Your 1st for Philippine Defense

Austal leads Philippine Navy's OPV Acquisition Project!

SecDef Lorenzana confirms Austal is still the preferred OPV supplier for the PN

The Philippine Navy commissions its 2nd Jose Rizal-class frigate!

The Philippine Navy welcomes BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), its newest frigate!

The Philippine Navy selects Shaldag Mk. V for Fast Attack Interdiction Craft!

The DND has awarded the FAIC-M Acquisition Project to Israel Shipyards

The Philippine Air Force wants more Black Hawk helicopters!

The Philippine Air Force asks for more Black Hawks to allow the retirement of their Bell UH-1 Huey fleet

The Philippine Army orders the Sabrah Light Tank System from Israel!

Israel's Elbit Systems was declared the winner to supply light tanks to the PA

The Philippine Air Force receives full order of Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 UAVs!

All 9 Hermes 900 and 4 Hermes 450 MALE UAVs have been received by the PAF!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Taiwan Conducts Naval Exercises - A Direct Provocation to the Philippines?

After a shooting incident just off the northern islands of the Philippines between a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) crewed but Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) owned patrol boat and 4 Taiwanese fishing boats, tensions have risen between the 2 countries. Taiwan has been noted in an earlier blog here at MaxDefense (MD) to have shown over-reaction by both in its citizenry, media and the government under President Ma Ying-jeou in its actions against the Philippines.

After imposing massive amounts of economic and cooperative sanctions, the Taiwanese government also approved the conducting of military exercises by their navy and air forces just off the Batanes Island's waters in the Bashi Channel. According to the Taiwanese government, this is a show of their strength and resolve to protect their fishermen. At the same time Taiwanese hawks see this as a showoff to the Philippine government that they can crush the relatively weaker and "chihuahua" Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force.

In response, Philippine president Aquino did not yield to Taiwan's show of strength, and instead let the Taiwanese have their exercises without interference or presence of nearby Philippine naval assets.

ROCS Ma Kong (DDG-1805) shows off its RIM-66 Standard  AAM
(photo taken from Associated Press)

According to most news sources, the Republic of China Navy (ROCN) aka Taiwanese Navy deployed ROCS Ma Kong (DDG-1805), a Kidd-class destroyer (known as Kee Lung-class in Taiwan service), and the ROCS Chen De (FFG-1208), a Kang Ding-class frigate (modified Lafayette-class from France) together with their respective ship-borne helicopters, and 2 missile boats. The Coast Guard Administration deployed 4 patrol vessels, while the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) aka Taiwanese Air Force deployed a mix of Mirage 2000 and Ching Kuo F-CK-1 fighters, plus an E-2K Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.

An S-70C Seahawk helicopter taking-off from a Lafayette-class frigate  during the exercises  on May 16, 2013.
(photo taken from Associated Press)

This military exercises, according to the Taiwanese Navy, was meant to assist the CGA in protecting Taiwanese fishermen. But to do this they sent their most capable warships assisted by scores of ROCAF fighter and surveillance assets. Was it really necessary to send these military assets for a fishermen protection exercise?

ROCAF Mirage 2000-5. One reportedly crashed in another exercises last week.

It appears that the exercise includes scenarios on detection of enemy air and naval forces, as well as search and rescue scenarios. But was it really their intended exercise scope?

MaxDefense sources say that the Taiwanese military was not really able to carry out its original intentions for the military exercises, which is to use live ammunition in a simulated attack on hostile enemy naval forces by joint naval and air assets. This is because of "strong external pressure" from a "common ally" not to do so, or face sanctions against their already struggling military ammunition support and equipment spare parts and supply line. Although no external pressure was applied, the Aquino administration also received "friendly advices" to avoid biting on any provocation from Taiwan in exchange for further support in strengthening the armed forces during President Aquino's remaining 3-year term.

ROCS Ma Kong crew using fire fighting hoses as part of the naval drills
(photo taken from Reuters)
Later on Taiwan would declare that it did not use live ammunition in the entire exercises as not to provoke the Philippines. It only means that if not for such external pressure, it will indeed provoke the Philippines.

Covering such attempted actions will be useless as it only shows that Taiwan does want to have to take military action against the Philippines, and it appears the Philippine government knows of the sudden change of plans by Taiwan. And these changes does and will not remove any doubt on the Taiwanese government's intentions, instead placing Taiwan as a perceived threat in any Philippine military and even economic planning in the future.

MaxDefense' opinion is that Taiwan was again over-reacting by making such provocations that further degrade the relationship between them and the Philippines. The Aquino administration's timidness on this issue is already a sign that the Philippines is not willing to make this issue more complicated that it already is but Taiwan's signals shows that Taiwan had its advantage in moral ground thrown down the gutter for its national gains without consideration of its implications to the friendly relations with a very supportive and a co-democratic neighbor.

