The Philippines, being a front-line state affected by China's Island Chain Strategy, has been a subject of several defense analysis by major think-tanks (an example is provided here from RAND). And with its limited defense budget, A2/AD capabilities are among those suggested for acquisition by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). And the good news is, the Philippine defense planners were studying these options too with its plan to acquire Shore Based Missile Systems (SBMS).
|This is the Type 88 Surface-to-Ship missile system, developed and made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan. This is a correct example of a Shore Based Missile System.|
Photo taken from Wikimedia.
As part of the Revised AFP Modernization Program, the Philippine Army (PA) was chosen to acquire and operate the SBMS, officially the project name used by the Department of National Defense (DND) and AFP to describe a land-based mobile anti-ship missile system.
Highly mobile, they can be repositioned anywhere in the country that is accessible by road network and can be airflown by the Philippine Air Force's C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, and can be hidden from aerial or satellite reconnaissance systems if necessary. The budget allocated by the DND for this project is Php 6.5 billion (around US$144 million) to acquire 12 missile launchers and its associated detection, guidance, and support systems.
MaxDefense cannot post all other desired or specified technical information on the system due to security reasons. The project did not pass through the public tender acquisition format.
|A typical anti-ship missile battery composition includes the launch system (left), a fire control system (right), and a radar system (not shown). Above shows a NSM coastal battery.|
Photo taken from Naval Forces Magazine website.
|The BrahMos mobile autonomous launcher for land-based batteries. The system includes the missile launcher canisters built together with the fire control and communication systems together in a single vehicle.|
Photo taken from India's DRDO website.
Recent press releases by some media groups released some information to the public of plans to re-align the budget to acquire the Shore Based Missile System to acquire Force Protection Equipment.
There are 2 issues being brought out to the public in this MaxDefense blog entry. One is the plan to realign the project's budget to fund another Army project, and the second is the choice made by the Army and DND should they continue with the project.
Issue # 1: Realignment of Budget from the SBMS to Acquisition of Force Protection Equipment:
Since the issue was brought out to the public by a recent article of Manila Standard Today (different from The Manila Times), and another from Interaksyon. MaxDefense believes it is safe enough to discuss the project and its issues.
The Philippine Army's commanding general, Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, has reportedly been asking the AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Pio Catapang, to defer the acquisition of the Shore Based Missile System, and instead re-align budget to acquire force protection equipment for the Army's infantry units. The report did not indicate if such move was approved or not, although it is among the projects worth more than Php 60 billion affected by the delay due to the President's review of the revised AFP Modernization program, as previously reported by the media.
According to the press report by Manila Standard Today, Lt. Gen. Iriberri's believes that there are changes in the internal security landscape due to the issues surrounding the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), and the prevalent use of IED by the enemies of the state, especially the communist terrorist group New People's Army (NPA).
While the intentions of the CG-PA is good and unquestionable, MaxDefense has reason to see it in a different perspective. Several questions can be raised on the good general's proposal. Here are just some examples:
- Why choose the SBMS project for re-alignment?
- Why not request for additional funding instead of re-aligning another project's budget?
- What happened to the previous projects to acquire force protection equipment?
- Is the CG-PA expecting a worse-case scenario (or is there already a confirmed threat) should the BBL fail to make it for approval and implementation?
The SBMS is among the most important projects that Pres. Aquino wanted for immediate implementation, since it would be a "poster boy" of a strong deterent against external threats. It could also be an acquisition that can boost his campaign to ask the people's support to continue his initiatives by voting his annointed one in 2016. It is amusing that this project was chosen by CG-PA for cancellation and not other projects within or outside the Army's scope. But being the priciest PA project, and with the next most expensive related to the CG-PA's initiative to improve infantry fighting capabilities, it made sense.
