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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Philippine Army moves to improve its Riverine Capabilities

The Philippine Army (PA) has started to improve and modernize its riverine capabilities, which is among their existing capabilities that are not well known to the general public.

As part of the Revised AFP Modernization Program's Horizon 2 Phase, the Philippine Army has included the acquisition of Riverine Operations Equipment in their program. This involves the acquisition of 3 types of boats that could be used for riverine operations, which the Philippine Army wishes to improve on.

Special Forces operators with one of the first new Light Boat for the Philippine Army. Photo credited to the Philippine Army through their Facebook page.
The Philippine Army's Riverine Unit:
Unknown to many, the Philippine Army has a riverine unit that is attached with the Special Forces Regiment - Airborne (SFR-A), which the 4th Special Forces Battalion (Riverine), which are equipped with several small boats for the conduct of riverine operations and waterborne assault.

Currently the 4th SFB-R are equipped with several types of boats, mostly wooden locally-made boats including the Condor Scout and Support boats, motorized bancas, fibreglass-hulled assault boats, and the Australian-made airboats.

Due to age, it appears that many of the Condor Scout and Support boats that were acquired under Project Condor almost 10 years ago have some deficiencies that the Philippine Army wishes to improve on.




One of the Philippine Army's Condor Scout Boat (top), and the Assault Watercraft (above) which are in service with the Special Forces Regiment - Airborne. Photos taken from Wikipedia.

The Marawi Crisis in 2017 also proved to be another experience that showed the Philippine Army on the importance of riverine operations, considering Marawi City was just beside Lake Marawi, which was used by terrorists to enter and exit the city and conduct supply runs.

MaxDefense received information that the Philippine Army wishes to increase the number of its riverine forces, and that includes expanding its assets to enable the conduct of operating from water.


Modernizing the Philippine Army's Riverine Forces:
As part of its effort to modernize the unit, the Philippine Army has included the Riverine Operations Equipment Acquisition Project in the Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects list that was approved in-principle by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte in June 2018.

A budget of Php3,721,968,000.00 was allocated for the project, which consists of 3 sub-projects with the following details:

Lot 1: Light Scout Boats Acquisition Project: which originally called for 56 multipurpose light boats that can be used for a variety of missions including riverine patrol, utility, troop carrying. This was later on reduced to 52 boats with a budget of Php49,168,000.00



Photo taken from and credited to the Philippine Army.

Lot 2: Assault Boats Acquisition Project: this lot calls for the acquisition of 18 fibreglass-hulled assault boats that are armed with at least 3 machine guns and/or auotmatic grenade launchers. Allocated budget is Php2,368,800,000.00, or an average of Php131,600,000.00 per boat.

Lot 3: Support Boats Acquisition Project: these boats will be used for utilitarian missions including troop and supply transport, command and control, and may also be used to act as a "mother ship" for smaller boats especially in larger bodies of water. 8 boats are needed with a budget of Php1,304,400,000.00, or an average of Php163,050,000.00.

It remains to be seen if the Philippine Army will continue using the motorized bancas and Condor boats, although it is expected to be relegated to secondary roles.

For both Lots 2 and 3, no funding has been provided yet and it appears to be that they will be looking for other sources, including US military assistance to allow the acquisition to proceed.

Light Boats:
So far, it appears that the Lot 1 for Light Scout Boats are the only once that have moved forward. The Philippine Army has displayed the first unit, while also confirmed that a total of 52 boats will be delivered.


The Light Boat as displayed by the Philippine Army. The contract for the boats include the trailers as well.
Based on the photos showed publicly by the Philippine Army, the boats are around 5 to 6 meters long, and appears to be made of fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) similar to the small boats acquired recently by the Philippine Navy and Philippine National Police. They are powered by 2 outboard motors, and while it does not appear to have any weapons mounting, it appears possible to have one in the forward space.

The Philippine Army confirmed that the boat has a maximum speed of 25 knots and can carry 8 fully-equipped troops, although it appears to be similar in size to the existing Assault Watercraft boats. 

