Under normal circumstances, it would have been very beneficial for them that the government is pushing for the modernization of the AFP which has started in 1995 and was extended in 2013 all the way to 2028. In all phases of the modernization program, there were several requirements for arms and ammunition which the Government Arsenal's capability could be beneficial. This is also true for the PNP, PCG, and other agencies like the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), etc.
But recent acquisitions of the intended users of these products, the AFP and PNP, as well as other government agencies, recently completed their own small arms acquisition without considering GA's products.
|The Government Arsenal proposed different rifles for different purposes, but all coming from the M16 / M4 family.|
Photo taken from Government Arsenal's Facebook page.
Small Arms Acquisition under the Aqunio Administration:
Among the rifle acquisition projects undertaken by all armed agencies within the administration of President Benigno Aquino III include the following, but not limited to:
1. Assault Rifle for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, in which the Israeli-made IWI Tavor CTAR-21 was selected in 2011;
2. Several Designated Marksman Rifle acquisitions for the AFP Joint Special Operations Group, in which several types were acquired from foreign suppliers starting in 2013;
3. An attempted plan to acquire 1,500 rifles for the Philippine National Police - Special Action Force, and 1,800 rifles for the Regional Mobile Groups, both were scrapped in 2014 upon Pres. Aquino's instructions;
4. Submachine Gun acquisition for the Philippine Coast Guard, in which the CZ Scorpion Evo 3 from the Czech Republic was selected;
5. Joint Philippine Army-Philippine Marine Corps Assault Rifle Acquisition Project, in which the Remington R4A3 from the US was selected in 2014;
6. Submachine Gun acquisition for the Philippine National Police, in which the US-made KRISS Vector SMG 9mm was selected in 2015;
7. The 7.62mm Designated Marksman Rifle acquisition for the Philippine Navy & Philippine Marine Corps, which will be for tender as part of Horizon 1 modernization phase;
8. The 5.56mm Standard Weapons System acquisition for the Philippine Navy & Philippine Marine Corps, which us also for tender as part of Horizon 1 modernization phase.
It is quite noticeable that none of the projects that were implemented included a product made by the Government Arsenal. Even the attempted acquisition of rifles for the PNP-SAF and PNP-RMG definitely did not consider any GA-manufactured rifle.
So why is that the case?
The Government Arsenal's Rifle Manufacturing Capability:
|GA Director Jonathan Martir showing their product line-up to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin during the SecDef's visit at GA's facility in Bataan.|
Photo taken from GA's Facebook page.
The Government Arsenal has only recently been able to manufacture rifles on its own, and is still not capable of doing so in full production as most of its offerings are proposals or prototypes as of this writing. Most of its proposals are based on the M16 and M4 rifle variant, which is the current standard rifle of the entire AFP and many other Philippine government armed agencies.
The choice to stay true to the M16 / M4 line was more of a practical choice. Rather than moving to a new product which requires a total system change for the entire weapon support and user system, it was best to stick to the proven weapon of choice of its main ally, the United States, while making use of the extensive knowledge of GA, AFP, and PNP with the M16/M4 line, and making use of its inventory of common parts and accessories used on exisiting M16 and M4 rifles.
GA also has equipment to manufacture certain parts of the of M16/M4 series, which minimizes the need to invest for new equipment to forge and build new types of rifles based on other foreign models. And sticking to the M16/M4 design reduces the need for familiarization or armorers and those involved in the manufacturing of the rifles.
These, among others, are the primary reason on the overwhelming decision of the DND and AFP to stick to the M16/M4 series to replace its older M16A1 rifles instead of buying newer designs like the Israeli Tavor, the Korean K2, or the German G36.
But creating its own rifle was not an easy task, and it took the GA several years and attempts to produce its own M16-based weapon systems, without assistance from foreign arms manufacturers except for provision of certain parts like barrel, buttstock, plastic parts, and sights.
Among examples of weapons systems being developed by the Government Arsenal:
1. GA 5.56mm Carbine M4 - a prototype was released in 2011, with the GA director describing it as adhering to the M4A1 system used by most Western and allied Special Operations Forces. No full production was reported of this variant as of this writing.
2. GA 5.56mm Mid-Length Carbine - another prototype released in 2011, similar to the 14.5" barreled M4 carbine but using a 16" mid length barrel. A spin-off includes a DMR variant specially for the SOCOM units who prefer a 16" mid length barrel instead of the 18" variant. It is only this month that GA produced several units for testing and evaluation by the AFP's Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) and the Philippine Navy's Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG). It is expected that if the tests are favorable and only minimal changes were requested, GA could produce the final production variant by early 2016.
|GA's 5.56mm 16" Mid-Length Carbine.|
Photo taken from GA's Facebook page.
3. GA 5.56mm Special Purpose Rifle (SPR) - a prototype released in 2011 as the Designated Marksman Rifle / Special Purpose Rifle (DMR/SPR), it features an 18" free floating bull barrel in a 1:7 RH twist rifling, and optics that would allow it to be effective until a range of 800 meters. The development is considered a continuing development of the successful Marine Scout Sniper Rifle (MSSR) series used by the Philippine Marine Corps
|GA's SMR rifle, as displayed in a recently concluded arms show in Manila.|
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.
