Your 1st for Philippine Defense

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Defending Against Ballistic Missile Attacks - What Options Does the Philippines Have?

Recently a news report came our from one of the leading Philippine news organization stating that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, though its spokesman BGen. Restituto Padilla, is looking for ways for allies to help defend the Philippines from a missile attack, possibly from North Korea, which has been lobbing missiles one after the other to the Sea of Japan lately.

In this blog entry, we discuss the Philippines' option in defending itself from ballistic missiles. Note that we will NOT DISCUSS the Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear (CBRN) side of such threat, but only the threat of the physical missiles.

Asking for Help from Who?:

Reality shows that currently, the Philippines cannot really do anything on this regard but to ask for help from more militarily capable allies and partners.

But there's a problem in this situation of the Philippines. So far the only countries the Philippines can ask help it to defend against ballistic missiles are either the United States of America or Japan. But Japan currently has no missile interceptors to spare for the Philippines. It is also getting its assurances from the US as their current systems, based on the US-made Patriot PAC-2 and PAC-3 systems and AEGIS-SM3 system, are not enough to effectively defend the Japanese home islands.

So there's no other country that can help other than the US.

The US may opt to deploy land-based Patriot PAC-3 missile systems, or the sea-based AEGIS-SM3 ABM systems if the Philippine government lands an agreement with the US for such deployments.
Photos taken from (above), and US Department of Defense (below).

Normally, you deploy missile interceptors to defend yourself before an actual missile attack happens, not after the attack itself. But with the Philippine government playing a hardball on the US and at the same time putting a very good face for China, how will the US help the Philippines get that anti-missile defense requirement without China putting pressure on the Philippines, and the US getting too involved with a government that is not only unfriendly, but also has reputation of passing the load of defending itself to its bigger ally? Not to mention a US legislature that is unsupportive of the Philippine president? 

Two options can be made by the US to deploy defensive missile systems in the Philippines, but both involve the Philippine government agreeing with the terms and conditions of such deployment, a tricky part that has a lot of strings attached. One is by deploying a land-based system, much like what the US does in Japan and South Korea, or a sea-based system which is more politically viable for the Philippines and US alike. Placing another Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system in the region will potential make China restless, and may hit back politically and economically on the Philippines, in the same way it is currently doing with South Korea when it decided to allow US THAAD's deployment in its soil.

An illustration on how the Patriot PAC-3 and THAAD will defend South Korea from North Korean ballistic missiles. This applies to how such systems will defend the Philippines.
Photo illustration taken from The Korea Herald.
This is the reason why China is against the deployment of US THAAD systems in South Korea. While the THAAD's radar has limitations, it has the capability to detect air movements at very long distances. In the case of South Korea, the radar can see through inside parts of China. Putting up THAAD in the Philippines will also allow the US to see through the entire South China Sea and parts of Southern China, including its bases in Hainan Island and Paracel Islands, as well as the artificial islands in the Spratlys, giving the US a huge edge.
Photo illustration taken from 38 North US-Korea Institute at the Paul H. Nitze SAIS, John Hopkinds University

Among the strings MaxDefense sees that the US will put in will be related to the increased deployment of US equipment and personnel in the Philippines, placed within the boundaries of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Something that Pres. Duterte is too allergic to begin with, considering that previously, he announced that he wanted US presence out of the country during his term.

Running to China or Russia for help doesn't work, for obvious reasons. 

While the US solution could be the most realistic option the Philippines have, it won't happen as fast as everyone hopes for. Will Pres. Duterte soften its stand on US deployment in the Philippines and allow their troops to "play around" like it used to?

The AFP's Ballistic Missile Defense System Project - A Brief:

Its not normal for MaxDefense to discuss such matters if its not related to the AFP's modernization and recapitalization efforts. So here's the catch why its being discussed here in MaxDefense Philippines blogs.

There is such a thing as a Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) project in the AFP's Modernization Program, which is included within the AFP's planned Integrated Missile Defense System. The project calls for a capability within the AFP to defend critical areas of high interest against ballistic missile threats. 

Originally, the requirement raised by the AFP for acquisition is for at least 3 batteries, although MaxDefense is unsure if the requirement is for a tactical only, or a more advanced theatre ballistic missile defense capability. Based on MaxDefense's own analysis of data that we have, we believe that the AFP is looking at a tactical missile system rather than a theatre high altitude system.

Impossible as it may seem, yes, a Ballistic Missile Defense System is among those eyed by the AFP as part of its modernization efforts for Horizons 2 and 3 phases.
Cropped from the AFP's submitted proposal for their Horizon 1-3 procurement list plan.