But what about those previous acquisiton projects for force protection equipment? If you all remember, there were several attempts to acquire Force Protection Equipment for the Philippine Army, and most failed to be implemented. There's the project to acquire 44,000 for the Army and Marines worth around Php2 billion, which until now is still pending after being awarded to Achidatex Nazareth Elite - Colorado Shipyard joint venture.. Then there's a failed contract for 3,480 units for the Army that was supposed to be supplied by UM-Merkata - Stone of David. Then there's another emergency procurement of 1,000 units that was terminated after failing tests. Until these projects are implemented, MaxDefense believes there is no immediate need yet to acquire more by canceling a very important territorial defense capability project.
|So what happened to the earlier project for Force Protection Equipment awarded to Achidatex Nazareth Elite-Colorado Shipyard joint venture. Why not implement this first?|
Photo taken from Achidetex Nazareth Elite's website.
But the most probable answer is an anticipation by the CG-PA that a failure to pass the BBL would mean the resurgence of fighting between Moro rebels/terrorists and government forces. This is a foresight by the Army's high command that is reasonable and commendable. But even without the BBL's cancellation, it is already expected that not all will be happy, and continued fighting against splinter groups of the MILF and MNLF, NPA, the Abu Sayaff and JI groups operating in Mindanao is still expected. So what's new?
Why only Force Protection Equipment?
And if this BBL failure happens, it's not only force protection equipment that the Army needs, but also more armored vehicles, mine/IED protected vehicles, and drone surveillance equipment. But these projects are not included in the AFP Modernization Program slated for until 2017, so why were these equipment not requested? MaxDefense previously discussed the need to acquire MRAP-like vehicles due to the surge in the use of landmines and IED by terrorist groups especially the NPA. But it would be best to acquire them by requesting a budget for it, free from the need to re-align other projects. Other AFP Modernization Program projects were given additional budget after the end-user defended the need to acquire them, like the acquisition of ex-USMC KC-130T for the Philippine Air Force which was not originally included in the 2010-2017 requirement. So how did the PAF did it?
Issue # 2: Acquisition of a Coastal Defense System based on a Rocket Artillery System instead of a real, proven Anti-Ship Missile System:
Should the PA and DND continue to implement the SBMS project, another issue that MaxDefense sees is more appalling; the decision to acquire the Israel Military Industries (IMI) Coastal and Island Defense System, based on the Lynx self-propelled rocket artillery system instead of a real, proven, land based anti-ship missile battery system. So far, this is the only product IMI is offering for coastal defense requirements.
IMI's has been actively promoting the entire system since 2014, with the system offered to Kazakhstan for its Protivokorabelniy Raketniy Kompleks Beregovoy Okhrani (PRKBO), and was also offered to Southeast Asian countries during the Singapore Airshow 2014. Vietnam confirmed the existence of the system in their coastal defense units. The Philippines was definitely among those offered with this system as the AFP had a delegation to the show before.
|IMI's CIDS, which makes use of its guided rocket and Delilah cruise missile for land-based coastal defense.|
Photo snipped from IMI's website.
Although the entire system includes targeting information from coastal surveillance radars and unmanned aerial vehicles, it is still unclear if the offer to the Philippine Army encompasses the entire package, especially when the system can be linked to the almost operational National Coast Watch System which already has the coastal surveillance radars in place/to be placed. It would be also possible that if this system be introduced, it would be linked to any future maritime patrol aircraft the Philippine Air Force and Navy would be getting.
The IMI Lynx Self-Propelled Rocket Launching System:
The IMI Lynx was originally developed to launch various artillery rockets against fixed land targets, in a similar fashion as a normal gun-based artillery like the 155mm howitzer. Through its development, IMI was able to expand the type of rockets the Lynx could launch. It now includes the following projectiles:
- Soviet Era 122mm BM-21 GRAD unguided artillery rocket system with a 20-kilometer maximum range;
- Soviet Era 220mm BM-27 Uragan unguided artillery rocket system with a 38-kilometer maximum range;
- IMI's 160mm LAR-160 unguided artillery rocket system with a 45-kilometer maximum range;
- IMI's Trajectory Corrected Rockets (TCS) for unguided rockets with a maximum range of between 40 to 50 kilometers;
- IMI's 160mm LAR-160-based Accular guided rocket with a maximum range of 40 kilometers;
- IMI's 303mm Extended Range Artillery Rocket (EXTRA) navalized guided and unguided rocket system with a maximum range of 150 kilometers;
- IMI's 370mm Predator Hawk long range guided semi-ballistic rocket with a maximum range of 250 kilometers;
- IMI's Delilah-GL ground launched cruise missile with a range of 180-250 kilometers
|The IMI Lynx mobile rocket launching system, seen here configured to launch the Delilah-GL cruise missile. Up to 2 can be carried in a single lorry.|
Photo taken from IMI's website.
