Your 1st for Philippine Defense

Monday, September 14, 2015

Clarifications on the Rumored Submarines for the PH, and a Proposal to Jump-start the Philippine Navy's Submarine Program

Recent reports coming out from the Manila Bulletin indicated that the Philippine Navy plans to acquire submarines as part of the Php25 billion budget for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program. The information was said to be quoted from Rep. Antonio A. Del Rosario of Capiz during the appointment of AFP officers last September 9, 2015.

Several defense-related social media pages quickly accepted this report as factual without looking closely at the details properly. And aside from that, there are also reports coming that the Philippine Navy will acquire submarines from Germany due to a faulty interpretation because of a PN officer now taking submarine warfare schooling in Germany. And with this, MaxDefense would like to clarify issue this to avoid misinterpretation or faulty information to be accepted by the public.

Recently there were reports saying the Philippines will be acquiring submarines very soon, from Germany. MaxDefense will debunk that claim with this blog entry.
Photo of Type 210mod submarine scale model taken from IHS Janes.

1. The Revised AFP Modernization Program Horizon 1 Phase

Before anything, readers must first understand what are the projects covered by the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP) under the Republic Act 10349.

There are 33 projects that are to be implemented under the Revised AFP Modernization Program, distributed with 3 projects worth Php 7 billion, with the General Headquarters, AFP; 9 projects worth Php 9.5 billion under the Philippine Army, 10 projects worth Php 29.5 billion under the Philippine Navy (which also includes the Philippine Marine Corps), and 11 projects worth Php 44.9 billion under the Philippine Air Force.

Out of 33 projects, 2 projects were approved before July 2015, while 1 project, the Shore-Based Missile System (SBMS) acquisition project, was deferred by the president since it is still being pushed for replacement with infantry-related projects that is still being studied by the President as of this writing. So in total, 32 projects out of 33 are already approved as of July 2015.

For further reading, readers are advised to refer to a previous MaxDefense blog discussing the RAFPMP Horizon 1 phase, which includes the list of projects included in the Horizon 1 program.

"What is the Philippine Government's Score on the Implementation of the Revised AFP Modernization Program" dated 25th July 2015.

For Horizon 1, it does not include any submarine acquisition. All naval projects included in the Horizon 1 phase are already approved and are not expected to be cancelled to give way for a submarine acquisition project. The SBMS, being a Philippine Army project, would definitely not be transferred to the Philippine Navy that easily as PA projects would be given priority with the said project. Besides, any changes in the acquisition plan would require time-consuming congressional approval, that may not even be favorable to the AFP Modernization.

Frigates, check. MPAC, check. AAV, check. Submarines, none. The Horizon 1 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization does not include any submarine, new or used, in its acquisition plan. And there is no budget for them either even if they suddenly decided to put it there without compromising a lot of approved projects.

2. The 2016 Budget for the (Revised) AFP Modernization Program

Let's try to take a look at the budget allocated by the national government for the RAFPMP's  Horizon 1 phase.

For the year 2016, the Department of National Defense (DND), through the Department of Budget Management (DBM), has proposed to Congress a budget of Php 25 billion specifically for the RAFPMP. This is said to be used to pay for the acquisition of big-ticket items under the Horizon 1 phase of the RAFPMP.

But this does not include the Php 10 billion worth of un-programmed funds, which was originally allocated for year 2015 but was unused due to the pending approval of modernization projects that was only approved in July 2015. That means that there is a total of Php 35 billion that is allocated for projects until 2016.

Based on the DND's submitted endorsement to Congress during the hearings for the DND budget, it did not include any submarine acquisition funding as part of Horizon 1 phase. Instead, there were no changes from the original list that was discussed here before.

So now the question is, where did Rep. Del Rosario got his information that a submarine acquisition is included in the RAFPMP?

3. The Horizon 2 & 3 Phases of the RAFPMP:

Aside from the Horizon 1 phase, the Revised AFP Modernization Program include the Horizon 2 and 3 phases, which cover the years 2018-2022 and 2023-2027, respectively.

Both Horizon 2 and 3 acquisition plans were among those submitted by the AFP and DND to Congress in August, and is said to be worth a total of around Php 1 trillion (US$22.3 billion). 

Originally, the proposed project list by the Philippine Navy only includes new submarine acquisition in the Horizon 3 phase of the modernization program. But there were some changes made recently during deliberations within the Navy's planning and command officials that may have enabled a proposed submarine acquisition within the Horizon 2 phase. 

MaxDefense believes that should a submarine acquisition be included in the Horizon 2, it will not be new, and may only involve 1 or 2 units at best.

Previously it was said that Japan may offer their retired submarines to the Philippines to enable the PN gain experience and knowledge in submarine and anti-submarine operations. It is difficult to say if this is possible or not, and that still depends on whatever agreement Japan and the Philippines will have in the coming few years.

4. So where did the Submarine Issue came?

Rep. Del Rosario has a copy of this proposed acquisition program from Horizon 1 to 3 from the AFP, and he might have incorrectly quoted that the submarine acquisition as part of the Horizon 1 phase. This is a normal thing for politicians who are not former military men or are not familiar with these military equipment. It could be an honest mistake from the politician, so MaxDefense won't really put the blame on him.

As for Manila Bulletin, the headline is actually not misleading. There is truth that the Philippine Navy plans to acquire submarine. The problem is the content of the news report. Looking at this paragraph from the news report with the link provided HERE:

"Asked by Bulletin whether the country has indeed added a submarine or submarines to its shopping list, Del Rosario replied in the affirmative. The planned submarine acquisition is under the proposed P25-billion AFP modernization program. That program, according to Del Rosario, includes airplanes and helicopters."

Bulletin only asked if it is in the shopping list, but on which shopping list? Was it the entire RAFPMP? Or just Horizon 1? Also, the second sentence (in underline) appears to be slapped-in by the editor and not necessarily quoted directly from Rep. Del Rosario. This is very common in the press, to the point that it becomes incorrect or inaccurate. MaxDefense believes that the press was at fault as well based on this point.

