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The Philippine Army received their first batch of upgraded M113A2 APCs. So which is which?

They KAAV7A1s are finally here!

The Philippine Navy (Marines) will soon be having their own AAVs. No more hitchhiking on USMC AAVs!

Wildcats arriving soon!

The Philippine Navy's will soon be getting their AgustaWestland AW159 Mk.220 Wildcat naval combat helicopters!

Coming soon!

MaxDefense continues to monitor the impending launch of the PN's new frigate BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150)

The waiting game is on

With the PAF confirming its order for S-70i Black Hawks, all we can do now is wait for the 1st batch this year.

Looks like a certain group is asking for new aircraft!

MaxDefense will discuss more about this in its next blog entry coming soon!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Upgraded Jacinto-class patrol vessels PS-35 and PS-36 to re-enter Philippine Navy service soon

The Philippine Navy's Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel (JCPV) Upgrade Phase 3 Combat Systems Alignment project has been going on for years, with both Phases 3A and 3B had their contracts awarded to their respective winning proponents as early as early 2016.

But after a very long delay that can attributed to all sides of the project, it looks like we're getting some light at the end of the tunnel. Not full, but somehow very much needed to boost the current state of the Philippine Navy.

MaxDefense got confirmation that at least two of the three Jacinto-class patrol vessels, namely the BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35) and BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36) will both be entering service with the Philippine Navy soon, with PS-36 even be reaccepted into service as part of the Philippine Navy's 121st Founding Anniversary celebrations this May 2019.

The BRP Emilio Jacinto as of 18 May 2019. Photo provided by and credited to MaxDefense community member Garry Borromeo during the HQPN Open House. Credits belong to him.

Note: for further information regarding the ships and the projects, you may refer to these older blog entries which previously discussed the JCPV Phase 3A and 3B projects:

BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36):

The BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36) had its upgrade under the Phase 3A project, with the United Kingdom's Ultra Electronics said to be officially completing the upgrade works on the ship as of last week.

Apparently Ultra Electronics passed the Harbour Acceptance Test (HAT) and Sea Acceptance Tests (SAT) conducted by the Philippine Navy's Project Management Team (PMT) and Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee (TIAC), which is a prerequisite for the TIAC to accept the completed product in preparation for official hand-over to the Philippine Navy's end-user.

MaxDefense was able to view an actual video from the gunnery tests, wherein the new Ultra Electronics Fire Control System controlling the MSI Defence DS25 25mm gun system at the ship's fantail to fire multiple rounds at more than 1400 meters distance, with a 100% hit rate.

The PS-36 now has a new Fire Control System suite from Ultra Electronics, a new Kelvin Hughes Sharpeye X-band surface-search radar system to replace the existing Sperry Marine Bridge Master E radar installed in 2005. It also has a new Electro-Optical / Infra-Red (EO/IR) targeting camera system, most likely the Ultra Electronics Series 1700. This replaced the existing system from Radamec.

The Ultra Electronics Series 1700 EO/IR camera, which is most likely the one used by Ultra Electronics for the JCPV Upgrade Phase 3B project. Photo taken from Ultra Electronic's brochures.

It also has a newly repaired Oto Melara 76mm/62cal Compact naval gun with a new Philippine Navy-supplied gun barrel from Oto Melara, as well as a newly refurbished MSI DS25 25mm naval gun system, with now both working more efficiently and perform better than before.

Gun barrel from an Oto Melara 76/62 Compact naval gun. Photo taken from RAN Armements Depot website.

Based on sources' information, the BRP Apolinario Mabini could be part of the actual celebrations of the Philippine Navy anniversary, one of the reasons why the PN wanted it to be delivered early this month.

BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35):

The lead ship of the Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel had a separate upgrade package under the JCPV Upgrade Phase 3B Combat Systems Alignment project, which was awarded to Propmech Corporation - Saab AB Joint Venture.

Being a JV with Saab, it was expected that Saab would be supplying most of the electronic and combat systems-related scope of works.

The ship is now equipped with a new X-band surface search radar system from Italy's GEM Elettronica, as well as a new Saab EOS-500 electro-optical/infra-red (EO/IR) camera system to replace the ageing existing system from Radamec.

The Saab EOS-500 EO/IR camera system, which was used on the BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35). Photo taken from Saab's website.