Philippine Navy assets are aging but plans are underway for new ships to replace them.

Although militarily and economically weak, neighbors like Taiwan tend to forget that such actions against the Philippines will only push it further to strengthen itself, with a negative effect to Taiwan defense planners. Instead of counting on the Philippine military as an ally against a growing threat of communist Chinese aggression, now they need to consider their formerly friendly neighbor as a threat, to the joy of the Chinese communist government. With the expected rise of the Philippine economy and increases in yearly defense budget, one can only ask what the "puny and weak" Philippine military might be several years from now.

Whether all actions made by Taiwan up to now are because of selfish personal gains of Taiwanese president Ma or not, it would not matter anymore as President Ma's actions are officially Taiwan's actions.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Indonesian Armed Forces Exercise LATGAB 2013 Part 1: Marines Embark!

The Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) is currently conducting a massive inter-services exercise dubbed LATGAB 2013, involving all the armed services. This started on April 15 and will end on May 29, 2013.

Due to the quantity of photos available, I will be dividing this thread into several parts, with this as Part 1: The Marines Embark their Landing Transports

Below are a collection of photos collated from different sources. Special mention to Ms. Audrey (aka / Audreydefence @ milnuts / audryliahepburn@kaskus)

Korps Marinir (Indonesian Marine Corps) troops disembarking their troop carrier lorries
(photos taken from onlyaudrey@timawa)

KAAV7 on display prior to ship embarkment 
(photos taken from onlyaudrey@timawa)

BTR-50s parked beside KAAV-7s
(photos taken from onlyaudrey@timawa)
BMP-3 also getting ready for ship embarkment
(photos taken from onlyaudrey@timawa)

Korps Marinir troops awaiting their turn to embark
(photos taken from onlyaudrey@timawa)

Korps Marinir and TNI Special Forces start to board KRI Makassar (590) and KRI Surabaya (591)
(photos taken from onlyaudrey@timawa)

KAAV-7s, BTR-50s, and BMP-3s roll and embark on TNI-AL landing platform docks
(photos taken from onlyaudrey@timawa)

more photos on next posts...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Singapore Navy Open House 2013 - an open event to the public

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) will have its Open House this weekend, May 18 & 19, 2013 at Changi Naval Base. Admission is free, and shuttle bus service to the naval base is available at the Singapore Expo Hall 3

According to the Ministry of Defence Website, the RSN will open several of their ships to public, which includes tours inside and on deck. There will also be a demonstration by Navy Commandos with a theme "Storm & Rescue", and some tour around the base waters using the LARC-V and Fast Craft Utility.

For more information about this event, you may check this website:

For those in Singapore on these dates, MaxDefense advices the blog readers to attend this event, as this showcases the navy's importance in the security, defense and development of a country. Get to know what the navy does to protect the interests and territory of a country.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fishingboat Shooting Incident: Is Taiwan Over-reacting?

Since the shooting incident involving a Taiwanese fishing boat and a Philippine law enforcement boat, Taiwan has been in a rage to "bring justice" to the death of one of its fisherman. In the meantime, everything seems normal on the Philippine side, elections has just been concluded and all politicians are more concerned on the vote counting and winning than anything else.

The Taiwanese fishing boat Guang Ta Hsin 28

BFAR patrol boat MCS-3001, jointly manned by PCG & BFAR crew

The Taiwanese are insisting that the Philippines do three things, as follows:
1. make a public formal apology for the "murder" of their fisherman;
2. speed-up of investigations and punishment for the perpetrators;
3. pay compensation to the family of the dead fisherman.

Other than that, they also demand the Philippines to enter into talks with Taiwan regarding fishing rights on overlapping EEZs.

So far the Philippine response as of writing this are:
1. they sympathize with the fisherman's death, but no apology is required;
2. Taiwan should not make matters worse;

Taiwan's 72-hour ultimatum ends this midnight, and if their demands are not met, they will will freeze hiring of Filipino workers and use their economic superiority against the Philippines. 

1. Setting the EEZ Boundaries

According to, blue color shows Taiwan's EEZ. The green color shows disputed EEZ. The incident happened outside Taiwan's EEZ if based on this photo.

It should be noted that since Taiwan is not recognized as an independent country by the United Nations, they are not a signatory of the UNCLOS although the Philippines adheres to this international agreement as a UN signatory.

Following the laws on EEZ, the overlap of two country's EEZ will require both countries to agree on the boundary. So far it appears that both countries have not made any agreement on the boundary of their EEZ, so Taiwan insists that the waters of overlapping EEZ are disputed.

