Wednesday, January 15, 2014

RPG-7(USA) for the Philippine Army? Not Anymore.

The Philippine Army (PA) recently announced that it would be acquiring up to 400 light rocket launchers soon to replace its old and heavy 57mm and 90mm recoilless rifles in service since the Korean War. The PA is expecting the delivery to be before the end of the year.

Since the news is already out, MaxDefense will try to analyze this purchase with pieces of information we have on the acquisition project.


The Philippine Army still uses the M68 90mm recoilless rifle together with a few dozen of the smaller and older M18 57mm recoilless rifles. A new requirement for rocket launchers to replace them is in the pipeline.


The PA currently has several US-made recoilless rifles in service that it uses for hard and soft target assault, including bunkers, strucutres, and vehicles. These are composed of the shoulder-fired M18 57mm and M68 90mm recoilless rifles, and pad-mounted 75mm M20 and 105mm M40 recoilless rifles. In addition, the PA also uses much more modern types, the German-designed Armbrust bought from Singapore and the American M72 LAW, both disposable aim-and-shoot rocket launchers that are used by the PA's mechanized infantry and special operations operators.


The PA also uses the Armbrust rocket launcher, but this is a disposable one-shot system. The PA is looking for a reuseable system which is more cheaper in the long run.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.


Due to the size and weight of the M18 and M68 recoilless rifles, they are difficult to carry and bring along operations that require infantry to maneuver in distances. Most of the time it requires at least 2 soldiers just to carry around the weapon and ammunition. Not only are they heavy, they are also long, and requires 2 persons to fire and reload. Imagine its effects to fire teams that will require maneuvers like scaling hills and miles of walking carrying these antique behemoths. They would also impede troops that are mounted on space-devoid vehicles like armored vehicles. With the PA's aim to increase the firepower of its standard infantry squad, it is necessary to provide them with a lightweight system that is also easy to use and maintain, and can be used several times instead of throwing away after a single shot.

Initial AFP reports indicate that there are actually 2 batches of rocket launcher acquisitions: a first batch of 355 units with 4,800 rounds of ammunition and a budget of around Php 95 million, and another batch of 744 units plus ammunition on a later date with a budget of around Php 407 million. Both batches are to be purchased under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, thus would be sourced from the Americans. With the budget allocated, it appears that each rocket launcher system will cost around Php 500,000, or around $11,500 which is actually small when viewed from a weapon cost's perspective.


MaxDefense initially believed the requirement as possibly the US-made SMAW system, but since this is a more costly weapon system, the budget allocated by the PA may not be enough for this. But the PMC may consider this in their own rocket launcher project


Due to this budget, there could only be a few American-sourced re-useable systems that can be considered. MaxDefense initially thought it to possibly be the Shoulder-launced, Multipurpose Assault Weapon, aka SMAW, which was based on the Israeli B-300 system. But it appears that each of these launchers may cost as much as 10 times as the budget allocated by the PA. MaxDefense sees only 1 such weapon that may fit the budget: the RPG-7.

"But isn't the RPG-7 a Russian weapon?" Yes it is, but with its production license available for everyone to use, even the Americans found it interesting to produce. Enter Airtronics USA, a not so well known small arms and spare parts manufacturer that supplies the US Department of Defense and several foreign armed forces, including the Philippine armed forces. It produces several variants of the M203 40mm grenade launcher, M4 carbine, M2 machine gun, its versions of M16-based designated marksman rifle (DMR) and M5 carbine, RPG-7 based rocket propelled grenade launchers and magazines for M16-based rifles.


Airtronic USA's RPG-7(USA) may be considered by the PA as this fits the requirements and budget that they allocated.
Photo taken from Airtronic USA's website.


Information provided by MaxDefense sources indicate that the AFP uses M203 40mm grenade launchers and M4A1 carbines for the PA SOCOM made by Airtronics USA with the latest deliveries only a few years ago. Airtronics USA has developed their own versions of the Russian RPG-7 which they market as the RPG-7 USA and the lighter and simpler Mk. 777. The RPG-7 USA is actually an RPG-7 with several components found on M16-based rifles, like a quad-rail system, AR15-type pistol grips and fore-grips, and an M4-style collapsible stock.


Another Airtronic USA product that may fit the bill is the Mk. 777 system, which is lighter than the RPG-7(USA) but is cheaper and has less lifespan.
Photo taken from Airtronic USA's website.

MaxDefense believes that the PA chose to acquire the RPG-7(USA) for this project, on the basis of source of product, budget, and reuseablility. 