Lastly, the error might be on the interpretation of the readers. The news indicated that there is a PN officer now schooling on Submarine Warfare in Kiel, Germany, but it never indicated that the Philippine Navy is acquiring submarines from Germany. 

An MaxDefense reader said something in our Facebook page, with the context similar to this: Going to school or training with a certain country does not necessarily mean acquiring equipment fro the same country. 

For those who do not know, there were already several PN officers who have gone to foreign naval schools to study Submarine and Anti-Submarine Warfare. I met one who studied in Australia before, and he's probably among those few who pioneer the introduction of submarines to the PN. But training officers and men does not necessarily meant acquiring anything from that country very soon. There is no binding agreement between the Philippines and its defense partners that needs the AFP to buy anything in exchange for the training they provided.

Assuming that the Philippines will buy German submarines just because a PN officer is schooling in Germany shows poor judgement and lack of understanding to whoever posted that in social media.

5. Clearing Earlier Assumptions made in the Social Media:

There are several posts MaxDefense went through these past few days, many are asking what type of submarine the PN will acquire, while the rest are funny posts that are either unrealistic or was posted with lack of understanding of the issue.

First of, the Philippines will not be buying anything nuclear in nature. Nuclear propulsion or nuclear-armed submarines are totally off the list. The PN has not yet even reach infancy in submarine operations, and it would be best for it to take small steps using less complicated systems like diesel electric propulsion. Aside from this, nuclear submarines are very expensive to acquire, operate, maintain, and repair.

For those who don't know, the 1987 Philippine Constitution's Article II Section 8 states that the country pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons, which means that no nuclear weapons should be commissioned, used, or even stored in the country. 

Nuclear powered, nuclear armed submarines? Let's be more realistic in our projections.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Secondly, those proposing for submarines from Europe. Although submarines from Germany, Sweden and France are considered at the top of the pyramid due to quality and performance, they are also expensive to acquire. 

Let's take the Philippines' ASEAN neighbors' recent submarine acquisition plan as examples. For those who are very familiar with their country's submarine acquisition plans, you are free to send your corrections and feed-backs.

a. Indonesia recently acquired submarines from South Korea, when in 2011 the Indonesian Ministry of Defence awarded a contract for 3 submarines to DSME based on the Chang Bogo-class attack submarines it previously built for the Republic of Korea Navy. The contract cost was said to amount to US$1.07 billion, which on the average costs around US$360 million each submarine. But the contract includes a technology transfer allowing state-owned shipyard PT PAL (the same shipyard building the Philippine Navy's SSV) to build the 3rd submarine in their yard in Surabaya.

Indonesia ordered 2 units of the upgraded version of the Chang Bogo-class submarines.
Photo taken from

b. Vietnam acquired 6 Kilo-class submarines from Russia, which was reported to cost around US$2.1 billion, excluding the infrastructure investment to support the submarines, and ammunition like torpedoes and land-attack missiles which expected to increase the total cost to US$3.2 billion. For the submarines alone, the average cost based on the reported contract is around US$350 million each. All submarines were/will be built in Russia.

A Vietnamese Kilo-class submarine. A total of 6 units were ordered from Russia.

c. In 2013, Singapore ordered 2 submarines from ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) of Germany, and is said to be worth around US$1.36 billion, or an average of US$680 million per submarine. The submarine was designated as the Type 218SG.

d. Thailand recently conducted a submarine tender with offers from China, South Korea, and Germany. China's offer was reportedly chosen, but a contract is not yet signed between the 2 parties. China offered a derivative of their Type 039A (aka Type 041) called the S26T, with an agreed total cost reaching  around US$1.1 billion total or an average of US$367 million per submarine. Germany was said to have offered both the Type 209/1400mod and Type 210mod, and only offered 2 units to fit the budget allocated by the Thais. MaxDefense estimates the cost to be around US$500 million per submarine. South Korea was said to have offered a highly spec'd version of their Chang Bogo-class which is actually a Korean-made Type 209 submarine designed by Germany, with an offer costing nearly US$500 million per submarine. No details were provided regarding the offers made by Germany and South Korea if the amount they quoted include other essentials aside from the submarines themselves.

Thailand chose the Chinese S26T submarine which was derived from the Type 041 design. But the choice is still in peril as the government decided to put the acquisition on-hold.

e. Malaysia's Scorpene-class submarine deal with France and Spain was made in 2002, and was said to have costed around US$745 million for 2 submarines, or an average of US$373 million each in 2002 price. But this was 13 years ago and inflation may have already increased the cost 2-fold. The latest offer of Scorpene-class submarines were made with Poland and estimates put each submarine exceeding US$550 million each.

Based on the quotes made to the Philippines' regional peers, European submarines appear to cost a minimum of around US$500 million each. 

Experience dictates that the Philippines acquire its military equipment with strong emphasis on acquisition cost as the highest factor in coming up with a decision. And with the availability of cheaper alternatives from South Korea, it is highly possible that any submarine acquisition will follow the same pattern. Even if China could offer something cheap and highly capable (on paper) submarine, the poor relations between the Philippines and China naturally points away from acquiring from its projected future enemy.

South Korea's Chang Bogo-class submarines appear to be the cheapest alternative in the diesel-electric attack submarine market today, excluding those offered by China. The cost factor is a strong parameter in every Philippine defense procurement, instead of performance and quality.
Photo taken from

So can we say goodbye European submarines now? Not really yet. With possible changes in the procurement system being pushed, as well as possible adjustments in the budget and acquisition plan, it is too early to say for now. But realistically speaking, MaxDefense's believes that as long as there are cheaper alternatives from Asia, and Asian-made submarine would have a strong chance of being chosen.

Thirdly, the Philippine Navy does not have enough officers and men who have submarine warfare schooling, and definitely almost null in experience. Prior to any impending acquisition of submarines, we should be seeing an increase of PN personnel being sent to foreign submarine warfare schools for training. So far, there are no confirmations that there was such undergoing such training or schooling aside from the officer reported by Manila Bulletin to be in Kiel, Germany. It might be possible that another 1 or 2 officers are undergoing the same training in Germany or somewhere else, but the numbers won't be significant enough for a possible submarine acquisition very soon.

