Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Philippine's Options for New Tanks & Wheeled IFVs for RAFPMP Horizon 2 Phase

Recently, MaxDefense partially discussed plans by the Philippine Army to acquire new armored vehicles in its inventory, including tanks, to improve its capability as defenders of the land. This would be in accordance to the Philippine Army's modernization plan for Horizon 2 & 3 phases of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

Surprisingly, there are many inputs that are positive or negative for tanks in the Philippine Army's inventory due to different reasons and ideas.

Our previous MaxDefense blog entry dated September 2013 already provided a brief summary of tanks being operated by ASEAN countries, and it was concluded then that only the Philippines and Brunei remain as the only non-tank operator in the region.

MaxDefense received information from DND sources that the K1 tank was among those offered to the Philippine Army's future requirements. The extent of the offer is still unclear, but the Philippine Army has requested for several dozen new tanks as well as wheeled infantry fighting vehicles in its acquisition plan for Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

Issues with Tanks in the Philippine Setting:

For several years now, there are discussions online as to whether the Philippine Army really need tanks in its arsenal. Strong arguments were made against the need for the PA to have tanks, and continuous so until as recent as a previous MaxDefense post in Facebook about them. 

Among the major arguments made by those against having tanks are the following:

- the country's terrain is not tank-friendly due to being an archipelago without a continuous land formation between all major islands;
- the country's main islands, Luzon and Mindanao, are also not tank-friendly due to mountain ranges or impassable hilly and jungle terrain;
- the existing infrastructure is in poor condition, especially bridges in the rural area, and were not designed to accommodate tanks;
- the time of tanks is declining with the introduction of anti-tank missiles and cheaper armored fighting vehicles that are capable of killing tanks;
- tanks are expensive to acquire, maintain, and operate.

Poor infrastructure remains a problem in the Philippines, which will be detrimental in movement of very heavy main battle tanks. Even new bridges, like this one, that are built to replace old dilapidated bridges only has a 20-ton capacity. Even if we consider allowances, it is expected for the bridge to be structurally damaged if a 60-ton main battle tank crosses.

Infrastructure appears to be the biggest problem for main battle tanks in the Philippines, especially on the capacity of most bridges. As a MaxDefense reader from the DPWH confirmed, the standard concrete bridge commonly seen in the country have a capacity of 20 tons, but can accommodate at least 40 tons safely. Main battle tanks whose weight is greater than that would have detrimental effect on the bridge's structural performance in the longer run.  

But it is also worth mentioning that the Philippines uses specialized construction equipment that weighs more than a main battle tank, and make use of standard concrete and steel bridges on its own or carried by semi-trailers when being transported at long distances. Also, it was reported that the AFP's heaviest armored vehicle, the LVTP-5 and LVTH-6 which weighs almost 40 tons, have no trouble moving around the country and using bridges on its own or carried by semi-trailers.  

Currently the AFP heaviest armored vehicle is the PMC's LVTH-6, which weighs almost 40 tons (a little less than a T-72), but was reportedly fine with moving around the country on its own or ferried by semi-trailer, including using bridges, fly-overs, and roads than seems unable to accept such weight.

Although the above reasons are true, there are still many in the defense and military sector agreeing to the importance of tanks in the battlefield, and as an important asset of the Philippine Army. 

Among the most common reasons are as follows:

- Tanks remain the most well protected and heavily armed vehicle in the battlefield. They are still among the best assets that can kill other tanks or armored vehicles, as well as supporting the infantry on the ground by providing heavy armor, an assault weapon, and even as a psychological weapon;
- Tanks can be used even without proper civilian infrastructure as long as they are well supported by engineering & support units, as well as transport assets to help them move in long distances or over natural obstacles. This was proven by other Asian countries with similar terrain as the Philippines, like Indonesia;
- Although the country is archipelagic and has many areas that are not suitable for tanks, there are still locations where the tank can be considered king, and will definitely be used by invading armored units too. This includes the vast plains Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, Metro Manila itself, the plains of Central and Eastern Mindanao, and several other areas in the country;
- If used well as a combined arms asset, tanks remain an important asset that is difficult to destroy or incapacitate. This was among the lessons learned by the AFP in the All-Out War against the MILF in 2000;
- The greatest external threat the country is facing currently has the world's largest tank fleet, and it is highly likely that tanks will be used in a ground invasion against the Philippines. It is expected that any ground invasion by them will involve tanks. Tanks remain as among the best options to kill them, together with using anti-tank missile teams, helicopters, and use of terrain against enemy tank's favor;
- As the Philippine Army is starting from zero tanks, having several of them would be beneficial, although there is no need for several hundreds of them. They can also be used for red flag training to provide lesson and experience to Army troops to fight with or against tanks.

