Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Government Arsenal's Pursuit of a Rifle Manufacturing Program - Is the DND up to Support it?

The Government Arsenal (GA), an agency under the Department of National Defense (DND) under the leadership of Director Jonathan Martir, has made several leaps to boost its capability to produce rifles and ammunition for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and all other armed military and civilian agencies of the Philippine government.

Under normal circumstances, it would have been very beneficial for them that the government is pushing for the modernization of the AFP which has started in 1995 and was extended in 2013 all the way to 2028. In all phases of the modernization program, there were several requirements for arms and ammunition which the Government Arsenal's capability could be beneficial. This is also true for the PNP, PCG, and other agencies like the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), etc.

But recent acquisitions of the intended users of these products, the AFP and PNP, as well as other government agencies, recently completed their own small arms acquisition without considering GA's products. 

The Government Arsenal proposed different rifles for different purposes, but all coming from the M16 / M4 family.
Photo taken from Government Arsenal's Facebook page.

Small Arms Acquisition under the Aqunio Administration:

Among the rifle acquisition projects undertaken by all armed agencies within the administration of President Benigno Aquino III include the following, but not limited to:

1. Assault Rifle for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, in which the Israeli-made IWI Tavor CTAR-21 was selected in 2011;

2. Several Designated Marksman Rifle acquisitions for the AFP Joint Special Operations Group, in which several types were acquired from foreign suppliers starting in 2013;

3. An attempted plan to acquire 1,500 rifles for the Philippine National Police - Special Action Force, and 1,800 rifles for the Regional Mobile Groups, both were scrapped in 2014 upon Pres. Aquino's instructions;

4. Submachine Gun acquisition for the Philippine Coast Guard, in which the CZ Scorpion Evo 3 from the Czech Republic was selected;

5. Joint Philippine Army-Philippine Marine Corps Assault Rifle Acquisition Project, in which the Remington R4A3 from the US was selected in 2014;

6. Submachine Gun acquisition for the Philippine National Police, in which the US-made KRISS Vector SMG 9mm was selected in 2015;

7. The 7.62mm Designated Marksman Rifle acquisition for the Philippine Navy & Philippine Marine Corps, which will be for tender as part of Horizon 1 modernization phase;

8. The 5.56mm Standard Weapons System acquisition for the Philippine Navy & Philippine Marine Corps, which us also for tender as part of Horizon 1 modernization phase.

It is quite noticeable that none of the projects that were implemented included a product made by the Government Arsenal. Even the attempted acquisition of rifles for the PNP-SAF and PNP-RMG definitely did not consider any GA-manufactured rifle.

So why is that the case?

The Government Arsenal's Rifle Manufacturing Capability:

GA Director Jonathan Martir showing their product line-up to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin during the SecDef's visit at GA's facility in Bataan.
Photo taken from GA's Facebook page.

The Government Arsenal has only recently been able to manufacture rifles on its own, and is still not capable of doing so in full production as most of its offerings are proposals or prototypes as of this writing. Most of its proposals are based on the M16 and M4 rifle variant, which is the current standard rifle of the entire AFP and many other Philippine government armed agencies.

The choice to stay true to the M16 / M4 line was more of a practical choice. Rather than moving to a new product which requires a total system change for the entire weapon support and user system, it was best to stick to the proven weapon of choice of its main ally, the United States, while making use of the extensive knowledge of GA, AFP, and PNP with the M16/M4 line, and making use of its inventory of common parts and accessories used on exisiting M16 and M4 rifles.

GA also has equipment to manufacture certain parts of the of M16/M4 series, which minimizes the need to invest for new equipment to forge and build new types of rifles based on other foreign models. And sticking to the M16/M4 design reduces the need for familiarization or armorers and those involved in the manufacturing of the rifles.

These, among others, are the primary reason on the overwhelming decision of the DND and AFP to stick to the M16/M4 series to replace its older M16A1 rifles instead of buying newer designs like the Israeli Tavor, the Korean K2, or the German G36.

But creating its own rifle was not an easy task, and it took the GA several years and attempts to produce its own M16-based weapon systems, without assistance from foreign arms manufacturers except for provision of certain parts like barrel, buttstock, plastic parts, and sights.

Among examples of weapons systems being developed by the Government Arsenal:

1. GA 5.56mm Carbine M4 - a prototype was released in 2011, with the GA director describing it as adhering to the M4A1 system used by most Western and allied Special Operations Forces. No full production was reported of this variant as of this writing.

2. GA 5.56mm Mid-Length Carbine - another prototype released in 2011, similar to the 14.5" barreled M4 carbine but using a 16" mid length barrel. A spin-off includes a DMR variant specially for the SOCOM units who prefer a 16" mid length barrel instead of the 18" variant. It is only this month that GA produced several units for testing and evaluation by the AFP's Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) and the Philippine Navy's Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG). It is expected that if the tests are favorable and only minimal changes were requested, GA could produce the final production variant by early 2016.

GA's 5.56mm 16" Mid-Length Carbine.
Photo taken from GA's Facebook page.

3. GA 5.56mm Special Purpose Rifle (SPR) - a prototype released in 2011 as the Designated Marksman Rifle / Special Purpose Rifle (DMR/SPR), it features an 18" free floating bull barrel in a 1:7 RH twist rifling, and optics that would allow it to be effective until a range of 800 meters. The development is considered a continuing development of the successful Marine Scout Sniper Rifle (MSSR) series used by the Philippine Marine Corps

GA's SMR rifle, as displayed in a recently concluded arms show in Manila.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.