Lastly, the Philippine Navy has not started any plan to improve its facilities for submarines and submarine training and maintenance. Aside from the Submarine Office opened by the PN a few years ago, nothing has been reported of any other facility that focuses on submarines. Even the recently submitted Horizon 1 base improvements for the PN does not show anything related to submarines. 

In contrast, Thailand has constructed a submarine training center complete with simulators and training equipment even before a submarine can be delivered. 


These indicators clearly show that the Philippines is still years away from actual submarine acquisition, and with the usually slow movement of its modernization program, MaxDefense believes that a proper diesel electric attack submarine within the PN's fleet could only be possible by year 2022 at the earliest.

An alternative that MaxDefense proposes to jump-start any plan to acquire submarines is for the Philippine Navy to start small, using smaller coastal submarines that are easier and cheaper to acquire, maintain, and operate; will need a smaller crew; and can be used with the PN's existing port facilities. 

Such plans were already being eyed 20 years ago, with earlier plans to acquire midget submarines, designated as "Shallow Water Attack Submarine" (SWAT) designed by Italy's Cosmos S.A. and made in Pakistan by Karachi Shipyards. Although such plans were scuttled, a newer, more modern alternative could be considered, in view of the the better position of the Philippine Navy now than before in terms of collaboration with friendly navies with submarine experience, schooling, and financial capability to fund an endeavor.

An example of such is South Korea's proposed KSS-500A coastal submarine, which was also among those alternatives offered to Thailand. Simpler than the Chang Bogo-class attack submarine, it is actually designed to operate well in shallow waters like the areas around the Kalayaan Group of Islands. Its small dimension only needed 2 groups of 5 men to operate, and can also be used for troop insertion and SpecOps operations. It can operate out at sea for 3 weeks, and is expected to cost around less than half of a Chang Bogo-class submarine.

South Korea has a new littoral submarine design, the KSS-500A, that is being offered to countries like Thailand and the Philippines who have limited experience and budget in acquiring submarines.
Photo taken from Asia Security Watch website.

This proposal is in addition to any plan to acquire full-pledged diesel-electric attack submarines, since budget for coastal small submarines can be prepared separately within the Horizon 2 phase. MaxDefense proposes a fleet of 3 small submarines to make sure an availability of at least 1 and at most 2 submarines in the country's western frontiers at any time, and its continued service after the procurement of larger submarines as indicated in the Horizon 3 plans.

Small as they are, it would be the safest route the Philippine Navy can take as it immediately immerse them into submarine operations, help identify the risks and issues that it may face, and give them the experience and capability it needs for the present and future requirements. With the South Korean defense secretary arriving today 14th September 2015, MaxDefense hopes that the strengthening of defense cooperation may include those related to improvements in naval capabilities, and discussions on submarines too.

As part of the proposal, the Philippine Navy must also start close cooperation with its defense partners and friendly neighbors and start sending officers and men to school in submarine and anti-submarine warfare. These schooling should not just be in theory, but also with practical at-sea phase similar to those given to submarine-bound crew. Non-submarine bound officers and specialist crewmen of the Philippine Navy should also be given advanced ASW schooling as well, since ASW is related to submarine warfare as part of a bigger naval defense system where submarines, surface ships, aircraft, and sensors are inter-operating with each other. Vietnam, who has just recently been considered as a strategic partner of the Philippines, as well as Japan, South Korea, Australia, and fellow ASEAN neighbor Singapore could be considered for such navy-to-navy agreements.


  1. Go Navy Go, we are the strongest and most experience military in ASEAN.

  2. Please be the first comment.

    1. You're not. Sorry. Try again next time.

    2. ARGH.........

      OH WELL. Will do Sir Max, keep the good article keep coming.

  3. Dapat made in Germany na for our Philippine Navy.

  4. It"s better to buy a German made Submarine with complete modern war machines for our Philippine Navy..

    1. Well, German made is always good, but they need to factor in costs since funding is not very open.

  5. Off-topic - Sir Max wala po ba kayong update/analysis regarding dun sa mga news this morning na in-approve na daw ni PNoy ung ibang big ticket items for AFP Modernization like yung 2 Frigates, Anti-submarine/Maritime Patrol Helicopters, etc.?

    1. There are several blogs I made that separately discussed all the big-ticket projects included on the approval made by Pnoy last July. It still holds true, only the implementation schedule was changed. So all those previous blogs remain relevant to the issue.

  6. Very well said Max, very informative. I agree that the more realistic period to have refurbished subs is by 2020-2022. By the way, is there any plan to have follow up orders for frigates for Horizon 2? Thanks

  7. We can't even get the frigate program to roll, how much more this submarine fairytale? Extremely sad, but reality bites. We still have the most poorly equipped navies even just in asia. I pray that HOPE is still alive for our AFP.

  8. The constitution only says againts nuclear weapons not nuclear powered vehicles or machines. So why not buy nuclear powered subs for better and efficient operations. Diesel is very slow and china will just laugh at it. The problem is how skillful are the PN now with subs operation. They might stuck the sub in the coral reef and wait until rust will swallow the whole sub.

    1. With your comment, I can easily say that you are not familiar with submarines and submarine propulsion. May I recommend that you read about these from sources outside MaxDefense. Initially you can start with Wikipedia for the basics.

    2. Ang Australia ng eh ayaw ng Nuclear Sub kasi masyadong mahal tapos tayo bibili nito.

    3. Do you have any idea how much a nuclear sub would cost the Government? In the first place, only a few count make nuclear subs and second, they don't sell them.

  9. Here's the Problem, the current Philippine Budget can't afford any Submarines. On top of that, they don't even have a reliable Surface Navy.

    Here's the fact, SSK submarines today are more expensive than a Frigate. It cost more to buy, operate and maintain them. The operating and Maintenance budget for Submarines is 4 times more than a Frigate. The current price tag for most SSK submarines, will price the Philippines out of the Market. Except for Russia, which has the cheapest such as the Kilo class SSK Submarine.

