MaxDefense's previous blog entry discussions included the DND's ongoing deal with the US government on the procurement of patrol aircraft, in which they will be acquired under a US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) allocated for the 2 aircraft is Php 5.97 billion (around $133 million), which includes training of aircrew and ground personnel, and an Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package. As of this writing, MaxDefense sources says that the deal with the US government is now in the final stages, and we can expect the DND to announce the deal completion within a few months, or even weeks, from now. Expected delivery of the 1st unit is expected by 2016, while the 2nd unit may arrive by 2017.
The PAF's Long Range Patrol Aircraft (LRPA) are expected to be the Philippine military's primary airborne "eyes and ears" platform, designed to detect and identify surface and possibly subsurface assets passing through or intruding the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and territorial waters. They are equipped with advanced surveillance systems, can operate both day and night, have enough range and endurance to be present in the air for the longest possible time, and would probably be armed to defeat hostile naval threats.
So what is the long range patrol aircraft to be procured? Previously, MaxDefense discussed a possible shortlist of what the US can provide for the project: the Lockheed P-3C Orion, and the Airbus Military CN-235MP or the larger C-295 MP or ASW Persuader. Aside from these, MaxDefense also sees the Boeing MSA as a possible contender, which is presently offered using a Bombardier CL-600 Challenger 605 business jet as a platform, installed with the sensors of the P-8A Poseidon. The Boeing MSA can also be offered in other suitable business jet models like the larger Bombardier Global Express, depending on the client's requirement.
|Lockheed's P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft|
Photo taken from Wikimedia.
Being a US government assisted program, we can now say that other contenders that we have been discussing months ago can be taken out of the list, which includes the ATR-42MP Surveyor and ATR-72ASW from Italy.
Not much has been released on the specifications of the long range maritime patrol aircraft requirement of the PAF because of the DND's decision to go for a direct deal with the US government. The DND won't be required to publish the specifications to the public like what it usually do for its other projects undergoing tender. We can, for now, dwell on the ABC, averaging at around $66 million per aircraft.
Availability and Cost:
Non-flying P-3s are abundant in US military storage facilities and can be either be granted or sold to allies, and reactivated and upgraded anytime for immediate service. Some recent recipients of the aircraft include Pakistan and Taiwan, which have the same close military relationship with the US as the Philippines. If the US government provide the airframes to the Philippines by grant, the budget allocated by the DND would be enough to pay for refurbishing and reactivation of 2 P-3C Orions from the boneyard. Normally refurbished P-3s were sold by the US government above $80 million each, so the US government's offer would now depend on the US government's means to assist the Philippines. It would be best if the DND would get the newer P-3C variant, which is more advanced and less airframe hours.
The Boeing MSA using the Challenger 605 platform was quoted by Boeing to cost around $50-$60 million, within the budget allocated as well, but being a new platform with no buyers yet, it may encounter compliance issues on technicalities set by the DND for procurement of assets.
The CN-235MP Persuader is definitely within the budget allocated by the DND, and there are estimates we can take from previous deals that Airbus Military (or previously as EADS) had with other military units. Previously, Mexico's deal was for 6 CN-235 MP Persuaders was estimated at around $252 million for 6 aircraft, including ground infrastructure, plus full logistics and spares support for 5 years (average of $42 million per aircraft). Aside from Mexico and the US Coast Guard, there are several other countries operating the CN-235MP Persuader in different configurations. Previous contracts by Airbus Military with the US Coast Guard pegs the HC-144A Ocean Sentry at $35-40 million each as of 2010.
The C-295MP / C-295ASW are expected to be more expensive that the CN-235MP, but may still be within the budget provided by the DND. The sale of such aircraft to Chile a few years ago did not disclose the deal's value, but MaxDefense sources confirmed that the C-295MP and C-295ASW will not exceed $55 million each for the complete aircraft.
|A Chilean Navy C-295MP Persuader maritime patrol aircraft, a product of EADS (now Airbus Military).|
US Government Involvement:
A project that involves the US government should consider some factors as compared to buying in the open market. US interests will be in the forefront, and this may either include allowing (or disallowing) the Philippine military to use US-standard equipment and technology. Being a Major Non-NATO Ally, the Philippine may be eligible to obtain such equipment, but there might be some restrictions as well depending on the decision of the US government.
Will the US allow the Philippines to own and operate the P-3C Orion, its equipment and systems, armaments, and obtain the training? From MaxDefense's opinion, yes, the Philippines may be allowed to do so, but MaxDefense can't confirm this yet. But this reason may not stop the DND from getting its hands on a P-3 Orion. The US may offer a less-capable version which also costs less than the standard high end version, it could probably have its surveillance systems replaced with another type, or it could also be a de-weaponised version similar to what was offered to Vietnam.
Also, the source of equipment to be sold to the Philippines will probably be from US defense contractors, although there were recent instances that the US offered FMS for equipment sourced outside the US, like the proposed AT-26 Super Tucano program for Afghanistan, or the CN-235MP Persuader acquisition for Mexico. So the P-3C Orion has a greater chance of being offered as compared to the Spanish-built CN-235 or C-295 series aircraft.