The newly repaired Oto Melara gun aboard the BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35). The new Saab EOS-500 EO/IR camera and radar antenna for the GEM Elettronica X-bad SSR can be seen from this angle. Photo shared to MaxDefense by community member Garry Borromeo. Credits belong to him.

The ship is also now equipped with Saab's 9LV system to allow control of the weapon systems. But this is the interesting part. Originally it was believed that Saab will only provide their standard 9LV Fire Control System, which is the most appropriate product in their line-up based on the technical specifications of the project.

But MaxDefense sources confirmed that Saab instead went overboard, and installed a compact version of the 9LV Combat Management System (CMS) similar to those used by the Visby-class corvettes of the Swedish Navy.

The Saab 9LV Compact Combat Management System, which is said to be installed on the BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35). Photo taken from Saab's website.

This means the BRP Emilio Jacinto is actually the first ship of the Philippine Navy to be equipped with a proper Combat Management System, which will actually allow Philippine Navy personnel to train on the ship on CMS operations while incoming ships with CMS like the Jose Rizal-class are still under construction.

Like the other ships of the class, the PS-35 also got its Oto Melara 76mm/62cal Compact naval gun repaired and had its barrel replaced, while also rehabilitating its MSI Defence DS25 25mm naval gun system.

The ship conducted its HAT and SAT recently, although there could be some delays on the ship's acceptance due to some issues that MaxDefense would prefer not to discuss for OPSEC reasons. But the ship is expected to be returned to service with the Philippine Navy by June 2019.

In fact, the ship was actually among those displayed by the Philippine Navy during the headquarters Open House event on 18 May 2019 wherein visitors were allowed to visit the PN headquarters including the asset displays which includes PS-35. The photo below was from the said event.

The PS-35 has a newly repaired Oto Melara 76mm gun (right) as part of the Phase 3B Combat Systems Alignment upgrade. Photo taken by and credited to MaxDefense community member Garry Borromeo. Credits belong to him.

The MSI Defence DS25 25mm naval gun system aboard the BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35). All 3 ships had their guns repaired and realigned, with this specific unit said to have hit targets accurately during tests. Photo shared to MaxDefense by community member Garry Borromeo. Credits belong to him.

How's BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37)?

While two ships of the class are being prepared for return to service with the Philippine Fleet, another sistership will remain in the dockyard for several months more.

BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37) is scheduled for more rehabilitation work, including a re-powering job that will replace its existing Pielstick diesel engines, and other works on its mechanical and electrical systems as part of the JCPV Phase 2 Upgrade works.

MaxDefense was informed that has also received the same upgrade as the BRP Apolinario Mabini, since both ships were covered by the JCPV Phase 3A Combat Systems Alignment project. The only difference is that works are still ongoing.

At best, MaxDefense expects this ship to be back in service hopefully by early 2020.

x  x  x

The Philippine Navy is currently having a shortage of naval assets that they could use not just to patrol the country's territorial waters, exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and territorial interests, despite the Philippine Navy appearing to deny it.

The re-entry of two assets into the fleet means a good relief the Philippine Navy and country as it allows more coverage of areas to be patrolled, as well as for use in other engagements like joint exercises with allies and partners, goodwill visits and exposures, and allow maintenance time for other assets.

MaxDefense hopes to see a ready-to-sail BRP Apolinario Mabini in the coming few days, while also wishing to the success in returning the BRP Emilio Jacinto as early as possible.

Photo shared to MaxDefense by community member Garry Borromeo. Credits belong to him.


Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel (JCPV) Combat Systems Alignment Upgrade Phase 3A and 3B

* End User: Philippine Navy (Offshore Combat Force)


         Phase 3A: 2 ships
         Phase 3B: 1 ship

* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 1 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:

         Phase 3A: Php630,637,163.60
         Phase 3B: Php224,000,000.00

Acquisition Mode
        Phase 3A: Public Bidding 
        Phase 3B: Negotiated Procurement

* SARO Release: 
        Phase 3A: SARO-BMB-D-16-0017282 dated 25 May 2016 (partial)
        Phase 3B: TBA

* Winning Proponent:
        Phase 3A: Ultra Electronics Ltd. (United KIngdom)
        Phase 3B: Propmech Corporation (Philippines) - Saab AB (Sweden) Joint Venture

Product for Delivery: 

       Phase 3A: Ultra Electronics FCS, X-Band 2D SSR, Ultra Series 1700 EO/IR
       Phase 3B: Saab 9LV CMS, GEM Elettronica X-band 2D SSR, Saab EOS-500 EO/IR

* Contract Price:
       Phase 3A: Php498,001,906.33
       Phase 3B: Php224,000,000.00

* First post by MaxDefense: 15 January 2015 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

FF-150 it is! Future BRP Jose Rizal shows its hull number...and TASS concerns

Note: this is a MaxDefense shortblog. thus the length of the entry. 

