Budget: Php 2.67 billion (around US$ 61 million);
Delivery: 540 days after opening of Letter of Credit (around 18 months or 1.5 years);
Pre-Bid Conference: November 15, 2013;
Bid Submission and Opening: November 29, 2013;
Must include Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package.
|Viking Air's Twin Otter Guardian 400 is being pitched to the Philippine government for some time now and appears to be on top of the list for this project.|
Photo taken from Viking Air website.
As usual, the same pre-conditions are made by the DND as with other bidding projects, including provisions that suppliers must be manufacturers themselves, and that product is used by armed forces of country of origin or of 2 other foreign armed forces. According to the PAF's listing of Status of Modernization Projects, the project will be funded by the Philippines' Department of Energy (DOE) and Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) remittances.
But first of all, what is a seaplane?
A seaplane, in general term, is a fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking-off and landing on water. For the PAF it is expected that their requirement will be for the aircraft to be able to land on normal airstrips as well, thus making it an amphibian aircraft. This is further divided into categories depending on their characteristics, which include floatplanes and flying boats. To simplify, we'll use these specific terms on this blog topic.
Historical Background of Seaplanes in the AFP:
The PAF is not a stranger to operating seaplanes, as it previously operated at least 2 types in large numbers. The PAF first operated the Consolidated PBY Catalina, handed over by the US government during the time of President Elpidio Quirino in the early 1950s and were used mostly for maritime surveillance and SAR duties. The PAF also operated the Grumman HU-16 Albatross flying boats provided by the US government as SAR aircraft
|One of the PAF's PBY Catalina flying boats in the 1950s.|
Photo taken from Col. Francis Neri's Facebook page provided to him by Mr. Gerry Aquino.
|One of the PAF's Grumman HU-16A Albatross flying boats, used in the SAR role.|
Photo taken from PAF Aerospace Museum collection c/o IPMS Philippines.
Aside from the PAF, the Philippine Navy also operated seaplanes before in the form of a Stearman PT-13 floatplane from 1951, and the de Havilland U-6 (DHC-2) Beaver floatplane, wherein 3 units were delivered on December 1960. These were used to support naval operations including surveillance, utility and SAR as well.
|One of the Philippine Navy's Stearman PT-13 floatplane.|
Photo taken from PN-Naval Air Group website.
|One of the DHC-2 Beaver floatplanes operated by the Philippine Navy several decades ago.|
Photo taken from DHC-2.com blogs.
PAF's New SAR Seaplane Requirements:
The Technical Specifications of the project was released this November by the DND, and MaxDefense summarizes the content, as follows:
- The requirement is for 3 brand-new seaplanes for the Philippine Air Force's 505th Search and Rescue Group; and will be used for Aero Medical Evacuation, Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations, and for Passenger transport;
- For Aero Medical Evacuation configuration, the plane must be able to accommodate at least 4 stretchers and reconfigured to accommodate 2 stretchers;
- For Search and Rescue operations, the aircraft must be equipped with the Day and Night Electro Optical Infrared (EO/IR), a stow-able 15 million candle power search light, multi-mode AESA long range search radar, direction finder/homing system, and can carry 2 units of 10-man inflatable life raft;
- For Passenger configuration, it must be able to carry 19 seated passengers excluding the operators, and must have folding utility seats;
- Must be powered by 2 engines, either jet or turboprop that uses Jet A-1 fuel, and can sustain flight at maximum payload with only 1 engine in case of emergency;
- A minimum range of 600 nautical miles without refueling excluding reserve fuel;
- A minimum endurance of 6 hours at cruising speed;
- Minimum cruising speed of 120 knots TAS;
- Capable of loading a minimum payload weight of 5,000 lbs.;
- Must have a cabin door dimension of 4.0ft width x 3.0 feet height, able to accommodate entry and exit of stretchers, and must be air operable door at low cruise speed;
- As a seaplane, must be capable of withstanding wave height of at least Sea State 4 or 1 meter high;
- A service ceiling of at least 10,000 feet at International Standard Atmosphere Condition (ISA +20 degrees Celsius);
- Maximum take-off and landing distance of 2,500 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle on maximum take-off weight at sea level;
- Other items included are 2 units air droppable, nylon fabric SAR rafts; 4 foldable stretchers, 19 life vests,
- Communications equipment to include 1 high frequency radio and 2 multi-band radios that are capable of VHF AM/FM, UHF, HF and Marine bands;
- Other system features include GPS, weather radar, distance measuring equipment, VOL/ILS, satellite broadband communications system, ADAHRS or equivalent system, terrain avoidance warning system, traffic collision avoidance system, mutli-function display;
-Other physical features include an underwing bubble window, rear lavatory; forward operator work stations;
- Integrated Logistics Support included, including spares for 2 years, tools, diagnostic equipment, training program, publications and support information, and ground support equipment;
- 2 years warranty per aircraft from time of acceptance.
|The SAR Seaplane will follow the paint scheme indicated above. High visibility for search & rescue missions.|
Photo taken from DND SAR Seaplane Tech. Specs.
The budget allocated by the DND at $20 million per aircraft automatically disqualifies most SAR-configured flying boats in the market today like the Japanese ShinMaywa US-2 which reportedly costs more or less $100 million, the Bombardier 415 Superscooper which reportedly cost above $30 million, and the large Russian Beriev B-200 Altair which is also way above the budget.