Looking at the list above, the only possible systems that can be used by the IMI Lynx mobile rocket launcher system as an effective shore based defense system are the navalized guided version of the EXTRA, the Accular rocket version of the LAR-160, the Predator Hawk guided rocket and the Delilah-GL cruise missile. All other rocket types does not have the range nor the guidance system to be able to hit a moving target.
Based on the information provided in IMI's own website and product brochures:
- The Accular has a 35kg warhead, and the Lynx can carry up to 26 rockets in 2 launch pods using its LAR-160 rocket launcher.
- The guided EXTRA rocket has a 120kg warhead, can carry high explosive or cargo-carrying submuntion including 500 IMI Bantam sub-munitions or bomblets, and the Lynx can carry up to 8 rockets in 2 launch pods.
- The Predator Hawk has a 200kg explosive-fragmentation warhead, and Lynx can carry 4 rockets in 2 launch pods.
All guided rocket systems has a claimed hit accuracy Circular Error Probable (CEP) of 10 meters.
- The Delilah-GL cruise missile has an electro-optical or IR guidance system, armed with a 30-kilogram high explosive warhead although IMI claims that this could be increased since the original warhead was designed to minimize collateral damage in urban land-attack use.
|The Lynx can carry a mix of all the rocket systems it can carry, in this case a mix of the EXTRA and LAR-160 systems with EXTRA and Accular guided rockets in CIDS form.|
Guided rockets will be fed with the target information before launch, and will be be approaching the target from a high trajectory level, in the same approach as its unguided variants and unlike anti-ship cruise missiles. It will be guided to its target by a GPS-augmented inertial navigation system.
The high approach speed and high angle of attack is a positive attribute to the guided rocket system compared to an anti-ship cruise missile flying just a few feet above sea level at subsonic speed. It would be difficult for point defense gun systems like the Phalanx or the Chinese Type 730 CIWS to shoot it down. It smaller size could also be an advantage as it would be more difficult to detect and hit, even by missile CIWS like RAM. This is the same principle as to why the Chinese have been pouring its resources in developing the DF-21D "carrier killer" anti-ship ballistic missile.
As rocket systems also fly faster than turbojet-powered cruise missiles, it can reach its target faster. And since it will approach the target faster too, it would be difficult to kill using short range hard-kill systems like gun or missile CIWS systems.
Cost is another advantage of using these rocket systems. Development of these systems was greatly influenced by costs, as IMI claims it can develop an effective system without the high costs of anti-ship missiles.
|The IAI/IMI EXTRA 303mm artillery rocket.|
Photo taken from IMI's website.
Vietnam bought the EXTRA rocket artillery system to equip their coastal defense artillery forces, but previous discussions by MaxDefense to some Vietnamese military officers last year indicated that the system would not be sufficient enough to destroy enemy ships but would be useful in attacking a large cluster of incoming amphibious assault force using submunitions, or bombarding islands like those in the Spratlys or Paracel Islands. But with the Philippines being a signatory of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, it is expected that the version the PA intends to get will not include such.
|A footage from Vietnamese media showing off the coastal artillery unit's EXTRA guided rocket system mounted on a fixed launcher. According to the report, its primary purpose is to defend Vietnam from seaborne landing.|
Being a guided rocket system without an autonomous navigation capability, it could be prone to jamming. A few seconds delay in the transmission of information from the targeting system due to jamming could allow the rocket to miss its target by a hundred meters or more.