A lot of things have happened since MaxDefense made an exclusive post in our Facebook community page last 25 January 2019 on what the ship's name (which automatically names the class name) and pennant number of the first new frigate being built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) in their yard in Ulsan, South Korea.

This was based on a photo of the frigate Jose Rizal as of April 2019. In this photo, the pennant number pained in the hull is not yet there. Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense by source.

Many did not believe what we reported and confirmed,until the Secretary of National Defense (SND) himself announcement later on that the first ship HHI is constructing (internally labelled as "P159" by HHI and PN in their project name), is to be named "Jose Rizal" (the "BRP" will be added once the ship is commissioned officially to the Philippine Navy). 

But so far, none even from the DND and the PN have confirmed our previous announcement that the ship's hull/pennant number will be "FF-150" for the first ship, and "FF-151" for the second frigate which will be named "Antonio Luna". 

Now that HHI has finally painted the ship's hull as the ship's launching comes near, it is very clear now if what we previously announced was right or wrong.

See for yourself.

As the launching date for the HHI-built frigate Jose Rizal is nearing, the ship is finally getting clearer, including its hull/pennant number. 

It should be noted that based on the latest Philippine Navy ship classification standard which was revised on April 2016, frigates in the Philippine Navy will have the prefix "FF". So in this case, the future BRP Jose Rizal will have the pennant number FF-150.

The Main Concern:

With the stern of the ship now visible, MaxDefense raises this question to the Philippine Navy: if the Towed Array Sonar System (TASS) is a Fitted for But Not With (FFBNW) subsystem for the Jose Rizal-class frigates, then why is the stern of the ship so clean, without even an opening provided for the use of a TASS in the future? Based on previous documents from the Philippine Navy, the original Technical Working Group (TWG) selected the Thales CAPTAS-2 towed array sonar system, and is actually looking at the newer and smaller CAPTAS-4 as an alternative.

Edit: we'll replace the photo of the Incheon-class frigate's stern since there are some quarters making noise that the ship doesn't have TASS. Anyway...

Warships with openings for Towed Array Sonar, in this case, specifically using the Thales CAPTAS family which have large tow bodies that require large holes in the stern. Top photo shows the smaller CAPTAS-4 in the Bergamini-class, and bottom photo shows the larger and older CAPTAS-2 system in a Royal Navy warship.
Credits to owners/sources of the photos.

In fact, the Philippine Navy even included in its Technical Specs that the frigate shall have space and power provision for a Towed Array Sonar, even indicating the size of the projector towed body for the shipbuilder to consider. The size provided actually was based on the Thales CAPTAS-2's towed body.

Photo taken from Supplementary Bid Bulletin DND/PN-FAP-16-01 dated 02 February 2016, months before the bidding date. Document from DND website.

Here's more evidence: this came from a section plan of the frigate. It shows that there is no room for a TASS below the helicopter deck, and instead the space is for Steering Gear Emeregency Steering Room. 

No TASS space below the helicopter deck just behind the stern. This came from HHI's own drawing of the frigate.
Photo exclusively shared by a MaxDefense contributor who saw our discussions.

The ship's launching is approaching fast, which is expected to be sometime between 17-19 May 2019. MaxDefense will make the final confirmation soon, as everything can still change depending on the availability of DND officials to grace the event in South Korea, or depending on circumstances in HHI's yard.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Philippine Army receives first batch of upgraded M113A2 RCWS-equipped APC from Elbit Systems

Before everything, MaxDefense would like to thank its community member, Gobi Castle and in part by Buenabe June for raising this to our attention after raising it in our partner page, Philippine Defense Discussions @ Facebook.

