Your 1st in Philippine defense

Exclusive! First photos of Hermes 900 UAVs in PAF livery!

The first batch of Hermes 900 UAVs for the PAF are finally

BrahMos missiles for the Philippine Army?!

We discuss the Philippine Army's plan to acquire the BrahMos supersonic missile

The Philippine Army finally has self-propelled mortars!

The Philippine Army's M113A2 81mm Amrored Mortar Carriers are now in service!

The return of the self propelled howitzer is coming soon!

The Philippine Army is close to acquiring 155mm self-propelled howitzers

Let us welcome BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39)!

The Philippine Navy finally welcomes its latest asset, the Pohang-class corvette BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39)

Hermes 450 MALE UAVs arriving soon!

MaxDefense presents the first photo of the Elbit Systems Hermes 450 MALE UAV of the Philippine Air Force!

Monday, February 24, 2014

+2 AW109 Helicopters for PH Navy, Separate ASW Helicopter Project Announcement Expected Soon

AgustaWestland recently confirmed the contract signing with the Philippine Navy (PN) for the order of 2 additional AW109 Power naval helicopters for the PN Naval Air Group (PN-NAG), as an extension of an earlier contract for 3 units. The contract includes training and intergrate logistics This will bring the PN-NAG AW109 fleet to 5 units, which they will be using for a variety of naval missions including maritime surveillance, search and rescue, and maritime security. These helicopters are configured to operate from ships or from shore bases.


One of the PN's AW109 Power naval helicopters.
Photo taken from AgustaWestland website.

The PN confirmed that these 2 additional units will be armed, although no specific mention on how different they are from the 1st batch of naval helicopters delivered in 2013. There were previous indication that they will be more capable than the first 3 units, and due to this they are expected to be the specific units that will be embarked aboard the 2 Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates.

MaxDefense expects that the only difference these 2 helicopters will have with the earlier 3 units delivered will be in terms equipment installed, with a possible electronic counter-measures (ECM) system and armaments launching capability, possibly rocket launchers or gun pods, which can also be installed on the earlier 3 birds already in service with the PN. MaxDefense believes that these 2 helicopters may still not be able to carry torpedoes or missiles due to the absence of detection capabilities.


The initial 3 AW109 Power naval helicopters during commissioning rights. 2 more additional units was recently ordered by the PN from AgustaWestland, with expected delivery within this year.


Besides these helicopters, the PN is expected to announce updates on its procurement plans for an initial of 2 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters that will be embarked on the future new-built PN frigates that may enter service starting in 2017. The helicopters are expected to be larger and more capable than the AW109 Power naval helicopters, and will be able to conduct anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare missions. Previous DND and PN procurement plans indicate that the ASW helicopter project will have a budget of around Php 5.4 billion (around $120 million, or $60 million per helicopter). The budget itself indicates that this would be far capable than the AW109 Power.



Both the Sikorsky MR-60R Seahawk (above) and AgustaWestland AW159 Lynx Wildcat (below) may be considered for the PN's future ASW helicopters. 

MaxDefense believes that at the price range and capability required by the PN, this  may be a competition between the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk, AgustaWestland AW159 Lynx Wildcat, Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter) AS565MB Panther, and the AgustaWestland-Airbus Helicopters NH90NFH. But MaxDefense sources have indicated the PN's preference for the MH-60R Seahawk due to compatibility and interoperability with US and allied naval forces. The US, Australian, and Japanese navies all use the Seahawk series as their embarked ASW helicopter, as well as other Asian navies like that of Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.

MaxDefense will be updated on both the additional AW109 and the upcoming frigate-based ASW helicopters as more information comes.

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UPDATES:
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June 9, 2014:
The PN announced that the delivery of 2 armed and navalized AW-109 helicopters will be made before the end of the year. This will bring the PN Naval Air Group's AW109 inventory to a total of 5 helicopters. These armed helicopters are expected to be deployed with the 2 Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, PF-15 and PF-16.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Strategic Sealift Vessel of the Philippine Navy Awarded to PT PAL

The Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) and the Philippine Navy (PN) has selected Indonesian state-owned shipbuilder PT PAL (Persero) to build 2 Landing Platform Docks (also known as the Strategic Sealift Vessels or SSV). PT PAL's executives confirmed that they already received the Notice of Award as of 1st week of January, and MaxDefense sources also confirmed that the NOA was indeed given as early as after the New Year holidays.