But most sources on EEZ show that the accepted boundary of both country's EEZ is somewhere mid-way of the overlap, or midway of Orchid Island (Taiwan) and Mavudis Island (Philippines). Basing on this, the general EEZ boundary should be within the middle of Bashi Channel.

2. Location of Incident:

The Taiwanese boat crew insist that they did not enter Philippine jurisdiction area, while the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) - Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) joint crew insist that they were inside their jurisdiction. 

Philippines' Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Director Asis Perez points at the monitor the exact location where Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) intercepted 4 Taiwanese fishing vessels at 43 NM east of Balintang Island, Luzon Strait, during a news conference in Manila May 10, 2013.
(caption and photo from Reuters)

On the Philippine side, the BFAR reported that 4 Taiwanese fishing boats were intercepted by BFAR boat 43nmi east of Balintan Island, well within the Philippine side of the EEZ boundary. Philippine news reports all point to 170nmi from Taiwan southernmost point.

An illustration with Chinese caption from News365 (China)
(photo posted by McKoyzz@PDFF)
Taiwanese and Chinese sources agree that the boats were operating between 164nmi to 180nmi from Taiwan's southmost tip at Erluanbi. A recent report from Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration (CGA) also points the incident to be outside Taiwan's "control border". Below is the said report, from

(Translation in English):

Boat Operation:
Time: 05.00
Coordinate: 19' 50" N; 123' 24" E
10 nm outside Taiwan control border

Time: 09.45
Coordinate: 19' 58" N; 122' 58" E
1.8 nm outside Taiwan control border

Incident Reported to Taiwan Authority:
Time: 13.04
Coordinate: 20' 07" N; 123' 01" E
5 nm insider Taiwan control border

Take note that according to Taiwan's CGA, the Taiwanese control border is close to the northern-most island of Batanes group of islands rather than further north in the middle of the Bashi Channel. 

Foreign news sources like BBC reported the location as 170nmi from Taiwan, similar to most Philippine sources.

An illustration from AFP shows the incident happened at the Balintang Channel, or inside Philippine EEZ.
Judging from these compilation from Philippine, Taiwanese and 3rd country sources, it is generally accepted that the Taiwanese boats were indeed discovered well inside Philippine jurisdiction. 

3. The Shooting Incident

Using a combination of Taiwan's CGA report and Philippine Coast Guard sources, it appears that 4 Taiwanese fishing boats were spotted by BFAR patrol boat MCS-3001 on May 9, 2013 at around 5:00AM. The boats were hailed and approached by MCS-3001 for boarding and inspection. But instead of stopping to be boarded, all 4 boats moved away towards Taiwan's direction. 

A chase ensued for more than 4 hours, with the BFAR-PCG boat giving warnings to stop using alarms or sirens, and loudspeaker annoucements. The Philippine boat made several attempts to board one of the boats but while doing so other fishing boats attempt to ram the Philippine boat. They were able to avoid collision in all those instances. This chase went on until around 9:30AM when the BFAR-PCG boat made warning shots for them to stop, but the 4 fishing boats did not heed the warning and instead continue to move away.

Around 9:40AM, the Philippine boat decided to disable the machinery of one of the fishing boats, the Guang Ta Hsin 28, by shooting at its engine and machinery room. Several shots were made using its on-board machine gun, hitting the fishing boat in several areas. One of the bullets hit the neck of 65-year old Mr. Huang Shih-Cheng who was staying in the engine room of the fishing boat, killing him in the process.

The boats continued to press on until Taiwanese CGA vessels met them to escort back to Taiwan. During the entire chase, Taiwan CGA was already informed that they were being chased by Philippine law enforcement boat.

According to the son of the dead fisherman, they did not cross waters of Philippine jurisdiction, and that no warning shots were made by the Philippine group.

4. Taiwanese and Philippine Government Actions:

Taiwanese and Chinese media were quick to release news reports on the incident, initially accusing the Philippine Navy, while the Philippine side initially used these reports while awaiting for confirmation from the Philippine Government. The Philippine Navy later denied being involved, later on the Philippine Coast Guard admitted that they did indeed shot the Taiwanese fishing boat.

Taiwan later on released a 72-hour ultimatum demanding for a Philippine apology and action against the PCG-BFAR crew of MCS-3001, which ends at 12:00 midnight today. Philippine officials said they sympathize the death of Mr. Huang but no apology is expected to be given. President Aquino asked the Taiwanese government to calm on the incident while investigations are ongoing. 

