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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Details and Analysis of the PAF's Search and Rescue Seaplane Acquisition Project

For those asking if its true that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is looking for a "seaplane", the answer is yes, the DND confirms it. The Philippine Air Force is in need of 3 brand-new Search and Rescue Seaplanes, which was announced by the DND through an Invitation to Bid released only this November 2013. The initial information are as follows:

Budget: Php 2.67 billion (around US$ 61 million);
Delivery: 540 days after opening of Letter of Credit (around 18 months or 1.5 years);
Pre-Bid Conference: November 15, 2013;
Bid Submission and Opening: November 29, 2013;
Must include Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package.

Viking Air's Twin Otter Guardian 400 is being pitched to the Philippine government for some time now and appears to be on top of the list for this project.
Photo taken from Viking Air website.

As usual, the same pre-conditions are made by the DND as with other bidding projects, including provisions that suppliers must be manufacturers themselves, and that product is used by armed forces of country of origin or of 2 other foreign armed forces. According to the PAF's listing of Status of Modernization Projects, the project will be funded by the Philippines' Department of Energy (DOE) and Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) remittances. 

But first of all, what is a seaplane? 

A seaplane, in general term, is a fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking-off and landing on water. For the PAF it is expected that their requirement will be for the aircraft to be able to land on normal airstrips as well, thus making it an amphibian aircraft. This is further divided into categories depending on their characteristics, which include floatplanes and flying boats. To simplify, we'll use these specific terms on this blog topic.

Historical Background of Seaplanes in the AFP:
The PAF is not a stranger to operating seaplanes, as it previously operated at least 2 types in large numbers. The PAF first operated the Consolidated PBY Catalina, handed over by the US government during the time of President Elpidio Quirino in the early 1950s and were used mostly for maritime surveillance and SAR duties. The PAF also operated the Grumman HU-16 Albatross flying boats provided by the US government as SAR aircraft 

One of the PAF's PBY Catalina flying boats in the 1950s.
Photo taken from Col. Francis Neri's Facebook page provided to him by Mr. Gerry Aquino.
One of the PAF's Grumman HU-16A Albatross flying boats, used in the SAR role.
Photo taken from PAF Aerospace Museum collection c/o IPMS Philippines.

Aside from the PAF, the Philippine Navy also operated seaplanes before in the form of a Stearman PT-13 floatplane from 1951, and the de Havilland U-6 (DHC-2) Beaver floatplane, wherein 3 units were delivered on December 1960. These were used to support naval operations including surveillance, utility and SAR as well.

One of the Philippine Navy's Stearman PT-13 floatplane.
Photo taken from PN-Naval Air Group website.

One of the DHC-2 Beaver floatplanes operated by the Philippine Navy several decades ago.
Photo taken from blogs.

PAF's New SAR Seaplane Requirements:
The Technical Specifications of the project was released this November by the DND, and MaxDefense summarizes the content, as follows:

- The requirement is for 3 brand-new seaplanes for the Philippine Air Force's 505th Search and Rescue Group; and will be used for Aero Medical Evacuation, Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations, and for Passenger transport;
- For Aero Medical Evacuation configuration, the plane must be able to accommodate at least 4 stretchers and reconfigured to accommodate 2 stretchers;
- For Search and Rescue operations, the aircraft must be equipped with the Day and Night Electro Optical Infrared (EO/IR), a stow-able 15 million candle power search light, multi-mode AESA long range search radar, direction finder/homing system, and can carry 2 units of 10-man inflatable life raft;
- For Passenger configuration, it must be able to carry 19 seated passengers excluding the operators, and must have folding utility seats;
- Must be powered by 2 engines, either jet or turboprop that uses Jet A-1 fuel, and can sustain flight at maximum payload with only 1 engine in case of emergency;
- A minimum range of 600 nautical miles without refueling excluding reserve fuel;
- A minimum endurance of 6 hours at cruising speed;
- Minimum cruising speed of 120 knots TAS;
- Capable of loading a minimum payload weight of 5,000 lbs.;
- Must have a cabin door dimension of 4.0ft width x 3.0 feet height, able to accommodate entry and exit of stretchers, and must be air operable door at low cruise speed;
- As a seaplane, must be capable of withstanding wave height of at least Sea State 4 or 1 meter high;
- A service ceiling of at least 10,000 feet at International Standard Atmosphere Condition (ISA +20 degrees Celsius);
- Maximum take-off and landing distance of 2,500 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle on maximum take-off weight at sea level;
- Other items included are 2 units air droppable, nylon fabric SAR rafts; 4 foldable stretchers, 19 life vests, 
- Communications equipment to include 1 high frequency radio and 2 multi-band radios that are capable of VHF AM/FM, UHF, HF and Marine bands;
- Other system features include GPS, weather radar, distance measuring equipment, VOL/ILS, satellite broadband communications system, ADAHRS or equivalent system, terrain avoidance warning system, traffic collision avoidance system, mutli-function display;
-Other physical features include an underwing bubble window, rear lavatory; forward operator work stations;
- Integrated Logistics Support included, including spares for 2 years, tools, diagnostic equipment, training program, publications and support information, and ground support equipment;
- 2 years warranty per aircraft from time of acceptance.