MaxDefense believes that both sides have their strengths and valid reasons, and should be taken into consideration before making a decision. In this case, the Philippine Army has long been planning and studying the need for tanks in the service, and has long made a conclusion that tanks are indeed needed by them. The question that remains is, what kind of tank.

MaxDefense believes more can be discussed about the viability of tanks in the Philippine setting, and MaxDefense is inviting its readers to take part in comments in this blog entry itself, or in the Facebook page wherein this topic will be brought out.

Despite the perceived unfriendly tank terain of the Philippines, both the US and Japanese forces made heavy use of tanks to its full battle potential. The photo above shows US Army M4 Sherman tanks supporting infantry somewhere in the Cagayan Valley, one of those areas considered a pocket of tank-friendly plains surrounded by the mountains of the Sierra Madre and Cordillera.

Can the Philippines Really Acquire, Maintain, and Operate Tanks in the near future?

According to MaxDefense sources from the DND and the Philippine Army,  the only reason why the Philippine Army remains tank-less to this day is because they cannot afford to buy, maintain, and operate them with the current budget they receive, and they are giving priority for other assets to be funded. This is the same reason why the wheeled armored vehicles will be given more importance than the tank should funding be less than expected.

It only means that the Philippine Army, like the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines, is expecting changes in the way the government is providing funding for the country's defense. Looking at the overall picture, all three major services are gunning to acquire assets that they honestly confirmed that they cannot acquire and maintain now with the budget they receive. 

History shows that the AFP does not acquire assets it knows it cannot maintain and use well, and is very frugal with acquiring new assets even if they believe they need them. So the earlier reason of budget concerns appear to hold bearing. The DND and AFP many know and expecting something in the future that we do not know or see, and this is giving them the will to request such acquisitions of not only tanks, but several other assets that are currently non-existent with the Philippine Army.  

Armored Vehicle Acquisition under Horizon 2

Among the planned acquisitions of the Philippine Army under the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program are for new tanks and specialized armored vehicles.

1. Tanks

Tanks are among those being considered for acquisition. MaxDefense won't be too specific on the details and numbers, but the requirement for tanks is still quite vague due to the absence of information.

Market information shows that tanks vary in size, capability, and price. General definition may refer a tank as a medium to heavy tracked armored fighting vehicle, heavily armored, armed with a large-caliber gun and smaller secondary guns, and is designed to fight other tanks or support the army against ground targets.

Based on these, the definition of tanks for this specific acquisition program is too wide, with the only definite requirement being "tracked", and "armed with a gun, 90mm and above". The only other available information are the total budget allocated for them, and the quantity, which MaxDefense cannot disclose for now.

It also unclear yet if the Philippine Army is open in acquiring used, refurbished tanks, or are they going for brand new ones.

MaxDefense have several models in mind depending on the possible source based on the parameters above and the budget. Among the most probable choices are:

a. Brand new Hyundai Rotem K1 main battle tank from South Korea (also known as the Type 88 tank) in A2 variant, sporting a 120mm smoothbore cannon designed in Germany. MaxDefense believes that this could probably be the basis of the Philippine Army's tank requirements, being one of the lightest among the main battle tanks in the market, uses Western parts and specifications, and is not very expensive compared to American, Japanese, or European alternatives. According to open sources, the tank's expected cost is within the far end of the PA's budget even after inflation. MaxDefense believes that there would be no used K1 tanks available for sale or transfer to foreign armies since the Koreans are expected to retire older US-made M48 tanks first before retiring the K1 series, and the Philippine Army will be getting brand new units should they intend to acquire the K1.

A problem with the K1 is market, since only the South Korean Army uses this. A previous offer to Malaysia did not result to a sale. The good thing is, the Koreans have a very large fleet of more than 1,000 K1 tanks, far greater than the combined numbers of all the tanks listed below, and is expected to operate the type for more than 20 years more.

The K1A1 is a 3rd Generation main battle tank from Hyundai Rotem, which, according to a Hyundai Rotem representative's discussion with MaxDefense, is still in production upon request even with the entry of the newer, more expensive K2 Black Panther 4th Generation tank.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

b. Brand new Doosan K21-105 or K21-120 light tank from South Korea, which is essentially a K21 infantry fighting vehicle armed with a 105mm or 120mm cannon mounted on a Cockerill XC-8 concept turret. It is expected to be cheaper than the K1 tank series, but with the system as a whole still a concept and without any buyers even if K21 in IFV variant is already in service with the Republic of Korea Army, technicalities may hinder the acquisition of this version of the K21. But its being lightweight (less than 30 tons without up-armoring) is a very important factor that the Philippine Army may highly consider.  