On 11 May 2019, GMA News' reporter Raffy Tima posted a report and an accompanying video from his Twitter account on the deployment of additional Philippine Army (PA) assets in Jolo, Sulu to beef up security before the upcoming Mid-Term Elections this coming Monday 13 May 2019.

Cropped from GMA's Raffy Tima's video, showing one of the Philippine Army's M113A2 APC with RCWS disembarking on its own from the Philippine Navy's Bacolod City-class LSV BRP Bacolod City (LS-550).

The video shows one of five M113A2 armored personnel carriers equipped with a 12.7mm machine gun on a remote controlled weapon station (RCWS) as it disembarks from the Philippine Navy Bacolod City-class logistics support vessel BRP Bacolod City (LS-550) . A corresponding photo was also posted by GMA News as profile photo of their report in their Facebook page.

The said photo shows that there are slight differences with the Philippine Army's existing fleet of RCWS-armed M113A2 APCs, and the units that arrived in Jolo.

Upon closer inspection, and upon checking with our sources, it was confirmed that the Philippine Army is indeed in possession of additional M113A2 APCs with RCWS.


In 2017, the Department of National Defense (DND) awarded a contract worth Php1.051 billion with Israel's Elbit Systems Land & C4I for the M113 APC Firepower Upgrade Project of the Philippine Army. 

This project involves the upgrade of 44 units of existing M113A2 armored personnel carriers of the Mechanized Infantry Division by equipping them with a new Remote Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS), and converting 5 existing M113A2 APCs to Armored Mortar Carriers. Both upgrades will include installation of battlefield computers connected to a networked system as part of the PA's C4ISTAR system.

Information received by MaxDefense is that Elbit will supply the already proven Dragon Overhead Remote Controlled Weapon Station (ORCWS) mounted with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun, which already proved its worth during the Battle of Marawi in 2017, and in other skirmishes on operations against terrorists groups.

More information can be read from MaxDefense's previous, more comprehensive blog regarding the project which can be found on the link below:

"Elbit Systems Wins Contract to Upgrade Philippine Army M113A2 with RCWS and Mortars" - first posted on 14 June 2018

Elbit Systems will deliver the RCWS to the Philippines, and installation and modifications on the existing M113A2 platforms will be done in the Philippines by a combined team from Elbit Systems and Philippine Army's Mechanized Infantry Division.

This set-up allows the MID's own maintenance personnel to be familiar with the installation and the entire RCWS system, enabling them to properly identify and conduct maintenance works without relying on Elbit's personnel.

Initial Delivery Confirmed:

MaxDefense previously mentioned in our past blog entry that Elbit Systems will deliver a first batch of around 19 vehicles by February 2019.

But this appears to have been moved, and on March 2019, MaxDefense received information that only 17 will be delivered starting April 2019. Originally some of the vehicles were supposed to be demonstrated to Pres. Duterte during the Philippine Army's anniversary in March 2019, but the plan was shelved.

With the photo of the M113A2 with RCWS in Jolo coming out and observations made by community members, we double-checked our sources just now.

It appears that Elbit Systems was able to deliver the first five (5) units of upgraded M113A2 with Dragon 12.7mm ORCWS only on the last week of April 2019, which were formally accepted by the Mechanized Infantry Division.

The M113A2 APCs with RCWS delivered by the Philippine Navy to Jolo, all five units feature the same new Elbit Dragon ORCWS mounts. The raised mount can also be seen at this angle.
Photo shared by a MaxDefense contributor who wish to remain anonymous.

Twelve (12) other units, which were part of the 17 units for first batch delivery, will be handed-over to the Mechanized Infantry Division this coming June 2019.

Elbit Systems will deliver the rest of the 27 units with RCWS in 2 more batches, with all expected to be delivered to the PA MID before the end of 2019.


Among those observed in the units that were deployed to Jolo was the positioning of the RCWS. Viewed from the front, the RCWS is position in the center where the cupola is located. The position is different on those delivered by Elbit Systems a few years ago, which are located on the right side of the armored vehicle.

Here is a side-by-side photo showing the (left) ex-Belgian M113A2+ APC armed with the Elbit Dragon ORCWS, and (right) the ex-US Army M113A2 APC armed with the updated Elbit Dragon OCRWS. It is apparent here that the ex-Belgian vehicles have their RCWS off-center to the right, while the ex-US Army vehicles have the RCWS in a more centered position. Side by side photo posted by Buenabe June in Philippine Defense Discussion @ Facebook page, using screengrab from Raffy Tima's Twitter video.

