Russian Improved Kilo-class Submarines for the Philippine Navy? Here's What We Think.

In a press statement released on 10 August 2018, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana mentioned that the Philippine government, spearheaded by the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Philippine Navy (PN) are currently in discussion with Russia for the acquisition of "Kilo-class submarines", which they confirmed which would be financed by a Russian soft loan program for the Philippines.

Sec. Lorenzana also confirmed that there are also offers from France and South Korea, although he made it clear that he believe that Russia would be the likely source of submarines for the Philippine Navy.

If all goes well, Sec. Lorenzana believes that they could be able to close a contract with the Russian government within the next 12 months, and the delivery can be made just before Pres. Duterte steps out of Malacanang in June 2022. Previously the Defense Department and the Philippine Navy mentioned that they are after the acquisition of at least 2 submarines within the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program, which runs from 2018 to 2022.

This actually is a surprise, since MaxDefense recently found out that the Philippine Navy and Department of National Defense are still in the process of getting information from all the potential suppliers with regards to the submarine product, inclusions, specifications, and support on making the PN ready for submarine operations. MaxDefense was also informed that so far, the PN's Technical Working Group on Submarine Acquisition Project has not yet finalized the submarine's technical specifications as well as the procurement requirements.





Readers may also want to see our earlier blog regarding our opinion on the Philippine Navy's readiness in having submarines in its fleet, just as a background of what we think of the program.

"Is the Philippine Navy Ready for Submarines? A Full Background and Review on the PN's Submarine Quest" - dated 15 July 2018.


Kilo-class Submarines:

The Russian Kilo-class is a family of diesel-electric attack submarines designed by Rubin Central Maritime Design Bureau, and were built by several shipbuilders in Russia although now it is built only by the Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg. Originally called the Project 877 Paltus, the first submarines of the class were built for the Soviet Navy in 1980, and continued to serve until the USSR collapsed almost 30 years ago, and are now with the Russian Navy.


The Project 877 Kilo-class was also exported to several countries including China, Algeria, India, Poland, Iran, and Romania.

Improvements were made due to technological advancements which led to the arrival of Project 636 Varshavyanka, which is known in the West as the Improved Kilo-class. And since Russia is not producing the original Project 877 Kilo-class anymore, it is highly possible that what Russia is offering is the newer Project 636 Improved Kilo-class submarine which incorporates improvement over the older Kilo-class variants.

It was designed mainly for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), and also for offensive use against land targets. Also known as the "Black Hole", the Improved Kilo-class is considered as one of the quietest submarines in the world, a feature that is very important in keeping the submarine's stealthiness feature strong.


The Project 636 Varshavyanka, also known as the Improved Kilo-class.
Illustration taken and credited to Southfront.org website.




The Project 636 Improved Kilo-class submarine displaces around 2,350 tons when surfaced, is around 73 meters long, and has a crew of over 50 men.

It is powered by a combination of diesel engines and electric motors which allows it to travel to a maximum speed of 17 knots when surfaced, and more than 20 knots submerged. It has an endurance of around 45 days, with a maximum range of 7,500 nautical miles when snorkelling at 7 knots.


It is armed with six 533mm torpedo tubes which can launch most Russian-made torpedoes including the Type 53 21" torpedo family, as well as the Kalibr / Club-S family of cruise missiles.





Positive Aspects of Acquiring Improved Kilo-class Submarines:

MaxDefense believes that there are positive and negative aspects should the Philippine Navy pursue the acquisition of submarines from Russia.

The use of a soft-loan from Russia is actually a game changer here, considering the Philippine government is still trying to find ways on how to finance the acquisition of submarines after promising it to be made within Pres. Duterte's term. It appears that France, South Korea, and even other potential suppliers like Germany and Sweden are not able to match the soft-loan offer of Russia due to different reasons ranging from government policy to financial difficulty in doing it




The Kilo-class in general is one of the most successful diesel-electric submarines after World War II. Here it is compared to the West's most successful model, the Type 209 from Germany. Incidentally, TKMS of Germany is offering its latest Type 209/1400mod submarine to the Philippine Navy, while South Korea's DSME is also offering a license-built Type 209/1400 called the Chang Bogo-class.
Illustration taken and credited to NavalAnalyses website.