With the deadline of the ultimatum nearing, the Philippine government announced that they are looking for possible alternative markets for Philippine labor in case of a clampdown in Taiwan. Taiwan announced to hold military exercises at the "overlapping" EEZ as a show of strength, with strong words indicating that the Philippine Navy is more than a match for their naval capability.

There are no major reactions from other countries, with their common ally, the United States, not making any condemnation remarks against the Philippines.

By around 3:00PM of May 14, the Philippine government imposed a news blackout regarding the issue. There were also reports from Filipino workers in Taiwan of being physically hurt by Taiwanese citizens especially near port areas.

A note from one of the OFWs in Taiwan appealing for restraint and assistance. Left side of the note shows the instructions from employment agency to avoid public exposure.
(photo from Facebook)

5. MaxDefense Opinion on what the Philippines should do:

MaxDefense (MD) believes that all actions made by the Taiwanese are over-reactions only, and were made by their government due to mounting pressure from the political opposition and the citizenry. It would be bad for the political careers of Taiwanese officials to stay mum and do nothing. 

It would be worth noting that Taiwanese President Ma has been under pressure in the homefront due to domestic issues like housing, cost of living, and job security. An indecisive action on this issue will spell doom on his political career.

MD believes that the Philippine government is aware and understands the Taiwanese government's actions, the situation of the ruling KMT party. But the Philippines' non-compliance  to Taiwan's demands is a move that we at MD agrees. So far only President Aquino knows the reason of his decision on this issue other than what are obvious.

As for the shooting, MD wonders - a more than 4-hour chase to reach Taiwan's control area at possibly high speed means that the Taiwanese are indeed deep inside Philippine waters. So the BFAR-PCG is indeed in the right place at the right time when they saw the Taiwanese flotilla.

The Philippines should not bow down to Taiwan's demands due to the following reasons:

a. If it believes that what the PCG-BFAR team did was necessary, then why agree to Taiwan? Although bigger than the fishing boats, ramming of the patrol boat while being hailed to halt is itself a show of disrespect to Philippine law enforcement and is a possible evidence of guilt on the Taiwanese part. Also, the Filipino patrol boat captain may have thought of his ship and crew's safety first above all, which is the right thing to do. Shooting the fishing boat's machinery is a way of stopping a runaway suspect, it just happened that somebody was in there who unfortunately died.

b. To maintain integrity its territorial jurisdiction. Apologizing to the Taiwanese will mean accepting that they are correct and our coast guard team was wrong. It also means agreeing that they were inside disputed waters instead of undisputed Philippine territorial waters. The Taiwanese can also start to dispute the sovereign rights of the Philippines in the Balabac Channel and the Batanes group of islands if the Philippines agree to apologize, and further claims of Taiwan to Batanes and the EEZ will strengthen in the process.

c. Philippine pride and prestige is at stake here. There were instances that South Korea, Japan, and Russia did not apologize to China when they shot Chinese fishing boats operating in their jurisdictions. Should the Philippines apologize, it will only make it appear weak and can be bullied by its neighbors and it is expected that Taiwan, China, and everyone else can poach again in Philippine waters in the future

d. The Philippines will lose some, but so is Taiwan. The Taiwanese labor market for the Philippines may be reduced and become less attractive, forcing many Filipinos to leave their jobs there to come back home. They might be jobless, but they can find work again either in the Philippines or in another country. In the mean time, Taiwan will lose cheap and english-proficient workers in the process, and this will affect their manufacturing industry.

e. A change in political strategy when dealing with neighbors will disrupt the usual expected "bow-down" reply streak of the Philippine government. This would be a good start in imposing the Philippines' foreign policies as well to other countries. Maybe this would be the start of an "upgrade" of perception on the Philippine foreign relations scene.

Other points that can be learned from this incident for the Philippines:

1. The Philippines has to give utmost importance to territorial control and integrity, and strict enforcement of its laws and jurisdiction must become a part of its long term national strategy and policy.

2. The importance of supporting its armed forces and civilian maritime law enforcement agencies. The Philippine government must put national defense in its top priority, be given support and budget to modernize and up-arm. For its size, MD believes that the Philippine military is manpower-short and poorly equipped for its economic capacity and population.

3. The Philippine government must strive hard to make further reforms in its economic policies. It should be less dependent on OFW remittances and instead diversify its economy. This includes more in-country industry and jobs for its citizens to minimize the need to send workers to other countries like Taiwan.

4. At least as early as now, the Philippines can show to the world that it can stand on its own without the need to appease its neighbors to survive and continue. Bowing down to Taiwan and losing its pride now will not bring back the lost pride, but this issue will fade and the Philippines can save face by surviving and knowing its neighbors well.