While the Delilah-GL is a very good cruise missile, MaxDefense believes that the warhead size is too small. At 30 kilograms or more, it is far from the warhead sizes of most anti-ship cruise missiles in service: Harpoon warhead is at 220 kilograms, the Naval Strike Missile at 125 kilograms, the French Exocet MM-40 at 145 kilograms, the Japanese Type 88 at 225 kilograms, and the upcoming Long Range Anti Ship Missile (LRASM) at 450 kilograms. Even the old AGM-119 Penguin missile has a warhead size of 120 to 130 kilograms. So the Delilah's warhead is somewhere between 4 to 8 times smaller than the usual anti-ship cruise missile!
The Delilah's warhead size is similar in size as the new Sea Venom, which is scheduled to replace the ageing Sea Skua short range anti-ship missile.
|The Delilah cruise missile, which is available in air, ground, or sea-launched variants.|
Photo taken from IMI's website.
|MBDA's Sea Venom missile, which has a similar warhead size of 30 kilograms.|
Photo taken from Wikipedia.
Based on the claims by MBDA on the capability of Sea Venom, the 30 kilogram warhead was designed for effective use against, and MaxDefense quotes, "emerging Fast Attack Craft and Fast Inshore Attack Craft ranging between 50 to 500 tons, and traditional corvettes, while only severely damaging or incapacitating larger vessels through precision aim point selection".
Lets say IMI can increase the size of the warhead as they claim, it could be possible that this would affect its maximum effective range. If the Delilah can be configured to carry a 54 kilogram warhead, it would still be too small compared to its anti-ship contemporaries. MaxDefense doubts that the increase would have huge impact in performance against larger ships, and if it still requires precision aim point selection then that would be difficult to do especially if the target is operating within a well protected battlegroup. This problem could be more visible if used against larger ships like large amphibious assault ships and small aircraft carriers which may not even make a sufficient dent as they were designed to take in some damage without affecting too much its primary capabilities.
To summarize the above, the guided rockets may not have the accuracy of anti-ship missiles, while the Delilah-GL cruise missile does not have the punch of purpose built anti-ship cruise missiles. Used in combination, it could inflict damage but could not be enough to be considered a major threat against enemy naval forces.
MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Army and the DND knows of the disadvantages of using IMI's CIDS as compared to conventional land-based anti-ship cruise missile systems. But an important factor has been factored in that made them decide on acquiring this system, and MaxDefense believes that it is the cost.
With only around Php 90 billion to spend, the AFP Modernization Program has a really big issue of filling a lot of requirements with a very small budget spread in a long period. Php 6.5 billion is already 7.2% of the budget for the entire AFP, so it might be difficult to justify further allocation without affecting several other projects funded by the Modernization program.
To give readers a perspective, a good example of a recent acquisition of land based anti-ship missile system is by Poland. In 2014, Poland ordered a second batch of Naval Strike Missile (NSM) Coastal Defense System from Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace of Norway for US$177 million. Although the numbers of launcher systems were not provided, it would definitely be less than their original order worth US$263 million in 2008 to acquire six quadruple truck-mounted missile launchers, two TRS-15M ODRA-M truck mounted radar systems, six fire control and three command vehicles. It also includes 48 NSM missiles.
|The NSM Coast Defense System's truck mounted missile launcher together with the truck mounted TRS-15 radar.|
Photo taken from Wikipedia.
This first order from Poland is already less than the Philippine Army requirement for 12 launchers, but it already exceed by almost twice the budget allocated in the SBMS project. Thus, a SBMS using the Kongsberg NSM Coastal Defense System based on Poland's experience is more than $440 million (around Php19.8 billion) or higher considering inflation due to the initial deal being closed several years ago. That's almost 3 times higher than the budget allocated for the SBMS project!