Allowing the Philippines to acquire submarines without paying for it outright actually means the Philippine Navy does not need to defer its other modernization projects within the Horizon 2 phase, including major projects like the Corvette Acquisition Project with a budget of Php28 billion, and the Offshore Patrol Vessel Acquisition Project with a budget of Php30 billion.

Another potential gain of the Philippine Navy here is the openness of the Russian government to export the Kalibr 3M-14E Club-S land-attack missiles, which gives the Philippines a tool for potentially hitting targets within the Chinese mainland itself as a deterrent against Chinese aggression on the Philippines. Russia also allowed Vietnam to have this weapon, which are also installed on their Project 636 Improved Kilo-class submarines. 


The Russian Kalibr / Club-S sub-launched cruise missile is among the Improved Kilo-class' trump card, which is available for export by the Russian government. The Club-S is available in both anti-ship and land attack variant.
Photo taken from and credited to Air Power Australia website.



This type of weapon is obviously unavailable if the Philippine Navy acquires submarines from France, Germany and Sweden, while South Korea may only be able to provide a similar capability several years from now since their Hyunmoo III sub-launched land attack missile has not been exported yet and may need decreased capability to meet the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) requirements.

MaxDefense believes that no doubt, the Improved Kilo-class submarines are among the best diesel-electric attack submarines in the market today, and would definitely be better than the Chinese-made submarines that it may face should the PN confirms its acquisition of the Russian submarine.


A Russian Improved Kilo-class submarine photographed by British military aircraft as it passes through the English Channel.
Credits to the original but unknown owner of the photo.




Negative Concerns on Acquiring Improved Kilo-class:

If there are pros on the acquisition of this type of submarine, certainly there are also cons.

First of, the Improved Kilo-class is also in service with the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), which is, in all honesty, the most likely navy that the Philippines will defend itself from.

It means that the Chinese are very much familiar with this type of submarine, including its performance, its characteristics and capabilities, and probably even the similarity of its acoustic signature to their own Improved Kilo-class submarines. This gives them an advantage on how to deal with the Philippine Navy's own Improved Kilo-class submarines, as well as what to expect in terms of capability and weaknesses.

And being a submarine in service with the Chinese Navy, it also means that the chances of our submarine being accidentally targeted or hit by our allies is also high.

The US Navy is trained to fight submarines and ships designed and built by Russia and China, and the Improved Kilo-class is no different. Their anti-submarine units are trained to hunt submarines with similar physical shape, contour and shape, acoustic signature, and movement of the Improved Kilo-class. So even if the Philippine Navy's submarines have a distinct acoustic signature that differentiate it from the acoustic signatures of Russian and Chinese Improved Kilo-class submarines saved on their data base, accidental friendly fire during wartime or in emergencies are not impossible especially when data was taken by ASW operators with less experience on dealing with the type.


Operating a submarine not used by Russia or China greatly reduces the possibility of this unfortunate event to happen.


The Chinese Navy also uses the Improved Kilo-class submarines, 12 of which were acquired from Russia starting 1996. They definitely look similar to any other Improved Kilo-class, and may have a slightly different but definitely almost similar acoustic signature as any other Improved Kilo-class submarine, which may be a problem with regards to dealing with the Philippines traditional ally the US, as well as strategic partners like Japan and Australia.
Photo taken from Pakistan Defence forum.




MaxDefense also doubts on the ability of Russia to provide the Philippine Navy with proper or quality support on basing and basing development, training, maintenance, and others that are required for the Philippine Navy to have a working submarine group. The Russians aren't exactly world known for providing these services, as seen on most of their client nations, compared to how other European countries do it. 

Also, their methods and standards might be far from what the Philippine Navy is used to, which is primarily based on US military or Western methods and standards. What might be OK for the Russians may not be acceptable to the standards the PN is currently using.