1. Source - being an FMS, it is expected to be an American product. Currently the US Armed Forces only uses the Swedish-made AT4, the Israeli-based SMAW-D (aka M141 by the US Army) and M153 SMAW of the USMC, and the obsolete M72 LAW. There are also missile systems like the FGM-148 Javelin and FGM-172 Predator systems. And there's the RPG-7 (USA) and Mk. 777 that the US military doesn't use but is produced by the US defense industry.

2. Reuseablity - of the products above, only the SMAW, Javelin, Predator, RPG-7 (USA) and Mk.777 are reuseable. 

3. Cost - with what the PA allocated, missile systems would definitely be out of the running. The SMAW may also not fit even if the launching system may fit the budget because of the cost of ammunition. Thus only the RPG-7 (USA) and Mk. 777 remains.



Bulgarian troops operating with RPG-7 during a joint exercise with US troops. Imagine the PA's own troops using this. It was highly unlikely several years ago, just goes to show the changes in planning and thinking by PA top-brass.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

With the latest information from the Philippine Army spokesman that 400 launchers plus ammunition will be purchased as compared to the earlier 300+ units in previous news reports indicates that there were indeed changes in the previous acquisition plans. It is still worth checking if the final numbers will still be the same. MaxDefense sources indicated that although the manufacturer and product is unknown, the PA already confirmed that the first batch has already been finalized and will be delivered starting the middle of this year.

If the RPG-7 series is indeed chosen, this would be an interesting development since the weapon is something unexpected to be chosen by the PA even if such RPG weapons are already in the market for several decades.




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UPDATES:
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August 23, 2016:

MaxDefense received some updates on ongoing projects of the Philippine Army, and among those covered are for the acquisition of Rocket Launcher Light (RLL) which covers the acquisition of RPG-7.

There are currently two projects involving the RLL acquisition, the first is under RA 7898 which involves the acquisition of 335 rocket launchers and 3,272 rockets (called RLL Phase 1), while the second project is under RA 10349 (Horizon 1) involving 744 rocket launchers and will commence immediately upon the implementation of RLL Phase 1. It is expected that both projects will be awarded to the same company for commonality and practicality reasons.

Originally we covered that the Philippine Army could be acquiring the RPG-7USA made by Airtronic USA, since both projects actually involves the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) and will be done through Foreign Military Sales (FMS).

A few months ago, MaxDefense, in its Facebook page, confirmed that the deal with Airtronic USA was called off for unknown reasons, and no updates were made afterwards.

Its only now that MaxDefense was given an update through the Army's program updates, that the Rocket Launcher Light acqusition project is still a go, but as confirmed before, will not involve Airtronic USA. Instead, it would still be an FMS but there is a decision made involving a US-accredited, Bulgarian-based manufacturer, which MaxDefense believes is Armaco JSC based in Sofia, Bulgaria. Armaco appears to be the largest, if not, the only legitimate arms manufacturer in Bulgaria capable of manufacturing the RPG-7 and its ammunition.

It turns out that originally, the ammunition for the RPGs would also be sourced from Bulgaria, and it was decided that the RPG-7 would be better sourced from the same manufacturer as well instead of separating the acquisition between two separate suppliers (one for launcher, one for ammunition).

Armaco JSC manufactures their own variant of the RPG-7, which followed the type's original design rather than making innovations like what Airtronic USA's PSRL-1 (which is the new name of RPG-7USA) has like Piccatiny rails, sights, and use of lightweight materials.

As for the deal itself, processing of the FMS deal is still ongoing, and no award has been made as of this writing. But it is expected that an award will be made before the end of the year, and it is expected that deliveries could only be completed by 2nd quarter of 2018. Originally it was expected that the Philippine Army would have its first RPG-7s by as early as 2016 and replace its old and heavy recoilless rifles.

Since this project is still un-awarded to any supplier, MaxDefense expects more updates to be made available within the year.

85 comments:

  1. i think will came from Airtronic

    http://www.janes.com/article/32297/philippines-acquires-rpg-7-usa-for-anti-armour-operations

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for that. So Janes confirms it to be RPG-7 (USA).

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    2. Hi Max, can the rockets be upgraded to anti-tank use similar to the Russian RPG-29?

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    3. Yes, it can be upgrade by simply using another type of munition. By the way Max, have you looked at the newly-signed procurement of refurbished armored infantry fighting vehicles from Israel, yet?

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    4. If I may interpose, I was also wondering what type of refurbished armored infantry fighting vehicles our government is procuring from Israel? The media says its a tracked vehicle so the only vehicle I see fitting this description are the following; M113 APC, Achzarit heavy APC Nakpadon heavy APC or Puma combat engineering vehicles.