This is due to the position of cupola in the different M113s in service with the Philippine Army. The ones delivered by Elbit Systems a few years ago were former Belgian Land Component (Belgian Army) M113A2 vehicles, wherein the cupolas are located off-center towards the right of the vehicle based on Belgium's requirements, to allow for an extra Commander's cupola just behind the driver's hatch. 

The current M113A2s being upgrade by Elbit Systems are former US Army models, whose cupolas are centered vis-a-vis the vehicle's width, as they do not have the extra Commander's cupola found on Belgian examples.

The position of RCWS in the 2 different M113A2 vehicles are apparent in these photos, with the top photo showing the ex-US Army variant with the RCWS in the center, and the ex-Belgian variant with the RCWS on the right side. The ex-US Army example doesn't have an extra Commander's hatch behind the driver's hatch, while the ex-Belgian model has an extra Commander's hatch found just behind the driver's hatch. Top photo from Raffy Tima's video, while bottom photo taken from the late John Chua's collection.

Another observation was that the RCWS delivered then and now look different.

Upon checking with our sources, it appears that the RCWS delivered by Elbit Systems to the Philippine Army this year are updated models of the Dragon ORCWS, which uses a different body with improvements over the older variant.

The newer Dragon ORCWS variant does not have an ammunition chute, and were raised further from the vehicle by using a longer "neck", raising the gun's elevation several centimeters higher than the older variant.

The new variant are also painted olive drab, while the older RCWS are painted in black.

Based on our sources, the newer RCWS also uses a better, updated camera with better video and photo resolutions than the previous model, which means clearer videos for feeding the gun operator and connection to the information sharing network.

The ex-Belgian M113A2+ armored vehicles supplied by Elbit Systems also have smoke grenade launchers in the front end of the vehicle, whule ex-US Army M113A2 used for the current RCWS upgrade do not have them. It is also clear that Elbit's upgrade did not include the installation of smoke grenade launchers on these vehicles.

Only ex-US Army variants are among the 44 units being upgraded by Elbit Systems in the current project.
Another comparison photo showing: an ex-US Army M113A2 without a smoke grenade launcher and ex-Belgian M113A2+  with a smoke grenade launcher system (top), the ex-Belgian M113A2+ with RCWS and smoke grenade launchers (middle), and the ex-US Army M113A2 upon their presentation after arriving from the US a few years ago (bottom). The one in Jolo does not have a smoke grenade launching system, and are definitely among the ex-US Army units upgraded by Elbit recently. Photo shared and posted by Buenabe June in Philippine Defense Discussions @ Facebook.


M113 APC Firepower Upgrade Project of the Philippine Army
End User: Philippine Army (Mechanized Infantry Division)

Quantity:   * Lot 1 - Supply and Installation of 12.7mm RCWS (44 nos.)
                   * Lot 2 - Upgrade to Armored Mortar Carrier (5 nos)

Modernization Phase: RA 10349 Revised AFP Modernization Program HORIZON 1 (2nd List)

Project ABC: Php1,051,650,000.00

Acquisition Mode: Negotiated Procurement (Government-to-Government) between Philippines DND and Israel Ministry of Defense
SARO Release: SARO-BMB-D-17-0022354, released 29 November 2017

Winning Proponent: Elbit Systems Land & C4I (Israel)

Contract Price: Php1,051,650,000.00

First post by MaxDefense: 31 July 2017

Additional Information for Curious Readers:

It was discussed above that former Belgian Land Component M113A2 armored vehicles have the weapon cupola on the right side of the vehicle due to the presence of an extra Commander's hatch behind the driver's hatch.

So why is it that in the ex-Belgian M113A+ vehicles converted by Elbit Systems into Infantry Fighting Vehicles by installing the Elbit UT25 unmanned turret with 25mm gun, the turret is at the center of the vehicle vis-a-vis the width?

It can be answered by the photo below.