While the Improved Kilo-class uses a totally different subsystem that is not compatible with Western systems being used by the Philippine Navy and its allies, this might be slight problem which can be overlooked by the benefits the Russians might be able to provide. Normally submarines operate on its own, and although there are times that the submarine may need to work together with other military assets of the AFP or its allies, this could be possibly remedied by installing stand-alone communications systems that may be compatible with what the AFP or its allies like the US are using.This is where the likes of India or Israel may be helpful.



Decision Making and Deeper Issues Within:

As mentioned earlier, it was actually a surprise that Sec. Lorenzana talked about the possible ordering of Russian submarines with confidence as if the decision was already made. But checking with our sources, it appears that even the Philippine Navy itself, probably except its leadership, were caught by surprise by Sec. Lorenzana's statement.

So questions here now are: does the Philippine Navy's own Technical Working Group (TWG) and Defense Acquisition System Assessment Team (DASAT) already confirmed that the best choice for them is the Improved Kilo-class? What does their own initial assessment of the different  submarines offer say? Are the technical specifications for the submarine even done as of yesterday? Did the Submarine Acquisition TWG and DASAT had a say when the government decided to go for a Russian solution?

All the questions above point on the participation of the PN's own TWG and DASAT teams, which, as far as MaxDefense's sources are concerned, appear to be non-existent. So if that is the case, what is the point of having these technical teams working to make assessments and decisions on what the AFP should acquire if there are people who decide on their own without getting to at least hear the voice of these technical teams?

Normally the AFP uses a system where it analyze the offers provided to them based on different parameters through a scoring system, and weighing the pros and cons of each system until they can find the best solution for their needs. Did the government even consider what the results of these analysis are?

It appears to MaxDefense that the decision to go for Russian submarines might be more of a financial and political decision rather than following the Philippine Navy's professional recommendation. That soft-loan offer appears to really have made the Philippine government discard whatever the Philippine Navy's technical groups have to say, since all their recommendation would go to waste if there is no money for the government to pay for the submarines.

Political decision was also very evident, due to the push of Pres. Duterte to have close political and military relationship with Russia. Despite the Philippines having Memorandum of Agreements with France, Germany and South Korea regarding the supply of submarines, it was very obvious that the government is championing the Russians, emphasizing the memorandum that the Philippines have with them when in reality it is not exclusive to the Russians. Just a few days ago, executives from Russia's Rostec and Rosoboronexport met Pres. Duterte to discuss improving working and business relations. These 2 Russian companies handle the export of arms and weapons including submarines on behalf of the Russian government and the shipbuilder/manufacturer.


Aside from Russia's Improved Kilo-class, Germany's Type 209/1400mod (top), France's Scorpene-class (middle) and South Korea's Chang Bogo-class (below) are among those said to be competing for the Philippine Navy's Submarine Acquisition Project.
Credits to original owners and sources of the 3 photos.


MaxDefense's Recommendations:


1. On Acquisition:
It appears that the government is really in a position where it would be difficult for them to finance the submarine acquisition project without any loan or financing assistance from the source's government or shipbuilder.

Thus, due to monetary concerns, it is very likely that the Philippine government will convince, or even coerce the PN's Submarine Acquisition TWG, DASAT, and even the Submarine Group leadership itself just to push them to agree on acquiring the Improved Kilo-class submarine from Russia.

That done, they really have no choice if you look at it based on history, since this is exactly what happened during the Frigate Acquisition Project when the Technical Inspection Acceptance Committeee (TIAC) and Project Management Team (PMT) were coerced by certain DND officials and by the PN leadership to agree with the shipbuilder's program and design changes. And it can simply happen again this time to the Submarine Acquisition Project's TWG and DASAT.

So, if that happens, all they have to do is accept the plan to acquire the Improved Kilo-class submarine, but make sure that these submarines would be thoroughly checked and inspected throughout the manufacturing phase in Russia to maintain quality, as well as improving the submarines by making modifications to make it capable of accepting communication and data transfer to what the Philippine Navy and AFP in general uses.

Since the Philippine Navy is ultimately looking at acquiring more than just 2 submarines, they can let the current administration pass, and acquire the submarines that they really want after Duterte's leadership expires. These Improved Kilo-class would still be beneficial for the Philippine Navy in the long run, being a similar platform used by their potential enemy, and a platform that can actually be a real deterrent to the Chinese or any other aggressor.