Conflict of Interest:
The CN-235 and C-295 platforms are both from Airbus Military, and although they have offices in the US, they are sourced from CASA-Airbus Military's factory in Spain. This might have implications on the sale due to the involvement of the US government in the patrol aircraft acquisition. It is expected that the US will push to have its products sold, either EDA or new builds. The C-295MP/ASW Persuader's FITS (Fully Integrated Tactical System) was also developed by EADS/Airbus Military, which makes the aircraft less attractive as a US government offer.
A possible solution is for Airbus Military to provide the aircraft platform, and US defense contractors will provide the surveillance and integration systems. A similar project is on the USCG's HC-144A Ocean Sentry aircraft, which is actually a CN-235 MP Persuader using US-made systems. The US may offer a C-295 or CN-235 equipped with Lockheed Martin's Mission System Pallet (MSP), or any alternative systems from other American defense contractors like Northrop Grumman.
|The Airbus Military's HC-144 Ocean Sentry maritime surveillance aircraft operated by the US Coast Guard. This is based closely on Airbus Military's CN-235MP Persuader.|
Photo taken from US Coast Guard website c/o Wikimedia.
Boeing may offer any business jet to install its MSA system, and may include US-made aircraft like the Gulfstream G550 Special Mission series, although the choice of aircraft to be used may dictate the final pricing of the aircraft.
|Boeing -Bombardier Challenger 605 MSA (maritime surveillance aircraft).|
Photo taken from Australian Aviation website.
Among the possible contenders, the P-3 is said to be the best choice of the DND and AFP, being a favorite for several years now. According to MaxDefense sources from the AFP, both the Philippine Navy and Air Force have been looking at the P-3 Orion since the implementation of the AFP Modernization Program in 1995. It has been present in almost all PH-US military exercises and is also a usual visitor to the country. US Navy P-3s regularly patrol Philippine waters when the Americans were still occupying Subic Naval Base, and continues to do so "unofficially" in several occasions up to this time. It has become the baseline set by the PN & PAF for any future maritime patrol aircraft, even after the availability of newer and cheaper models in the market.
The C-295MP or C-295ASW Persuader are also strong contenders that we can consider a natural choice. With the C-295 platform chosen as the next medium-lift aircraft of the PAF, its chances of getting chosen rather than its smaller variant CN-235 is higher. The longer range and higher endurance of the larger C-295 is another advantage against the CN-235, but both can be equipped with US-supplied MPA equipment which might be an integral part of the deal being a US government sale.
Weapon Delivery Capability Requirement?
MaxDefense sources also revealed that the PAF ideally wanted an MPA aircraft that is capable of carrying and firing anti-ship missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes, which the Boeing MSA does not have. In the meantime, the Lockheed P-3 Orion and the Airbus Military C-295ASW Persuader are configured to have the capability of weapons delivery. The C-295 has an ongoing test to carry the Italian Marte Mk.2/S anti-ship missiles, although no word yet on firing other types.
|Chile's C-295ASW Persuader. The underwing hardpoint is visible in this angle, which can be used to mount ASW torpedoes.|
The P-3C is certified to fire the AGM-84 Harpoon missile, as well as torpedoes and naval mines, giving it an advantage over all other competitors on this requirement.
It is surprising to know that the DND and PAF are only looking for 2 units, when the total requirement is for at least 6 aircraft. This is probably the initial acquisition, and as more funds come in after this phase of the AFP Modernization Program, at least 4 more aircraft will be acquired.
MaxDefense doesn't know yet which was offered by the US government to the DND and PAF, but it appears that refurbished Lockheed P-3C Orions has the higher probability of being offered or picked against its Airbus Military and Boeing competitors. The Orion is the most capable platform being a proven design, But whatever is the result of the acquisition program would be beneficial to the Philippine military's goal of having a modest capability to patrol its vast EEZ and territorial waters. We await for more details on this FMS project, which we expect to be finalized very soon.
MaxDefense will provide updates on this project as more information comes in.
May 20, 2014: The DND released an Invitation to Bid for the PAF's upcoming Long Range Patrol Aircraft (LRPA). This is major turn-around for the project as the negotiations was already on the high-end between the Philippine and US governments for US FMS-sourced equipment. This can be considered a major set-back as the original timetable for the LRPA acquisition was pushed back by more than 1 year as the expected arrival of the 1st unit was scheduled on 2016, probably just before President Aquino steps down.
It appears that the US indeed offered refurbished P-3C Orion to the DND, but it is still unclear why the deal did not push-through. MaxDefense is still finding out the details, but there are 2 possible reasons why the DND decided to go for bidding, either the US government was asking for more than the allocated budget of the DND, or the US made an offer that the DND finds unacceptable.
The tender for the LRPA has the following details:
* ABC remains at Php 5,976,000,000.00;
* 2-stage Competitive Bidding (similar to the bidding for the Philippine Navy's new frigates and anti-submarine helicopter acquisition programs);
* Delivery of both aircraft will be 1,095 days (2 years and 10 months) from receipt of Notice to Proceed;
* 1st stage pre-bid conference is scheduled on May 30, 2014, while submission of bids will be on or before June 13, 2014;
* The LRPA must be used by the armed forces of country of origin, or by the armed forces of at least 2 other countries;
Being a tender, it is expected that the aircraft will be brand new. If so, then the EDA Lockheed P-3C Orions, or any other EDA offers from the US or other friendly countries are definitely out of the game. But it would be best to check the Technical Specifications first, which will definitely indicate if the requirement are for brand new aircraft.