Modifications were made on the M113A2+ roof to allow Elbit to install the UT25 unmanned turret at the center of the vehicle rather than on the original cupola's position at the right side. This also allowed them to remove the Commander's hatch behind the driver's hatch. The steel plating can be seen just below the unmanned turret, which replaced the roof section that was cut during the upgrade works.
Photo taken from the late John Chua's collection.

It shows that there appears to be a modification done by Elbit Systems on the M113A2+ armored vehicle, wherein they cut the vehicle's roof section and replaced it with a new plating that allowed for the turret to be installed at the center and removing the extra Commander's hatch in the process.

Upon checking with our sources, the said modification was confirmed too.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Philippine Navy to receive new AW159 and KAAV-7A1 this May, to reach modernization milestones soon

After a long wait that involved project planning, procurement, and construction phases that spanned several years, the Philippine Navy (PN) was delighted to report that they are finally receiving two major weapon systems this May 2019, and will be formally inducted into service during their 121st Founding Anniversary celebrations.

These weapon systems are the AgustaWestland AW159 Mk. 220 Wildcat naval combat helicopters that were acquired under the Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition Project, and the Hanwha Defense Systems KAAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles acquired under the Amphibious Assault Vehicle Acquisition Project. Both projects are part of the Horizon 1 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP) initiated by the Aquino administration.

The AW159 Wildcat helicopters and KAAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles. Photos taken from and credited to Westleigh Bushell/Spotter Magazine (left) and Ahn Seung Bum/

Delivery of AW159 Wildcat helicopters:

Note: for more information about the project including a summary and detail updates on the project prior to delivery, you can refer to our main portal specific for the project:

“Leonardo AW159 Wildcat naval helicopter of the Philippine Navy” – specifically talks about the acquisition of the AW159 Wildcat

“The Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition Project (Horizon 1) of the Philippine Navy” – discusses the actual project prior to the selection of the product for delivery.

One of the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat bound for the PN, seen here mounted with a training torpedo round on April 2019.
Photo taken from and credited to UK plane spotter Liam Toohill (aviation.too).

The Philippine Navy ordered the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat naval combat helicopters after the Department of National Defense (DND) signed a contract with AgustaWestland (now part of Leonardo Group) for two units under a deal worth Php5.36 billion.

Originally the helicopters were supposed to be delivered on or before 29 September 2018 as stipulated in the contract, but Leonardo requested for a six-month time extension, with the delivery rescheduled to March 2019 and approved by the DND.

Due to circumstances, Leonardo can only deliver the helicopters by May 2019.

The first helicopter, with temporary UK serial number ZZ549 was first seen by British plane spotters on November 2018, while the second helicopter with temporary UK serial number ZZ550 was first seen by plane spotters on January 2019.

Both helicopters were used for training the air and ground crew of the Philippine Navy, which appears to have been trained pretty well by one of the most experienced Wildcat pilots in the UK.

The two AgustaWestland AW159 as they leave Yeovil for London-Stansted Airport for delivery preparation..
Photo taken by and credited to Westleigh Bushell and Spotter Magazine.

UK plane spotters and Dutch aviation media outlet Scramble Magazine confirmed on April 30 that the two helicopters were being flown from Leonardo’s facility in Yeovil to the London-Stansted Airport in preparation for delivery to the Philippines via a chartered civilian Antonov An-124 Ruslan strategic airlifter. The helicopters were disassembled to fit the transport aircraft, and was said to have left London-Stansted Airport on 05 May 2019 (UK standard time).

The aircraft carrying the helicopters is expected to reach Manila by 07 May 2019, although some additional information received by MaxDefense shows that trucks that will bring the helicopters from Manila to the Naval Aviation Group (NAG) facility in Danilo Atienza Air Base in Cavite City where the helicopters will be re-assembled and tested.

The two AgustaWestland AW159 Mk220 Wildcat naval helicopters for the Philippine Navy as they were prepared for delivery aboard a chartered Antonov An-124 Ruslan civilian heavy strategic airlifter.
Photos taken from and credited to Jojo Palma of Philippine Plane Spotters Group (PPSG).

** Update as of 07 May 2019:

They're finally home!

The An-124-100M Ruslan transport aircraft carrying the AW159s aeeived around 0340H 07 May 2019 in NAIA. Photos credited to Paolo Guinto (top) and John Bats (above), all from Philippine Plane Spotters Group FB page.