If they believe they are very satisfied with the Improved Kilo-class submarines and would like to acquire more, then make it happen. But if they believe they need a different submarine to complement what they already have, then we just hope the new government would support what the Philippine Navy's Submarine Group has to say.



Can the Philippine Navy's Submarine Group hold on to their requirements and findings despite strong pressure from the national government, the defense department and even from their leadership to accept Russia's offer? We'll find out later on as the project proceeds as expected.
Credits to a MaxDefense source for providing the SG's insignia.



2. On Maintenance and Training:

Since Vietnam is also a user of the Improved Kilo-class submarine having acquired 6 just a few years ago, it is wise for the Philippine Navy to improve its ties with Vietnam, and get them to agree on a training, maintenance, and cooperation agreement for the Improved Kilo-class submarines.

Vietnam has decades of experience in dealing with the Russians, and are very proficient in making sure they get to have a maintenance facility in their own land. Thus it is expected that Vietnam may have the expertise too, or will have them soon, in maintaining the submarines without too much reliance on Russian shipyards.

A similar agreement with India would also be beneficial, being another Kilo-class submarine user and a potential strategic partner of the Philippines in the future.

Aside from that, Vietnam is now building its own submarine rescue ship, to provide support for their fleet of Russian submarines. The rescue ship are expected to be completed soon, and are designed to exactly fit the requirements of the Improved Kilo-class. While the Philippines should plan on having its own submarine rescue capability, a tie-up with Vietnam on this regard is a good investment while also strengthening relations with our neighbour.

A similar agreement may also be made with Singapore, which also has the capability, and allow the Philippine Navy to have options in case of emergency.


Vietnam also operates the Improved Kilo-class submarine (top) and is building a submarine rescue ship (above) to support their fleet of submarines in case of emergencies.
Photo taken from NavyRecognition (submarine) and 189shipbuilding.com.vn (submarine rescue ship)




3. On Dealing with the US and other Partners:

Once the Russian submarines are already with the Philippines, the US has no choice but to accept the reality. The decision to buy Russian submarines may not be a strong reason to degrade the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty as well as other defense agreements, but it is expected that the US may have the option to impose their Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) policy, which they would impose on US companies dealing with the Philippines, or investing and contributing to the economy of the Philippines. So far the Philippines has not been exempted by the Americans on this policy.


Implementing CAATSA or not, it is expected that the US will continue to work together with the AFP, and may even ask for access to these Russian-made submarines.

The Philippine Navy and the AFP in general should use its wit in this regard. While it is inevitable that the Americans may have access to Philippine submarines, the PN should be forceful enough to get the Americans to share their library of acoustic signatures especially for warships and submarines of the Chinese Navy and the China Coast Guard. This enables them to immediately know everyone in the region without doing the hardwork themselves.

The Philippine Navy should also ask for the assistance of the US and its strategic partners in training on submarine operations, which is expected to be different from what the Russians would be teaching them. This allows the PN to get the best of both worlds, and applying them for their benefit.



Summary:

1. Submarine Acquisition Project


End User: Philippine Navy (Submarine Group)
Modernization Phase: RA 10349 Revised AFP Modernization Program HORIZON 2 (still to be confirmed due to vagueness by the Philippine government on this)

ABC: Php20,000,000,000.00 per submarine based on PN's previous proposals

First post by MaxDefense12 June 2018

Comments

  1. I agree with the conclusion max had to say on this submarine acquisition. All is well and good. Having these submarines are better than not having any at all.

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  2. The improved kilo class sub is among the best diesel sub in the world, I am sure it would be a great addition to the AFP's capability...I think having good relationship with Russia (Putin) will give an insurance to DU30 that in case and for some reason some nut in US of A will try to pull off an "arab spring" type of operation to depose him, Mr. Putin will be there and back him up as with the case of Assad in Syria. DU30 is clearly playing both west and Russia on his hands, and it is very well played.

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  3. The Americans have no choice to accept that their not helping much in modernizing PH....worst their congress is too much hold on sales of military armament to their allies even they consider ALLIES......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The ARE helping but the problem were not doing or part of the end.