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    5. If I may interpose, I was also wondering what type of refurbished armored infantry fighting vehicles our government is procuring from Israel? The media says its a tracked vehicle so the only vehicle I see fitting this description are the following; M113 APC, Achzarit heavy APC Nakpadon heavy APC or Puma combat engineering vehicles.

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    6. US-sourced M113A2, upgraded by Elbit Systems.

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  2. We have enough money to buy Javelin, right?
    we have new gold mines, rich gas and oil field Malampaya, and else

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    1. I don't think we can even afford a Javelin missle system let alone the ammunition

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    2. Cannot afford and doesn't fit the budget are 2 different things. The PA can afford. But the budget allocated dictates what are to be purchased. So with the budget and required numbers, it's not enough for Javelin missile ammunition.

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    3. Cost too much.. Sir Max how about the BGM TOW missile?

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    4. BGM TOW is not a versatile missile system.

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    5. Yes we can. There are funds - decision makers just need to make up their mind.

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    6. We can buy it in hundreds of units if enrile and Misis Napoles will return the money. How many Javelin and Manpads(shoulder fire anti-air missile) can be buy in 10 Billion Pesos alone?

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  3. btw sir Max, what happen to your FB page? :(

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  4. They should also consider producing it thru the GA.

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  5. how accurate the news on janes.com?

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    1. Not 100% accurate, but it is a leading defense news and publication group. They may have access to information from the PA's commanding general or spokesman that local media may not get.

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  6. Are the available munitions for the RPG-7 really intended for anti-tank / bunker busters? Looking at the RPG-7, they remind me of the movie "Black Hawk Down" where you see Somalis using them to clip the tail of a Black Hawk....though the Somalis were really lousy shots in that movie! :)

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    Replies
    1. i forgot where i read this but it was used by Nick Fury to bring down the f-35 trying to take off from the SHIELD helicarrier.

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  7. nice your back sir max......

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  8. Would it be better if they use the mk 777 because its lighter by half. 3.5kg only as compared to 7kg of rpg7. It's cheaper too. Maneuverability might outweight more cyclic use. What do you think?

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    Replies
    1. The main point of the purchase is reuseability and weight, plus capability. The Mk.777 is lighter but also will expire earlier, which is not favorable for the army. The army found that balance more on the RPG-7USA than the Mk.777.

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  9. How effective is the RPG-7 against modern tank armor?

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    1. Depends on how it is used. Older RPGs have successfully disabled American tanks in Iraq, and compared to the ammunition line produced by Airtonic USA, it may even increase the RPG's capability. Also these RPGs were purchased not primarily to kill tanks but to provide troops with an assault weapon that can punch through fixed targets like structures and bunkers, in a similar way on how they used the M18 and M68 RCLs.

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    2. The best antitank ammunition for the RPG-7 is the dual 64mm/105mm HEAT warhead. This is effective against vehicle with reactive armor and effective against 600-750 mm (about 30 inch) (RHA) Rolled homogeneous armor. The t-72a armor is about 600 mm (RHA equivalent). Modern tanks such as M1 abrams, t-90, challenger or the leopard has an equivalent RHA of 1000 + mm mostly in the front.

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    3. RPG-7 wasn't bought to knock out main battle tanks. It was to replace/augment the 66mm LAW since the 90mm RR is too cumbersome to engage the rebels and separatists. See what happened in Zamboanga?

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  10. I know it's off topic, but fb is gone. Everyone has to watch "Lone Target". Where an ex-navy seal tries to escape from Philippine scout rangers. That episode just came out today on Discovery Channel, soooooooo epic Max.


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    1. link please.

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    2. There's no links at the moment cause the episode just came out on Discovery Channel last night. However, Discovery will prolly do reruns and all. The PA Scout Rangers camo skills were BOSS!

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    3. http://faststream.in/bts4700ycxv9
      heres the link and i just watch it... astig ang scout ranger!!!

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    4. http://www.nowvideo.sx/video/dfdb9cd8bccc1 ......enjoy!!!!

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    5. http://www.nowvideo.sx/video/dfdb9cd8bccc1 here is the link...they are carrying good gears now!!!

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  11. Sir Max, I know this is out of topic, I think you may have heard or read that China is planning to invade Pag asa Island, are we that eqiupped and trained to ward off the invaders?

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    1. No. It would be a quick fight it that happens.

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    2. sir, would it be reasonable for us to fight just in case?