    For example, the Chang Bogo class Submarines are $500+ Million dollars each. The Type 214 SSK is $330 Million dollars each. The Scorpene class SSK is $450 Million dollar each. The Kilo class SSK is $200-250 Million dollars each. The one thing you pinoy boys don't see is the associated cost such as training, weapons buy, Infrastructure upgrades and cost to maintain and overhaul submarines on an annual basis. That's why with the current Philippine budget, they can't afford Submarines.

    Though, if the Philippines wanted submarines, it would have to be 2nd hand SSK submarines or Midget submarines. The Second hand ones would be the Kobben class Submarine, Type 206, Ula class Submarine, Södermanland-class submarine, Agosta-class submarine and Sauro-class submarine. The only midget sub that is viable is the Dolgorae-class submarine from South Korea. Which would give them a start on Submarine operations. The only new submarine is viable for the Philippines is the improved kilo class SSK. Which is the cheapest on the market and with left over money to buy weapons and TOT.

    Here's one blog that explains why the Philippine submarine issue is risky;

    1. Nick, we know its you. You're continued persistence without any idea on what's happening based on information that are not in line with what's happening just makes your commentaries null and void.

    2. Nick, your continued insistence that the Philippines can't afford submarines can't hold ground because this submarine acquisition plan is still a plan. It is too early to say that the country can't afford it since the request for funding for it is still being secured.

      Your continued point of view and mindset that Filipino planners do not know a thing is just a proof that you really have a problem in your view of people, the issue, and any other thing in general, and your mindset is clouded by your negative view and hatred for Filipinos as a whole. You cannot make a very good assessment with that in your mind, as the very concept in your mind is already flawed by such ignorant view.

      So unless you want continued barrage of negative comments against you, you better change the way you look at Filipinos. Shame on you since you yourself went through all the hardships yourself of being persecuted and being an Asian refugee yourself. And for someone who has social and physical illness, I don't know how people will take you equally, or even pity you.

    3. Max

      I don't know what past quarrels you and "Nick" have had but I see absolutely nothing in this comment that would warrant your irrational response. As a matter of fact I agree with the general sentiment - if submarines are indeed being considered it might be a bad decision depending on the rest of the modernization programme. It might not be but that's something that needs to be viewed in a given context that is - as I am given to understand - still not decided upon. Definitely acquiring subs for the sake of having subs is a grave error in thinking. Unfortunately grave errors are not something that politicians and military around the world is completely unfamiliar with :/. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

      There is one clear benefit to owning subs - training of ASW in your own fleet. For that reason I'd say that a single submarine must be acquired if only for training purposes and if only on lease. Trying to build ASW capability without subs is like training air defence forces without a single aircraft.

    4. However my intention was to expand the comment on potential acquisitions:

      Any attempt on acquiring new subs in current condition is a major error as submarines are closest to aircraft in terms of requiring highly skilled crews for effective use. A well trained crew

      Kobben class submarines are no longer available as the ships are being worn out by Polish navy while it expects to acquire new subs sometime after 2020. They would also be a very poor choice for operations considering the hydrological conditions west of Luzon - very deep waters. However they would be very useful in shallows around Spratlys.

      Type 206 has been pulled out of service and there might be a few that have not been scrapped yet but their condition after 10 years in reserve/storage is debatable. They might have been scrapped. In any case the limitations of the Kobben class which is a modified 206 would apply.

      Both 207s and 206s have been built in late 60s and early 70s so acquiring them in 2020 would mean acquiring a heavily used 50 year submarine useful in coastal or shallow waters.

      Sauro and Agosta class subs are a better choice mostly because they entered service in early and late 80s which makes them less than 40 year old in 2020 and are three times bigger than the tiny 500t German subs. Both have been designed to operate in open waters with Agosta being meant for the Atlantic as well as the Mediterranean. As they are being replaced with 212 and 214's they might be a very good catch indeed - provided they are being offered at a reasonable price.
      They would provide a great training base for developing submarine force for the PN while serving as quite capable deterrent for capital ships if necessary.

      Sodermanland class are great subs but they are not likely to be decomissioned anytime before 2025 when Sweden acquires its first new submarine. They are currently only 25 years old or so so they have good 10 years on them and A26 is still in development because of budget delays. If Sweden gets on with the program the PN would have to be on the issue immediately as there might be many navies interested in these ships.

      Ula submarines are not going to be decomissioned before 2025 - it is quite official following initial considerations of a potential international Polish-Dutch-Norwegian submarine program with Poland planning to acquire the new subs first around 2022 (!).

      Dolgorae class is a midget sub - but a relatively large one and I think it is an excellent starting point if RKN decide to sell or lease one to PN. Midget subs can operate from improvised facilities which means that they could enter service almost immediately and start training both submarine and ASW crews!

      Kilo class is problematic because it is Russian design and it would require serious re-design to operate with non-Russian weaponry and equipment. I am also not aware of any used Kilos being offered on the market and acquiring new ones is a mistake for political and logistical reasons. Kilos are also built exclusively in St. Petersburg which means that there are some limitations on development and modifications.

      My recommendation would be definitely to start with a single Dolgorae or used Agosta/Sauro right away (unless those 206s are still available ) to acquire knowledge and expertise while working on a comprehensive strategy of naval expansion.

      I'll sign myself as XXX (Eur)

    5. kaya po ito ng budget pag may political will. iceman

    6. the china strategy of island building is not feasible. it can easily be destroyed. expensive and hard to resupply. the new military doctrine is speed , power and agility much like manny pacquiao. an offensive power mindset.

      the philippines will never beat china. but we are willing to give them a black eye. they will steal reed bank. close down international lanes but the world will not take this sitting down as china intends to build a toll road.

      the phlippine military is already re examining its doctrines on how to defend against a superpower. it might take time but we will get there. korea , usa and more importantly japan is helping us. in my opinion, offensive weapons such as submarines and long range missiles are the cheapest and most scary defensive weapons that doesnt need a division of men to operate. smaller personnel with a very powerful punch.

    7. Hi XXX, the issue with Nick is his trolling that has been happening not only in MaxDefense but in any Filipino defense site. He has been fed with all the details in the past, and has unfairly judged without listening or understanding the situation.

    8. Currently emphasis is being given to building up the surface fleet. If you have read previous blogs or reports regarding the AFP Modernization, there are actually 3 phases for the current plan, and currently we are still in the first phase.