The boats are small enough for safe operations even on small rivers, but sturdy enough to operate in calm waters of larger bodies of water like lakes.

MaxDefense was also informed by sources that the boats were made locally, but we are still waiting for more information on which company built the boats.

Due to the small value of the project, the Philippine Army conducted the procurement on their own without the need to involve the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of the Department and National Defense (DND).

Assault Boats:
This is an interesting project of the Philippine Army due to the large amount of money allocated for the project to acquire 18 assault boats.

An average of Php131,600,000.00 was given for each assault boat. MaxDefense assumes that this does not include the weapons, which are normally acquired separately especially if they are manually operated.


In comparison, an unarmed Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC) of the Philippine Navy costs Php90,000,000.00, which means it is highly possible that the Philippine Army might be looking at acquiring boats similar to the MPAC in terms of size and capability. This would then allow the Philippine Army SFR-A to operate in coastal areas as well.

It remains to be seen though, since this is not impossible considering the Philippines is an archipelagic country surrounded mostly by water, and conducting assault from the water without the need to let the Philippine Marine Corps or the Philippine Navy do it is something the Philippine Army may wanted to have.

As long as the boats can be moved by land using trailer trucks, then it becomes even more reasonable.



An MPAC of the Philippine Navy. The Philippine Army's budget for its Assault Boats costs around Php131.6 million each, which is greater than the Philippine Navy's MPAC which, when unarmed, costs around Php90-100 million each. Credits to original source of photo.


With the Philippine government having difficulty in securing funding for several defense projects, and even diverting those they already allocated for other projects, MaxDefense is not positive that the Lots and 3 of the Riverine Operations Equipment Acquisition Project may bear fruit anytime soon.

At best, MaxDefense believes that funding could only be made by 2022, since those projects originally scheduled for 2020 were already pushed back to 2021.


MaxDefense will continue to monitor these 3 sub-projects, which our readers would find in our modernization monitoring website extension, Philippine Defense Resource, once the resource pages for these 3 projects are up.



Project Summaries:

Riverine Operations Equipment Acquisition Project Lot 1 - Light Boats

Note: edit as of 29 July 2020


* End User: Philippine Army (Special Forces Regiment - Airborne)

Quantity: 52 boats


* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP


* Project ABC: Php49,168,000.00


Acquisition Mode: Public Bidding


* Source of Funding: GAA Funds of the Philippine Army FY2019


* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: TBA

Product for Delivery: FRP-hulled Light Boats, with Trailer


* Contract Price: TBA


* First post by MaxDefense: 29 July 2020 (this post)

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag/s: #PARiverineLightBoatsAcquisition 


Status: Contract signed for Lot 1 in 2019, delivery by 2020.

Photo taken from and credited to the Philippine Army.
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Riverine Operations Equipment Acquisition Project Lot 2 - Assault Boats

Note: edit as of 29 July 2020


* End User: Philippine Army (Special Forces Regiment - Airborne)

Quantity: 18 boats


* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP


* Project ABC: Php2,368,800,000.00


Acquisition Mode: TBA


* Source of Funding: Still undetermined, to be financed through other means outside the AFP Modernization Program Fund.


* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: TBA

Product for Delivery: TBA


* Contract Price: TBA


* First post by MaxDefense: 29 July 2020 (this post)

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag/s: #PARiverineAssaultBoatsAcquisition 


Status: Still in pre-procurement stage.

===============

Riverine Operations Equipment Acquisition Project Lot 3 - Support Boats

Note: edit as of 29 July 2020


* End User: Philippine Army (Special Forces Regiment - Airborne)

Quantity: 8 boats


* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP


* Project ABC: Php1,304,000,000.00


Acquisition Mode: TBA


* Source of Funding: 
Still undetermined, to be financed through other means outside the AFP Modernization Program Fund.

* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: TBA

Product for Delivery: TBA


* Contract Price: TBA


* First post by MaxDefense: 29 July 2020 (this post)

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag/s: #PARiverineSupportBoatsAcquisition


Status: Still in pre-procurement stage.

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First post and edit: 29 July 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines


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