.

It would be remembered that in the Philippine Air Force's "Lead as One" publication released in mid-2020, it mentioned that the PAF is expecting the delivery of 2 UAS composed of 6 UAVs and ground support equipment.


PAF outlining the upcoming delivery of Hermes 900 UAVs within 2020. Photo cropped from Lead As One PAF Publication.


Aside from surveillance, the PAF's Hermes 900 fleet can also be deployed for maritime search and rescue. While Elbit Systems has not identified the customer for their new Life Raft deployment capability, MaxDefense sources confirmed that it is indeed the Philippine Air Force.

This could be useful in assisting ships in distress on the high seas, or even within Philippine territorial and archipelagic waters, allowing faster response in saving lives. Below is a video from Elbit Systems showing this new capability for the Hermes 900 UAV.



Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 in PAF Service:

The UAVs will be operated by the PAF's 303rd Aerial Reconnaissance Group of the 300th Air Intelligence and Security Wing. The 303rd ARG divided the deployment of these new UAVs as well as existing ones like the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle 2 UAVs to different bases around the country, and training being conducted at the Philippine Army Aviation Regiment's base in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.


The badge of the 303rd Aerial Reconnaissance Group, 300th Air Intelligence and Security Wing, Philippine Air Force. Photo taken from 5th Fighter Wing, Philippine Air Force.

Location of bases where the UAVs will be deployed are confidential, although it would be remembered that sightings of the both Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 were confirmed in several locations in the Philippines.

While the Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 UAVs are already delivered, they will all undergo operationalization. According to sources, only 1 Hermes 900 unmanned aerial system with 3 UAVs  and the sole Hermes 450 UAS with 4 UAVs are partially operational, while the 2 other Hermes 900 UAS with 3 UAVs each will probably reach partial operationalization by 2nd quarter of 2021.

Full operationalization of 1 Hermes 900 UAS and 1 Hermes 450 UAS is expected by mid 2021.


Once operational, the Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 UAS can be utilized for several surveillance missions, including tracking down terrorists in jungle and urban areas; battlefield surveillance and real time surveillance; and maritime surveillance in the West Philippine Sea, northern borders with Taiwan, Japan and the Bashi Channel, southern triborder with Indonesia and Malaysia, and the Philippine Rise, and other missions like search and rescue.






The UAS could also cover for the lack of sufficient manned maritime patrol aircraft, although there are certain missions that a manned maritime patrol aircraft are capable of doing that these UAS may not be able to do, including anti-submarine warfare, and munitions delivery.

Horizon 2 Still Far From Complete:


With the deliveries completed, this marks the completion of the first major project of the Philippine Air Force under the Horizon 2 phase. While this is major milestone, the delays in several other Horizon 2 major projects for the PAF is disappointing, considering the end of Horizon 2 is just a little over 2 years away.

MaxDefense hopes that the DND and PAF to speed up their other projects, like the already delayed Attack Helicopter and the slow moving Multi-Role Fighter Acquisition Projects.

Project Summary:

Unmanned Aerial System (Level 3) Acquisition Project - Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 MALE UAS

Note: Edited as of 09 September 2020


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


* Quantity: 3 Hermes 900 systems (9 UAVs and supporting systems), 1 Hermes 450 system (3 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: TBA


* Winning Proponent: Elbit Systems Ltd.


* Contract Price: Php8,470,000,000.00 for entire project


* Residual Price: Php0.00


* First post by MaxDefense: 08 August 2017


* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag:  #PAFUASAcquisition #PAFHermes900UAS #PAFHermes450UAS


* Status: First Hermes 900 UAV delivered September 2019, first complete system of 3 Hermes 900 UAVs and 3+1 Hermes 450 UAVs completed before November 2019. Two other Hermes 900 systems (6 UAVs) delivered as of August 2020. Delivery of UAVs completed, minor contract requirements remain, to be completed by 4th quarter 2020.


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First edit and release: 09 September 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines



Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Air Force Modernization Projects