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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Delivery of Elbit-Soltam M-71 155mm/39cal Towed Howitzers for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps (Horizon 1 Project)

After three blog entries since our first entry on the project to acquire 155mm Towed Howitzers for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps was posted in 2013 here @ MaxDefense Philippines blogs, we are now finally getting to the end of this acquisition project. This new milestone is better discussed in a new blog rather than updating older blogs that have become a little less relevant.

One of the Soltam M-71 155mm /39 calibreTowed Howitzers for the Philippine military seen here being tested in the Israel Defense Forces' Shivta Firing Range in the Negev Desert. Officials from the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps were present to verify the test results.
Photo exclusive for MaxDefense Philippines.

Recap: Elbit Gets Contract:

Israeli defense company Elbit Systems Land and C4I won the bid to supply and deliver twelve (12) units of 155mm / 39 calibre Howitzers and ammunition for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps, and a contract was signed between them and the Department of National Defense (DND) in 2015.

Elbit, who owns howitzer manufacturer Soltan Systems, was to supply M-71 155mm towed howitzers to the PA and PMC, plus ammunition for the howitzers.

The original Approved Budget for Contract (ABC) was Php 438,620,000.00, and only two companies showed interest in the bidding. These are Elbit Systems Land and C4I, and BNT-Tvornica Masina i Hidraulike (BNT) based in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  But by April 2015, BNT withdrew from participating in the bidding, and Elbit was left to submit a bid and ultimately win the project. Elbit's submitted bid amount was Php 410,849,184.00.

MaxDefense believes that BNT entered the PA-PMC 155mm Towed Howitzer acquisition project with their M84 NORA-A1 155mm / 39 caliber gun howitzer, which was derived from the Yugoslavian M84 NORA 152mm towed howitzer (above).
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Since the M-71 155mm Towed Howitzers are actually produced by Soltam Systems since the mid 1970s, and several units were even ordered and delivered to the Philippine Army in 1978. MaxDefense learned that there are some minor difference between the original 1978 model the PA received, and this 2016 model that are for delivery, and these include:

1, Travel Lock is now located on one trail only;
2. The new guns are equipped with LED lights;
3. Improvements were made on the Breech Opening Mechanism

One of the M-71 towed howitzers for the PA, as seen prior to delivery. The paint scheme identified this as an Army bound unit.

The last update MaxDefense Philippines made was on 12th May 2017, and was posted on our earlier blog entry "Updates on the 155mm Towed Howitzer with Ammunition Acquisition Project (Horizon 1) for the Philippine Army and Marine Corps" first posted on 20th March 2015. 

 Pre-Delivery Testing and Delivery:

Related to our previously posted information found on our earlier blog entries, MaxDefense Philippines received A1 information from its sources that the the delivery was divided into two batches: a first batch of three (3) howitzer units plus the ammunition and integrated logistics support (ILS) package, and another batch of nine (9) howitzer units.

The first batch underwent pre-delivery testing early this year, and was attended and verified by officials from the Philippine Marine Corps. The tests were made at the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Shivta Firing Range in the Negev Desert. Delivery of the first units arrived in Manila on the last week of April 2017, after the howitzers were shipped from Israel. The Philippine Marine Corps' own artillery crew already underwent familiarisation and proficiency training locally,   

The first three units of Soltam M-71 155mm towed howitzers are seen here during its delivery. The guns arrived in the Philippines on the last week of April, and are already in the Philippine Marine Corps' possession as of this blog entry's posting.

The second batch of nine (9) howitzers underwent a separate pre-delivery testing also attended and verified by officers of the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps, and was also conducted on the IDF's Shivta Firing Range. All nine howitzers passed the tests and were confirmed by the PA and PMC's officials present.
This batch is expected to arrive within June 2017, with the actual delivery date withheld by MaxDefense for security reasons. Six (6) of the howitzers will be for the Philippine Army, while the Philippine Marines will receive the remaining three (3) units for them to complete their first ever 155mm Artillery Battery.