Problems Ahead - The Usual Suspects:

The project was supposed to start within the Horizon 2 phase (2018-2022) of the Revised AFP Modernization Program, and runs until the Horizon 3 phase (2023-2028). "Supposed" is the key word here. Based on the latest Horizon 2 proposal submitted by the AFP and DND for approval, the BMDS, which was supposed to be a project assigned for the Philippine Army, was omitted. MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Army may have realized that it is not ready to undertake such project, considering that it has ZERO experience, and limited knowledge (mostly theoretical) on air defense missile systems and capabilities. Another consideration is the massive investment needed to undertake such project, considering that the AFP has a lot of gaps to fill that are considered as higher priority than the BMDS. 

With too much to modernize, an AFP and DND not proficient enough in procurement processes, a Procurement Law that is incompatible for the AFP's procurement programs, and not much cash to spare, the AFP situation is too complex to solve with the limited time and money that it has.

Hopes on the Horizon?:

In comparison, Vietnam, which is considered less economically capable than the Philippines, already has the S-300PMU1 tactical ballistic missile defense system in its inventory for years, and has been pushing for the acquisition of Russia's more advanced S-400 Triumf theatre ballistic missile defense system to defend against Chinese threats. It is expected that they would be able to acquire the S-400 system in a few years time, considering that they are very serious on their defense procurement programs. So it only shows, it is NOT IMPOSSIBLE for the Philippines to carry out such acquisition if only it is serious as well in putting up a strong face and will to defend itself.

It is expected that Pres. Duterte will be able to close a Philippines-Russia Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) during his state visit to Moscow this coming May 2017. While the visit is not expected to generate an agreement or contract to immediately supply weapons for the AFP, it does open the possibility of acquiring Russian weapon systems since a DCA is among the requirements for a government-to-government (G2G) procurement of weapon systems to happen.

Somewhere along the line, it is highly possible for Russia to offer advanced air / missile defense systems like the S-300 and S-400 to the AFP, and this becomes more realistic if Moscow offers a flexible payment scheme and Manila takes advantage of it. Reportedly and based on MaxDefense sources, Moscow has confirmed that they are willing to sell almost anything under the sun, as long as the Philippines pays for them in any way agreed upon - bananas, underwear and all.

Vietnam already has the Russian S-300PMU1 in service, which has the capability to defend against ballistic missiles.

As MaxDefense previously mentioned in its Facebook posts, the Horizon 2 shopping list is still liquid and could still be subjected to changes, depending on the financial capability of the government, and the threats faced by the country as recommended by the AFP and Department of National Defense. MaxDefense still hopes that there are positive news that we can still get regarding this project within Pres. Duterte's term.

In the meantime, the Philippine government must consider talking to the US regarding an interim solution of deploying US assets in the country to defend against a looming threat of wayward North Korean missile, or even a Chinese one.

S-400, anyone?


  1. Realistically S-400 is a good platform to start with the ballistic missile defense project and im sure China will protest on this purchase. The lesser S-300 PMU might get an approval or else Why not Buk-m3 or S2-pantsyr system to start with, Im sure it is a purely defensive weapon system rather than offensive. Take note, a huge investment must be in placed upon the purchase of russian block from education, training, maintenance, bases as well as doctrine. Lets, consider the other wildcard in the form of MRSAM from indian-israeli project a modified barak8. Or the purely barak 8 system itself. Spyder system is a good alternative also from rafael. I dont see any problem acquiring Israeli system as long as we have the money for that program.

    1. Just like what you've said, guess it is more realistic and practical for the Philippines to start with M-SAMs rather than a BMD capable S-400 or S-300, thinking about the fact that AFP is not even used to medium range/altitude air defense system which is not as sophisticated nor expensive compared to L-SAMs like the Patriot or S-300. Dunno whats going on with their plan to acquire some HAWKs some months ago.

  2. Good evening sir, but how about Israeli systems such as the Arrow missiles and the David's sling?

  3. I think the 2016 amended Procurement Law (New IRR of the law) exempt procurement related to defense. I dont know the details and specifics yet but that what it appears to be.

  4. IMO, the Philippines should talk to Russia on the S-300 and S-400 Though the export version of the Russian S-300 and S-400 will be downgraded in order to comply with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is a multilateral export control regime. It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying above 500 kg payload for more than 300 km.

  5. Is it air force taking part too in air defense system? I mean is their will have AAA/ SAM in their inventory beside the army?