The SAR Seaplane will follow the paint scheme indicated above. High visibility for search & rescue missions.
Photo taken from DND SAR Seaplane Tech. Specs.

Possible Candidates:
The budget allocated by the DND at $20 million per aircraft automatically disqualifies most SAR-configured flying boats in the market today like the Japanese ShinMaywa US-2 which reportedly costs more or less $100 million, the Bombardier 415 Superscooper which reportedly cost above $30 million, and the large Russian Beriev B-200 Altair which is also way above the budget.

The favorite seaplane, the Japanese ShinMaywa US-2 flying boat, is too expensive and is definitely out of the race, but with Japan's recent relaxation on exports of aircraft plus soft loans, it may be attainable in the future.
Photo taken from ShinMaywa website.

Smaller flying boats like the Dornier Seastar and the Antilles G-21G Super Goose also come into mind, but due to its small size and inability to meet the specified requirements that require a larger cabin size, the Seastar and Super Goose are definitely out of the bidding.

The Dornier Seastar (above) and Antilles Super Goose (below) are both flying boats, but their size is smaller than what the PAF requires, thus are unable to meet the requirements.
Photo taken from Airventure website (above) and Antilla Seaplanes website (below).

With no other flying boat models around to fit the requirement, we now turn to floatplanes. The most actively marketed SAR floatplane in the market now is the Viking Air's Twin Otter Guardian 400, which is a highly modified version of the de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter. MaxDefense earlier indicated in an earlier blog regarding the PAF's Light Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft acquisition project that Viking Air's Philippine distributor was even offering the standard Twin Otter for the said project as well as other requirements within the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard for light transport, maritime patrol and surveillance purposes.

Another floatplane is the Cessna Caravan Amphibian. But it immediately fails to meet the requirement due to its being a single-engine aircraft (the requirement is for 2 engines), and its inability to meet the needed passenger capacity and cabin size.

The Cessna Caravan Amphibian is a close competitor but does not conform to even the PAF's general requirement for number of engines, cabin size, and other requirements.
Photo taken from Cessna website.

Does the offer from Viking Air fit the requirements? Based on the general requirements, yes the DHC-6 Twin Otter Guardian 400 fits the bill. First of all, it is a purposely-built SAR and surveillance aircraft and is the variant expect to be used for military and law enforcement purposes. It has twin engines, a cabin size and door size that fits the requirements of the PAF, and the can meet the required endurance, range, payload, take-off and landing requirements, and speed. It has the bubble canopy winows, and yes, the Guardian 400 can be fitted with a lavatory.

As for the mission requirements, it is worth noting that the Guardian 400 can be option fitted to carry most of the PAF's requirements, like the search radar, air operable doors, search light, and EO/IR sensors.

The Twin Otter Guardian 400's mission packages all conform to what the PAF is looking for. And it can be fitted with the lavatory as required!
Photo taken from Viking Air Twin Otter Guardian 400 brochure.

It is quite interesting as well that the PAF is looking for an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the SAR Seaplane, which will actually be the first PAF aircraft that will probably have this technology. Although it can be used for SAR missions to search for ships and crashed aircrafton the surface, the aircraft can also be used to monitor ships and movements along the West Philippine Sea, Sulu Sea and corridors between the southern Philippines and eastern Malaysia & Indonesia as the aircraft can be configured for such mission.

With regards to this, it is also interesting to note that the PAF also recently released a public bidding for Basing and Hangarage Project for the SAR assets at Sanga-Sanga air station in Tawi-Tawi, and in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The Invitation to Bid for the said basing project indicates the use to support in SAR and maritime security protection of the Malampaya gas project, Reed Bank (which is expected to be developed soon) and a future Sulu Oil Rig, thus reinforcing the possibility of using the seaplanes for maritime patrol as well.

So is the Twin Otter Guardian 400 a sure winner?