Doosan DST's K21-105 light tank, in collaboration with CMI Defense. Although the K21 is a proven design, the combined system is still under development and has not yet been confirmed for entry with the South Korean Army or any other armed forces. CMI Defense also offers a 120mm version, also still considered as concept.

c. Brand new T-84M Oplot, orT-84-120 Yatagan main battle tanks from Ukraine, which is a non-standard choice considering that this considered a Soviet design. While the T-84M Oplot retains the Russian/Soviet 125mm caliber gun, the T-84-120 Yatagan  is an export concept model using a 120mm NATO-compatible gun. Since the PA is not using any tank gun caliber greater than 76mm, having the 125mm won't really do harm on logistics except in combined logistics with allies in combined operations and among the positive values of EDCA and MDT.
While the T-84 is in service with many countries including fellow ASEAN member Thailand, the 120mm version is still considered a concept and may also be a problem in meeting procurement requirements. Due to preference on NATO standards, the PA may not be interested in using tested versions with the 125mm KBA-3 (2A46) gun. Thailand's T-84M Oplot tanks were reported to have cost an average of US$4 million per tank, or still within the PA's requested budget.

Ukraine's T-84M Oplot for Thailand, which uses the KBA-3 125mm cannon. Ukraine has not sold a NATO-standard 120mm variant of the tank until now to any market, and only has a concept T-84-120 Yatagan originally offered to Turkey. This would be a problem that may hinder its being chosen.

d. Used Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Type 90 main battle tank from Japan. There were previous announcements by the Japanese Ministry of Defense in the past already indicated the reduction of tanks, including the Type 90, in the Ground Self Defense Forces' inventory, allowing the PA to discuss for the transfer of specific number of units. MaxDefense believes that it would definitely be within the PA's budget, and may even be acquired for cheap as the Japanese government appears to be very willing to assist the Philippine military in acquiring their excess defense artilces. Like the K1A1/K1A2, it uses a license-built copy of the Rheinmetall L/44 120mm smoothbore cannon used by the American M1A1 and Leopard 2 tanks. As standard with Japanese equipment, it is equipped with advanced features and built with high quality in mind.

The only negative issue here would be product support, since Japan is the only user of the type, and they are already being prepared for retirement with the entry of the newer Type 10 tank.

A JGSDF Type 90 main battle tank. Japan is planning to reduce its tank inventory, including the Type 90, and these could be available for transfer to friendly countries either as grants or at a price.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

e. Aside from the Type 90, Japan may also opt to provide the older Type 74 medium tank which would probably be taken out of service completely as more Type 10 tanks are acquired by the JGSDF. Their lightweight design would be very advantageous in the Philippine setting, although its age is already showing and might not be suitable for tank warfare against newer OPFOR tanks. But it could be used as a support vehicle for infantry or mechanized forces using its British-designed 105mm gun for fire support and against bunkers and infantry fighting vehicles. Despite its age, the JGSDF is well known for its maintenance of assets and keeping them in top shape. These tanks have never been deployed outside Japan, and are only used mostly in training and parades.

The Type 74 tank during a display at the JGSDF Ordnance School.
Photo taken from Wikimedia.

Although there are several more other possible choices, MaxDefense did not elaborate further because they are either too heavy, too old and outdated, or only a few units are available for transfer, or not practical to acquire. Weight is a very important aspect in the decision making which will be explained later on.

2. Wheeled Infantry Fighting Vehicles

Another requirement that the Philippine Army will be giving importance is the acquisition of a new type of wheeled IFVs that will be assigned for specific missions, including as armored personnel carriers, anti-tank and air defense platforms, mortar carriers, and armored recovery vehicles.

Not much information has been released by the Philippine Army as well, although they are expected to be larger and will have more wheels than the current 4x4 set-up of the Simba and V-150. MaxDefense also believes that these vehicles will have better armor protection, river fording capability, and will be compatible to accept future upgrades like up-armoring, availability of a high-caliber gun variant, battlefield management systems, and others. The adaptability of having a high-caliber gun variant is in anticipation of a Horizon 3 requirement for a "wheeled tank" which can be used as an anti-tank gun platform or as an assault vehicle possibly with at least a 105mm gun.