6. Taiwan's Threat of Military Exercises near the Philippines' EEZ

The recent threats of Taiwan to hold military exercises must be looked at by the Philippine government. Although it is not expected for the Taiwanese military to do something bolder than only having exercises, the Philippine government should not be lax and instead be alert for any further contingencies. 

This is where the lack of military capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines shows. In the case of South Korea and Japan, any military exercises made by China in disputed areas are met by deployments of naval and air units as a bold display of capability to resist any possible Chinese action. The Philippine Navy can only monitor with its antiquated equipment, and even if they bring all their assets on the border it will not make the Taiwanese think twice. As they even said earlier, only one of their 22 frigates can annihilate the entire Philippine Navy if shooting starts. That should concern the Philippine government as threats like that should be taken seriously.

On the other hand, Taiwan should be wary of its threats and actions. They have forgotten that the Philippines is one of their few friends in the region against China. Although Taiwan-China relations are in all time high with the Chinese even cheering for the Taiwanese against the Philippines. But until the lines have been set and it continues to be under America's defense and security umbrella, the Philippines is its partner. The Americans are surprisingly silent on this situation, but  they are expected to be already making their moves deep within the Taiwanese and Philippine governments. 

7.  Possible American-supplied arms against an American treaty-ally?

Taiwan should also remember that the military assistance rendered by the United States to them is for them to defend from aggression from China. Using American military wares to hurt one of its treaty allies may have implications against Taiwan. Imagine Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, Kidd-class destroyers and F-16 and F-5 fighters being used against an American ally. Everyone is free to speculate the American reaction. The United States remains as Taiwan's single most trusted arms supplier, with the French reportedly abandoning them in supporting and maintaining the Mirage 2000 fighter planes and Lafayette-class frigates the Taiwanese bought from them.

MaxDefense will add more commentaries later on.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Direct to the Point Analysis from Jose Antonio Custodio: How the PH handled territorial disputes over the years

Here's a very good analysis coming from a well known defense analyst. This was posted here due to its significance to Philippine defense policy. To Prof. Jose Antonio A. Custodio, good work! This was posted at as a special article, posted in its entirety here @ MaxDefense.

LOSING GROUND: How PH has handled Sabah, West Philippine Sea disputes over the years
By Jose Antonio A. Custodio, Special to

Much has been made by pundits and opinion makers in media regarding the alleged lack of direction and purpose of the current administration regarding foreign policy especially on the matter of territorial disputes. However, an observation of the manner in which the Philippines has handled its territorial claims reveals a systemic and institutional approach that transcends administrations and is consistent in its approach to the issue throughout the years. That approach is best described by being characterized as vacillation and lacking resolve despite the occasional assertive rhetoric.

US rejects military option in Sabah, Marcos blinks

The first major engagement of the Philippines in territorial disputes was the Sabah crisis that began in the 1960s. Much has been written about the validity of the Philippine claim and in the past several months, due to the actions of the Royal Sultanate Army at Sabah, this has once again been reiterated in media. Hence, the validity of the Philippine claim to Sabah will not be discussed here, but rather the actions that the Philippine government did in the 1960s to advance that claim.

The Sulu Sultanate's original territory includes Sabah.
(Map taken from The Economist)
Aside from the usual diplomatic and legal campaign that the Philippines did, by the late 1960s during the term of President Ferdinand Marcos, a military option was considered and this frightened the Malaysians and became a cause of concern for the British. The strong British support of Malaysia and the lack of United States support for the Philippines plus the controversy over the "Jabidah Massacre" put an end to that military option. The real objective behind this plan of Marcos, code named "Operation Merdeka," remains unclear and despite the stated desire to reclaim Sabah, there may also have been another one which was probably to serve to deflect criticisms to his administration.

Although the Philippines had attempted to use a military option as the primarymeans to resolve in its favor a territorial dispute it also revealed a weakness in Manila's approach to disputes when it tried to get American support. Naturally, the Americans were not willing to support the Philippines at the risk of jeopardizing their relations with the British. Furthermore, the Americans were neck deep in the quagmire of the Vietnam War and needed all the international support for that involvement of theirs and they did not need another conflict to distract them. Failing to obtain American support and not willing to engage British forces, not to mention the internal political problems already affecting the Philippines, Marcos blinked and backed off.