  6. the best "ballistic missile defense" for now is keeping US forces the hell out of the country, if US forces is inside our country then for sure we will be target for missile much as possible we should avoid acquiring US and Russian weapons, i would suggest to get from third party like israel or sweden or japan or korea...then from there we should work on developing our own defense technology

  7. A great - cost effective alternative (if available stocks permits) is a version of the Hawk Missile, the MIM-23K/J. Introduced around 1994 with enhanced lethality configuration warhead with 35 gram (540 grain) fragments instead of the I-Hawks 2 gram (30 grain) fragments. The missile also includes a new fuse to make it effective against ballistic missiles. MIM-23K Hawk missiles are effective up to 20,000 m altitude and up to 45 km in range. In addition, this family of missile system is reportedly being aimed by our DND. Reference:

  8. Thank you sir Max on the report. One thing I could say about our country in regard in defending itself is. PATHETIC, a beggars attitude. I hope that this would be shed soon as the world is becoming more chaotic . Best alternative would be Spyder or Irondome systems from Israel . I hope it would be a reality one day

  9. Thank you sir Max on the report. One thing I could say about our country in regard in defending itself is. PATHETIC, a beggars attitude. I hope that this would be shed soon as the world is becoming more chaotic . Best alternative would be Spyder or Irondome systems from Israel . I hope it would be a reality one day

  10. Overview

    The SM-47S/T Super Machete is a highly maneuverable, Air Defense Fighter (ADF), Strike Fighter (SF) and Advanced Pilot Trainer (APT). Powered by a single GEAE F414 EE afterburning turbofan, the SM-47S/T has digital Power-By-Wire flight controls, AESA radar and eight external stores hardpoints to carry up to 12,000 lbs of ordnance and stores. With 9-G maneuverability with full internal fuel and six air-to-air missiles, the Forward Swept Wing (FSW) SM-47S/T will offer a maximum level speed at altitude in excess of Mach 2.2 and a tactical radius on internal fuel of over 700 nm. The SM-47S/T is armed with a 20mm M61A2 Vulcan cannon.The most significant evolution of the Machete series, the Super Machete marries an SM-28 Machete derivative fuselage to a FSW augmented by custom canard foreplanes and a distinctive empennage. Driven by over 26,000 lbs of thrust, the SM-47 will have direct commonality with the F/A-18E/F and draw from many of the same spares stores. Powerplant airflow is supplied by laterally mounted normal shock pitot inlets. An axisymmetric, lower observability variable geometry thrust vectoring exhaust nozzle may be fitted for improved aircraft maneuverability. Incorporating an advanced avionics suite with comprehensive EW and ECM, the SM-47 is a bridge between fourth and fifth generation fighters focused upon performance, maneuverability, maintainability and affordability rather than low observability.A potential successor to F-5, F-16A/B, F/A-18A/B/C/D, MiG-21 and other light weight fighters, the SM-47S is a competitor to the Saab JAS 39 Gripen. Offering greater maneuverability, lower operating cost and superior performance than the JAS 39, the SM-47S will have a flyaway cost of $25 to $30 million. As a Navy strike fighter, the SM-47S/T requires half the fuel of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the SM-47S/T will offer the same range, strike radius, endurance, maneuverability, maximum level speed and intercept ability as the F/A-18E/F with 2/3rds the footprint and approximately half the operating cost. As a supersonic advanced trainer, the SM-47T and T-X will compete with the Lockheed Martin/KAI/Samsung T-50, Leonardo M-346 and other T-X category aircraft while serving as a successor to the T-38 Talon. With greater maneuverability, range and warload than the JAS 39 Gripen or T-50 Golden Eagle, the SM-47 has the potential of becoming the premier LWF through 2040.

    The SM-47S/T is now under development and will be qualified and certified to MIL-HDBK-516B Airworthiness Certification Criteria in accordance with AFPD 62-6 and AFI 62-601 at the AFFTC, Edwards AFB. The SM-47 will also be certified to applicable FAA type and production certification standards as a fully qualified Day/Night VFR and IFR (VMC/IMC) aircraft. Pending potential customer procurement interest, the SM-47S/T is anticipated to enter production in 2022-2024.

  11. Hi Max, thanks for all good write-ups so far. You're site is definitely far from those other similar defense sites in terms of factual presentation and analysis. Off-topic, I was wondering if you can do an update on the status of the WW2 ship which serves as an outpost in one of the occupied shoals. I recall some time ago you did a write up on options for supplying this ship. Just wondering what are the plans (if any) for possibly replacing this ship. I'm sure this is quite sensitive with respect to how China may react, but I feel that the few military personnel serving on that ship are generally being neglected, or not being supported as they should be. Would just be great that people can read about these warriors again. Thanks. ~ Ethan.