Being a non-4x4, it is expected to either be a 6x6 or 8x8 configuration, similar to those being pressed into service with neighboring armies like those of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. This would be brand new, although any changes in the funding targets on the minus side would definitely push the Philippine Army to look at cheaper alternatives like used platforms.

a. New or used M1126 Stryker 8x8 from the US & Canada. The standard US Army wheeled armored vehicle since 2000, it has a lot of variants in its belt, including all the variants that the Philippine Army might be looking for, including the M1128 mobile gun system variant & the M1129 mortar carrier. Compatibility with US forces will be a practical reason for choosing this, and the anticipation of a huge parts, upgrade,  and manufacturing support for several thousand units serving with the US Army could make this a top choice. Downside is the reportedly poor protection compared to much modern contemporaries, and lack of other users aside from the US and Iraqi armies. A double V-hull variant is being produced to address the protection issues from roadside bombs and IED. Another downside is the reported cost of the vehicle, which is quite on the high side as compared to contemporaries, although this is expected as US-made equipment are normally expensive. An earlier concluded deal with Lithuania puts the average price of a Stryker together with weapons, ammo, training, spares, and support past the US$7 million mark. Older units that are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans may also be offered by the US for sale as EDA, although the chances is slim as the US prefers to sell new-build units.

The M1126 APC variant of the Stryker 8x8.
The Stryker MGS with the 105mm gun has a high reputation for being effective in providing fire support to troops in the absence of tanks.

b. New Patria AMV from Finland or its licensed-built derivatives are among the possible vehicles being eyed by the Philippine Army. This may even include the license-built copy of the AMV, the KTO Rosomak variant built under license by Poland. Both the Patria & Rosomak 8x8 vehicle are considered to be among the best in its class, with a reputation of being highly robust, dependable, and highly reliable. They also have sufficient combat experience, especially the Rosomak which are used by the Polish military in Afghanistan and has gained respect by both allies and foes. Currently it has an APC, IFV/anti-tank variant, and can be configured to carry large-caliber mortars depending on Philippine Army requirements including a 120mm gun proposed by Cockerill. MaxDefense sources informed that the Rosomak was already offered to PA brass in the past, and is said to be cheaper than the Stryker and Singapore's Terrex. Sources also informed MaxDefense that the Patria/Rosomak is the favorite among the Mechanized Infantry brass and Philippine Army high command.

Shown above is the KTO Rosomak IFV variant of the Patria, in service with the Polish Army.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

c. New ST Engineering Kinterics AV81 Terrex from Singapore. This has been among the benchmarks in the region, and has been previously offered to the Philippine Army several years ago. Well designed for a C4ISR centric army like those of Singapore, it is among the most modern in the market today. While it appears to be very good for consideration, among its setbacks include lack of a FSV variant (without modifications), and market, since it only being used by no other country aside from Singapore. Although it is among those in the running to bag the US Marine Corps' ongoing Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) acquisition project, a win would be greatly beneficial. 

ST Engineering's AV81 Terrex wheeled armored vehicle, in service with the Singapore Armed Forces.
Photo taken from

d. New Hyundai Rotem KW1 Scorpion 6x6 and KW2 Scorpion 8x8 Wheeled Armored Vehicle from South Korea. This specific model was in competition from other homegrown 6x6 & 8x8 offerings from Samsung Techwin and Doosan DST, and was chosen by the South Korean Army for their own requirement. The vehicle is among the newest in the market, and is also an interesting choice due to the close defense ties between the Philippines and South Korea. It could also be marketed in connection to the tank requirement of the Philippine Army, since MaxDefense believes that Hyundai Rotem's K1 88-type tank is among the best choice for the tank requirement. Currently the KW1 & KW2 are only armed with cupola mounted guns, but MaxDefense sources confirmed that the larger KW2 8x8 can accommodate heavier weapons including fire support gun turrets for 90mm or 105mm guns, and both KW1 & KW2 can mount autocannons of 25mm or 30mm caliber on both manned turret or RCWS, and configured as a mortar carrier.

The KW2 shown here in self-propelled anti-aircraft configuration carrying a twin 30mm gun system. The KW2 is the 8x8 version of the Scorpion, while there is a smaller 6x6 version known as the KW1.
Photo taken from

e. New Iveco SuperAV from Italy. Another vehicle in the running for the US Marine Corps' ACV project, the vehicle is said to have excellent amphibious capability in its standard configuration, and is even being offered to the Italian Army to replace their ageing LVTP-7 armored vehicles of the Lagunari Regiment. The only major downside is market, since it is not even in service yet with the Italian Army, and was only used by Brazil as basis for their own homegrown armored vehicle project built by Iveco Brazil. Winning the USMC ACV would be the bedrock which it could start a successful export market. Another issue is cost, since it is expected to be priced higher than the Philippine Army's budget, and is said to be more expensive than the Patria and Terrex.