4. GA 10" Personal Defense Weapon (PDW) - it was only in 2012 that GA was able to release the prototype of this rifle, which uses components from the M16-series rifle with a 10" long barrel in a 1:10 right hand twist rifling, while using a special 7.62x37mm Musang round designed specifically by GA for this rifle and is said to be effective for Close Quarter Battle (CQB) and Night Fighting requirements. It was expected to be in production by 2014. But as of this writing, it appears that production of several units for testing by the AFP was stalled due to lacking compnents which can be traced from supplier issues. The GA appears to have looked for other suppliers to provide the said parts.
|GA's 10" PDW submachine gun, which uses components of the M16 family and a special 7.62x37mm Musang ammo.|
Photo taken from Wikimedia commons.
5. GA M14 SOCOM 16 - using a standard M14 rifle, GA refurbished it, replacing old and worn out parts with new ones, used lighter components to reduce weight, and replaced the 22" barrel into a shortened 16" one, which is preferred length of Special Operations units. Several components were sourced from foreign manufacturers since the GA does not produce components for the M14 or for 7.62mm chambered rifles.
|GA's M14 SOCOM 16 rifle, which is similar to the Springfield Armory's M1A SOCOM 16.|
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.
As earlier mentioned, all these products by the Government Arsenal are either considered as prototypes, or at best, are scheduled to be tested soon by field units of the AFP. Thus, with the AFP and other agencies already needing the weapons as soon as possible, it cannot wait for the GA to put its proposed products to complete testing and evaluation, rectification, and full production, which MaxDefense believes to be by 2016 at earliest.
The Remington R4A3 Acquisition for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marines:
The only major small arms acquisition project undertaken within the term of Pres. Aquino III is for the joint rifle requirement for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps. Originally, 50,629 units were acquired with a budget of Php 3.189 billion, with the Philippine Army getting 44,186 units while the Philippine Marines gets 6,443 units.
For discussions sake, the Philippine Army has around 90,000 men, while the Philippine Marine Corps has around 8,500 men.
With the Remington R4A3 acquisition, the rifles would be enough to arm almost 50% of the entire Army, and almost 75% of the entire Marine Corps, irregardless if they work in the field or not. And we have not yet even included the follow-up order made by the DND for an additional 23,622 rifles which would again be divided between the PA and PMC.
|The executive summary of the Joint PA-PMC Assault Rifle Acquisition Project, showing the original and additional orders.|
Photo taken from VJ Defense's blog page.
Although this sounds like good news, it seems to be the other way around for the Government Arsenal and for any effort to replace the old M16A1 with a locally made rifle.
Looking at the numbers, we can immediately see that the rifle requirement for both the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps are almost filled-up by the Remington R4A3 acquisition, considering that not all troops are assigned in the field and require a rifle, and that other troops are assigned with another existing weapon like snipers, marksmen, drivers and vehicle crew, squad automatic gunner, and many others.
Aside from these, several of the old M16A1s are being programmed for refurbishing and upgrade, before releasing again to field units to complement the new Remington R4A3 rifles.
So, who will now need a considerable quantity of new assault rifles?
Remaining Markets for Additional Rifles:
The Philippine Navy and Marine Corps have another request for 7,500 rifles as part of the RAFPMP Horizon 1 phase that will be acquired by public tender. If this project is awarded to another manufacturer, or is negotiated as another additional order with Remington, then that's 7,500 units of lost opportunity for the Government Arsenal.
Only the Philippine Air Force has not requested for new assault rifles, but their nature of work and organization size does not require many assault rifles in their arsenal. MaxDefense believes that there is nothing much to expect from the PAF in this regard, and at best they will require replacements only for their M16A1 in secondary duties like base defense.
So far, the AFP has not released an immediate requirement for funding of a sub-machine gun acquisition within the Horizon 1 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization program, although it could request such weapons in small numbers using their annual budget or other sources.
The only other significant opportunity for the Government Arsenal aside from the follow-on order from Remington by the DND is for any additional rifle and/or sub-machine gun orders from the AFP as part of the RAFPMP's Horizon 2 phase starting on 2018.
So far, the Philippine Army still has a large requirement for assault rifles for Horizon 2, exceeding 20,000 units more, plus several hundreds of Designated Marksman Rifles, probably to standardize the entire organization to a new rifle replacing the M16A1, plus additional rifles for reserve and other purposes.
In this regard, Remington's R4A3 and Knights Armaments SR-25 already have a head-start, being the new standard rifle and and current marksman/sniper rifle, respectively, of the Philippine Army. But the quality issues that affected the first batch of 50,000+ rifles and delayed its commissioning with the Philippine Army by almost a year could be a valid reason not to get more rifles directly from Remington.
If the DND will acquire rifles by direct procurement, then GA's M4A1 or 16" Mid-Length Carbine could be chosen, allowing GA to finally start a full production of its own rifle. But if the DND again go for tender, then the chances that GA will be chosen, or even allowed to join the tender is very slim.