4. GA 10" Personal Defense Weapon (PDW) - it was only in 2012 that GA was able to release the prototype of this rifle, which uses components from the M16-series rifle with a 10" long barrel in a 1:10 right hand twist rifling, while using a special 7.62x37mm Musang round designed specifically by GA for this rifle and is said to be effective for Close Quarter Battle (CQB) and Night Fighting requirements. It was expected to be in production by 2014. But as of this writing, it appears that production of several units for testing by the AFP was stalled due to lacking compnents which can be traced from supplier issues. The GA appears to have looked for other suppliers to provide the said parts.

GA's 10" PDW submachine gun, which uses components of the M16 family and a special 7.62x37mm Musang ammo.
Photo taken from Wikimedia commons.

5. GA M14 SOCOM 16 - using a standard M14 rifle, GA refurbished it, replacing old and worn out parts with new ones, used lighter components to reduce weight, and replaced the 22" barrel into a shortened 16" one, which is preferred length of Special Operations units. Several components were sourced from foreign manufacturers since the GA does not produce components for the M14 or for 7.62mm chambered rifles.

GA's M14 SOCOM 16 rifle, which is similar to the Springfield Armory's M1A SOCOM 16.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.

As earlier mentioned, all these products by the Government Arsenal are either considered as prototypes, or at best, are scheduled to be tested soon by field units of the AFP. Thus, with the AFP and other agencies already needing the weapons as soon as possible, it cannot wait for the GA to put its proposed products to complete testing and evaluation, rectification, and full production, which MaxDefense believes to be by 2016 at earliest.

The Remington R4A3 Acquisition for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marines:

The only major small arms acquisition project undertaken within the term of Pres. Aquino III is for the joint rifle requirement for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps. Originally, 50,629 units were acquired with a budget of Php 3.189 billion, with the Philippine Army getting 44,186 units while the Philippine Marines gets 6,443 units.

For discussions sake, the Philippine Army has around 90,000 men, while the Philippine Marine Corps has around 8,500 men.

With the Remington R4A3 acquisition, the rifles would be enough to arm almost 50% of the entire Army, and almost 75% of the entire Marine Corps, irregardless if they work in the field or not. And we have not yet even included the follow-up order made by the DND for an additional 23,622 rifles which would again be divided between the PA and PMC.

The executive summary of the Joint PA-PMC Assault Rifle Acquisition Project, showing the original and additional orders.
Photo taken from VJ Defense's blog page.

Although this sounds like good news, it seems to be the other way around for the Government Arsenal and for any effort to replace the old M16A1 with a locally made rifle.

Looking at the numbers, we can immediately see that the rifle requirement for both the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps are almost filled-up by the Remington R4A3 acquisition, considering that not all troops are assigned in the field and require a rifle, and that other troops are assigned with another existing weapon like snipers, marksmen, drivers and vehicle crew, squad automatic gunner, and many others.

Aside from these, several of the old M16A1s are being programmed for refurbishing and upgrade, before releasing again to field units to complement the new Remington R4A3 rifles.

So, who will now need a considerable quantity of new assault rifles?

Remaining Markets for Additional Rifles:

The Philippine Navy and Marine Corps have another request for 7,500 rifles as part of the RAFPMP Horizon 1 phase that will be acquired by public tender. If this project is awarded to another manufacturer, or is negotiated as another additional order with Remington, then that's 7,500 units of lost opportunity for the Government Arsenal.

Only the Philippine Air Force has not requested for new assault rifles, but their nature of work and organization size does not require many assault rifles in their arsenal. MaxDefense believes that there is nothing much to expect from the PAF in this regard, and at best they will require replacements only for their M16A1 in secondary duties like base defense.

So far, the AFP has not released an immediate requirement for funding of a sub-machine gun acquisition within the Horizon 1 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization program, although it could request such weapons in small numbers using their annual budget or other sources.

Horizon 2:

The only other significant opportunity for the Government Arsenal aside from the follow-on order from Remington by the DND is for any additional rifle and/or sub-machine gun orders from the AFP as part of the RAFPMP's Horizon 2 phase starting on 2018.

So far, the Philippine Army still has a large requirement for assault rifles for Horizon 2, exceeding 20,000 units more, plus several hundreds of Designated Marksman Rifles, probably to standardize the entire organization to a new rifle replacing the M16A1, plus additional rifles for reserve and other purposes.

In this regard, Remington's R4A3 and Knights Armaments SR-25 already have a head-start, being the new standard rifle and and current marksman/sniper rifle, respectively, of the Philippine Army. But the quality issues that affected the first batch of 50,000+ rifles and delayed its commissioning with the Philippine Army by almost a year could be a valid reason not to get more rifles directly from Remington.

If the DND will acquire rifles by direct procurement, then GA's M4A1 or 16" Mid-Length Carbine could be chosen, allowing GA to finally start a full production of its own rifle. But if the DND again go for tender, then the chances that GA will be chosen, or even allowed to join the tender is very slim.

Aside from rifles, the Philippine Army will also be needing a few hundred sub-machine guns within Horizon 2 phase. This is probably to replace older models still in service like the M3 Grease Gun still in used by armored vehicle crew from the Mechanized units. But an issue here is the specified requirement. Documents obtained by MaxDefense shows that the proposed requirement is for a sub-machine gun chambered for 9 mm rounds, not 7.62 mm rounds similar to GA's 10" PDW.

The Philippine Army still uses upgraded M3 Grease Guns, especially with the Mechanized Infantry Division as personal defense weapon of armored vehicle crew. The GA 10" PDW could be a good replacement for these weapons.

The Philippine Navy and Philippine Marine Corps will be the next possible market for new assault rifles within the AFP, but with the PMC expected to be saturated with the Remington R4A3 and whatever rifle they will choose for the Joint PN-PMC 5.56mm Standard Weapons System, orders will definitely be by small batches as well. 

