|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.
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.