MaxDefense will continue to provide update on this LRPA acquisition project.
June 28, 2014:
The DND released another Supplemental Bid Bulletin, showing the queries made by the expected bidders, and DND-BAC's replies. From the list, it shows the entities expected to submit a bid for the project as:
* Elbit Systems;
* Airbus Defense and Space;
* IAI Elta Systems Ltd.;
* Saab Technologies;
* PT Dirgantara Indonesia (Persero);
* Bombardier Aerospace;
* L3 Mission Integration
* Lockheed Martin.
Quoting from the replies made by the DND-BAC and the checklist included in the SBB, it shows that the aircraft platform should be brand new, turboprop-powered, 11,000 lbs. minimum payload at maximum fuel, 7 hours minimum endurance, cruising speed of at least 200 knots, range of at least 1,400nmi.
It also indicated the need for the aircraft to accommodate 4 operator consoles, aerial surveillance camera (EO/IR), a search radar with ISAR, WAS, and SAR modes, ESM/ELINT, COMINT, Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD), Sonobuoy receivers and processors, tactical data link, and availability of hardpoints to carry munitions and stores.
August 11, 2014:
Opening of bid documents for 1st stage bidding of Long Range Patrol Aircraft acquisition project ongoing. The bidding did not proceed as planned.
All 7 bid submissions were opened and the following were noted:
For documentation requirements:
* Saab Asia Pacific was found ineligible to bid due to missing Tax Clearance documents;
* L3 Mission Integration was also found ineligible due to the same reason;
* IAI Elta Systems was also found ineligible initially, but the decision was overturned after BAC found its submitted Financial Statement documents eligible;
* Elbit Systems' bid was considered eligible and was the first bidder to do so;
* Lockheed Martin was also considered ineligible due to documentation problems;
* PT Dirgantara Indonesia (Indonesian Aerospace) was also found ineligible.
* CASA-Airbus Defense and Space was also found ineligible because of failing to meet certain requirements.
With only 2 Israeli companies, IAI Elta Systems and Elbit Systems, passing the documentation requirements, both underwent with the opening of technical specifications and performance parameters, both companies failed to make the mark.
Due to the failure, further checking by the DND-BAC for the brand and type of aircraft platform offered - an important part of the bidding, did not continue.
Bidders that failed the documentation part of the bid opening are given a chance to file for a Motion for Reconsideration within 3 days. MaxDefense expects most of the bidders to make use of the MOR as majority failed only because of documentation requirements and not because their bids are non-compliant. CASA-Airbus Defense and Space, Saab Asia Pacific, and PT Dirgantara Indonesia already made known their intentions to file for MOR in the next few days.
The deadline for filing of Motion for Reconsideration was set on Thursday, August 14, 2014, and if the DND-BAC acknowledges the documents, the bidders will be given a chance to open the other parts of their bids.
More updates will be made later on as more information is made available.
September 19, 2016:
Finally got updates on the Philippine Air Force's Long Range Patrol Aircraft (LRPA) acquisition project, which was not given updates for several months now.
Based on the Supplementary Bid Bulletins made available by the Department of National Defense last March 2016, interests on the project was made through queries sent for clarifications. Among those noted to have submitted their queries are Elbit Systems, Boeing, Finmeccanica, PT Dirgantara Indonesia (Persero), Airbus Military, and ELTA Systems Ltd.
Based on the queries made, Elbit Systems seemed interested to submit an offer based on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) platform which was not acceptable.
Meanwhile, Boeing may require US Congress approval for the sale of their product, which means they still have a say if the deal can proceed or not, while the entire process can delay the project.
PT Dirgantara Indonesia was trying to push for an extension of the delivery timeline, and appears to be having problems meeting the minimum requirements of having a minimum payload of 11,000lbs at maximum fuel. It was not posted in the SBB but as of June 2016, the company is actually blacklisted from joining biddings or projects with the AFP.
Finmeccanica's query were more on administrative including their expected change of company name (now known as Leonardo), while Elta requested asked regarding the possible use of an aircraft model already offered by a competitor, which means they can use any aircraft model as long as it meets the specifications of the PAF.
According to MaxDefense's military and defense sources, the LRPA Project's 1st Stage Bidding proceeded with the Submission and Opening of Bid Envelopes (SOBE) last March 2016, with Airbus Military being the only one qualified to continue to the 2nd Stage. Although there was no confirmation of what Airbus is exactly offering, it was said to be using the C-295 aircraft as a platform. Based on the Technical Specifications used by the PAF, MaxDefense believes the offer will be derived from Airbus' C-295 ASW Persuader maritime patrol / anti-submarine warfare aircraft.
No schedule yet on when the 2nd Stage of the Bidding will be made.
MaxDefense will provide updates later on as more information is gathered.