If all these upcoming projects are not awarded to the Government Arsenal, MaxDefense doesn't see any other chance to economically produce its own rifle line with a large volume order soon. GA may only rely on small batch orders which may not be economical due to economies of scale.

Non-AFP Market:

Aside from the AFP, the largest possible market for GA-made assault rifles will come from the Philippine National Police, specifically the Special Action Force, Regional Mobile Groups, and the different SWAT teams.

But it is expected that the maximum they can order in the next few years will only be for a few thousand units, and may still be not enough for an economic production run.

Aside from rifles, MaxDefense believes that all other government agencies will be more interested in small batches of sub-machine guns rather than rifles, but will probably go for models chambered for 9mm or .45 caliber types instead of 5.56mm NATO or the 7.62x37mm Musang due to commonality with what they already have, and in the case of the 10" PDW, to avoid the reliance on a new type of round that will tie them up with GA

The PNP recently chose the KRISS Vector SMG in the new 9mm version for their sub-machine gun requirement, in which they will acquire more than 700 units.

The AFP as GA's Best Hope:

The GA has been looking for a foreign partner for some years now for it to be able to produce high quality M16/M4 series assault rifles, and with the entry of Remington in the AFP's inventory, the DND should have asked them to partner with GA and build the rifles in GA's facility in Bataan instead of manufacturing and importing them again from the United States. Time-wise, it would be faster for Remington to deliver 23,000 rifles manufactured from their US facility. But the PA and PMC could adjust the delivery date in favor of a licensed Remington rifle manufactured by GA without hurting their requirements.

The partnership with a well established foreign partner like Remington would improve the Government Arsenal's capability, technology, facility, and knowledge base, while allowing it to gain experience and track record from the award of a project. As part of a joint venture deal, the foreign partner will provide GA a transfer of technology which is included in the licensing agreement.

The last time the Philippines manufactured a licensed international rifle was when Elisco Tool made the M16A1 assault rifle and M653P carbine under license from Colt USA starting in the mid-1970s.
Bottom photo taken from n2o2rox's Photobucket collection.

This technology could then be harnessed by GA for their own use, like further improving their products base like those listed earlier in this blog, although a theoretical GA-foreign entity partnership could also work well as a combined entity. It could also allow GA to export its products to other countries, including joining in tenders/biddings as their credibility as a supplier can be cemented if the AFP awarded them with a contract, especially those worth more than Php 1 billion like the follow-on order made by DND with Remington.

A similar example of this is what the Malaysian company SME Ordnance did with Colt USA that enabled them to locally produce the Colt M4 for the Malaysian Armed Forces, and even offer it for export to the Philippines as part of negotiations before the DND decided to bid the project that was ultimately won by Remington.

A Malaysian solider with a Colt M4A1 carbine manufactured under license by Malaysian company SME Ordnance Sdn Bhd.
Photo taken from Kuala Lumpur Security Review website

The DND should have not opted to outright acquire additional 23,622 R4A3 rifles from Remington for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps, and instead, should have assisted the Government Arsenal to find a joint venture investor first that will enable it to jump-start any rifle development. With more than 50,000 M16A1s being off-loaded by front line troops due to the issuance of the R4A3 rifles, the GA will have enough rifles to refurbish that could be issued to non-front line troops while waiting for a new rifle to be procured.

Also, the DND should stop tendering any rifle or sub-machine gun requirement for the entire AFP from now on, and instead support the Government Arsenal as its priority supplier by directly acquiring from them. A secure order for significant rifle and sub-machine gun orders under Horizon 2 and 3 are the best bet for the Government Arsenal to reach this aspiration of small arms self-sufficiency.

If the GA fails to find a joint venture partner, it would be difficult for GA to invest its limited resources on small arms production if the DND cannot commit to support them. Any effort to start would be a gamble that GA has to risk.

The question now is, will the DND support the Government Arsenal by pushing to acquire weapon systems from them, with or without a foreign partner? Or will it continue to go for foreign arms manufacturer, leaving GA to only supply ammunition, and do repair and refurbishing works of existing small arms? 

That remains to be seen. With the 16" Mid Length Carbine Mod. 0, 16" Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, and 10" PDW about to undergo field testing, MaxDefense believes that there is still hope for DND to consider GA's efforts and quest for a high quality, indigenous small arms manufacturing capability to support the Philippines' armed services.

Hundreds of 16" Mid Length Carbine are prepared for shipping to JSOG and NAVSOG units for field testing and evaluation.
Photo taken from Government Arsenal's Facebook page.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Clarifications on the Rumored Submarines for the PH, and a Proposal to Jump-start the Philippine Navy's Submarine Program

Recent reports coming out from the Manila Bulletin indicated that the Philippine Navy plans to acquire submarines as part of the Php25 billion budget for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program. The information was said to be quoted from Rep. Antonio A. Del Rosario of Capiz during the appointment of AFP officers last September 9, 2015.

Several defense-related social media pages quickly accepted this report as factual without looking closely at the details properly. And aside from that, there are also reports coming that the Philippine Navy will acquire submarines from Germany due to a faulty interpretation because of a PN officer now taking submarine warfare schooling in Germany. And with this, MaxDefense would like to clarify issue this to avoid misinterpretation or faulty information to be accepted by the public.

Recently there were reports saying the Philippines will be acquiring submarines very soon, from Germany. MaxDefense will debunk that claim with this blog entry.
Photo of Type 210mod submarine scale model taken from IHS Janes.

1. The Revised AFP Modernization Program Horizon 1 Phase

Before anything, readers must first understand what are the projects covered by the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP) under the Republic Act 10349.