No credible air defense to defend Spratlys

During the mid 1970s the Marcos administration pursued another territorial claim of the Philippines, this time at the Spratlys Islands. Issuing several presidential decrees creating the Kalayaan Island Group municipality and the delineation of the country's Exclusive Economic Zone, the Marcos administration then began to improve the defenses of the KIG. Garrisons were established in a number of islands of the KIG while at the same time installations were improved such as the building of the Rancudo airstrip at Pagasa Island. The Philippine Air Force was strengthened by the acquisition of the F-8 Crusader which was deployed for the defense of the West Philippine Sea. As long as the PAF had those aircraft in the area, the Philippines had undisputed air supremacy in the WPS. However the decommissioning of the F-8s in 1988 and the F-5s in 2004 removed any credible Philippine air defense in the WPS leaving that role to aircraft not configured for such tasks as the diminutive S211 trainer and the slow and vulnerable propeller driven OV-10. Such inadequate aircraft as the PAF uses now will be knocked out of the skies in the event of a skirmish between forces in the KIG.

The Spratly Island chain

Still for some time, the Philippines was in a position of strength in the KIG and together with the powerful American presence in Subic and Clark, no country dared to venture close to the Philippines. However, several developments upset that. The first was that beginning with the Marcos administration, the country experienced heightened social justice and economic problems that saw the defense establishment prioritize internal security operations above everything else. This effectively scuttled the plan of Ferdinand Marcos to modernize the AFP in the early 1980s when there were plans to purchase more jetfighters such as the F-5E to replace the F-5A as well as order additional materiel and equipment through the Excess Defense Articles and Foreign Military Sales Programs of the United States. One by one, AFP external defense capabilities disappeared as a result of the neglect and the focus on internal security.

Following the fall of the Marcos administration, another development that created a problem for the territorial ambitions of the Philippines was the non-renewal of the Philippines-United States Military Bases Agreement in 1991 and the closure of the bases in 1992. Three years after the departure of the Americans from Subic and Clark, the Chinese moved into the KIG in force and began to press harder on their claim over the Scarborough Shoal aka Bajo de Masinloc.

A McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing based in Clark Air Base
In 1995, the Chinese constructed military installations in the Mischief Reef some 150 miles away from Palawan Island. The Philippine government was caught flatfooted by this Chinese action and was unable to deal with the intrusion in a manner favorable to the Philippines. The response of Manila was to announce that diplomacy would be resorted to and that this would be considered as the first line of defense. To make matters worse, the initial AFP Modernization Plan died a stillborn death due to the Financial Crisis of 1997 and the lack of seriousness of the Philippine government to pursue defense modernization as it flip flopped on whether to continue programs or not.

Faced with this Chinese challenge, Manila chose to rely instead on the US security umbrella provided by the Philippines-United States Mutual Defense Treaty. At this point, the US was expressing concern at what it perceived as a rising regional hegemon in the form of China. This dovetailed with Manila’s desire to revive the good old days of US military assistance and the end result was the drafting of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the passing of it in the Philippine Senate during 1999. Both sides raised the Chinese threat to win support for the agreement and there was this perception in Manila that equipment and funding would pour into the AFP. This however was not to happen because of two reasons. First, on 11 September 2001 the terrorist attacks distracted the Americans from their focus on China. Second, despite the elevation of the Philippines as a Non NATO Major Ally in 2003, no flood of support went the way of the AFP from US sources as Washington was not in an economic position to provide such substantial freebies and it concentrated on assisting Manila in its internal operations against terrorist groups.

Overly reliant on the United States

For years, the US had carefully created a multilateral framework of engagement in the Asia Pacific region to contain China’s rising ambitions. This was temporarily abandoned in favor of bilateral arrangements between the US and other countries to quickly conduct operations in the War on Terrorism. Furthermore, concerns on China took second place in Manila as it joined the anti-terrorism bandwagon to the point that the Philippine defense establishment agreed to prioritize internal defense and scrapped remaining external defense capabilities such as operating fighter jets on the recommendation of American and Filipino defense officials. Thus instead of weaning away itself from the security umbrella of the United States, the Philippine government became more and more reliant on American protection on almost everything concerning defense matters. To emphasize that, whereas before the Philippine military and police undertook it upon themselves to handle internal security threats leaving the US to take care of external matters, following the 9-11 terrorist attacks of 2001, American military personnel began to operate against the Abu Sayyaf Group. Despite denials by the Americans of conducting operations other than the stated civil military activities that their personnel are doing in Mindanao, there is enough evidence to show that American activities are not limited to peaceful and developmental types but also those with a purely military operational support and intelligence application.

The loss of Clark Air Base also meant the loss of precious air cover over the entire West Philippine Sea
(photo from Wikipedia)
 The cumulative effect of this is that it has made the Philippine government overly reliant on US defense guarantees and totally focused on internal security operations. Manila dragged its feet on modernizing the AFP for external defense and made diplomacy its only option in matters concerning territorial defense. There has been little or no progress in defense upgrade programs in the AFP and there still exists service related rivalries within the military pertaining to prioritizing internal security or external defense. In the case of the US defense alliance, the relationship borders on the level of naivety for the Philippines as it tries to push the Americans to declare guarantees of military response or provide materiel and equipment support at the same level as the Cold War era and when this does not happen, Filipino leaders express childish dismay. Some of these leaders who express dismay then play with the idea of having an alignment with Beijing at the expense of the US defense relationship, with the rationale that China after all is growing in capabilities and strength.