      The first phase (Horizon 1) has emphasized on giving the entire AFP a taste of what could be had in the future. For the navy, a contract for 2 new frigates is being closed although a short term solution includes the acquisition of 2 WHECs from the US and trying to acquire other assets like corvettes from South Korea. It is true that currently the PN will have difficulty to raise the bar due to lack of experience and assets, plus the insufficient time given to build such capability.

      Horizon 2 while will start in 2018 will be where most of the acquisitions will be done. I cannot be articulate on the actual plan but it involves increasing the modern surface fleet (frigates, corvettes, OPV) almost 3-fold. But it would only be in Horizon 3 which will start in 2023 that new submarines would really be given emphasis for acquisition. That's why I wrote in the blog that there is still between 5 to 10 years to prepare for such.

      But Horizon 2 is being eyed for a preparation stage that includes the acquisition of a used submarine for training purposes, with the assistance of its allies and security partners. Currently, its main ally and all its security and strategic partners are submarine operators (US, Japan, SoKor, Vietnam, Australia). Japan has already showed willingness to sell one of their older subs, including providing the training for the men from preparation to advanced stages. This is to prepare men and the organization as a whole for submarine operations.

      An alternative that I mentioned is to acquire small submarines like the KSS-500A from SoKor which will be easier to use and train for. By the time the PN acquires new submarines, the entire PN as an organization could be well prepared for them, considering that they won't arrive fast and will not arrive all-together.

      An example of such was what Singapore did years ago. They started with 1960s sub from Sweden for training, and acquiring a newer albit used type again years later.

      As for submarines, it is an accepted idea that any surface fleet the PN could come up will not be enough as the threat it faces is really too powerful to handle. Submarines are to become a game changer since a few of them could tie-up a large surface fleet that could become a force multiplier. Add the capability to strike surface fleet hidden from anti-ship missiles using submarine launched missiles, as well as being a good A2/AD asset, with emphasis on the northern corridor between Luzon and Taiwan, and along the West Philippine Sea. It would be applied in the same manner as how Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia intends to use submarines.

    9. I remain skeptical about the KSS-500A. They are at first glance oversized midget subs - small, underpowered (batteries only), with limited ordnance and limited endurance. There are a few countries which could benefit from having such submarine but those are countries which benefit from having midget subs in the first place. There was a similar proposition presented by one British company at DSEI but I think it was marketed for countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand etc. Even in the Spratly Islands region PN needs something more capable to operate in open sea. The Scarborough Shoal will have to be resolved through military means in the future I am afraid and as KSS-500 would not be of much help there because of its low endurance.

      Acquiring an used sub in phase 2 of the modernization programme is a good move however.

      What worries me is that such transition is not planned for the surface fleet. Even considering that acquisitions in phase 2 will be realized and introduced into service over time the PN seems frighteningly outdated and I don't think that they will be able to just jump over the training hurdle... which might prove disastrous.

      In my opinion a small amount of used craft should be purchased to facilitate training in new technologies and tactics so that any new ships can be immediately put into service without delay. Therefore instead of acquiring new Hamiltons for example it should be of utmost importance to modernize them and train crews in missile use, on-board helo tactics, asw tactics...

      Similarly I think some of the modern patrol craft should be equipped with missiles for training purposes.

      I am worried that the modernization programme will turn out ideological rather than practical. I think the PN (and the rest of the AFP for that matter) should draw conclusions from Israeli approach to defense in the 1950s and 1960s.


    10. While it's true that present-day Philippine defense budget is not enough to support a submarine, the Philippine Department of National Defense isn't getting a submarine today or next year. The plan was to get them post-2020, possibly as late as post-2025. Assuming no major economic or political crisis, and a consistent increase in the defense budget from the present 1% of GDP to something in the 1.5%-2% GDP, I don't see why the Philippine Navy couldn't afford one or three by then.

      But otherwise, while I am not familiar with the Kobben or Ula or any of those European submarines, I independently came to the conclusion that if the PN's aim is to familiarize with submarine operation and doctrine, getting the South Korean Dolgorae is a good idea. There are two Dolgorae active in the ROK Navy. They were built in 1990 and 1991. They're obsolete for the ROK Navy since they already have Chang Bogo and Son Won-Il class submarines and have designed the KSS-500A as possible replacement, but for the PN it's viable for training and familiarization.

      Talk about larger-sized and new submarines should wait until much later, when the PN is familiar with submarines and the defense budget has grown big enough to accommodate submarines.

    11. XXX, for now we can consider Horizon 2 & 3 as nothing more but a plan in a piece of paper. More of a request for the ideal fleet based on the capped budget. I believe the current capping given to the entire armed forces for modernization budget under Horizon 2 is around $9 billion, but the DND and AFP are asking for it to be increased to somewhere near $11-12 billion to catch-up. Horizon 3 might be bigger. Approval for this will depend on the willingness of the next administration, and the skill of the AFP and DND officials to lobby for their request.

      The Dolgorae-class is a good proposal, especially if we are only looking for training. The U206/Type 206 is also another one but age is fast catching up with them. Even Thailand didn't bite on getting them. The important thing is that whatever submarine the PN gets to use for training and familiarization, must be backed-up by intensive training and schooling provided by a partner/partners that will benefit from a submarine-armed PN, like those countries I mentioned before.

      Just to give some historical background, as early as 1976 the then MID (now DND) under then Defense Minister (now Senator) Juan Ponce Enrile requested for 4 Type 206 submarines and requested for the training submarines USS Mackerel and USS Marlin, which shows that submarines have long been studied by the Philippine Navy, maybe even with the assistance of the US, to be a vital asset for the fleet.

    12. I think that the fact that stages 2 and 3 are "just paper" are not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is the fact that stage 1 wasn't an exhaustive comprehensive study of needs and threats and an exploration of options along with projected budgets for the whole 2015-2035 period for example. I don't mean total amounts but actual attempts at estimating specific programmes and their timescales and projected cost.

      Without it the next two stages are as much walking blind as before stage 1 and the PN might to their dismay learn the hard way how difficult and problematic acquisition and introduction of new technologies and capabilities can sometimes be.