There are 33 projects that are to be implemented under the Revised AFP Modernization Program, distributed with 3 projects worth Php 7 billion, with the General Headquarters, AFP; 9 projects worth Php 9.5 billion under the Philippine Army, 10 projects worth Php 29.5 billion under the Philippine Navy (which also includes the Philippine Marine Corps), and 11 projects worth Php 44.9 billion under the Philippine Air Force.

Out of 33 projects, 2 projects were approved before July 2015, while 1 project, the Shore-Based Missile System (SBMS) acquisition project, was deferred by the president since it is still being pushed for replacement with infantry-related projects that is still being studied by the President as of this writing. So in total, 32 projects out of 33 are already approved as of July 2015.

For further reading, readers are advised to refer to a previous MaxDefense blog discussing the RAFPMP Horizon 1 phase, which includes the list of projects included in the Horizon 1 program.

"What is the Philippine Government's Score on the Implementation of the Revised AFP Modernization Program" dated 25th July 2015.

For Horizon 1, it does not include any submarine acquisition. All naval projects included in the Horizon 1 phase are already approved and are not expected to be cancelled to give way for a submarine acquisition project. The SBMS, being a Philippine Army project, would definitely not be transferred to the Philippine Navy that easily as PA projects would be given priority with the said project. Besides, any changes in the acquisition plan would require time-consuming congressional approval, that may not even be favorable to the AFP Modernization.

Frigates, check. MPAC, check. AAV, check. Submarines, none. The Horizon 1 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization does not include any submarine, new or used, in its acquisition plan. And there is no budget for them either even if they suddenly decided to put it there without compromising a lot of approved projects.

2. The 2016 Budget for the (Revised) AFP Modernization Program

Let's try to take a look at the budget allocated by the national government for the RAFPMP's  Horizon 1 phase.

For the year 2016, the Department of National Defense (DND), through the Department of Budget Management (DBM), has proposed to Congress a budget of Php 25 billion specifically for the RAFPMP. This is said to be used to pay for the acquisition of big-ticket items under the Horizon 1 phase of the RAFPMP.

But this does not include the Php 10 billion worth of un-programmed funds, which was originally allocated for year 2015 but was unused due to the pending approval of modernization projects that was only approved in July 2015. That means that there is a total of Php 35 billion that is allocated for projects until 2016.

Based on the DND's submitted endorsement to Congress during the hearings for the DND budget, it did not include any submarine acquisition funding as part of Horizon 1 phase. Instead, there were no changes from the original list that was discussed here before.

So now the question is, where did Rep. Del Rosario got his information that a submarine acquisition is included in the RAFPMP?

3. The Horizon 2 & 3 Phases of the RAFPMP:

Aside from the Horizon 1 phase, the Revised AFP Modernization Program include the Horizon 2 and 3 phases, which cover the years 2018-2022 and 2023-2027, respectively.

Both Horizon 2 and 3 acquisition plans were among those submitted by the AFP and DND to Congress in August, and is said to be worth a total of around Php 1 trillion (US$22.3 billion). 

Originally, the proposed project list by the Philippine Navy only includes new submarine acquisition in the Horizon 3 phase of the modernization program. But there were some changes made recently during deliberations within the Navy's planning and command officials that may have enabled a proposed submarine acquisition within the Horizon 2 phase. 

MaxDefense believes that should a submarine acquisition be included in the Horizon 2, it will not be new, and may only involve 1 or 2 units at best.

Previously it was said that Japan may offer their retired submarines to the Philippines to enable the PN gain experience and knowledge in submarine and anti-submarine operations. It is difficult to say if this is possible or not, and that still depends on whatever agreement Japan and the Philippines will have in the coming few years.

4. So where did the Submarine Issue came?

Rep. Del Rosario has a copy of this proposed acquisition program from Horizon 1 to 3 from the AFP, and he might have incorrectly quoted that the submarine acquisition as part of the Horizon 1 phase. This is a normal thing for politicians who are not former military men or are not familiar with these military equipment. It could be an honest mistake from the politician, so MaxDefense won't really put the blame on him.

As for Manila Bulletin, the headline is actually not misleading. There is truth that the Philippine Navy plans to acquire submarine. The problem is the content of the news report. Looking at this paragraph from the news report with the link provided HERE:

"Asked by Bulletin whether the country has indeed added a submarine or submarines to its shopping list, Del Rosario replied in the affirmative. The planned submarine acquisition is under the proposed P25-billion AFP modernization program. That program, according to Del Rosario, includes airplanes and helicopters."

Bulletin only asked if it is in the shopping list, but on which shopping list? Was it the entire RAFPMP? Or just Horizon 1? Also, the second sentence (in underline) appears to be slapped-in by the editor and not necessarily quoted directly from Rep. Del Rosario. This is very common in the press, to the point that it becomes incorrect or inaccurate. MaxDefense believes that the press was at fault as well based on this point.

Lastly, the error might be on the interpretation of the readers. The news indicated that there is a PN officer now schooling on Submarine Warfare in Kiel, Germany, but it never indicated that the Philippine Navy is acquiring submarines from Germany. 

An MaxDefense reader said something in our Facebook page, with the context similar to this: Going to school or training with a certain country does not necessarily mean acquiring equipment fro the same country. 

For those who do not know, there were already several PN officers who have gone to foreign naval schools to study Submarine and Anti-Submarine Warfare. I met one who studied in Australia before, and he's probably among those few who pioneer the introduction of submarines to the PN. But training officers and men does not necessarily meant acquiring anything from that country very soon. There is no binding agreement between the Philippines and its defense partners that needs the AFP to buy anything in exchange for the training they provided.

Assuming that the Philippines will buy German submarines just because a PN officer is schooling in Germany shows poor judgement and lack of understanding to whoever posted that in social media.