Aside from rifles, the Philippine Army will also be needing a few hundred sub-machine guns within Horizon 2 phase. This is probably to replace older models still in service like the M3 Grease Gun still in used by armored vehicle crew from the Mechanized units. But an issue here is the specified requirement. Documents obtained by MaxDefense shows that the proposed requirement is for a sub-machine gun chambered for 9 mm rounds, not 7.62 mm rounds similar to GA's 10" PDW.
|The Philippine Army still uses upgraded M3 Grease Guns, especially with the Mechanized Infantry Division as personal defense weapon of armored vehicle crew. The GA 10" PDW could be a good replacement for these weapons.|
The Philippine Navy and Philippine Marine Corps will be the next possible market for new assault rifles within the AFP, but with the PMC expected to be saturated with the Remington R4A3 and whatever rifle they will choose for the Joint PN-PMC 5.56mm Standard Weapons System, orders will definitely be by small batches as well.
If all these upcoming projects are not awarded to the Government Arsenal, MaxDefense doesn't see any other chance to economically produce its own rifle line with a large volume order soon. GA may only rely on small batch orders which may not be economical due to economies of scale.
Aside from the AFP, the largest possible market for GA-made assault rifles will come from the Philippine National Police, specifically the Special Action Force, Regional Mobile Groups, and the different SWAT teams.
But it is expected that the maximum they can order in the next few years will only be for a few thousand units, and may still be not enough for an economic production run.
Aside from rifles, MaxDefense believes that all other government agencies will be more interested in small batches of sub-machine guns rather than rifles, but will probably go for models chambered for 9mm or .45 caliber types instead of 5.56mm NATO or the 7.62x37mm Musang due to commonality with what they already have, and in the case of the 10" PDW, to avoid the reliance on a new type of round that will tie them up with GA
|The PNP recently chose the KRISS Vector SMG in the new 9mm version for their sub-machine gun requirement, in which they will acquire more than 700 units.|
The AFP as GA's Best Hope:
The GA has been looking for a foreign partner for some years now for it to be able to produce high quality M16/M4 series assault rifles, and with the entry of Remington in the AFP's inventory, the DND should have asked them to partner with GA and build the rifles in GA's facility in Bataan instead of manufacturing and importing them again from the United States. Time-wise, it would be faster for Remington to deliver 23,000 rifles manufactured from their US facility. But the PA and PMC could adjust the delivery date in favor of a licensed Remington rifle manufactured by GA without hurting their requirements.
The partnership with a well established foreign partner like Remington would improve the Government Arsenal's capability, technology, facility, and knowledge base, while allowing it to gain experience and track record from the award of a project. As part of a joint venture deal, the foreign partner will provide GA a transfer of technology which is included in the licensing agreement.
This technology could then be harnessed by GA for their own use, like further improving their products base like those listed earlier in this blog, although a theoretical GA-foreign entity partnership could also work well as a combined entity. It could also allow GA to export its products to other countries, including joining in tenders/biddings as their credibility as a supplier can be cemented if the AFP awarded them with a contract, especially those worth more than Php 1 billion like the follow-on order made by DND with Remington.
A similar example of this is what the Malaysian company SME Ordnance did with Colt USA that enabled them to locally produce the Colt M4 for the Malaysian Armed Forces, and even offer it for export to the Philippines as part of negotiations before the DND decided to bid the project that was ultimately won by Remington.
|A Malaysian solider with a Colt M4A1 carbine manufactured under license by Malaysian company SME Ordnance Sdn Bhd.|
Photo taken from Kuala Lumpur Security Review website
The DND should have not opted to outright acquire additional 23,622 R4A3 rifles from Remington for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps, and instead, should have assisted the Government Arsenal to find a joint venture investor first that will enable it to jump-start any rifle development. With more than 50,000 M16A1s being off-loaded by front line troops due to the issuance of the R4A3 rifles, the GA will have enough rifles to refurbish that could be issued to non-front line troops while waiting for a new rifle to be procured.
Also, the DND should stop tendering any rifle or sub-machine gun requirement for the entire AFP from now on, and instead support the Government Arsenal as its priority supplier by directly acquiring from them. A secure order for significant rifle and sub-machine gun orders under Horizon 2 and 3 are the best bet for the Government Arsenal to reach this aspiration of small arms self-sufficiency.
If the GA fails to find a joint venture partner, it would be difficult for GA to invest its limited resources on small arms production if the DND cannot commit to support them. Any effort to start would be a gamble that GA has to risk.
The question now is, will the DND support the Government Arsenal by pushing to acquire weapon systems from them, with or without a foreign partner? Or will it continue to go for foreign arms manufacturer, leaving GA to only supply ammunition, and do repair and refurbishing works of existing small arms?
That remains to be seen. With the 16" Mid Length Carbine Mod. 0, 16" Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, and 10" PDW about to undergo field testing, MaxDefense believes that there is still hope for DND to consider GA's efforts and quest for a high quality, indigenous small arms manufacturing capability to support the Philippines' armed services.
|Hundreds of 16" Mid Length Carbine are prepared for shipping to JSOG and NAVSOG units for field testing and evaluation.|
Photo taken from Government Arsenal's Facebook page.