      The fact that all of that hangs on future lobbying just shows how much the whole modernization is still lines in the sand.

      I didn't know that Thailand was thinking of the 206s but perhaps it was much earlier, around the time Germany was selling two to Colombia (IIRC).

      As for the Dologaraes I think it's a good choice - especially in the context of potential acquisitions of frigates (and other craft) from Korea. It'd have the added benefit of allowing to train special forces conveniently and at this point is not that old - just 25 years. With good maintenance it could work the other 25...

      I am not sure it would be good just for training but I couldn't find data on range. Certainly some poking around Scarborough Shoal would be very useful especially that whatever China is building there will be military installations right in the middle of Philippine EEZ. Sooner or later this will have to be resolved through military action and having good practice in covering the area with submarines is essential. This is the sort of practice that takes time.

      By the way - not building something there was probably the single greatest blunder PN made in recent years. Unlike in the south where there are numerous shoals and reefs and the distance from China is larger the Scarborough reef is a critical point mid-way from Parcel islands/Hainan to Luzon. How the PN hasn't got an artificial island in place there before China is beyond me.

    13. Stage 1 was mostly based on how much budget is available at hand, and was revised dozens of times until it was approved in its current state. Everyone wants a piece of the pie and that was difficult to do with a budget of only US$2 billion considering that everyone has gaps in their capabilities.

      Before the Thais chose the S26T submarine from China, the closest it got was acquiring 6 former German U206s, I think this came out 2 or 3 years ago.

      Scarborough Shoal is within the EEZ....and from Subic Bay it could be a few days away.

    14. Mister Anonymous, or simply XXX, I have to correct that your perception about KSS-500A is wrong. I hope you have read closely into whats written on the KSS-500A which is on the 'Conclusion' paragraph.

      First of all, 21 days endurance and 2000 NM range is enough to defend the Filipino eez. Also it is not mentioned in the brochure(?) but this SSM is also powered by hybrid-AIP(fuel-cell and a closed-circuit diesel engine)

      It is true that this SSM with similar displacement has shorter range compared to that of type 206, though KSS-500A is specially designed to support SPECOPS not an ASuW.

      Also it has much bigger bow SONAR and FAS.

      Though, I am quite sure about that this SSM will be too expensive for PN to buy and operate it. Fuel cell already cost bog money for infrastructures like hydrogen storage tank and refueler.

    15. Sir Max,
      If ever the PN could provide a budget, what do you think they should prioritize...

      ASW corvettes (maybe 6 units of 700-ton class or something with same worth) worth 1 billion dollars


      submarines worth 1 billion dollars?

      In my opinion, I would go for the corvettes due to inexperience and area it could cover.

    16. The corvettes are needed more right now, if based on that choices you gave.

  10. Hope this would go through. Having a submarine fleet is very great advantage you can spy on your enemy without being seen back. Good advice to start at littoral types, we should also build a facility just like thailand and hope it will be gov't to gov't transaction big money is at stake and for fast delivery . Long live Philippine Navy!

  11. Greetings from Europe. Reading your blog and comparing it to the English-language media from the Philippines I certainly see the need for education among your people :)

    Regarding submarines: The most important question to ask is what is the PN is going to do with subs. Submarines are best for interdiction and area denial. Unless the PN plans on physically preventing the PLAN from projecting sea power or actively disrupt their supply lines - which in itself would means war and makes subs useless in any other peacetime scenario - there's no immediate need for that.Even assuming a worst case scenario of China attempting a takeover of portions of the Philippine territory (excluding the islands in South China Sea) in the nearest future - what good will sinking a destroyer escort or couple of transport ships if the Philippines don't have a well functioning army to repel the actual assault? What good would sinking an aircraft carrier do if there is no air force that would warrant the need for the carrier in the first place? And even then considering the enemy's potential two submarines would be a token force without much value. I would like to note that two countries in Europe with defensive naval doctrine are not using subs - Finland (banned by treaty) and Denmark (started building larger vessels and had to cut expenditures).

    As for midget subs - they have tremendous potential provided geography is suitable and in the case of the Philippines it simply isn't. Vietnam or Taiwan on the other hand should very much consider investing in larger amounts of micro-subs instead of large submarines.

    The thing that is missing - worryingly so - from the modernization plan is mine warfare. The PN currently has neither offensive nor defensive capability and mines have very useful properties which can be utilized in peacetime within your territorial waters - anywhere.

    A much better expenditure in my opinion would be several small reclamation projects within the first 200+ km from shore - especially if the drilling in Reed Bank proves successful - which could be then used to create a defensive barrier. Well planned reclamation of several artificial islands doesn't have to be expensive and perhaps (just speculating) could be achieved within the budget for two modern subs.

    As for the counter - with a network of supply depots on such small reclaimed islands small missile boats and minelayers could prove just as tough as submarines in open seas while at the same time being much cheaper and versatile.

    There is the question of some of the islands in the Spratlys but save for pointless nationalistic posturing and chest-beating if there's no oil or gas deposits underneath those islands have no strategic value and could (should!) be considered as an asset for exchange with Vietnam ... or even China! to improve defensive position of the Philippines.Without those it is perfectly possible to secure all of Palawan and Calamians against an attack from the Spratlys.

    1. Hi anonymous from Europe. Thanks for your comment.

      If you look at the Horizon series modernization plans of the AFP, the submarine acquisition are among those considered for use for A2/AD. Aside from defensive systems, the PN, and the AFP as a whole, will start building up its A2/AD and limited offsensive capabilities that covers at least the WPS and limited parts outside its EEZ.

      Too bad that the H2 & H3 phases of the AFP Modernization are still not available for public consumption, so its difficult to explain. It includes a very huge improvement in the capabilities of the AFP that is beyond what it currently have and what the H1 phase can provide. I myself was surprised even with the H2 plan itself, and playing around with it still makes me wonder if the government can really approve such request.

      Compared to most European countries, the Philippine military has been underfunded for decades, and is now trying to put an end to it by increasing its defense and procurement budget every year to a point that it will never become a military laggard anymore from then on. If my projections are correct, by 2020 the expenditures for defense should be in the same level as Thailand is last year, and will continue to increase.