5. Clearing Earlier Assumptions made in the Social Media:

There are several posts MaxDefense went through these past few days, many are asking what type of submarine the PN will acquire, while the rest are funny posts that are either unrealistic or was posted with lack of understanding of the issue.

First of, the Philippines will not be buying anything nuclear in nature. Nuclear propulsion or nuclear-armed submarines are totally off the list. The PN has not yet even reach infancy in submarine operations, and it would be best for it to take small steps using less complicated systems like diesel electric propulsion. Aside from this, nuclear submarines are very expensive to acquire, operate, maintain, and repair.

For those who don't know, the 1987 Philippine Constitution's Article II Section 8 states that the country pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons, which means that no nuclear weapons should be commissioned, used, or even stored in the country. 

Nuclear powered, nuclear armed submarines? Let's be more realistic in our projections.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Secondly, those proposing for submarines from Europe. Although submarines from Germany, Sweden and France are considered at the top of the pyramid due to quality and performance, they are also expensive to acquire. 

Let's take the Philippines' ASEAN neighbors' recent submarine acquisition plan as examples. For those who are very familiar with their country's submarine acquisition plans, you are free to send your corrections and feed-backs.

a. Indonesia recently acquired submarines from South Korea, when in 2011 the Indonesian Ministry of Defence awarded a contract for 3 submarines to DSME based on the Chang Bogo-class attack submarines it previously built for the Republic of Korea Navy. The contract cost was said to amount to US$1.07 billion, which on the average costs around US$360 million each submarine. But the contract includes a technology transfer allowing state-owned shipyard PT PAL (the same shipyard building the Philippine Navy's SSV) to build the 3rd submarine in their yard in Surabaya.

Indonesia ordered 2 units of the upgraded version of the Chang Bogo-class submarines.
Photo taken from

b. Vietnam acquired 6 Kilo-class submarines from Russia, which was reported to cost around US$2.1 billion, excluding the infrastructure investment to support the submarines, and ammunition like torpedoes and land-attack missiles which expected to increase the total cost to US$3.2 billion. For the submarines alone, the average cost based on the reported contract is around US$350 million each. All submarines were/will be built in Russia.

A Vietnamese Kilo-class submarine. A total of 6 units were ordered from Russia.

c. In 2013, Singapore ordered 2 submarines from ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) of Germany, and is said to be worth around US$1.36 billion, or an average of US$680 million per submarine. The submarine was designated as the Type 218SG.

d. Thailand recently conducted a submarine tender with offers from China, South Korea, and Germany. China's offer was reportedly chosen, but a contract is not yet signed between the 2 parties. China offered a derivative of their Type 039A (aka Type 041) called the S26T, with an agreed total cost reaching  around US$1.1 billion total or an average of US$367 million per submarine. Germany was said to have offered both the Type 209/1400mod and Type 210mod, and only offered 2 units to fit the budget allocated by the Thais. MaxDefense estimates the cost to be around US$500 million per submarine. South Korea was said to have offered a highly spec'd version of their Chang Bogo-class which is actually a Korean-made Type 209 submarine designed by Germany, with an offer costing nearly US$500 million per submarine. No details were provided regarding the offers made by Germany and South Korea if the amount they quoted include other essentials aside from the submarines themselves.

Thailand chose the Chinese S26T submarine which was derived from the Type 041 design. But the choice is still in peril as the government decided to put the acquisition on-hold.

e. Malaysia's Scorpene-class submarine deal with France and Spain was made in 2002, and was said to have costed around US$745 million for 2 submarines, or an average of US$373 million each in 2002 price. But this was 13 years ago and inflation may have already increased the cost 2-fold. The latest offer of Scorpene-class submarines were made with Poland and estimates put each submarine exceeding US$550 million each.

Based on the quotes made to the Philippines' regional peers, European submarines appear to cost a minimum of around US$500 million each. 

Experience dictates that the Philippines acquire its military equipment with strong emphasis on acquisition cost as the highest factor in coming up with a decision. And with the availability of cheaper alternatives from South Korea, it is highly possible that any submarine acquisition will follow the same pattern. Even if China could offer something cheap and highly capable (on paper) submarine, the poor relations between the Philippines and China naturally points away from acquiring from its projected future enemy.

South Korea's Chang Bogo-class submarines appear to be the cheapest alternative in the diesel-electric attack submarine market today, excluding those offered by China. The cost factor is a strong parameter in every Philippine defense procurement, instead of performance and quality.
Photo taken from

So can we say goodbye European submarines now? Not really yet. With possible changes in the procurement system being pushed, as well as possible adjustments in the budget and acquisition plan, it is too early to say for now. But realistically speaking, MaxDefense's believes that as long as there are cheaper alternatives from Asia, and Asian-made submarine would have a strong chance of being chosen.

Thirdly, the Philippine Navy does not have enough officers and men who have submarine warfare schooling, and definitely almost null in experience. Prior to any impending acquisition of submarines, we should be seeing an increase of PN personnel being sent to foreign submarine warfare schools for training. So far, there are no confirmations that there was such undergoing such training or schooling aside from the officer reported by Manila Bulletin to be in Kiel, Germany. It might be possible that another 1 or 2 officers are undergoing the same training in Germany or somewhere else, but the numbers won't be significant enough for a possible submarine acquisition very soon.

Lastly, the Philippine Navy has not started any plan to improve its facilities for submarines and submarine training and maintenance. Aside from the Submarine Office opened by the PN a few years ago, nothing has been reported of any other facility that focuses on submarines. Even the recently submitted Horizon 1 base improvements for the PN does not show anything related to submarines. 

In contrast, Thailand has constructed a submarine training center complete with simulators and training equipment even before a submarine can be delivered. 