Delivery of KAAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles:

Another major project for delivery this month is the KAAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles from Hanwha Defense Systems of South Korea.

One of the KAAV-7A1 bound for the Philippines prior to its shipment last April 2019.
Photo taken from and credited to Ahn Seung-Bum / through Bemil @ Chosun Korean Defense Page.

These vehicles were ordered by the DND from Samsung Techwin (now Hanwha Defense Systems) in mid-2016 in a deal worth Php2.423 billion (US$55.553 million), and were supposed to be delivered in 2 batches starting 26 August 2018, although based on DND documents Hanwha committed to deliver the 1st batch of KAAV-7A1 by April 2018, and the 2nd batch by August 2018.

Hanwha Defense Systems was not able to meet their commitment nor their contractual deadline, and the last commitment they made as confirmed by the Philippine Navy’s Flag Officer in Command (FOIC) Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad to be March 2019.

One of the KAAV-7A1 bound for the Philippines during assembly at Hanwha Defense System's facility in Changwon, South Korea. Photo taken from and credited to Kim Dae Young / κΉ€λŒ€μ˜μ˜ M-Inside's Facebook page.

According to Korean news BizHankook   the first batch of 4 units of KAAV-7A1s were shipped by Hanwha Defense Systems to the Philippines on April 2019, although based on MaxDefense’s check with sources, it appears that the vehicles have not yet arrived and may only be on its way to the Philippines as of this writing.

This was later on confirmed too by Korean defense pages and Bemil Chosun Korean Defense Forum, which shared photos of at least two completed KAAV-7A1 vehicles said to be bound for the Philippines.

The photo shows that the vehicles are mounted with the standard manned turret based on the Cadillac Gage Up-Gunned Weapon Station for a 12.7mm M2HB or equivalent heavy machine gun and a Mk.19 or equivalent 40mm grenade launcher. The vehicles were pained in olive drab, and appears to be fitted with the Enhanced Applique Armor Kit (EAAK) at least on the front section. Since it is illogical to have a partial armouring, it is highly possible that the vehicles for the Philippine Marines will have the EAAK similar to those used by KAAV-7A1s used by the Republic of Korea Marine Corps (ROKMC).

A Philippine-bound KAAV-7A1 fitted with a Cadillac Gage Up-Gunned Weapon Station for a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher. It also shows what appears to be an incomplete installation of the Enhanced Applique Armor Kit (EAAK) that started on the front end. It remains to be seen how much of the vehicle will be covered by it.
Photo taken from and credited to Ahn Seung-Bum /

Two more major modernization projects of the Philippine Navy are entering major milestones in the next few weeks.

Launching of future BRP Jose Rizal:

The first one coming in this month is the launching of the lead ship of the Jose Rizal-class frigates, the future BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) with Project Code P159, which was confirmed by PN FOIC Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad during an interview, wherein he said the launching will be happening sometime between 17-19 May 2019 in Hyundai Heavy Industry’s naval shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea.

A scale model of the Jose Rizal-class frigates, as provided by HHI to the DND and PN.
Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense by one of our contributor.

The ship was born out of the Philippine Navy’s Frigate Acquisition Project, which is a Horizon 1 project under the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

It appears that the SND himself would be there, and it is also expected that the PN’s FOIC and other navy leaders would be there to attend the ceremonies.

Based on previous reports from the AFP and DND, as well as inputs from previous MaxDefense posts that were taken from different sources, the future BRP Jose Rizal had its first steel cutting ceremony on 01 May 2018, and the keel laying ceremony on 16 October 2018, is expected to be delivered to the Philippine Navy by 05 January 2020 (based on a delivery date of 1,095 calendar days from NTP release). This delivery date is still subject to changes, with the FOIC even mentioning March 2020 as an alternative delivery date.

Based on updated photos that MaxDefense received, the frigate is now almost ready for launching, with finishing work on the ship's exterior being done by workers, while we received info that work continues to be made inside the ship.

The future BRP Jose Rizal as it is on April 2019. Newer updates shows the finishing touches on the external parts of the ship already almost done, although a lot of subsystems including weapons and launchers, and sensors still need to be installed after the ship's launching.
Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense by sources, decision to blacken the rest of the ship as sources wanted it to still be confidential.