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    2. What do you mean by our end? The Philippine can't provide military presence as that of the US, and the US knew that going in, further more Balikatan continues. the US has access to AFP stations as long as they are invited by the AFP. their vessels and aircraft are allowed to access ports and bases. as long as procedures are met. the US has provided the Philippines with new assets but most of which are good enough for front line action, the largest asset the US has provided for the PN are old coast guard cutters, the Chinese Type 056 corvette can take out all 3 without any problems. and you say we are not doing our end. how can we confront a common enemy that can kill our entire force of major ship combatants with one ship?

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    3. US is helping but not good enough, they always treat us like beggars giving us pennies while they provide billions of dollars of military aid to countries like egypt and pakistan...thus we have to do what is needed to protect our territory...buying russian is a very welcome development

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  4. IMO, I think the Philippines should make the GRAB for the Russian Improved Kilo class SSK or Amur class SSK. The reason being is that NO European or Asian submarine making country is going to offer Soft loans that Russia dose all the time. On top of that, Russia imports the skill sets, technology and know-how on building SSK submarines. Also, they include the Training, weapons and infrastructure support with the cost of the Submarine. Above all, the price is within the Philippines budget because if the Philippines went with European or Asian SSK subs, they won't have money left over for Training, weapons, support, supply and even paying for submarine crews.

    The Improved Kilo 636/Amur class SSK would give the Philippines capabilities such as ASW, ASUW, ISR, Special forces support and Land attack capability. The Submarines can be used to conduct ISR missions on your enemy and even land or extract special forces. Since the Improved Kilo/Amur class SSK have Land Attack capability, this would force China to think twice and long about taking Islands. You can park an Improved Kilo 636/ Amur class SSK in the Sulu and Celebes Seas and threaten China's islands in the south China sea with the Kalibr 3M-14E Club-S land-attack missiles. This would force China to think twice and maybe get china to back off. On top of that an Improved Kilo 636/Amur class SSK could be used to choke off China's access to those islands and strangle them. Knowing that China's ASW capabilities are not the greatest, this would give the Philippines a huge advantage.

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  5. In my opinion the Navy is at a crossroads that can be compared to the 1986 senate when they decided on the fate of the US bases. The government must CHOOSE wisely for this will have short and long term consequences after the decision is made. For me I find the offer very enticing and after reading the blog the PROS outweigh the cons. My concerns is that we are moving the submarine project on shaky grounds - incomplete doctrine, lack of base housing and maintenance facilities, no knowledge of non western equipment and problems of logistics and rescue. Hope this will all be addressed while the submarine is being built. The other issue is how the institution of the Philippine Navy is being bypassed just to satisfy the legacy of the CiC and the FOiC the good of one rather than the many. This should not be done not to our money and especially not at the cost of oue soldiers lives. Long live the Philippine Navy. PS I glad its not kimchi and I hope Russian won't shortchanged us the way those kimchi did to us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. gone US bases. now china at our doorstep. big mistake by estrada and company. there was a power vacuum. another problem w/ russian submarines. sanctions from US trading partner

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  6. The game changer is the club s cruise missile. Highly unlikely the west will sell us cruise missiles. The other game changer is the soft loan bomb. The US will welcome this development. Anything that would throw a monkey wrench to china's plans is ok for them. Btw, it would cost less to the US if they just let prrd finish his term. The rp isnt exactly a geopolitically aggressive country toward the US. The rp would suffer more from chinese intervention than the US.

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  7. But if there is no offer made by Russia (to offer soft loan for the acquisition of the submarine), just like what you said on you're blog, a Miracle is needed to just happen this project. So, it would be best to pursue this acquisition, not every time we have a chance like this.

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  8. if we buy from the russians, aren't we courting trouble considering that there is an US embargo against them?