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    3. chinese can rained cruise missile in our structures if that happened. the battle will be earlier than 2 hours i predict..

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    4. i dont believed by the chinese media, regarding the report planning to invade pag asa, you know why the international community will react this kind of action by the chinese govt.

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  12. another puclicity made by our beloved generals from afp...please check website below...another painting would hang inside malacanang palace...sorry I mean Drawing...
    if I were you mr. general, you must better keep you mouth to say anything else so pilipino people would not expect to much...

    http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140115/DEFREG03/301150041/Philippines-Seeks-More-US-Navy-Ships-Amid-China-Threat?odyssey=nav%7Chead

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    1. To be fair to CSAFP, there were several offers from the US for more ships, including the OHPerry-class frigates, Hamilton-class cutters, and other ship types from the USN and USCG. This was even discussed in previous MaxDefense blogs. This specific announcment is actually helpful to the cause of the AFP modernization since it is a way of pushing the national government to place importance to it in light of the situation in the WPS by adding more supplemental budget to these requirements.

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  13. OT: since you FB page is down, what two US ship are AFP acquiring from the US that was mention on the news? will this be again be WHEC? or there's a chance for the OHP frigate?

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    1. We all expect more WHECs so more Cyclone-class patrol ship is the closest that US might offer to us, the OHP frigate is already discussed in previous Maxdefense blog, and the target of DND by 2020 was 6 frigates, i'm sure they will decommissioned BRP Humabon when the last WHEC comes.

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  14. No specifics yet, but there are 2 Hamilton-class cutters in Hawaii if we follow the report from Janes. I believe one of the them is USCGC Morgenthau. As for the OHP it still depends if the government is willing to spend for them. More Cyclone-class boats were also offered by the US.

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    1. I see, OHP would be a upgrade on capability of PN but looks like its going to be WHEC again which not too bad at least it can be a force multiplier while waiting for the 2 brand new frigate in the pipeline.

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    2. The PN spokesperson said the new ships would be frigates, so that can include OHPs and Hamiltons (since the PN classifies them as such). But it classifies the Cyclones as corvettes, so I don't think that's it. I hope we don't get Cyclones, because other than not fitting the job we need them fore, the ones still in US service are pretty worn out from intensive use in the Gulf. I hope the money for these frigates don't come from the $40M in aid that Kerry talked about during his visit, because I was hoping they would use it for upgrades and long term maintenance contracts for the WHECs we already have

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    3. The long term maintenance contracts for the WHECs are 95%+ paid for by the Americans. The parts doesn't even go through Philippine Navy logistics system because it's broken -:)

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  15. the OHP frigate is a welcome addition if it pushes through. just hope it retains some of its weapon systems. if not its pure gas turbine engines would only make them gas guzzlers. better to get those 2 whecs instead. the cyclone class boats are too small but they could replace older ww2 patrol boats we have. a new frigate would take 5 to 10 years to build, maybe one would suffice. by that time china could have invaded pag asa already.

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  16. Cyclone class gun boat is ok for southern philippines patrol. If the goverment is willing I'll go OHP the USS Reuben James was decommissioned last August 2013.

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  17. RPG 7 is a good choice. lets do it.

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  18. Hope we have r and d in dnd to reconfigure this granade warhead to be smarter.

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  19. Just a question. The army often captures weapon caches in operations against insurgents, which includes RPGs. Can't these weapons, namely the RPGs, be used by our boys to save on equipment acquisition? Thanks.

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    1. Not a smart move. These captured RPG rounds are not made with quality, with some even made on backyard shops. Sources from GA confirmed that they will consider making RPG rounds in the future as part of SRDP.

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    2. if the GA have plans to make RPG rounds why don't they build locally made new design RPG or licensed built RPG-7? and i also read in timawa that GA will make bombs for air force. so RPG-7 won't be a problem.

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    3. Soviet/Chinese RPGs have a lifespan of 450+/- launches. It tends to blow up the user when that mark is reached.

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    4. The Mk777 has a claimed lifespan of 1000 launches.

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  20. Im sure the warhead can be fitted with different types like bunker blasters, smart bombs, and can even used to shoot down low flying aircrafts.

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    1. Not really good for aircraft as the RPG rounds are unguided. But there are types of ammo specifically for bunker busting, anti tank, and for soft targets.

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  21. Sir Max, do we have any update on the raytheon's National Coast Watch Center proj
    ect?

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  22. The US military is shifting to the CARL GUSTAV and found it advantageous in Iraq. Could be also be best for us

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    1. The Carl Gustav was a long time favorite, but it was also found to be heavier than RPG, and more expensive for both the rounds and launcher. The RPG and its associated ammo are good enough for the army's requirements.