The Indonesian Navy's Banjarmasin-class LPD from PT PAL, which has slight differences from the original Makassar-class made by Daesun Shipbuilding.

It was also known and confirmed recently that a contract was already signed between PT PAL and the DND/PN as of the end of January 2014, thus finalizing the start of construction of the 2 ships for the PN. It is expected that the first ship will be delivered to the PN within 2 years, or by around February 2016, with the second ship delivered by around February 2017. 




PT PAL and Philippine Navy officials during the contract signing at Philippine Navy Headquarters.
Photo taken from PT PAL website and Indo Defense blog.

For those who are unaware of the project, the Indonesian shipbuilder was the lone eligible bidder out of 2 entities that joined the tender last August 2013, the other being Daewoo/Daesun Shipbuilding from South Korea, whose bid was declared ineligible. PT PAL's bid for the project was Php 3,863,999,520, a little lower than the Php 4 billion ABC for the project. PT PAL will be using a derivative of their Banjarmasin-class LPD, which itself was derived from the Makassar-class LPD made by Daewoo/Daesun Shipbuilding for the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL).

Upon winning the tender, PT PAL underwent a post-bid qualification, which include site inspections and checking the declared capability of the shipbuilder. As expected, PT PAL passed the requirements due to its previous experience in building similar vessels, and its growing capability to construct more complex naval vessels, which includes the local construction of sections and completing the Indonesian Navy's PKR (Perusak Kawal Rudal) frigate based on the Dutch SIGMA 10514 design.


Construction of Banjarmasin-class LPD at PT PAL shipbuilding yard in Indonesia.

The specifications of the LPD (SSV) was discussed in previous MaxDefense blogs, which can be found on the link HERE. From now on, MaxDefense updates on this project would probably be regarding the construction phase of both ships, and on the separate systems which include weapons and sensors system.



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UPDATES:
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July 18, 2014:
PT PAL confirmed that they have signed the contract last June to build 2 SSVs for the Philippine Navy for $92 million. This amount includes the integrated logistics support (ILS) for the ships. It was reported earlier in local media sources that the ships will not include weapons and sophisticated sensors systems aside from the commercial-spec'd navigational radar.

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January 22, 2015:
The steel cutting ceremony was held for the first Strategic Sealift Vessel of the Philippine Navy at PT PAL's facility in Surabaya, Indonesia. Temporarily named "SSV-1", the first of the class appears to still be unnamed as of this writing. Philippine Navy FOIC VAdm. Jesus C. Millan was present during the ceremonies. Reports coming from Indonesian media places the length of the ship at 123 meters, and a width of 21.8 meters, has a crew of 121 men and can accommodate 500 troops. It is also said to use steel materials supplied by Indonesian company PT Krakatau Steel.


Although unconfirmed, this might be the closest scale model of the Philippine Navy's SSV. It shows helicopter landing space for 2 helicopters, and a main gun that looks like an Oto Melara 76mm SR.
Photo taken from kontan.co.id.


Below are photos from the said event: 



Officials from the DND, PN, Indonesian Government, Indonesian Navy, and PT PAL with the signed plate in the shape of the PN's SSV.
Both photos taken from suarasurabaya.net


======

June 6, 2015:
A construction milestone has been reached for both Strategic Sealift Vessels by PT PAL on June 5, 2015. 

For the SSV-1, PT PAL declared that it has entered the keel laying stage of the work, which accounts to around 25% of the work, while they also announced that at least 80% of all imported parts are already delivered to their facility. PT PAL expects to launch the ship by November 2015, and reach its deadline to deliver the ship to the Philippine Navy by May 2015. 

For the SSV-2, a 1st steel cutting ceremony was also made, in a similar fashion as that of the first ship.