Possibly yes, since it's the only aircraft that seems to fit the budget, requirements, and the roles needed by the PAF. Vietnamese Navy is also another user of the Twin Otter Guardian 400 and is used for SAR and maritime patrols as well. Malaysia is said to be taking the aircraft into consideration for its own security requirements in its western corridors. Although It  is possible for the PAF to opt for the cheaper standard DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 400, it may not be worth to do the modifications considering that the Guardian 400 is already custom built for such missions. The only items that need to be confirmed with Viking Air is their compliance to documentation and financial requirements which was the stumbling block for some bidders in other DND projects.

Vietnam also uses the Twin Otter Guardian 400, which were delivered in 2013.
Photo taken from twinotterspotter blogs.

If purchased, Viking Air can also be in a good position to push for the seaplane and standard Twin Otter Series 400 to other military branches and government agencies which may use standardization to consider the aircraft. MaxDefense believes that the PN and PCG are possibly considering the standard version of whatever wins the seaplane project to complement and replace its elder BN-2 Islanders of the Naval Air Group.

MaxDefense will be posting updates regarding this project, and is expecting this to be completed faster than the other projects of the DND.The specifications of the Search and Rescue Seaplane acquisition project can be downloaded HERE.


December 5, 2013:
Bid opening was moved from November 29, 2013 to December 6, 2013. This was indicated in the recent Supplemenetal Bid Bulletin No. AFP-PAF-SARSAP-13-01 dated November 20, 2013.

Also, the DND made some changes in the technical requirements of the project covered by the Supplemental Bid Bulletin No. AFP-PAF-SARSAP-13-02 dated November 25, 2013, with the following changes on the specifications:

- Funding will not come from an allocated Special Allotment Release Order (SARO);
- Deletion of winning bidder's shouldering of pre-delivery inspection;
- Capability to withstand wave height of at least 1 meter, previously indicated as sea state 4;
- Radar altimeter operating height above ground level of at least 2,500 feet, previously indicated as maximum operating height;
- Spare parts warranty reduced to 2 years from 5 years;
- Aircraft for delivery can now be used to train the end user's pilots, previously supplier must provide a separate aircraft;
- Addition of 2 Tug Tractor for pushing/pulling the seaplanes, ;
- Deletion of some post-bid documents;

The said document also shows some of the queries made by Viking Air Ltd., the manufacturer of the DHC-6 Twin Otter Guardian 400. It also validates that Viking Air is indeed offering its Twin Otter Guardian 400 series, as speculated in the blog.


  1. that's good news, ang problema kasi sa government natin kung di ma may mga sakunang mangyari di rin kikilos...... ang mentality tlaga ng mga nasa gobyerno walng pagbabago.ayan katulad nyan, aantayin pa ng gobeyerno na sasakupin muna ng china ang buong spratly at palawan bago pa bibili ng mga figther jets, missile at frigate......oh mr. gazmin ano na pala ang nagyari sa fa50,new frigates at missile na galing israel na mga pinagmamalaki nyo, drawing hanggang ngayon...puro lang kayo salita at walang gawa.asan na yung mabilisang procuremnt nyo ng afp modernazation?mabilis ba? isang frigate lang ng china aatake sa pilipinas ubos lahat yang mga eroplano natin at warship kasi incapable of war lahat...hay crab mentalty talaga....move kilos kayo....wag magpapoge..lem1

    1. may nairelease sa dnd na pdf regarding sa status ng mga recent acquisitions as of nov 6. maybe you could start there before commenting on slow progress. Ako rin frustrated pero after reading the document siguro medyo mababago and interpretasyon mo. thanks

    2. Bago ka mg commento make sure na my tamang info ka. Lahat ng bagay pinag aaralan ng mabuti, pag binili ang mga pandigma na gamit, sisiguruhin mo lahat ay matibay. hindi pupunta ka sa toykingdom eh. Mabibili mo lahat ng sabay sabay. At mauuwi mo agad. Oorder ka muna bago gawin at mgbabayad.

    3. before pnoy step down as president this coming 2016, lahat ng nabasa natin sa maxdefense nasa bansa na natin. dahan dahan lang at isa isa. remember sa sinabi ni sir max sya naghintay ng 18 years, tau 3 years lang. meaning may plano na talaga ang aquino admin para sa limited defense acquisition
      para sa afp natin. mahal talaga ang mga yan, hindi basta basta ang halaga. remember tax natin yan. at and dami dami problema ng bayan natin. may mga dapat unahin pa bago ang mga sundalo nation, dami kainlangan ng mga kababayan natin. kaya tau dapat marunung mghintay sa mga susunud na gagawin ng gobyerno natin, at abangan natin ang america next year. magtatayu na saila ng based sa bansa natin aparri hanggang hulo. sila sana ang mgtanggol sa bayan natin, at sana kahit andito na ang america tuloy tuloy na sa modernization natin, kahit di pa si pnoy ang nakaupo sa posisyon. parang japan at korea. may base militar sa kanilang bansa pero tuloy tuloy pa rin ngpapalakas ang kanilang depensa, di lagi nakaasa sa america.