The Iveco SuperAV is a promising vehicle but has no market share yet, as even the Italians have not yet made an order for them. Its hopes hang on the USMC's ACV program.
Photo taken from

f. New PT Pindad 6x6 Anoa from Indonesia. Said to be derived from the older variant of the successful VAB family of vehicles from France, the Anoa is the cheapest alternative in this listing, and is said to have been already checked by the Philippine Army before. The only one without an 8x8 variant here, it lacks the space offered by others although price has its reasons. Another problem is the weapons it can carry, the Anoa was not configured to have a FSV variant although PT Pindad may offer a different vehicle, the Badak 6x6 FSV, which is more of a combat vehicle rather than a infantry fighting vehicle due to lack of space to accommodate mounted infantry. The Badak is also confirmed to be able to carry a 90mm gun from Cockerill, but no confirmation if it can carry a 105mm gun. Nonetheless, the Anoa remains a very interesting offer since the Philippines is known to be very fixated on the price as history shows us.

The Anoa (above) and Badak (below) are 2 different vehicles from PT Pindad, with the Anoa more of an armored personnel carrier while the Badak is more of a armored fighting vehicle.
Photos taken from PT Pindad website (Anoa) and Wikipedia (Badak).

How about the Existing Wheeled and Tracked Armored Vehicle Fleet?

Horizon 2 phase has allocated programs for all existing armored vehicle assets of the Philippine Army, specifically the V-150 and Simba 4x4, and the AIFV and M113 tracked armored vehicles. It is expected that both wheeled 4x4 platforms, especially the Simba, will remain in service for at least another 2 decades, while the tracked assets, especially the M113, will remain a backbone of future PA armored formations. 

The V-150, Simba, M113 and AIFV will undergo rehabilitation and modernization under the Horizon 2 phase. Several of the existing M113A1 and upcoming M113A2 from the US will undergo life extension programs of its mechanical and electrical systems, and converted to upgraded combat vehicles, becoming platforms heavy weapons that are presently non-existent with the Philippine Army. The AIFV will be upgraded to current standards but will most likely retain its 25mm KBA cannon.

The PA's AIFV remains the same for the last 30 years, although it can still be rehabilitated and modernized to keep up with the times. The ACV-300 currently marketed by Turkey is very similar to the PA's AIFV bought  from the US in the early 1980s, and there are several companies that have the capability to bring back this vehicle up to date, including FNSS (which supplied the PA's ACV-300 a few years ago).
Photo taken from Army Recognition website.

The Simba and V-150 will also get upgrades, but will be retained as cavalry assets mostly supporting the several Infantry Division formations as newer assets arrive to fill-in mechanized infantry formations. Among those being eyed are replacing engines and mechanical systems with new ones, possibly replacing the manned turrets with RCWS, and improving its communications and battlefield connectivity with the introduction of improve command and control systems.

More on this development will be discussed by MaxDefense in future blog entries.

What Do We Expect Soon:

Horizon 2 is a long way to go as far as we are concerned, with several projects in Horizon 1 phase still not moving, or has only been awarded recently. As of this writing, there are only 4 Horizon 1 projects out of 33 that have been past the awarding stage, although several are scheduled for tender, or have already completed the tender submission.

Even if Horizon 2 is still far, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the DND have been moving ahead with its programs for Horizon 2 in terms of planning, studies, and even product evaluation, with the later probably starting as early as next year. As explained earlier, it is expected that the wheeled armored vehicle will be given priority than the tank.

Based on the budget being requested by the Philippine Army, it is clear that they are trying to squeeze as much capability and numbers from a very low allocated budget, and this is a reason why many other possible offers could not be included. Cost has always been a factor haunting the AFP Modernization, and has limited the AFP's choices by so much. It appears though that they are already eyeing certain brands and makes and is only looking for possible alternatives while trying to get the best of what they can only afford.

Although MaxDefense believes that the AFP and DND should prioritize modernizing the Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force, being the first in line of defense against foreign threats, the Philippine Army should continue its modernization as well, and the Philippine government should provide a larger defense modernization budget for all 3 armed services for them to be able to meet their requirements without affecting each other's own needs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Updates on the Sensors, Fire Control System, and Weapons Systems Upgrade of the Philippine Navy's Jacinto-class vessels

The Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) has confirmed that the bidding for upgrades of the Philippine Navy's Jacinto-class ships is being restarted, and released more information regarding the said projects. There are 2 projects that are made available for this work, titled:

"Phase 3A: Restoration and Sustainment of 76mm Gun Systems for two (2) JCPVs & three (3) 25mm Gun Systems for three (3) JCPVs for two (2) JCPV,s Upgrade of two (2) Electro Optical Fire Control Systems and Sensors for two (2) JCPVs, and Supply of One Hundred Fifty (15) Target Practice (TP) rounds of 76mm OTO Melara Gun and Six Hundred Sixty (660) TP rounds of 25mm Gun Ammunition for the three JCPVs",

and the second one as:

"Phase 3B: Restoration and Sustainment of 76mm Gun System, Upgrade of Electro Optical Fire Control System and Sensors for one (1) JCPV".

BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36) during exercises with the US Navy.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.

JCPV refers to the Jacinto-class patrol vessel, formerly known as the Peacock-class patrol vessel of the Royal Navy. Phase 3A has a Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) of Php 630,637,163.60 (around US$13.6 million), while Phase 3B has an ABC of Php 224,000,000.00 (around US$4.83 million).

Combining both projects, it is summarized as an effort to upgrade/replace the radar and electro-optical fire control systems, and restoration works for the 76mm Oto Melara 76/62 Compact main gun and 25mm MSI Defense DS25 autocannons of the three Jacinto-class ships, namely BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35), BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36), and BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37). It also includes acquiring several target practice rounds for the two types of guns.

This project is actually in its re-bid phase, with an initial effort failing earlier this year. With the project among those approved by President Benigno Aquino III last July 2015, it now has the financial backing it requires and may now proceed without funding problem hook-ups.

The new bid documents for both projects were not shared by the DND's website last time. But the DND recently released a new Supplemental Bid Bulletin (SBB # DND/PN-JCPV-P3-15-01) last October 19, 2015 which answered queries submitted by potential bidders for both projects. 

Further information can also be gathered from previous Supplemental Bid Bulletins provided by the DND, SBB # DND/PN-JCPV-P3-15-02 dated 20th February 2015, and SBB # DND/PN-JCPV-P3-15-04 dated 17th March 2015. Some information may still remain relevant although whatever similar information provided on the newer SBB is considered latest.

Potential Bidders:

Among the information made available are the potential bidders for the projects:

1. Insis System Engineering - an Italian company, Insis S.p.A. is involved in design and manufacture of multi-technological systems, including those used for military applications. Their company profile and products can be viewed HERE. It appears that they can provide certain items of the project, specifically the electro-optical fire control component, but not the rest. 

2. OTO Melara - another Italian company, they are the original designer and manufacturer of the 76mm OTO Melara Compact gun being used by the JCPVs. Restoration and sustainment of these guns would definitely be their forte, even if the Compact gun is already out of production. MaxDefense believes they can also supply the ammunition for the gun, since they design and manufacture them as well. 

3. Propmech Corporation - a Filipino company with experience in bagging DND/PN projects including the Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC), Landing Craft Utility (LCU), and refurbishing and repair works on patrol gunboats. While they do not manufacture any electronic component, it appears that they would be working with specialist companies either as the contractor or the sub-contractor. 

4. Navantia - the Spanish shipbuilder is also a systems integrator, and can do ship refurbishing works. They would probably be working with partners, as stated in their query due to their lack of presence in the Philippines. Navantia also produces several naval systems including the Dorna Fire Control System, although they are expected to outsource the sensors, gun rehabilitation, and ammunition requirements.

5. Sagem Safran - is a major French defense company involved in electronics and communications systems. Their naval solutions include surveillance and fire control system, as well as navigation equipment. are well known and proven products used by major navies. Being specialized, 

6. Thales S.A. - another major French defense conglomerate, and among the largest defense companies in the world, a major global manufacturer of electronics and naval solutions. They could be involved in the EO-FCS and sensor/radar systems part of the project.

7. Ultra Electronics - another active European defense electronics company based in the UK, they also have an extensive product offering that will suite the requirements of the JCPV upgrade, although guns and ammunition are not their forte. 

The first attempt to bid out these projects saw the presence of Indian conglomerate Larsen & Toubro and French company Nexeya Group, as shown in the previous Supplemental Bid Bulletin answering bidder's queries early this year. So far they did not appear to be among the prospective bidders as far as the latest SBB is concerned.

The presence of specialized companies in the prospective bidders list could mean that they would undertake parts of the upgrade project but will be working with a local company or partner where the works would be done.

For easier discussion, MaxDefense will divide the discussion into several components.

Upgrade of Sensors & Fire Control System :

First are the electronics systems of the ship, which include the sensor/radar system and the electro-optical fire control system.

Currently, the Jacinto-class ships are equipped with a  Radamec 1500 electro-optical fire control system, and the Sperry Marine Bridgemaster-E navigational and surface search radar. Both were installed more than 10 years ago as part of the original AFP Modernization Program under RA 7898, to replace an older system used during its service with the British Royal Navy.

a. Radar:

Based on the SBB, it seems that the Philippine Navy is looking for a new surface search radar which is protected from electronic jamming, and is integrated to the fire control system. Standard navigation radar are not designed for such, including its existing radar. The radar should be brand new and not overhauling the existing on-board systems, as per the reply on Sagem-Safran's query. 