Pre-delivery testing of the second batch of nine (9) howitzers conducted at the Negev Desert.

The paint scheme for the howitzers differ for thse bound for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps. 3-colour camouflage painted units are for Philippine Army, while Olive Drab are bound for Philippine Marine Corps.

With the delivery of these assets, both the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps will each have a new 155mm Artillery Battery in its table of organization, while paving the way for the transition of both armed service from reliance on the smaller 105mm towed howitzer. It is expected that both ground services will be requesting for the acquisition of dozens more of 155mm towed howitzers and increase the size of their organization and improving their capabilities altogether.

Side Trip: PA and PMC Officers Witness Testing of ATMOS 155mm Self Propelled Howitzer:

Take notice on the two photos posted above showing the nine M-71 155mm towed howitzers in the desert and you may have notice a truck, which upon closer look shows a 155mm gun mounted on it. Sources confirmed that it is an ATMOS 155mm/52 calibre Self-Propelled Howitzer (SPH), brought in by Elbit-Soltam Systems for live fire demonstrations to the present officials of the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps.

The ATMOS was originally being considered by the Philippine Army in 2013, before the Philippine Army's leadership backtracked and confirmed that they will only be acquiring towed howitzers under the Horizon 1 phase of the AFP Modernization Program. Based on information gathered, Elbit Systems submitted their proposal and offer for the ATMOS SPH system earlier and has undertaken preliminary evaluation by the Philippine Army. 

The ATMOS 155mm/52 calibre self propelled howitzer, seen here with some of the M-71 towed howitzers bound for the Philippines.  In this case, the ATMOS system is mounted on an 8x8 high mobility truck. It can also be mounted on the shorter 6x6 high mobility truck depending on end user's choice. 

While Horizon 1 does not include any plan for Self Propelled Howitzer procurement, MaxDefense has previously mentioned several times in its blog entries and Facebook page posts that the Horizon 2 phase of the AFP Modernization Program covering years 2018 to 2022 includes plans to acquire such assets for the both the PA and PMC. The latest version of the Horizon 2 phase acquisition plan list indicated a combined requirement of 5 batteries between the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps, with more expected to be requested under the Horizon 3 phase covering years 2023 to 2028.

While the demonstration is not yet part of the acquisition phase, this is a good sign that the AFP is indeed giving a chance to consider such assets for future requirements. 

Moving forward, MaxDefense will be providing updates on the delivery of the balance nine units of Elbit-Soltam Systems M-71 155mm/39 calibre towed howitzers, as well as updates on the integration of the first batch of three units with the Philippine Army Artillery Regiment once information become available. We look forward for these assets to be of good use to the PA and PMC.


  1. Nice touch Sir Max!

    An erratum however... the first three units with plain Olive Drab color already delivered, was intended for the Philippine Marine Corps. The Camouflage painted units (part of the nine (9) which has yet to arrive) are for the Philippine Army.

  2. Well at least We have a New and Powerful Artillery to Flush out those MIG terrorists still holdup the Marawi City Proper.

  3. Nice to have good business with you Israel, we're coming back again to by more. Hopefully shore base missile systems and iron dome air defense systems, mraps and more. Mabuhay AFP

  4. why didnt the top brass consider korean made kh179?

    1. The 155mm Towed Howitzer project was conceived in 2010, but was only successfully publicly bidded out in 2015. By that time, the budget in terms of the exchange rate and prices of the guns has already considerably changed, making the koreans bow out of its interest to participate. Its not really an option for the top brass to make any considerations...

  5. I would like to ask if we can convert our small caliber 105 howitzer to be self propelled . I think it will be more sufficient if we can make ..

    1. If you consider the LVTH-6 of the PMC, with its 105mm main gun, as self-propelled, then it's not impossible for the military.

  6. Any news if AFP will consider ATMOS 155mm?


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