A cheaper alternative can be seen with Vietnam's acquisition of the K-300P Bastion-P mobile coastal defense missile system from Russia. In 2006, Vietnam acquired a Bastion-P system for $150 million, which is close to the budget the Philippines allocated for the SBMS. But this was in 2006, and if inflation is considered, the deal could be somewhere near to $200-300 million by now. A single Bastion-P system consists of one or two command, control and communications vehicles, up to four self-propelled launch vehicles with two missiles each, and up to 3 reload transport vehicles with 3 missiles each.
|Vietnamese coastal defense troops with their K300P Bastion-P mobile missile launcher vehicle. Each vehicle can carry 2 P-800 Onix (Yakhont) supersonic anti-ship cruise missile.|
Does the PA and DND have Php 19.8 billion for the SBMS Project? MaxDefense believes it has none. But can the Philippine government allocate Php 19.8 billion for a similar system as those bought by the Poles? MaxDefense believes the government definitely can, as long as it has the initiative and strong support of the AFP's drive to modernize its capabilities.
Dual Use System:
Another consideration that MaxDefense believes the Philippine Army made is that aside from being a coastal defense asset, the Lynx MLRS system can also be used for land-attack missions using both guided and unguided rockets, and even the Delilah-GL missile. There were previous press releases by the DND that the system would also be used for attack on ground targets. This will definitely improve the Philippine Army's artillery forces capability with the introduction of a rocket artillery capability that is currently not available in its inventory. This would be in-line with plans for the Philippine Army to use its existing artillery systems for secondary use as coastal artillery as part of its doctrines.
MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Army will not be adapting the option to use submunitions on the EXTRA free flight rocket, as the Philippines is among the signatories of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This is among the issues discussed and gave importance by President Aquino during his meeting with the DND and AFP early this year.
In comparison, Vietnam already uses the Lynx, Malaysia and Indonesia both operate the Brazilian ASTROS-II system, Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar all use Soviet era MLRS systems, Thailand uses a mix of homegrown DT-1 and Chinese made systems, while Singapore operates the expensive, American-made HIMARS MLRS system. The presence of Lynx MLRS in its inventory would allow the Philippine Army to be at par with its regional contemporaries.
|The Lynx MLRS in its standard form can be used to fire rocket artillery against land targets, which the PA can use when not designated for coastal defense. Photo shows the Lynx armed with the LAR-160 artillery rockets.|
Photo taken frim IMI's website.
# # # # # # # # # #
Although the concern of Lt. Gen. Iriberri is commendable considering his care for his troopers, MaxDefense believes that re-aligning funds from the SBMS project is not the best way. MaxDefense suggests that the Philippine Army first realize the earlier projects to acquire Force Protection Equipment that would allow them to acquire around 36,000 units for the PA and almost 10,000 units for the Philippine Marine Corps. The Army already has existing inventory of force protection equipment by the thousands, so if fully utilized, they can have almost 50,000 troops (more than 50% of the Army's full troop numbers) with the equipment.
The Philippine Army can again request for more protection systems, this time to include not only armored vests, but also better kevlar helmets, boots, goggles, vest-integrated carriers, knee and elbow protection, and other infantry provisions in the next phase of the AFP Modernization Program. And to fully keep our troops safe from IED and roadside bomb threats, consider acquiring more MRAP or MRAP-like armored vehicles designed to protect troops against these threats.
It would be very easy to conclude that the Philippine Army will need something better than the IMI Coastal & Island Defense System. But it would actually be the Philippine government, not the Philippine Army, that could make it possible to acquire an anti-ship cruise missile battery. This is possible if the Philippine government could increase its funding to allow the PA to consider acquiring them. But this is too late for now, with the government already curtailing spending as election season starts from October this year.
There can be 3 choices for now, either:
- proceed to acquire the IMI CIDS based on the Lynx MLRS, enough to equip at least 3 batteries of 4 mobile launchers each;
- consider acquiring a coastal defense system based on anti-ship missiles, but only enought to equip a battery or 2 underequipped batteries;
- request additional funding through special means, either by diverting funds from other projects of the AFP Modernization Program or by external sources, but this could take more time and might not allow the DND to close a deal before it can be considered a midnight deal by October 2015.
MaxDefense believes that the first 2 options can be made.
Is there still hope?
MaxDefense believes that there is still hope, but the chances are slim considering that the DND and AFP does not give emphasis on acquiring Russian weapons systems like the Bastion-P. The most possible the Philippines can get a true anti-ship missile battery is from India with its BrahMos coastal missile battery. But with the Indian offer dismissed before for reasons that cannot be disclosed to the public, the chances for an AShM option is very slim.