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  23. Hi sir Max what's up? any update on the development on AFP modernization....i.e radar &missile defence acquisitrion, update on FA-50 and so on...

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  24. Let me try to make a guess why max closed his facebook. News is that the navy or dnd is hiring a consultant. Is it possible max will be the consultant for the navy or dnd for the frigate aquisition project? :-)

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    1. Not really, the PN will be getting a specialized consultancy firm, not just an individual. They found out that it won't be easy to decide on a system they are not really familiar with.

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  25. OPSEC folks. some questions for info here are classified. there maybe some tsinos intel lurking

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    Replies
    1. Very true. They are just around, giving out disinformation and you can tell by their English.

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  26. Well Sir Max is carefull of not revealing confidential thing in the blog...well who knows where he is right now?...but he will be back soon...

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  27. There are thousands of MRAP all terrain vehicles used in Aghanistan that are being sent back to the US. They are looking for users for these vehicles that they are just selling it for US2,000 each to the local police. Why don't we buy them for our PNP and Army's mobility in their anti insurgent campaign?

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    Replies
    1. cuz they're maintenance or operating cost is too much expensive

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  28. We could buy them, however the problem is transportation cost getting them out of Afghanistan. If we consider to buy/donated to us for free. We do need to pick them up in Afghanistan with large haul plane like C130J - Super Hercules or bigger (w/c we do not have).

    Why not transport them by Land and or by sea? Here are the reasons why:
    - We have no diplomatic ties with Afghanistan
    - Afghanistan is a Land lock country and nearest sea port is in Pakistan
    - Afghanistan is home of Taliban, Al Queda, Pakistan terrorist groups and etc.
    - Extreme risk required in land transportation - either the transporter get killed or the goods are stolen/sabotage on the road
    - Pakistan requires heavy taxes for allowing to cross border - any military hardware's or US goods (if Pakistan allowed it)
    - Diplomatic ties between US and Pakistan is very low at this time

    These are the reasons - It requires Air Transportation to get these MRAP's.

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    Replies
    1. The plan is to ship it back to the US, in fact some have been shipped back. So instead they can ship it to us, cheaper. Yes, we can have a number of them for use in uban or around major cities like Zamboanga and greater part of Luzon setting. That's how it is being used in the US, for swat teams.

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    2. There are several thousands of MRAPs that will be brought home to the mainland soon, as initially the main problem of the US is how to bring them in when Pakistan did not allow the US military to cross their border by land. With Pakistan allowing, the only issue is safety to cross the roads between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the US was able to do so. The US is virtually giving them for free to allies rather than store or scrap them, and it's just up to our government to agree to the conditions of the deal. I believe the PA is looking at getting some.

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  29. Add to the high center of gravity, 25T-40T weight and our rice paddies equals high roll over and stuck in mud risks. Too much for our bridges. Seems like as heavy as an MBT. Better get the excess m113s. Although we can get a few for specialized urban/paved rural settings.

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  30. Is the philippine army buying the Namer IFV? seems that it fits the budget for the 24 IFVs being contemplated on plus you have an Israeli company in the picture.

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    Replies
    1. No. The Army will be getting M113A2 from the US and will be upgraded by the Israelis through Elbit USA.

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  31. Max is back!
    // freemindonline

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    Replies
    1. yes sir max is back.......

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  32. Hi Sir Max what happened to your FB page?

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  33. Max, any answers as to why you're page is gone?

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  34. Well sir max does'nt want to anwere his FB issue for some reasons. Let's just wait when time is ripe for him to reply.....

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  35. I really like the Idea of RPG-7(USA) in actual combat they are effective and light that can be easily operated to one unit in full battle gear, without any training of using it (pure common sense) it will be easily to be passed to one who only knew how to pull the trigger and so very easy to reload too, like the AK47.

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  36. Why not buy Carl Gustavs?

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    Replies
    1. Good question. According to sources from the DND and PA, initially the Carl Gustav was the top choice. But the launcher and ammunition were more expensive, and are still heavy for Filipino soldiers. The US-made RPG-7 became a very interesting choice, as the launcher itself was light, and the acquisition cost was low for both the launcher, ammunition, and support. Aside from that, there is a large chance that the Government Arsenal may be given a chance to manufacture the ammunition in its facility in Bataan.

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  37. Hi Sir Max!!

    Is there any update regarding this acquisition?

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  38. Any update on the RPG-& or has the army dropped this acquisition?

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