Below are the photos taken during the ceremonies, taken from Tribun Images of Indonesia:


Photos during the 1st Steel Cutting ceremonies for SSV-2, with RAdm. Cesar Taccad representing the Philippine Navy.
Photos taken from Tribunnews.com.




PT PAL, Indonesian governement and Philippine Navy officials view the keel laying works on the first ship of the class, temporarily named SSV-1 last June 5, 2015.
Photos taken from Tribunnews.com.



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Philippine Army Armored Vehicle Weapon Mounts and Introduction of RWS

In our last blog entry, MaxDefense discussed the impending delivery of 142 M113A2 for the Philippine Army, divided into different variants according to what the PA specified. These includes 4 units with 25mm auto cannons mounted on remote weapons stations (RWS), 6 units with a 12.7mm machine gun mounted on remote weapons station, and 14 units with upgraded 76mm turrets, and the rest probably with only a pintle mount for a 12.7mm machine gun. In this blog, MaxDefense discusses the armored vehicle weapon mounts currently used by the Philippine Army, the importance of the remote weapons station (RWS) mount, and the Scorpion CRVT's 76mm gun turret.


A Philippine Army M113A1 APC, still marked as an asset of the Light Armor Division (LAD).


Current Philippine Army APC & IFV Weapon Mounts :
The Philippine Army uses different weapons mount on its armored vehicles. Wheeled armored vehicle models like the Cadillac Gage V-150 have one-man turrets mounting 12.7mm and 7.62mm machine guns. Simba armored vehicles have a one-man turret mounting a 12.7mm machine gun, and a few Simba on IFV role have a one-man turret mounting a 25mm M242 Bushmaster auto cannon. Some of these armored vehicles are also armed with a 40mm automatic grenade launcher on top of the turret, which exposes the operator when firing.


A Philippine Army V-150 Commando armored vehicle with a 1-man turret for 12.7mm and 7.62mm machine guns.  Most wheeled armored vehicles with the Philippine Army and the entire Armed Forces have this configuration.


Some Simba armored vehicles of the Philippine Army are equipped with a pintle-mounted 40mm automatic grenade launcher installed above the turret opening. This exposes the gunner's upper body from external threats.
Photo taken from Mindanews website.
Some Simbas are armed with a 1-man turret mounting a 25mm M242 Bushmaster auto cannon.
Photo taken from the former Light Armor Division website.


Tracked armored vehicles, specifically the M113A1 and ACV-300, are armed with pintle-mounted 12.7mm Browning M2 machine guns, with many M113A1 without any cupola armor protection which exposes the gunner. All ACV-300 and several of the M113A1 have cupola shields with frontal gun shields for added protection, but is still not enough to protect the gunner from sniper fire or threat from all sides. A few modified M113s mounted the turrets from disabled V-150 armored vehicles, and a handful were already converted to take the L23A1 76mm gun turret from non-working Scorpion CRVTs. 

Finally, the FMC AIFV (sometimes called the YPR-765) delivered in the late 1970s are equipped with a 1-man turret mounting a 25mm Oerlikon KBA auto cannon and co-axial machine guns, although there are some AIFV without the turrets, and are armed and protected in a similar way as the ACV-300.


The Philippine Army's AIFV (aka YPR-765) with turret mounting a 25mm Oerlikon KBA auto cannon. Take note of the improvised wooden plank armor on the vehicle's sides.


The incoming M113A2's remote weapons station would be the first time such system will be available to the Philippine Army, and the introduction of such technology is considered a leap-forward in its capability.



Remote Weapons System (RWS):
The Philippine Army decided to use the RWS system because of the advantages it offer to the gunner as compared to other weapon mount types like turrets and shielded pintle mounts. Previous experiences in armored vehicle operations and advancement in technology helped the PA decide on the choice.


The Elbit Systems RWS-H which can carry a 25mm auto cannon.
Photo taken from Elbit Systems RWS-H product data sheet.