  2. yes they make it past procuring those sea plane just bcos of typhoon yolanda and its too late already r. president pnoy.hw about those who died already?government of philippines has a lot of failures already...they more in talk and talk rather than work.....what happen to the ssv who u procure from indonesia?what what what happen?if aquino government priorities those project of modernazation, I think this will not going to happen.nway may salute to our navy, army, marines, airforce and police for your total support and service you gave to our fellowmen....may god bless you all..

    1. Hindi ito ang lugar para sa mga hinaing mo bro, suportahan naten ang modernisasyon para sa sunod madami tayong magamit pag me dumating ulit na unos

    2. Even before Typhoon Yolanda came, the military is already planning to procure SAR seaplanes. It's only been more than a week since the typhoon came, and you can't make any procurement plan from then till now. As for the SSV, post-bid qualification is ongoing, but MaxDefense information indicates that PT PAL may pass and a contract can be signed before the year ends.

    3. Speaking of Yolanda, Getting Mil 26 and Chinooks would boost our airlift capability. The CH47's cost around 35-40 mil, bit expensive but we could ask for a loan/donation from the americans as they can see themselves as far as the ongoing relief operation going on that we lack airlift capabilties.

      Mil 26 this thing is a beast, can carry heavy equipment, medical facilties, relief goods, troops etc. cost around 15 mill.

      Both of these helos must be aquired asap, Useful for during Relief, Peacetime, and even War.

  3. I hope they expedite the process of acquiring much needed planes. Please huwag magtipid sa mga binibili. It will a good investment in the long run.

  4. how about the dnd's transport helicopter its been 2 years.

  5. I can see PAF getting the Viking Air's Twin Otter Guardian 400 as their SAR/MPA aircraft. If they get the Float plane version, it would be perfect for their SAR/MPA aircraft

    1. The SAR Seaplane is a different procurement project with the MPA aircraft, although this seaplane project can also be used for MPA with the AESA search radar requirement.

  6. I found this link:

    It shows, this Viking Air's Twin Otter Guardian 400 will cost around $10 Million USD per unit. If this Viking will be chosen, I hope we wont get an over price. However, if this will make 6 units - that should be welcome for PAF. I hope there are more possible options for PAF.

    1. The one you posted is only for the civilian standard Twin Otter Series 400. The militarized Twin Otter Guardian 400 is expected to be more expensive. The AESA radar is itself something that would definitely jack-up the aircraft's price.

  7. Hopefully our navy will have its own seaplane/amphibious boat.

  8. its really happening.. slowly but surely. towards modernization, thanks to these blog for all the information ,

  9. great job, max! as always! excuse my french but in light of what happened in the visayas recently. do you think it's appropriate for the philippines to ask its allies for military loans so we can upgrade our fleet quickly?

    1. There are no plans to use loans even before. But let's see what happens. I am actually proposing to raise additional funds to purchase military equipment that can be used for disaster relief, humanitarian missions and rescue operations, as well as legitimate military operations. This include additional C-130s, more transport planes and helicopters, additional SSVs, a specialized hospital ship, amphibious vehicles, trucks and rescue equipment.

  10. Sadly there is one glaring truth about all these planes and ships that we are talking about we needed them ten years ago

  11. How about the Bombardier 415 from Canada?

  12. anyone could provide here a pdf files regarding the recent procurement of afp for their modernazation program?lem1

  13. No A-40? Im disappointed thats you will never get a seaplane.

    1. you will never learn English

    2. @ Anonymous " No A-40". There is hope ,try google and search for English grammar and spell check. This maybe the solution to your problem.

    3. Well actually i shortening for my laziness. What i saying is you will never get expensive seaplanes.

    4. @Anonymous " shortening" . Again , I agree that the PN are not planning to purchase any "expensive" seaplane but a well suited and cost effective seaplane would be the choice.
      "Shortening are good for baking not for laziness, as a wise philosopher would say "Don't talk with your mouth full " . Listen and learn .....

    5. Oh listen Chinese aircraft carrier is in the South China Sea. Isnt that wonderful?

  14. Max thanks for summarizing the SAR seaplane acquisition and the basing and hangarage project. These assets will definitely be worth the money we will spend on them for they will be used to patrol our EEZ and for SAR should we have any maritime disasters, this would also be a big help in supplying our troops in Ayungin and other Phil. controlled areas in the WPS.