    1. Hi Ethan, I believe our guys in BRP Sierra madre (ship outpost) are not neglected or not being supported by our higher ups. The are being constantly re-supplied either via air drop or thru a commercial ship commission by our Navy to not provoke any confrontation from China. We regard to accommodation of course there's nothing we can on that ATM (its a rusting ship so what can you expect). So we just hope our govt. can do something with that concern. -Chris

  12. Sir Max medyo so rang tahimik na yung Frigate project. Any news (positive hopefully) that you could spill to the public?

  13. I am expecting S-400 for the longer term. The U.S. already have the opportunity to lend PH the required defense and support, but choose to ignore it. But the Filipinos themselves due to corruption in our civilian government and military are the most to blame for the lack of defense equipment.

  14. 2cents regarding Vietnam:

    Their AF already operated a legacy-network of dozens of stationary SA-2 and SA-3 and hundreds of stationary AAA-batteries. Their army only had SA-7 MANPADs and a few companies of Shilkas and assorted mounted HMG on various vehicles.

    The modernization started in the late 1990:

    First modern radars (Tin Shield) were procured and later 2 S300-PMU1 (later upgraded to PMU2-standard) batteries ware brought (~ 100 million USD).

    Those two batteries replaced a few SA-2s in service in the Northern Vietnam. It was a very steep learning-curve for the VPAF to jump from 1960s system to modern ones.

    At the same time Belarussian companies offered upgrade-package for the SA-3 and Vietnam picked it up. Those upgraded SA-3 can swat anything from UAV to Helicopter and early Gen4 jets. All remaining SA-3s have been upgraded by 2014.

    In 2007 the VPAF bought 2 additional S300-PMU2 batteries, BUT managed to convince the Russian to sell them the S400's radars and C3-vehicles.

    Meanwhile their domestic industry started to put the AAA-cannons on rolling-chassis with servomotors, which are slaved to an electro-optical targeting system. This upgrade-package was based purely on COTS components and greatly reduced the needed manpower and gave those AAA ability to shoot PGMs with ease. Due their nature they can't be jammed. Dozens of batteries have received this quite cheap upgrade-package.

    At the same time the Viets brought any modern Russian, French, Isreali, Czech long-range surveillance-radars, that was offered to them.

    In 2014 they revealed a domestic sensor-data fusion-system with basic C2-abilities and started laying a fiber-optical com-network allover their armed forces' major-bases and air-defence-batteries. This system is operational and is being expanded/developed further and will start integrating artillerry-units from next year on.

    Along VN's coast is pearl-string made of modern Thales Coastwatcher radars.

    In 2016 the VPAF dropped big money on 24 batteries of SPYDER-SR/MR, which will replace the last SA-2 batteries, Shilkas. The Isrealis have delivered 5 batteries so far.

    In 2016 Almaz-Antei has finished the second-production-line and will start delivering export-customers' S400s this year. So most likely VN will get theirs in 2018/19.

    While S300/S400 can catch TBM, they cannot deal with IRBM.

    So far the Russian are dragging their feet to sell VN early warning radars, so rumours of procurement of Super-Green-Pine have appeared on Vietnamese media. Apparently the French are very close or already signed a contract to supply Vietnam with SAMP/T Mamba, which will have basic BMD. Rumours say the VPN intends to buy three batteries to defend the 3 main naval-bases (Cam Ranh; Da Nang; Hai Phong).

    The Block 2 of the SAMP/T Mamba , will be able to deal with IRBM. Development is expected to finished in 2020. It can be projected that VN maybe receive it in the mid 2020s - earliest, but more likely in the late 2020s.

    It won't cheap for PHL to deploy even a very basic TBM-defence, which on the other hand is not needed. TBM don't have the range to reach PHL main islands.

    The only scenario, where IRBMs will hit PHL main islands, will be a hot conflict with China. In that case US Forces will intervene any way. Unless the USA throws its' credibility into the dirt.

    IMHO just concentrate on basic tactical anti-air (MANPAD & AAA) and build up a modern radar-network and modern com-network. A handful SPYDER-SR/MR batteries are enough for PAF's main bases. This should be possible for around 500 million USD and could be achieved in a timeframe of 5 years. Vietnam and Singapore could provide training and maintainence for accelerated induction.

    1. Tnx! Very informative. I wonder if our bases even have anti-air defenses and not to mention our vital power and communication facilities. We should at least have a semblance of control and order after the initial attack in case war breaks. Otherwise, we will all be running like headless chickens.

  15. For me it's better to choose Arrow 2 or 3 via government to government deals

  16. To hell with US and Russia, we can get ABM system from Israel if the government is really dead serious on getting one...Barak-MX and/or Arrow 2/3 should cover our needs


Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Air Force Modernization Projects