The RWS will be controlled by gunner sitting inside the armored vehicle's compartment section, and will be using advanced sights capable of night operation, thermal imaging system to track targets and scan its peripherals, and laser range finders. This protects the gun operator from exposure to enemy fire and dangerous combat environments like explosion shrapnel and adverse weather conditions. Due to its advanced sighting capability, the gunner also has capability to see at night, and detect heat signatures of enemy targets including those hidden in jungles or urban areas. All these are far improvements from other weapon mounts, even those with improved armor protection which exposes the gun operator from sniper fire. The RWS are computer controlled and enhances its target acquisition capability and be able to fire while moving. This also improves the vehicle's mobility as it allows the driver to see the vehicle's path at night.


The RWS operator will be well protected inside the armored vehicle instead of being exposed in the open through the cupola. Not only does the system improve safety for the operator, but also increase the weapons capability through technological improvements.
Photo taken from Mechanized Infantry Division website.

Another advantage over the pintle-mounted and turret weapon mounts is space usage inside the vehicle. Manned mounts require a platform underneath the cupola which the turret operator will be positioned, which takes significant space inside the vehicle. Taking this out will increase the usable space for storage of equipment and ammunition, or seating space improvements.

With the introduction of remote weapons systems, then why did the Philippine Army still use the turrets of non-working Scorpion CRVT? 



Use of Scorpion CRVT turret for 76mm L23A1 gun:



One of the few remaining Scorpion CRVT with the Philippine Army.
Photo taken from Timawa.net c/o PAFunixGeek.

One reason on using the old Scorpion CRVT's 76mm gun and turret is because of practicality. There were previous plans to refurbish the ageing Scorpion fleet, which includes mechanical and electrical works and replacing the old and fuel-hungry Jaguar J60 4.2L petrol engine with a comparable diesel engine. The program was declared a failure after accusation of corruption and budget embezzlement came out, forcing the army to cancel the project. With the assets put to waste, the PA high command reviewed the program and decided to just scrap the non-working vehicles, with the usable parts removed as spares for working vehicles, and the turrets removed and installed on the M113 armored personnel carriers. As for the remaining Scorpion fleet, they will be retained for as long as the PA can maintain them, while a replacement is being studied for future acquisition. This reason is based on practicality on behalf of the army.

Aside from practicality, the 76mm gun is too large for an RWS to mount and carry, and can only be mounted using a manned turret. Most RWS systems offered in the market can carry only up to 30mm auto cannons. The Zamboanga City Siege was an unfortunate event that gave the AFP experience in urban warfare, and they saw the importance of low-pressure guns similar to the L23A1 76mm gun as a fire support weapon. 

As discussed in previous MaxDefense blogs, the shifting of Scorpion turrets to M113 bodies is not new to the PA, and was done before locally. Conversions were made on a few M113s in the late 90s, with one of the unit destroyed by the MILF during the All-Out War of President Estrada in 2000.


The PA made an in-house conversion of mating the Scorpion turret with the M113. This time, Elbit Systems will perform the modification including the modernization of the turret and the armored vehicle.
Photo taken from Timawa.net.

Elbit Systems was awarded to do the modernization of the turrets, which includes the repair of the 76mm gun and installation of new night-capable sights, thermal imaging system and laser range finders similar to the RWS for the other M113A2. Elbit Systems will also integrate the modernized turret to modern computer systems and installation to the M113A2 body.



Future Upgrades on Other PA Armored Assets:
With the introduction of remote weapon stations, it is expected that this would be in some way a trial batch and may become the basis of future weapon mount replacement for other armored vehicles in the Philippine Army arsenal, especially the M113 series. The Philippine Army has been using the M113 since the late 1960s, and modernization of the entire line is needed to keep it relevant with the times. MaxDefense sources confirmed plans of modernizing the entire M113 line, which may include mechanical & electrical works, and upgrading of the armor and weapons system as soon as more funding is provided by the national government. 



A Philippine Army M113 serving as part of the PHILCAGV force in Vietnam.  Most PA M113 weapons mount are shielded open cupola mounts similar to the configuration above.
Photo taken from Jerzy Krzeminski's photo collection.