These indicators clearly show that the Philippines is still years away from actual submarine acquisition, and with the usually slow movement of its modernization program, MaxDefense believes that a proper diesel electric attack submarine within the PN's fleet could only be possible by year 2022 at the earliest.

An alternative that MaxDefense proposes to jump-start any plan to acquire submarines is for the Philippine Navy to start small, using smaller coastal submarines that are easier and cheaper to acquire, maintain, and operate; will need a smaller crew; and can be used with the PN's existing port facilities. 

Such plans were already being eyed 20 years ago, with earlier plans to acquire midget submarines, designated as "Shallow Water Attack Submarine" (SWAT) designed by Italy's Cosmos S.A. and made in Pakistan by Karachi Shipyards. Although such plans were scuttled, a newer, more modern alternative could be considered, in view of the the better position of the Philippine Navy now than before in terms of collaboration with friendly navies with submarine experience, schooling, and financial capability to fund an endeavor.

An example of such is South Korea's proposed KSS-500A coastal submarine, which was also among those alternatives offered to Thailand. Simpler than the Chang Bogo-class attack submarine, it is actually designed to operate well in shallow waters like the areas around the Kalayaan Group of Islands. Its small dimension only needed 2 groups of 5 men to operate, and can also be used for troop insertion and SpecOps operations. It can operate out at sea for 3 weeks, and is expected to cost around less than half of a Chang Bogo-class submarine.

South Korea has a new littoral submarine design, the KSS-500A, that is being offered to countries like Thailand and the Philippines who have limited experience and budget in acquiring submarines.
Photo taken from Asia Security Watch website.

This proposal is in addition to any plan to acquire full-pledged diesel-electric attack submarines, since budget for coastal small submarines can be prepared separately within the Horizon 2 phase. MaxDefense proposes a fleet of 3 small submarines to make sure an availability of at least 1 and at most 2 submarines in the country's western frontiers at any time, and its continued service after the procurement of larger submarines as indicated in the Horizon 3 plans.

Small as they are, it would be the safest route the Philippine Navy can take as it immediately immerse them into submarine operations, help identify the risks and issues that it may face, and give them the experience and capability it needs for the present and future requirements. With the South Korean defense secretary arriving today 14th September 2015, MaxDefense hopes that the strengthening of defense cooperation may include those related to improvements in naval capabilities, and discussions on submarines too.

As part of the proposal, the Philippine Navy must also start close cooperation with its defense partners and friendly neighbors and start sending officers and men to school in submarine and anti-submarine warfare. These schooling should not just be in theory, but also with practical at-sea phase similar to those given to submarine-bound crew. Non-submarine bound officers and specialist crewmen of the Philippine Navy should also be given advanced ASW schooling as well, since ASW is related to submarine warfare as part of a bigger naval defense system where submarines, surface ships, aircraft, and sensors are inter-operating with each other. Vietnam, who has just recently been considered as a strategic partner of the Philippines, as well as Japan, South Korea, Australia, and fellow ASEAN neighbor Singapore could be considered for such navy-to-navy agreements.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Post-SONA Updates on the AFP Modernization Programs under RA 10349 and RA 7898

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III confirmed during his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) early this month that 30 projects for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were signed and funding will be allocated soon. So far, the approval was only made in less than 2 months, so it is expected that the budget may not have been released yet.

But with elections coming in soon, the government may need to speed-up the release of budget to allow the Department of National Defense (DND) to award them immediately before they are considered as midnight projects.

MaxDefense takes a look on the status of projects under the Revised AFP Modernization Program Horizon 1, as well as some projects for older AFP Modernization Program that are still ongoing.


Before the 30 projects were approved, several projects were already prepared for acquisition, or were already being tendered. These includes several big-ticket items under Horizon 1 (2013-2017) phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP) under Republic Act 10349, in addition to projects already approved in the past but are under the AFP Modernization Program (AFPMP) covered by Republic Act 7898. Delayed as they are, these balance AFPMP projects are being pushed to be completed within Pres. Aquino's term.

MaxDefense believes that at its current phase, the DND and AFP won't be able to complete all balance projects under the AFPMP RA 7898.

Multi-Year Obligational Authority 

Due to the huge amount of several projects, the DND has proceeded to fund these projects in an installment basis based on the Multi-Year Obligational Authority (MYOA), a system that provides funding of a certain project in a yearly installment basis. This is by ensuring that the AFP/DND includes the annual payment for the project in their annual budget proposal, in this case, the AFP Modernization Program. 

There are several projects that are to be acquired via MYOA, an example of which is the Frigates for the Philippine Navy, and the FA-50PH for the Philippine Air Force.

More on MYOA can be seen on link provided HERE.

Projects under the Revised AFP Modernization Program:

Philippine Navy Projects:

The Philippine Navy (PN) has 10 projects covering Horizon 1 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization program, and some have already started the tendering process, including the Frigate project, Anti-Submarine Helicopter (ASH) project, Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC) Mk. 3 project, Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel (JCPV) Combat Systems Upgrade project, Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) project, and the Marine Forces Imagery and Targeting Support System (MITSS) project,

The month of August is about to end yet there is no news yet on the awarding of the new frigates for the Philippine Navy to any of the contending shipbuilders.

The Frigate and Anti-Submarine Helicopter projects have already completed the Stage 1 of its 2-Stage Bidding. But it is expected that the Frigate will be awarded first, as the final design and subsystem composition of the ship would be the basis for the final specifications of the Anti-Submarine Helicopters. Up until this writing, there are no formal indications yet that an awarding can be made soon for the frigates, while AgustaWestland has so far been the only responsive bidder for the helicopters with their AW159 Wildcat. It is still to be determined though if the final offer from AgustaWestland will be responsive to the final specifications and budget provided for the bidding's 2nd stage.