Then there is the issue of DND officials being critical to offers made by IMI, as reported previously by some controvertial and unreliable media personalities and newspaper group, wherein IMI's appointed company to represent them in the Philippines was said to be very close to certain DND officials. Although until now this is still considered hearsay until proven in courts, MaxDefense believes that this could also be another possibility.
|India's BrahMos is really the best and most possible option against the Lynx, but that will depend if India can make the offer more affordable, and if the DND can even put their attention on the offer.|
Photo taken from defense.pk.
MaxDefense sources confirmed that recently, the DND has been open again in offers made by several anti-ship cruise missile manufacturers, but it has not been confirmed if these offers are for the SBMS project, or for other naval and air force projects that will require them in the near future.
For the Philippine Navy alone, there are the requirement for the new frigates which are expected to be awarded to a shipbuilder soon; a system for exisiting PN ships like the Gregorio del Pilar-class, Jacinto-class, and some others; and a small short range system to be considered for the Anti-Submarine Helicopter project. The Philippine Air Force will probably start considering their own acquisition as well to equip the planned Long Range Patrol Aircraft and possibly the P-3C Orions it is negotiating with Japan.
MaxDefense hopes that whatever decision made by the DND to acquire for the SBMS project, must be effective enough to provide the country with a A2/AD capability while still considering to acquire a superior system and/or additional units to cover more areas of the country as part of the next phase of the AFP Modernization Program.
July 5, 2015:
MaxDefense wants to clarify the issue being brought out by a certain defense forum regarding the release of information on the Shore Based Missile System project, which was made by MaxDefense on July 4, 2015.
First off, MaxDefense is familiar with the concept of secrecy especially in divulging any information related to the defense capability or procurement of the country. Just because MaxDefense is not divulging its sources and is not working together with these defense forums, doesn't mean that MaxDefense sources aren't reliable or capable of knowing what information can be released or not.
Secondly, the information released by MaxDefense regarding this project has nothing to do with MaxDefense sources, because all the information were based on information already released to the public via news reports or press releases made by the DND and AFP / Philippine Army themselves. Aside from news reports and press releases, MaxDefense made use of information coming from online sources, like the product list and press releases by IMI, defense and security related websites, and other online sources that can be accessed on the blog entry by clicking the phases that are in green.
As early as 2013, there were already limited information that the PA is planning to acquire the SBMS project either via limited bidding or government-to-government process. It was also the media who released the information that the company involved is Israel Military Industries (IMI) even though there were already indication that IMI was among those who offered their systems to the DND.
With IMI involved, it is impossible that only MaxDefense can make such conclusion that the CIDS was involved. Even people who are familiar with defense products can know that there is only 1 product that IMI can provide, and that is the Coastal & Island Defense System that IMI has been publicly offering since 2013. MaxDefense has NOT CONFIRMED that this is exactly what the DND is acquiring for the Army, and MaxDefense has NOT CONFIRMED that the information on CIDS came from any source. It is a product of research, experience, and analysis of MaxDefense. Let us not assume that MaxDefense is too smart and other people are too dumb to not know about this, not in this era of internet and social media.
Third, other than those released by MaxDefense to the public, there are any other information about the SBMS, the issues involving it including the reasons of delay, and the plan of CG-PA to re-align the budget because these information are not yet publicly released by the DND, PA, any government agency, or by any press reports. Although MaxDefense is expecting more information to be released very soon, it will not be MaxDefense that will initiate these public releases.
And lastly, MaxDefense will respect any decision by the DND or AFP to take down the blog entry should they find it too revealing.
MaxDefense will be continuously updating this blog entry as necessary. Thank you for your continued support of MaxDefense.
July 7, 2015:
The news is finally out to the public. Inquirer has finally posted more details of the re-alignment project discussed in the blog entry earlier. It was MaxDefense policy not to be the first one to break such news to the public.
MaxDefense will be discussing more on this issue on the next blog entry which will augment our earlier one.