In an army whose funding is not as large as its foreign counterparts, such projects are important to make sure that the Philippine Army continues to improve on its capabilities and take in new technology on a cheap but effective route. MaxDefense will provide more updates regarding this specific project, as well as other related projects, as more information becomes available.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

142 M113A2 Armored Vehicles Arriving for the Philippine Army

After several months of non-disclosure to the public, the Philippine Army (PA) finally announced its plans on the procurement of several armored vehicles to beef up its mechanized assets and improvement in capabilities as part of the AFP Modernization Program.


Philippine Army M113s, including one of the fire support vehicle versions on the right.
Photo taken from Istorya.net

Several news reports took on the DND's recent announcements with different interpretations, not only because of the media's lack of understanding of military terms, but also on the DND's lack of precise information regarding the projects because of unknown circumstances. There were not much information except for the the following: that there will be 28 "new" armored vehicles to be "procured" from Israel, with a budget of around Php 800+ million, and for delivery by 2015 without any specific mention of what model of armored vehicles. Another set of reports indicated that 14 M113s of the Philippine Army will receive modernized 76mm turrets from decommissioned Scorpion "tanks".

For MaxDefense reader's further understanding and clarification, let us disect the entire program.

All these talk of incoming armored vehicles involve the US-made M113A2 armored personnel carriers from US Army excess stocks. There are actually 2 batches of M113A2-based armored vehicles that will arrive for the Philippine Army, which were not properly discussed by media reports before as the DND kept it under wraps until recently. Despite being old and used assets, these M113A2 vehicles would greatly boost the PA's armor capabilities and increase the number of assets, as the PA only have less than 100 of the older M113A1 in its inventory left since the PA acquired them starting in the late 1960s. The last time the PA received such large number of armored assets was during the early 90s when the Simba 4x4 armored vehicle was introduced. The following are the breakdown of the M113A2 vehicles to be delivered for the PA:


Philippine Army officers inspecting the M113A2s intended for delivery to the PA.
Photo taken from Mechanized Infantry Division website.


An initial batch of 114 M113A2 armored personnel carriers, which were approved by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in 2012 as grants to the Philippine Army, are expected to arrive this 2014, and all are expected to be completely delivered before the end of the year. The earliest public announcement on this project was made at around 3rd quarter of last year, and was even posted early on the MaxDefense @ Facebook page. They were actually expected by the PA to be delivered starting on the 4th quarter of 2013 but met delays that pushed the delivery back for several months.


M113A2, similar to those above, would be provided to the Philippine Army under the US DSCA grant.
Photo taken from Army Recognition website.


These will all be coming from the US Army stocks, and are not yet confirmed if all will be in standard APC variant, as well as what equipment are included in the transfer, including its weapons and protection fit. The vehicles are expected to be refurbished before delivery, and will fill the bulk of the requirements for tracked mechanized assets of the army's newly-reformed Mechanized Infantry Division, previously known as the Light Armor Division. 


Aside from standard M113s, the PA also uses the ACV-300, a Turkish derivative of the US vehicle.
Photo taken from IPMS Philippines website.


In 2013, another batch of 28 M113A2 armored vehicles was approved for grant to the Philippine Army by the US DSCA, and was decided by the Philippine Army and DND high command to be upgraded with better weapons and situation awareness systems as an improvement to the earlier batch. A contract was signed a several weeks ago with Elbit Systems of Israel to undertake the upgrade program, which include the uparming of several units with the following breakdown:

- 14 units to fire support vehicles (FSV) armed with L23A1 76mm gun taken from decommissioned Philippine Army FV101 Scorpion CRVTs. These turrets will be upgraded by Elbit Systems to include installation of  a new fire control and thermal imaging system, and the guns itself would be refurbished. Due to this modification, MaxDefense expects the vehicles to carry less troops as it needs to provide space for the turret operator and ammunition storage.


The concept of a 76mm gun from the Scorpion CRVT is not really new, with the PA already having a couple of units modified in-house. The only difference now is that the 14 units will be using upgraded turrets, and the armored vehicles themselves are upgraded as well.
Photo taken from Timawa.net

- 4 units will be installed with a 25mm auto cannon mounted on a remote weapons station (RWS) supplied by Elbit Systems. No specifics on the model of gun to be used, but it's worth noting that the Philippine Army uses the Oerlikon KBA 25mm for the older AIFVs purchased in the 1970s, and the M242 Bushmaster 25mm on some Simba IFV versions. It may have a limited number of mounted troops it can carry but not as less than its FSV variant. MaxDefense believes that Elbit may use the RWS-H system and M242 Bushmaster 25mm gun which are already in service.