With no award yet for the new frigates, the Anti-Submarine Helicopter acquisition project has stalled since it would be dependent on the winning frigate's design and components. So far only AgustaWestland has cleared the 1st stage of the 2-stage bidding.  

Meanwhile, the Amphibious Assault Vehicle project has completed the post-bid qualification and is only awaiting for a Notice of Award (NOA) to be provided to the winning bidder. Samsung Techwin of South Korea will only start the production of the actual product, the Korea Amphibious Assault Vehicle (KAAV) after the DND issues the Contract and necessary notices. According to MaxDefense sources, actual release of funds for the initial payment covered by the MYOA is already being processed to secure backing for a NOA.

A Notice of Award for Samsung Techwin's KAAV to fulfill the acquisition of Amphibious Assault Vehicles for the Philippine Navy is still pending as of this writing.

The MPAC Mk.3 project, which is divided into 2 parts, has already announced the bidding for the 1st lot which covers the actual boat and standard subsystems. As of this writing, the DND has not yet made an updated schedule on when the bid submission and opening is. The 2nd lot will involve the acquisition and installation of remote weapons systems (RWS) and short-range surface-to-surface missile systems that will be awarded via Government-to-Government (G2G) deal with Israel. MaxDefense expects this to be Rafael's Typhoon 12.7mm RWS and Spike-ER missiles.

3 more additional MPACs are being procured under the RAFPMP's Horizon 1 phase, and will be installed with a remote weapons station for a 12.7mm machine gun and short range surface-to-surface missiles.

The Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel Combat Systems Upgrade project's bidding was recently reported to have failed as none of the 9 potential bidders submitted a bid. As discussed in our MaxDefense Facebook page, several of the bidders requested to increase the Approved Budget of the Contract (ABC) as the amount was not enough to do what the PN specified. The PN and DND is now reviewing the details and is yet to decide if they would increase the budget, or reduce the amount of work to be made to fit in the budget allocated.

Philippine Air Force Projects:

With 11 projects, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has so far been the recipient of the only projects approved earlier under the RAFPMP, which are the Combat Utility Helicopter (CUH) project and the Surface Attack Aircraft/Lead-in Fighter Trainer (SAA/LIFT) acquisition project. The CUH project saw the delivery of 8 Bell 412EP helicopters from Canada, and the awarding to Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for 12 FA-50 Fighting Eagle jet aircraft.

A replacement for the PAF's OV-10s is urgently needed, but so far the bidding for the CAS aircraft acquisition project has not moved even after the project was approved for budgeting.

Prior to the president's SONA, the PAF has several projects already being tendered but are awaiting for approval for funding of the projects before it can push further. These includes the Air Defense & Surveillance Radar project, the Close Air Support (CAS) aircraft project, the Long Range Patrol Aircraft (LRPA) project, the Full Motion Flight Simulator project, and the C-130T acquisition project.

The C-130T acquisition is a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) project with the US government, in which the US government will shoulder $20 million for 2 ex-US Marine Corps C-130T Hercules aircraft, while the Philippines will shoulder around Php1.6 billion. As per previous press releases and latest confirmation by US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, the aircraft will arrive in the country by 1st quarter of 2016.

The delivery of 2 C-130T from the US was confirmed recently as on the way and expected to arrive by 1st half of 2016.
Photo taken from the US Embassy in the Philippines website.

Another project is a government-to-government (G2G) deal involving the acquisition of 3 Air Defense & Surveillance Radar systems from IAI-Elta of Israel, which is already delayed due to the late approval by the president. Originally the plan involves the donation of a feeder radar system to the PAF in time for the APEC Conference this November 2015 while the 3 new radars are being made. With the delays, it is still not confirmed if the Israeli government can provide the said radar before the said conference. The NOA for this project is also pending until now, and further delays would mean the new radars would only arrive in 2017 following the delivery time frame. While the radars are still pending award, the construction of facilities to house these radars are also awaiting awarding.

The Long Range Patrol Aircraft project's bidding failed in its first attempt last year, and no new announcement has been made by the DND on when they intend to restart the tendering process. Take note that this project is confirmed by DND sources as separate from the plans to acquire refurbished maritime patrol aircraft from the US and Japan. Meanwhile, the bidding for the Close Air Support Aircraft has been pending for almost 2 years now, with several changes made on the submission of bids. No time frame has been made yet on when the bid submission will take place as of this writing, although this was said to be among the most urgent requirement as the PAF's OV-10s are rapidly deteriorating due to age and airframe stress.

Plans to acquire 2 new Long Range Patrol Aircraft is still pending, as the DND and PAF has not yet confirmed of restarting the bidding for the project.

Another project that was undergoing tender last year but failed to move forward is the Full Motion Flight Simulator acquisition project, which until now has no movement as well.

Still undetermined if a bidding will be the acquisition mode to used are the ammunition for the FA-50 aircraft. MaxDefense sources confirmed that officials prefer bidding for the supply of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, which means that the PAF and DND is open for a challenge against the bench-marked AIM-9L/I-1 Sidewinder and AGM-65 Maverick missiles. A possible alternative would be from Israel like the Python-Derby tandem from Rafael which are said to be compatible with the FA-50. But the decision if the project would be for bidding or direct negotiation is still not final.

The PAF has bench-marked their choice of a short-range air-to-air missile to the Raytheon AIM-9L/I-1 Sidewinder missile, although it was said that they would prefer a bidding to acquire the FA-50PH's missile requirements.

Philippine Army Projects:

The Army has 9 projects being pushed for the Horizon 1 phase, and cost the least among the 3 major services of the AFP. So far, none has been awarded as well, although there are some projects that have already started the procurement process.