As replied to Propmech's query, the radar will have a maximum instrumented range of at least 96 nautical miles (178 kilometers), although the maximum detection & tracking range is a maximum of at least 40 nautical miles (74 kilometers). Although not indicated in the new SBB, previous SBB indicated that it should be able to track two hundred (200) targets at the same time, and must have a minimum detection range of 0.075 nautical miles (around 40 meters)

It would be a X-band type solid state radar, as replied by DND to Navantia, but must have multiple frequency transmission capability. It will have at least 3 displays for navigation, tactical - fire control, and command & control (C2). 

Thales have several naval radar models in their catalogue, although its difficult to say which one they could offer. The NS100 is among those in their product list, but further technical checking is needed to see if it fits the bill. MaxDefense believes a simpler radar system might be used, probably less capable than the NS100.
Photo taken from Thales Nederlands website.

b. Fire Control System:

For the fire control system, the projects are intended to replace the existing Radamec 1500 EO-FCS with a brand new system, and overhauling of existing system is not allowed, as confirmed by the DND replied to Sagem-Safran's query

It is required to have a track and lock-on target capability of at least 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometers) distance on a clear visibility using daylight TV camera. Detection Recognition Identification feature is not required.

It is also required that the new FCS be open for growth capacity or will have an open architecture design to integrate other weapons systems, but the PN expects the other weapons to be smaller caliber guns and not missiles.

Not much queries were made with regards to the FCS as compared to the radar, and MaxDefense assumes that previous SBB or the revised Technical Specifications may have already provided the information needed by the bidders. 

Sagem Safran has several models of EO-FCS that can be offered that may cater to what the Philippine Navy needs for its Jacinto-class patrol vessels, with the most capable being the Vampir NG (bottom left).
Photo taken from Safran SAGEM's website.

c. Other Sensors:

The ships are also in need to replace several onboard sensors with new ones, including its Speedlog, Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS), Anemometer, and Ring Laser Gyroscopes. Discussing this will require more technical terms, so we'll skip on these issues.

It was confirmed that dry docking is needed to install some systems like the Speedlog, and the DND has confirmed that all three ships would be made available if works are about to start. As confirmed by DND on Propmech's query, the naval yard can't be used for dry docking, and instead the proponent must use a civilian shipyard.

Previous queries by Navantia also indicated that there will be no work on Combat Management System for both phases of the project.

Previous requests by Larsen & Toubro, Thales, and Nexeya Systems to use a Fibre Optic Gyro (FOG) instead of a Ring Laser Gyro (RLG) has been declined by the DND, even if both claim that the FOG performs better and needs less maintenance the the RLG.

Restoration and Sustainment of 76mm and 25mm Guns:

Another important part of the projects are the works related to the 76mm Oto Melara 76/62 Compact main gun and the MSI Defense DS25 25mm secondary gun.

a. OTO Melara 76mm Compact Gun:

DND confirmed that Phase 3A will involve the 76mm guns of BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35) and BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36), while Phase 3B will be for the gun of BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37).

The SBB indicated that the guns may only need thorough inspection and minor refurbishing operations, although it also indicated the need to have its barrels replaced with new ones, although it appears that the barrels are furnished by the Philippine government/Philippine Navy. 

It also appears that the gun works will require the proponent to have all sub-systems to be brought to full operational status and updated to the latest design standard, thus requiring upgrades for the gun systems. It is unclear though if upgrade to latest design standard means retaining the gun as a Compact model or upgrading it to later Super Rapid standard. MaxDefense believes it would be retained as a Compact model as changing to Super Rapid standard may require more work, and more budget.

It also indicate that the projects will require the proponent to provide spares, special tools, and test equipment, as well as training package that will allow the Naval Combat Systems Center to have the capability to do intermediate level repair. This is a very important clause since the Philippine Navy have previous history wherein it cannot do the repair of the guns by itself and needed assistance from a foreign navy (previously coming from the Royal Australian Navy) to provide training.

For testing, the new and older SBBs retain that the 76mm guns must be static and dynamic aligned that 1st salvo (1 salvo = 10 rounds) must hit a 16ft. x 16ft. target at a minimum distance of 4 nautical miles. This should be tested on a sea state 5 status.

It is interesting to note that based on the PN's market study, there are at least 10 other companies that are licensed manufacturers of the OTO Melara 76mm gun, and they allowed to join the tender as a joint-venture with the main proponent should OTO Melara decide to become a main proponent itself.