Elbit Systems may use their RWS-H system for the PA's requirements, and will be using a proven 25mm gun, possibly the M242 Bushmaster already in use on some PA Simba IFVs.
Photo taken from Elbit Systems USA product brochure of the RWS-H.


- 6 units will be installed with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun mounted on a RWS also supplied by Elbit Systems. These would probably be APCs capable of carrying the same number of mounted troops as a standard M113. MaxDefense believes Elbit Systems will make use of the RWS-M system with a M2HB 12.7mm machine gun.


Elbit Systems may also use the RWS-M for the APC variant of the upgraded M113A2, coupled with the already proven and in-service M2HB heavy machine gun.
Photo taken from Elbit Systems USA product brochure for RWS-M.

- 4 units will be converted by Elbit Systems to armored recovery vehicles, which will assist the other upgraded M113A2s. 
The PA will also get 4 M113s converted to armored recovery vehicles similar to the one above.

It is expected that Elbit System's subsidiary, Elbit Systems of America Land and C4I will do the said upgrades, as the armored vehicles are all stored in the mainland United States. All in all, 142 M113A2s are expected to arrive in different variants, and this was confirmed by a recent article from the PA's Mechanized Infantry Division's website.

For those expecting Israeli armored vehicles like the heavyweight Namer that the Israel Defense Forces are using, sorry to burst your bubbles. Looking at the budget alone, it is already obvious that these are not the vehicles the PA is expecting. There were a lot of people who thought this was what the PA will be getting from Israel, so sorry to burst your expectations but practicality alone can easily tell that Namers are not possible for now.


Sorry, no Namers for the Philippine Army.
Photo taken from Wikimedia.


Although MaxDefense is still confirming, it is expected that the DND and Philippine Army will be using the budget for the upgrades of 28 M113A2 to FSV, IFV and ARV versions, and delivery of all 142 refurbished APCs from the allocated budget to purchase 14 new tracked armored personnel carriers, which may not happen anymore due to decision changes. Originally budgeted at around Php 880 million, the Mechanized Infantry Division leadership saw that 14 new APCs won't really make a big difference to the MID's capability.  It would be better to make use of the budget to purchase a fleet of used but still effective armored vehicles to fill in the gaps in the organization requirements and improve the unit's capability. MaxDefense see this as a wise decision considering the small budget allocated for the improvement of the Mechanized Infantry.

Aside from these deliveries, it is expected that the PA will undertake a refurbishing and upgrade program for its current M113A1 fleet, and probably other MID assets like the AIFV and remaining Scorpion CRVT as well. 


The PA has around 50 FMC AIFV in its arsenal, and may need refurbishment soon due to age and wear & tear issues.

With more armored assets in its inventory, the Mechanized Infantry Division will indeed be a true division-sized organization with enough assets to meet its requirements, and will enable the distribution of its wheeled armored assets to fill other requirements including assignment to independent cavalry squadrons attached to the individual Infantry Divisions of the PA. 

It would be interesting to see if the PA still has several armored asset procurement projects soon, as there were previous announcements of improving its air defense capability to defend armored assets, as well as improving firepower by procuring heavier weapons systems like tanks and self-propelled artillery systems. MaxDefense will provide the updates to everyone once these plans come to priority within the DND and PA procurement boards.


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UPDATES:
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April 7, 2015:
A new MaxDefense blog post regarding the 2 separate projects of acquiring 114 surplus M113A2 APCfrom the US via EDA, and acquiring 28 refurbished upgraded M113A2+ IFVs from Israel was made available last April 6, 2015. It answers all the questions pertaining the project and debunking erroneous information released by media reports by Erwin Tulfo.

The link to the page is here:

"Questions Answered on Erroneous Reports on the Acquisition of M113 APC from the US and Israel for the Philippine Army"

Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Coast Guard Modernization Projects