US interest not same as PH interest

There is a failure to realize that American national interests do not necessarily jive with Philippine interests even though both have concerns with China’s rising hegemonism due to time and space factors. The American perception on China considers the Chinese as a near future threat that needs to be constrained to make it act in a responsible manner in the present. The Philippines however is immediately affected by Chinese actions at the West Philippine Sea, and yet despite this, the Philippines has stuck to taking actions of the usual diplomatic protest and legal process of which part of it is to make its allies and regional partners carry the burden of territorial defense of Philippine interests in the WPS. In jest, it may be said that the Philippines is prepared to defend the WPS to the last American soldier, plane, or ship which is something that the US will not oblige the Philippine government with.

‘Bleed for its claims’

Perhaps it should not be a surprise as to why the Philippines appears to be sacrificing one piece after another of its territory to foreign powers. It may be partly explained by the internal focus that has affected the country since the 1970s. There have been two generations of Filipinos since then who have been fed a daily uninterrupted dose of internal political instability, social divisions, and rampant insurgencies that makes anything external seem to be an alien concept. Furthermore, since the Philippine government is willing to discuss with rebel groups issues such as official recognition of what constitutes rebel held territory in the country’s metropolitan areas during peace negotiations, it then does not come as a surprise that it feels no sense of urgency or grave loss should portions of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone), islets, and reefs come under foreign control.

Bajo de Masinloc, internationally known as Scarborough Shoal
(photo from Philippine Embassy in Norway)

Although the Philippines has sought to legally challenge China’s 9-dash-line declaration over the whole South China Sea inclusive of the WPS at an international arbitration body, it does not seem to be as assertive in attempts to physically protect Philippine territorial interests in the area. Chinese poachers routinely operate in the WPS while smugglers come in and out of Philippine waters with impunity as can be seen in the case of the F/B Min Long Yu which ran aground at Tubbataha Reef last April 8, 2013. Had it not run aground, no one would have known it was even in the area. Worse, is that the Philippines has not physically reasserted its claim to the Scarborough Shoal and it naively appears to assume that if it wins the arbitration case, China will meekly withdraw. However what will happen if the Chinese ignore the verdict of the international body and continue to not only hold on Philippine maritime territory but grab an additional piece just to thumb their noses at world opinion and “teach Manila a lesson” as the nationalistic Chinese bloggers have been demanding for? One must remember that international condemnation of China’s control of Tibet has not persuaded Beijing to withdraw but instead the Chinese have adopted measures to Sinicize Tibet.

The problem with the current Philippine strategy on territorial disputes is that Philippine officials actually believe that irrefutable legal rights, confidence building measures, and favorable international opinion will do the trick and win the day for the country. What they cannot seem to understand is that in the history of the world, all territorial claims are determined by the capacity of the claimant to bleed for its claim, physically occupy its claim, and not just blabber about it in endless track 1 and track 2 diplomatic activities.

BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) and other ships are not enough if the government's mindset does not change.

The country’s record in physically defending its territorial claims presents a very dismal picture. It has always backtracked and refused to reassert control when countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, and China occupied Philippine claimed territory. There appears to be a clear lack of willingness to commit to a military option on the assumption that the Philippine military is too weak to do anything and that conflict should be avoided at all times. If it was merely a question of military capability, then the Philippines should have been able to launch an operation against the Vietnamese in the 1970s to reclaim an islet at the Kalayaan Island Group that they seized because the Philippine military had a better power projection capability than Vietnam at that time. Instead the Philippines did nothing while that islet was eventually absorbed into other territories at the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam. Hence, even if the Philippine military does modernize in the future, it is not a guarantee that the government will act more resolutely and it may instead respond in the same weak kneed manner. This is brought about not because of the lack of bravery of the military, but more of indifference and failure to understand the nature of territorial disputes within the Philippine government.


He already pointed all the flaws. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Proposed Designs Offered for the Philippine Navy Frigate Program 2013 (2nd part of several posts)

Earlier we analyzed a possible Philippine Navy frigate configuration based on the information released by the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) and the Philippine Navy (PN) to public media outfits, for public consumption. We also used basic information based on ongoing frigate programs in the region.