      I am still figuring out the final Navy procurement request for H2 & H3, and as far as I can see, mine warfare has been given importance. There will be several mine warfare capable ships in the pipeline, including OPVs that will be equipped for limited mine warfare capability. Self reliance naval projects gave mine warfare as one with top importance.

    2. The discussion above is only limited to submarines, but this is in the presumption that all the projects indicated in the H1, H2, and H3 phases of the AFP Modernization are actually implemented. By then, the worry of a poorly equipped army, navy and air force should already have been out of consideration.

      Of course China is too powerful. But as a country, the Philippines has to stand up and must have a military that has capability in proportion to its economy and financial capability. With an GDP almost equal to Egypt, and higher than Chile, Greece and Pakistan, it is very easy to see that defense has not been given enough that lead to such state we are seeing of the AFP right now. The AFP should nominally be at the same level as the military of Chile, and should be better equipped than Thailand at best.

    3. I am slowly trudging through your blog and other sources on Southeast Asia so I only have a very vague understanding of the issues but from what I could see the modernization program is very similar to some of the programs of rearmament happening in my region - namely Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa/Middle East. In that there is the standard problem of being irrational in establishing the goals of the program and the very reflexive shifting from goal- and capability-oriented programs to item-oriented programs. An unrelated example : instead of solutions for having ASW capability within an area there is a specific plan for 10 ASW ships of specific class and type. While that is somewhat understandable in countries with with low threat levels and countries who are only economizing or modernizing an existing military it is potentially a huge error for countries such as the Philippines that are in a high threat area and that are returning combat capability after effectively dismantling their military some time ago. The downside of it is that practical solutions usually lose out in a fight against political and industrial interest and those tend to corrupt any complex program.

      I was disappointed to find that there weren't any papers on a comprehensive threat analysis and defence strategy and doctrine of maritime activity since such study should precede any rational program of re-armament. Another thing is that it doesn't seem like a potential for utilizing domestic industry was considered at all as a fundamental factor. It was very much more along the lines of "this is what everyone has so that's what we want to have too". If you happen to know where such documents are publicly available I'd be grateful.

      Returning to the issue at hand: A2/AD can be achieved through multiple solutions and submarines are not necessarily the best option if a large portion of the conflict is outside of the traditional rules of engagement for war. The recently much hyped "hybrid warfare" (inventing terms for age-old practices, sigh...) seems to be the standard practice in the region and should be the main focus of modernization - at least in the most immediate stages that is the next 15 years. I fail to see how committing huge expenditures towards a very specialized tool is rational. It is in a sense like banking your defence strategy on nuclear deterrent - making you vulnerable to any other conventional and unconventional form of warfare or blackmail.

    4. I am afraid that the the reason for lack of any information on H2 and H3 phases is simply because those are still being improvised ;) As most military programs anyway...

      The one thing that needs to be kept in focus is that military spending is a continuing investment in MAINTAINING capability as much as in expanding it. Therefore it is incorrect to assume that just because budget projections allow for matching Thailand's levels of military spending in 2020 it will automatically mean getting close to comparable levels of capability. I tend to say that every year of underfunding by a given % of GDP requires no less than a year of increased spending by an equivalent amount of % just to RETURN to initial capability. Therefore it means that for every year of neglecting the military Philippines would most likely need two years to return it to a desired state and then to catch up in terms of readiness and preparedness.

      As for the "correct" level of military power I'd say that it should entirely depend on your actual threat level. Chile is a relatively safe country and while Pakistan is under constant threat of conflict while at the same time Egypt is wasting its limited resources on the military simply because of the political influence of the army. Philippines should be able to assess the requirements for defense rationally and stick to that rather than engage in pointless re-armament for the sake of re-armament just because other countries do it. Although I would concede that considering the state of the region - SEA having the highest potential for large-scale conflicts after the Middle East -it probably will mean spending more. Probably more than it is originally envisioned.

    5. As it currently stands, the Philippines has underspent on defense for the past 40 years. So for any other reason, it is understandable that it should rearm and raise its capability to a certain degree that it doesn't have now. We can't be specific on how, but as as you agree that the Philippines is in a high-threat level, it really needs to do more to improve its defenses and monitoring capabilities.

      You mentioned Chile is in a relatively safe area, but still they have a military capability far from those of the Philippines. Making them an example already vis-a-vis to the Philippines showed that there is indeed a less importance given by the Philippines to its security requirements. Even after the Horizon 3 phase, it would be impossible for the Philippines to match the militaries of Pakistan and Egypt so there's no need to go further than the simple comparison.

      The drive now is not just improving the capability but also expanding the capability. The Philippines is starting from a low-side, even lower than what it previously possessed, so it is just fair enough for them to build-up in the face of a very strong threat as well as in meeting its commitments with the US and its allies. As you may know, the MDT with the US is a mutual treaty - the Philippines has commitments to assist the US should they be under threat as well in the region so its a 2-sided blade against the Philippines too.

    6. The Philippines really need to manage and increase real funding for the forces. It won't be easy or popular but there's no other way out of the hole. Right now the budget is at such a low that any major crisis threatens to wipe out any actual funding. Increasing it - even on paper - gives some room for maneuvering. But my personal take on the issue is - and correct me if I am wrong in here - that a significant portion of the funding would still go for salaries, pensions, maintenance cost.

      I have the impression that the Philippines maintain a professional army - which is in my opinion a major error but perhaps dictated by politics of the country (politics tends to be the worst of advisers). Another issue is the sheer size of the land forces. 80-100k is by no means large for a 100m nation but definitely too large for a professional force to be kept at a decent readiness. A good step forward - if bold and politically questionable - would be to move towards a militia-type army (like in Switzerland) which would allow to mobilize large numbers of people in preparation for conflict but which wold have much lower peacetime cost.

      The saved funding should go towards more efficient modernization of the branches which really can make a difference even if small. In the case of the Philippines those are the navy and the air force - which btw I would combine together so that air-naval branch would be a comprehensive professional military (with expanded marine corps) while the army would be a mobilized defence force aided by the "total defence" doctrine.