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  9. Project 636M is the worlds stealthiest submarine.It is also called by NATO as "Black Hole" because of its performance and stealthiness. It can also detect submarine 3-5 times much greater that it can detect to itself.It can also proved that it can destroy los Angeles class nuclear powered attack submarine.It can strike land targets by firing club S missiles.So we must buy it not because it can counter PLA navy ships and submarines but in its performance. It can strike land targets so it is useful for our fight against terrorist specially if they're hiding in difficult areas like mountains or hidden barrios.So that less casualties for our soldiers.But my suggestion is please raise the submarine acquisition budget because not only submarine itself can be considered to this situation but also ammunitions, training of crews,maintenance, submarine bases and submarine training simulators. So it can cost more than thrice to the given budget

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. using subs and multimillion dollar cruise missiles for insurgents concealed under wooden houses is out-of-this-world.. cheapo dummy bombs from air assets will do the trick

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    2. who said subs will be used against insurgents?

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  10. As far as Trump's administration is concerned, I think there will be no issue with Philippines having good relations with Russia and buying military hardware for that matter, in fact Trump's camp would probably like to normalize relations with Russia (Putin) but libtards in the USA and Europe are always trying to prevent it and put a wedge between USA and Russia...I think USA under Trump is more concerned with China than Russia.

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  11. Why don't we buy corvettes and Offshore Patrol Vessels instead of subs we can't afford in the first place?

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  12. what about economic sanctions from USA. patay gutom pilipinas. i think duterte is recklesss. may germany, brazil korea and so many others out there. bakit russia pa.

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    Replies
    1. it will not happen, u have done it to other asian country.

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    2. kasi, walang budget pambili sa mga western type submarines dahil mahal nga

      put sanctions on Philippines and US will lose all influence it has on Philippines, they will just push us further to the Russian influence or perhaps the chinese...they have to remember the strategic importance of the Philippines before they think of such sanctions

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  13. Good decision by the Government to pick Russian made rather than of other builders and in this case we limit our relationship to the US, Australia and Western countries which gave the Philippines a disadvantage in economy and Political aspects.

    Goodluck PN!

    Salute Mr. LORENZANA!

    ReplyDelete
  14. 4 reasons why I oppose this move to acquire Russian submarines;
    1. Submarine acquisition should not be a priority now. We need more surface ships like frigates than submarines right now;
    2. The government should consider cheaper mobile land based platforms that can reach Chinese artificial islands from Palawan like Ukraine's Grom;
    3. Definitely, we should not buy sophisticated weaponries from Russia. Russia is now a full-time China stooge;
    4. Russia has very poor support record.

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  15. As my opinion is for long years we are relying on foreign powers for our protection maybe its the right time for Philippine people to have their own..we are not buying this new equipment for preparation for war or preparation to any states,it is time for us to equipt our navies which is behind in our regions,,we need to be respected as nation with capable arm forces with our own initiative all have advantage and dis advantage of course,,we need to think for our own good before any other then the world will understand it soon.

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  16. I'd go with these Kilo class subs for the reasons pointed out: (1) there are no reasonable financial alternative at this point and time and starting the PN at this late stage of its technical development is sound strategy, (2) the concern about friendly fire from allied military assets can be avoided when proper communication is made with the PN who can designate areas where PN Kilos are operating, (3) the US will not nullify nor degrade its defense treaty with the Philippines for its purchase of Kilos. In fact, the US will see Philippine acquisitions of major military platforms as additional alliance military upgrade in the region, (4) having military systems armed with cruise missiles that can reach out into China's inland or being able to launch against China's naval and air bases from safe distances is good strategic asset in the geopolitical equation with China, something that would be unavailable with allied built subs (and despite what Korea claims will be able to provide in several years but, claims are just claims at this point) and, (5) if ease of service is more available with the current alliance, the fourth submarine and on can be purchased from one of the allies while the PN works with India and Israel for advisory and maintenance for the Kilos.

    There are 75 Kilos out there being operated by various countries and most are still in operation. This indicates the these submarines have mechanical longevity and perhaps adequate Russian support. If these were lemons, many of them would have been retired by now.

    ReplyDelete
  17. indonesia make chanbogo subs (type 209 class)
    buy it from indonesia
    we will give best price cause we are friends

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. nope, it is still south korea building these submarines, indonesia do not have the capability to build subs as of yet

      Delete

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