Keel Laying of future BRP Antonio Luna:

Another milestone scheduled to be reached this month is the keel laying ceremony for the second Jose Rizal-class frigate, the future BRP Antonio Luna with Project code P160, which will take place after the launching of the future BRP Jose Rizal. The keel laying and assembly of the future BRP Antonio Luna will be done on the same spot where the future BRP Jose Rizal was assembled.

The ship had its first steel cutting ceremony on 17 September 2018, and is expected to be launched by December 2019.

Previous announcements mentioned that the future BRP Antonio Luna is scheduled for delivery to the Philippine Navy by 1st quarter of 2021, although it appears that its possible for Hyundai Heavy Industries to deliver the ship by 4th quarter of 2020 based on their current performance.

Photo during the keel laying ceremony of the future BRP Jose Rizal in 2018. The same ceremony will be held for the keel laying ceremony of the future BRP Antonio Luna this month. Photo from HHI.

Delivery of Pohang-class corvette BRP Conrado Yap in June or July 2019:

Works are still underway in South Korea on the Pohang-class Flight III corvette to be handed-over to the Philippine Navy by the South Korean government, which is to be named BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39). 

The former ROKS Chunju (PCC-762) of the ROKN, will be the future BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) of the PN.

The transfer of the Pohang-class corvette is part of the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program. It is also expected to be the first Horizon 2 project of the Philippine Navy that will be delivered.

But while the current project is considered a Horizon 2 project, the transfer of a Pohang-class corvette actually spanned several years that started during the Horizon 1 phase, but was delayed due to the rejection by the Philippine Navy of the first Pohang-class corvette offered by the South Korean government due to its poor condition. Re-negotiations for a newer ship was made, and it was only in 2017 that an agreement was made between the Philippine and South Korean sides.

Philippine Navy officers and sailors are already in Busan, South Korea to train in preparation of taking over the ship. These training includes on-shore academic and technical courses, as well as at-sea on the job training with the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) aboard active Pohang-class corvettes, and STX Offshore & Shipbuilding.

An invitation during the send-off ceremonies for the first batch of officers and sailors to train in South Korea in preparation of taking-over the Pohang-class corvette provided by the South Korean government.
Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense by one of our contributor.

Previously MaxDefense reported that STX Offshore & Shipbuilding is the primary contractor on the rehabilitation works of the ship including providing the drydock, as well as the Weapons, Communications, Electronics, and Information Systems (WCEIS) works, while South Korean company Keumha Naval Technology Inc. (KHNT) handles the work on the ship's machinery and other repair works. Filipino company Apo Philtrade and Trading Services Inc. was contracted to provide the logistical requirements of the ship including consumables, furniture, among others.

Gun munitions appears to be provided in part by the Republic of Korea Navy, as well as purchased from South Korea's Poongsan. It also appears that the Philippine Navy will acquire some K6 12.7mm heavy machine guns from S&T Motiv. The ship won't have torpedoes with it when delivered, despite the torpedo launcher's availability.

Originally the timeline was for the ship to be delivered in 2018, but delays on the Philippine government's release of funding for works related on the ship pushed the schedule too long. Based on the latest information, the ship is scheduled to be officially handed-over, commissioned, and delivered to the Philippine Navy either within June or July 2019.

What's Expected Soon?

It would be noted that most of the upcoming assets were actually from the Horizon 1 phase, and it is expected to take several more years before the Philippine Navy can actually bear the fruits of the projects from the Horizon 2 phase. Out of 18 confirmed Horizon 2 projects of the PN, only 1 full project (Pohang-class corvette transfer) and 1 lot of another project (MPAC Batch 4 Combat Systems and Capability Upgrade) are awarded and contracted to proponents. That is a dismal accomplishment considering Horizon 2 has been in place for planned for since 2017, and approved for implementation since 2018. 

Also, a few more Horizon 1 and 2nd List of Horizon 1 projects are still being implemented until now, with the construction of the Multi-Purpose Attack Craft Batch 4 undetaken by Propmech Corporation-Lung Teh Shipbuilding Joint Venture expected to be completed within 2019.

MaxDefense looks forward on the Philippine Navy's 121st Founding Anniversary celebrations which will formally accept the AgustaWestland AW159 Mk.220 Wildcat naval helicopters and Hanwha Defense Systems KAAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles into service.