      But that's an economist's view. The generals pretty much would have a different opinion.


    7. Hi XXX, the funding for the AFP Modernization is separate from the annual AFP budget allocated for salaries, upkeeps, maintenance, operations, and day to day expenses of the military. For 2016, the AFP Modernization budget is Php 35 billion, while the annual budget is around Php 115 billion. There's another Php 45 billion that the defense department handles for pensions and benefits of retireees, and some more for the department's own annual expenses.

      The Philippine Army has no conscription, its all professional backed by a ready reserve force, plus a pool of reservist with very basic understanding of military ops. The force is too small, considering that it has 100 million population. And worst part is, most of the Army is held as a territorial force, not much of a maneuver force, which is still being planned. But being an archipelagic country, the AFP must give more emphasis on the navy and marines.

  12. bakit hindi tayo ang gumawa nang sarili nating submarine
    halos lahat nang gamit natin ay gawa nang iba.

    1. It will take us decades to construct our own submarine at billion dollars to fund for research and development at actual prototype. by that time napapalinutan na tayo ng mga submarine ng CHINA, TAIWAN at MALAYSIA. At the moment practical if we source to other countries na specialty ang paggawa ng submarine. - koko

  13. when douglas mcarthur requested for war material. he requested hundreds submarines to defend manila to give japan a black eye. he was denied. thus the exit. i think the philippines should concentrate on submarines and long range missiles first rather than expensive frigates that can be easily targeted. a more offensive minded and asymmetrical warfare mindset. we have to think out of the box as we have very limited funds.

  14. ...this is why I like this blog a lot...there are very good comments to read here

    ...hi sir max, Ollie here, I didn't get the first comment slot, what a shame :(

    ...see you again on your next blog post sir :)

  15. Four KSS-500A will be a good start for PN

    1. KSS-500A is a paper plan.
      The plan was canceled.
      KSS-500A is built against a North Korean submarine.
      The budget will be put to the KSS-III batch1, batch2.

    2. Hello Max, first time writing a comment on your blog. I should admit that, your blog is one of the best credible source of news out of AFP.

      BTW, what Kim is telling you is partially wrong. It is right that KSS-500A is a paper plan; paper plan from Korean ADD(Agency for Defense Development) with rosy dreams and hopes.

      But as you can also see, these SSMs are not to be assigned for ASuW or what those other SSKs are assigned in RoKN. This sub is specialized for supporting/conducting SPECOPS in neighboring countries. There are also some infos (not verified) which are even saying these SSMs are going to be operated by DIC (Defense Intelligence Command) not the RoKN.

      Back to the design of the KSS-500A, there were changes in plan. As you can see, KSS-500A is full of advanced technological feature which of those that will eventually higher the price big-time.

      Therefore, RoKN has turned around and came back into the reality where tri-service of RoK is shouting out "Insufficient Fund!"

      You will be able to see how the SSM design has changed. Thus, this sub has quite of a high security level as it is related to SPECOPS operations.

  16. Simply put, we need to learn to crawl first before we can run. Our armed forces are back to square one. Before SoKor and Israel and even China started manufacturing their own military hardware, they relied on importation for their military needs first. Some were 2nd hand equipment as well. What we're seeing now is a good start. The only issue that I have is that the next President would shut down these modernization programs as this has been happening from one regime to the next. If that happens, then everything that's happening right now would just go down the drain.


  17. why would they even bother for submarine when we even dont have enough water surface vessels? shouldn't they complete first the other plans in the desired force mix like 6 frigates and 12 corvetes as planned? just saying..

    1. Because that is a separate program which is continued in the Horizon 2 project. If you notice, new subs are in the Horizon 3 phase as indicated in the Navy's plan and mentioned in the blog entry.

  18. I wonder if majority of the people in the Philippines suddenly request for stronger military, will the politicos will change their propaganda?

  19. Sir max tanong ko lang, kung ngayon ba tayo mag training ng sub crews eh wast of time ba yun?

  20. Great read! really sorts all the misinformation.

    Is there a way to talk to you privately Mr. Max?

  21. Great read! Really sorts all the misinformation on the issues.

    Is there a way of contacting you privately?


    1. You can send a PM on my FB page, you can see the page link on the top right most portion of this page.

  22. We are still dreaming .. But our neighbor .. Indonesia .. will operate 2 type of submarines soon .. DSME 209/1400 tons from South Korea (6 units) and Kilo Class from Russia (5 units) ...

    They have also built a new facility at PT PAL ... Their new facility wil bel completed in 2016 will enable Indonesia to build at least nine more submarines for its own navy, and later also for future export customers. For example, PT PAL is now building two Strategic Sealift Vessels (essentilly Landing Platform Docks) for the Philippine Navy based on the design that was originally built for the Indonesian Navy.

  23. Hi Max. It's already been about 2 years (or maybe longer?) since the 2 new frigates acquisition has been initiated, and until now seems there hasn't been any further positive developments on this. Have you heard about anything on this acquisition lately ? Also, there's always been news about corruption with regards to these acquisitions since there is huge capital involved. Is this really an existing / rampant problem now ? Will a G2G type of deal resolve such ? Thanks - Kev

  24. the problem is most of our leaders especially the politikos ay nang hihinayan sa pag gastos na Malaki like the frigrates and MRFs and MBTs, lol. instead they prefer to buy more helmets.

  25. I think the submarine purchase is true. It will just take a couple of years like maybe 2 years from now. probably 1 for the start with the other 2 coming later.

  26. MaxDefense is right that at this stage even acquiring littoral submarines would be too early and out of the budget for Horizon 1 without affecting other much needed equipments . IMHO the navy need to establish their ASW group before acquiring submarines . Their support and logistics bases has to be establish not to mention training for qualified personnel. Let's face it the PN after the closure of the US Subic Naval base are left with a staggering WW2 equipments and 20th century " gun boats " . Now even with the modernization program there was a big gap left and a lot catching time to achieve the Desired force mix 2020 . Well at this point if even if they aim high and only achieve 50 to 75 % of their target , it will still be a great achievement on their part.


Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Air Force Modernization Projects