Cost-wise & based on the dimensions released by DND, it appears that the Philippine Navy is pushing for a light frigate design rather than a full-fledged frigate. In conjunction to its released “Philippine Fleet Desired Force Mix”, the ship is more likely to fulfill the role of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) which does not require huge power requirements and large spaces like those of air warfare frigate designs. The requirement only calls for a platform with decent anti-ship & anti-aircraft capabilities, and although there was no specific direction made towards ASW for this program, the current thrust of the PN is towards the build-up of its ASW capability. Thus, the choice made by the PN is good enough as an alternative for the 30-year old Maestrale-class ships earlier offered by the Italian government.

MaxDefense sources indicate that there are actually several companies and countries that submitted their bids:

1. After losing the chance on the Maestrale deal, Italy is back in the game this time with Orizzonte Sistemi Navali's MOSAIC family. No specific model was named though but OSN has several models in the MOSAIC family that will suit to PN requirement.

Orizzonte Sistemi Navali's MOSAIC 2400 design
(photo taken from Orizzonte Sistemi Navali website)

2. South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) derivative of the Incheon-class frigate. So far the only design being offered that was confirmed by DND to the public

There are 2 options being offered derived from the Incheon-class design

3. Another South Korean company, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) reportedly submitted an offer. Although it is not clear what design they offered, it appears that it is either a derivative of the DW-3000H frigate that won the frigate project in Thailand, or a derivative of their upcoming FFX-2 design. A speculation was also brought out that DSME might offer a derivative of their smaller DW-2000H frigate design should the PN budget not be enough for the DW-3000H & FFX-2 designs.

DSME's DW-3000H frigate design

4. Spain's Navantia was also named earlier by a DND source, submitting the Avante family. No word if Navantia submitted a design based on the large & expensive F100 family.

The Avante 2200 series from Navantia (Spain)

5. France' DCNS reportedly submitted an offer based on their Gowind family. The specific designed offered is said to be similar to the Royal Malaysian Navy's design although the submitted offer to the PN is less complicated and a bit smaller in size.

DCNS' Gowind design offered is smaller than Malaysia's SGPV

6. Surprisingly, Israel has submitted a bid using a derivative and highly modified version of the Israeli-designed Sa'ar 5-class corvette which was built by Ingalls Shipbuilding (now under Northrop Grumman). The reported version is considerably bigger and addresses a lot of issues they encountered with their own Sa'ar 5 ships. The offer is said to include a very considerable percentage of Israeli-made sensors and weapons systems to decrease the ship's overall price.

A modified and upsized Sa'ar 5 design was offered by Israel
(photo taken from

7. It is unclear if Israel made a joint bid with Korea for another Incheon-class derivative, with significant Israeli-made sensors and weapons systems, and based on the offer made by Hyundai for the Israeli frigate program. In such arrangement, MaxDefense believes that HHI will build the hull and Israel will provide the systems for integration.

An Incheon-class with Israeli weapons and sensor systems? Not bad...

8. No weapons bid will be complete without the Americans, and they are in full force in their offers. Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) reportedly submitted the National Security Cutter derived PF 4921 frigate design and another derivative of the Israeli Sa'ar 5. Both are offered with mostly American-made weapons and mixed sensors systems which includes a 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid naval gun, a VLS for ESSM, a Phalanx or SeaRAM CIWS system, a combination of six 25mm Mk. 38 Mod. 2 & 50-caliber gun mounts, two quad-pack Harpoon SSM, and a hull mounted plus towed array sonar system.

Huntington Ingalls' PF 4921 frigate design
(photo from M. Mazumdar)

9. Lockheed Martin offered the Multi-Mission Combat Ship family, which is where the USN's Freedom-class LCS was based. Although sources indicate that their offer is the most expensive and may not be suitable for the PN's budget.

Lockheed Martin's Multi-Mission Combat Ship family Reportedly being offered is the 118-meter design (middle)
(photo from Lockheed Martin website)

10. Another surprise was from Australia's Austal, using a highly modified, smaller and cheaper derivative of their Independence-class LCS. MaxDefense learned that the offer includes the possible construction of the ships in Austal's shipyard in Cebu, thus decreasing the cost further. 

The Independence-class LCS. Austal is offering a small cheaper derivative.
(photo taken from Wikimedia)

There were also reports that the British BAE Systems and a South African offer were made, but no further details were given. 

Reportedly the budget of Php 18 billion allocated for 2 ships is not yet final and may increase depending on the requirements, with the additional funds probably be coming from Fund 151 or discretion of the President himself. Also, there are talks that this would only be an initial order, and further orders may be taken depending on the financial capability of the Philippine government.

It's now up to the DND & Philippine Navy to decide on what they want as their future frigate, and if all goes well, the future of the PN seems bright.

Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Air Force Modernization Projects