Smaller flying boats like the Dornier Seastar and the Antilles G-21G Super Goose also come into mind, but due to its small size and inability to meet the specified requirements that require a larger cabin size, the Seastar and Super Goose are definitely out of the bidding.
With no other flying boat models around to fit the requirement, we now turn to floatplanes. The most actively marketed SAR floatplane in the market now is the Viking Air's Twin Otter Guardian 400, which is a highly modified version of the de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter. MaxDefense earlier indicated in an earlier blog regarding the PAF's Light Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft acquisition project that Viking Air's Philippine distributor was even offering the standard Twin Otter for the said project as well as other requirements within the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard for light transport, maritime patrol and surveillance purposes.
Another floatplane is the Cessna Caravan Amphibian. But it immediately fails to meet the requirement due to its being a single-engine aircraft (the requirement is for 2 engines), and its inability to meet the needed passenger capacity and cabin size.
|The Cessna Caravan Amphibian is a close competitor but does not conform to even the PAF's general requirement for number of engines, cabin size, and other requirements.|
Photo taken from Cessna website.
Does the offer from Viking Air fit the requirements? Based on the general requirements, yes the DHC-6 Twin Otter Guardian 400 fits the bill. First of all, it is a purposely-built SAR and surveillance aircraft and is the variant expect to be used for military and law enforcement purposes. It has twin engines, a cabin size and door size that fits the requirements of the PAF, and the can meet the required endurance, range, payload, take-off and landing requirements, and speed. It has the bubble canopy winows, and yes, the Guardian 400 can be fitted with a lavatory.
As for the mission requirements, it is worth noting that the Guardian 400 can be option fitted to carry most of the PAF's requirements, like the search radar, air operable doors, search light, and EO/IR sensors.
|The Twin Otter Guardian 400's mission packages all conform to what the PAF is looking for. And it can be fitted with the lavatory as required!|
Photo taken from Viking Air Twin Otter Guardian 400 brochure.
It is quite interesting as well that the PAF is looking for an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the SAR Seaplane, which will actually be the first PAF aircraft that will probably have this technology. Although it can be used for SAR missions to search for ships and crashed aircrafton the surface, the aircraft can also be used to monitor ships and movements along the West Philippine Sea, Sulu Sea and corridors between the southern Philippines and eastern Malaysia & Indonesia as the aircraft can be configured for such mission.
With regards to this, it is also interesting to note that the PAF also recently released a public bidding for Basing and Hangarage Project for the SAR assets at Sanga-Sanga air station in Tawi-Tawi, and in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The Invitation to Bid for the said basing project indicates the use to support in SAR and maritime security protection of the Malampaya gas project, Reed Bank (which is expected to be developed soon) and a future Sulu Oil Rig, thus reinforcing the possibility of using the seaplanes for maritime patrol as well.
Possibly yes, since it's the only aircraft that seems to fit the budget, requirements, and the roles needed by the PAF. Vietnamese Navy is also another user of the Twin Otter Guardian 400 and is used for SAR and maritime patrols as well. Malaysia is said to be taking the aircraft into consideration for its own security requirements in its western corridors. Although It is possible for the PAF to opt for the cheaper standard DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 400, it may not be worth to do the modifications considering that the Guardian 400 is already custom built for such missions. The only items that need to be confirmed with Viking Air is their compliance to documentation and financial requirements which was the stumbling block for some bidders in other DND projects.
|Vietnam also uses the Twin Otter Guardian 400, which were delivered in 2013.|
Photo taken from twinotterspotter blogs.
If purchased, Viking Air can also be in a good position to push for the seaplane and standard Twin Otter Series 400 to other military branches and government agencies which may use standardization to consider the aircraft. MaxDefense believes that the PN and PCG are possibly considering the standard version of whatever wins the seaplane project to complement and replace its elder BN-2 Islanders of the Naval Air Group.
MaxDefense will be posting updates regarding this project, and is expecting this to be completed faster than the other projects of the DND.The specifications of the Search and Rescue Seaplane acquisition project can be downloaded HERE.
December 5, 2013:
Bid opening was moved from November 29, 2013 to December 6, 2013. This was indicated in the recent Supplemenetal Bid Bulletin No. AFP-PAF-SARSAP-13-01 dated November 20, 2013.
Also, the DND made some changes in the technical requirements of the project covered by the Supplemental Bid Bulletin No. AFP-PAF-SARSAP-13-02 dated November 25, 2013, with the following changes on the specifications:
- Funding will not come from an allocated Special Allotment Release Order (SARO);
- Deletion of winning bidder's shouldering of pre-delivery inspection;
- Capability to withstand wave height of at least 1 meter, previously indicated as sea state 4;
- Radar altimeter operating height above ground level of at least 2,500 feet, previously indicated as maximum operating height;
- Spare parts warranty reduced to 2 years from 5 years;
- Aircraft for delivery can now be used to train the end user's pilots, previously supplier must provide a separate aircraft;
- Addition of 2 Tug Tractor for pushing/pulling the seaplanes, ;
- Deletion of some post-bid documents;
The said document also shows some of the queries made by Viking Air Ltd., the manufacturer of the DHC-6 Twin Otter Guardian 400. It also validates that Viking Air is indeed offering its Twin Otter Guardian 400 series, as speculated in the blog.