The OTO Melara 76mm Compact gun, mounted on a ground platform and showing its magazine that is normally hidden on the ship's hull. Phase 3A involves work on 2 guns, while Phase 3B is for work on a 3rd gun.

b. MSI Defense DS25 25mm Gun:

Most of the requirements for work on the DS25 gun is similar to those of the OTO Melara 76mm gun, including the need to replace the barrels and for the testing of accuracy.

Previous queries by Ultra Electronics also indicated that the gun console for the DS25 25mm gun is to be replaced with a new one, with target information coming from the radar and gun camera, but not the EO-FCS.

Contrary, MSI Defense was already expected to join as a common sub-contractor for all major proponents to work on the MSI DS25 25mm guns.

The MSI Defense DS25 Seahawk mounting a 25mm autocannon, installed on all 3 Jacinto-class patrol vessels. The DS25 can be controlled remotely or manually as shown in the photo above.

Similar Works, 2 Projects?

The entire upgrade works for the 3 ships was divided into 2 separate and distinct projects, named Phase 3A and 3B. As confirmed in the replies by the DND on both the new and older SBBs, there is a possibility that 2 different proponents may win the 2 projects (1 proponent for each project), thus it is possibile that the products and services to be used or made on the ships involved will not be the same.

There were previous calls by some of the bidders to combine the two projects into one, but the DND insisted on maintaining two separate projects for the 3 ships. This would allow only 1 winner to bag the Phase 3A and 3B projects, allowing commonality and economics of scale.

As to why, MaxDefense has not yet found out from the DND. But MaxDefense believes that the DND should have just combined the 2 projects into 1, as Phase 3. This is to avoid multiple groups involved in similar works, resulting to having different types of radars, sensors, EO-FCS, and parts used on the ships, as well as varying quality of work and ILS problems in the future.

Issues on Commonality and Future Proofing:

There was no indication if whatever products acquired for the Jacinto-class ships will also be used by existing or upcoming assets of the Philippine Navy. Two upcoming ships, the Strategic Sealift Vessel (SSV) and the Frigate, are expected to require radar and EO-FCS systems as well, and having a similar system used to whatever is the winning proponent can benefit in terms on commonality, compatibility, logistics and spares, and training. 

The point that the project is divided into 2, and the possibility of having 2 different proponents winning the 2 separate projects already showed that the PN and the DND may have not considered this issue of coming at all. If they allowed this to happen, it is then very possible that the upcoming ships will definitely have different models of sensors as well.

Another is the indication of missile or more advanced weapons systems installed on the ships in the future. It appears that there are no plans as of this time, except for small caliber guns as replied by DND to one of the queries. This, despite previous information that the Philippine Navy is interested in installing lightweight, short range surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missile systems to the ships. The only possibility now is for more advanced tracking systems supporting missiles to be installed later on, and for the PN to decide on a lightweight missile system that would not affect the inherent top-heaviness design of the class.

With the Radamec 1500 EO-FCS and Sperry Marine Bridgemaster-E radar being replaced, it is possible that these systems are still repairable or overhauled, and can be installed on existing PN ships using older systems like the BRP Rajah Humabon, the Rizal-class, or the Miguel Malvar-class ships. With just over 10 years under its belt, MaxDefense believes that these could still be useable for other purposes especially with the limited resources the PN has. Previous queries by Sagem Safran as shown on older SBBs proved this to be possible.

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PS-36 is seen here on drydock together with PS-35, taken several years ago while both ships were undergoing works.
Photo taken from

This time, MaxDefense won't be suggesting possible radar and EO-FCS systems that could be offered by the proponents since it is also unclear who will go as a main proponent, and who will opt to be a sub-contractor. MaxDefense believes that not all companies that submitted queries will join the project as the main proponent since majority are specialists that could only provide certain items of the project. 

It would be difficult to determine also which companies are partnered or in a joint-venture with the possible proponents since it was not indicated nor needed to be listed in this SBB, and will only be named as part of the bid submission.

In the end, it is expected that not much will be added to the ship's capability after the upgrades are done. MaxDefense is only expecting a slight improvement on the ship's surveillance and detection capability with the introduction of a better radar and EO-fire control system compared to the previous models the ship uses, but aside from these the Jacinto-class will remain as what it currently are.

Aside from answering queries, the SBB from the DND also confirmed that the bid submission and opening is now scheduled on 10th November 2015. It is expected that re-schedule may happen but MaxDefense hopes that there is no need for that.

As the bid opening proceed, MaxDefense will provide more updates as information starts to come in, especially on the outcome of the bidding. It is also expected that we can get information on the entities involved with the proponent, enabling us to provide analysis on what the Philippine Navy might be getting.

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.