The only project that has already started the tender process is the Night Fighting System project, which is for the acquisition of a helmet or rifle-mounted monocular, and a laser targeting device. Although the DND has already released information to potential bidders, they have not yet decided on a confirmed date for the bid submission and opening. 

The Night Fighting System has already started the procurement stage but is yet to schedule a bid submission and opening date.
Photo taken from UDMC's FB page.

Several projects in the Army will be acquired via direct negotiation and G2G, including vehicle-mounted and handheld radios that are expected to be awarded to Harris Corp. USA, the Rocket Launcher Light which is also expected to be awarded to Airtronic USA who also previously got the contract to supply RPG-7USA to the Philippine Army. There is also another requirement for 60 Field Ambulances that will probably be awarded via G2G to AM General for additional Humvee-based M1152 combat ambulance.

The delivery of the first batch of RPG-7USA is said to arrive before the year ends. The RPG-7USA made by Airtronic USA was chosen for the Philippine Army's Rocket Launcher Light (RLL) project.

Another project that has not yet gained traction is the refurbishing and repair of 114 ex-US Army M113A2 armored personnel carriers, including its shipment from California to the Philippines. This is a critical project since, according to MaxDefense sources, the DND and PA were already given a deadline to ship them out of the storage facility.

Finally, there is the controversial acquisition of Shore-Based Missile System that was rescheduled and budget-realigned by groups led by current Chief of the Staff of the AFP, Gen. Iriberri. So far, MaxDefense was informed by its sources in the DND that the proposed projects to replace the SBMS are not yet approved by the president and was not among those 30 projects approved recently.

AFP General Headquarters and AFP-Wide Service Support Units Projects:

Aside from the 3 major services, the AFP's General HQ and Service Support Units also have 3 projects under the RAFPMP's Horizon 1 phase. 

GHQ is in need of almost 700 Kia KM-450 for the AFP-wide Service Support Units.

This includes the G2G procurement of additional 680 Kia KM-450 trucks, and the tendering for the acqusition of Civil Engineering Equipment and the C4ISTAR system. So far, MaxDefense was informed that Hyundai of South Korea is also awaiting for a NOA for the additional lorries, while tendering for the C4ISTAR and Civil Engineering Equipment has not yet started.

In-Progress Projects under the AFPMP:

Philippine Navy:

All naval helicopters awarded to AgustaWestland for their AW-109E Power helicopters have already been delivered and accepted by the PN. 

Upgrades for the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates are also being done but at a piecemeal-basis. Although there were already several proposals provided to the PN for the upgrades of its sensors and combat suite and weapons systems, it seems that the PN has not yet fully decided on the final system composition. 

Construction of the Strategic Sealift Vessels by PT PAL of Indonesia is underway, and is reported to be within schedule. 

Philippine Air Force:

The delivery of AW-109E Power armed helicopters are expected to continue within this year after the PAF accepted the first 2 units last week. All 6 balance helicopters were reported to have completed their flight tests in Italy and are awaiting for the delivery go-signal, which may have already been provided by the DND and PAF.

Two more C-295M medium tactical transport aircraft are also for delivery within this year, with Airbus-CASA already confirming this a few months back. There appears to be no compelling reason to delay the delivery, so expect it to really be in the country soon. Indonesia's PTDI also reported that they can deliver two NC-212i light tactical transport aircraft within the year as well.

The previous plan to acquire Search and Rescue Seaplanes have been shelved for now, but was included in the PAF's acquisition plan under Horizon 2 phase. 

Plans to acquire SAR Seaplanes for the PAF has been shelved for now. Expect the plan to come out again in the Horizon 2 phase of the RAFPMP.

Philippine Army:

The Philippine Army has recently awarded a contract with Harris Corporation USA for the acquisition of vehicle-mounted battlefield communication radios, which was reported last December 2014. It is expected that the radios will commence delivery by either late this year or early 2016.

The initial 6 units of M113A2+ delivered by Elbit Systems Land & C4I has arrived in the Philippines, as covered by the Upgraded M113 Acquisition Project. Installation of its gun system is currently ongoing in Mechanized Infantry Division's home base at Camp O'Donnell, Tarlac. 

As stated earlier, the first batch of RPG-7USA for the Philippine Army is expected to arrive within the year. It was also reported recently that the stalled distribution of Remington R4A3 rifles has already been settled and will commence very soon.

The acquisition of 12 155mm Towed Howitzer for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps is also awaiting for the Notice of Award, after Elbit Systems Land & C4I passed the post-qualification requirements of the DND. 

Bad news has hit the delivery of Force Protection Equipment for the Philippine Army and Marine Corps as the winning bidder Achidatex Nazareth Elite has failed to deliver the products. The DND is expected to make a decision on the matter very soon.

The first batch of 6 M113A2+ from Elbit Systems of Israel has arrived, with the next batch of armored vehicles expected to arrive in the country soon.


Despite the massive delays, AFP Modernization Program under RA 7898 has been progressing well, although some setbacks arose on several projects like the Force Protection Equipment, the Joint Assault Rifle, and the Gregorio del Pilar-class upgrades. There were also previous set-backs that have been ironed-out including the AW-109E for the PAF.

The real problem now is on the implementation of the Revised AFP Modernization Program under RA 10349, which has not moved much after a month after the president approved the projects. MaxDefense believes that further delays in the implementation of these projects will not only further delay the project delivery and integration of the weapons system to the AFP's capability, but may also delay projects that will be implemented under the Horizon 2 phase of the program. 

It would be in the best interest of both the AFP and DND to speed-up the acquisition process, and to avoid an overlap of phases in the coming years. It should be noted that the next phase would be much more complex than the current phase, and will be difficult to implement if there are still pending projects from the previous phase that are still being processed.