    Looks like your blog already got the attention of the wumao (50 cent army). They have been peppering your comment section with comments of you will never get this and you will never get that comments.


  15. CL-415 is a good aircraft it can do a lot of things also do fire fighting with it superscooper ! Yes it cost more, but we use it for many many yrs. I understand malaysia have 2 unit and thailand 1 unit (old model CL-315). Howcome malaysia a small country got 2 ? their econ 4 -5% the phi 6-7% howcome? in this blog i see comments....we ask for loan or downright asking for donation again fr us. Yolanda disaster open our eyes that we dont even have a trained special teams for disaster work ! Japs,sing,malay, france etc but inSEA we need a phi teams now ! This is not a Big Budget thing. No no! forget mil-26 its maint is very high...ask India? we should get ships & transport plane fr indonesia. Govt should take this route, malay goes china we go indo way...counterweight to mini pivot.

  16. Acquiring a maritime SAR seaplane for the PN or CG would be a welcome asset to boost their air capabilities. These type of aircraft were responsible for saving countless lives of downed airmen in WWII as well as interdiction operations. Even in the 21st century it is still a viable asset to consider for the PN & CG because of the topographical layout of the islands and the advantage of using this type of aircraft as a maritime patrol because of its non offensive design.
    @ Mr. Anonymous the A- 40 was a prototype jet seaplane by the Russian . Only 2 were built during the late 80's . As of the present there are no records of an A- 40 type of aircraft that is currently in operation in any Navy or Air Force . I'm sorry to disappoint you for your inadequacy.

  17. dapat bumili ng transport helicopter kc katulad ng nangyari ngayon kulang na kulang tayo sa logistics dagdagan yung c130 and bumili ng chinooks khit 6 na piraso nito maganda investment yun kc lage tayo nadadaanan ng bagyo.

  18. recently I read in the news of philippine star dated nov. 16, a certain congressman rrodolfo albano of isabela is proposing to buy an additional c130 plane instead of jet fighter....does tis congressman know the law of budget and finance?does he know that their is already a seperate fund allocated on every procurement of military hardware?its silly to know that he's a law maker and he must know about this.why he did not think and do this before this super typhoon happened?and I think he needs mire publicityl........... boooooo mr. albano...your nothing!

    1. congressman albano only knows how to spend his PDAF, now pdaf is gone he is desperately trying to be a law maker wahahhaha

    2. hindi pa huli ang lahat nasa plano talaga magdadag ng c130, actually nasa cebu na yung 2, yun nga lang sira, ipapagawa na natin sila next year at may budget na. ang tanung kung magdadagdag ba ng bagong c130, mgadadagdag talaga perro bago na. at ngayon eh nasa bidding na. pero hindi c130, ang mga pinagpipilian cj27 ng italia at indonesia. pero mas mura ang c130 30 million dollars lang sya. compare to cj27 na 50 million dollars. kung natuloy lang talaga yung modernization way back ramos admin. medyo malayo na ang narating ng ating afp, di lang nasunod yung plano. kaya ngyon back to zero tau, at dami ng sakuna ngyari sa bayan natin. sana maraming pang buhay ang nasalba. pasensya muna tau ngayon nagsimula na. my pera na.

    3. Hi ian angeles, the C-130 appears to be cheaper because the budget are for 2nd hand planes, while the medium lift aircraft are brand new.

    4. thank you sir max. merry christmas. sir max, regarding the news now at philstar. it is true that our defense panel, may special treatment sa mga bidders natin? meaning my pinapaboran? according to cbcp and ateneo. and last question sir max who generel martin? he is a filipino or american consultant. thank you and godbless

    5. Hi Ian. We are not sure about this, but from what I know, there are some problems with the Korean contractor that may have affected the DND's decision to skip their offer. It's probably not because there is a favored company. Being cheapest is not always being the best, the offer has to meet the requirements, and the DND could always balance cost with capability if it thinks the capability can be better met with another product.

    6. from what i read at a forum, timawa if i recall right, the korean company has a pending copyright case against it file by an american one regarding the design of its protective equipment so the dnd decided to play safe by excluding the korean bid

  19. we need also our owned better monitor our philippine space as well as those typhoons so we will not going to rely on other country

  20. who is this congressman albano?what the hell is going to happen?better if we will give him an m14 and ask him if he want to become a stanby guard in spratly island....he don't even know what he was talking about of defense.lem1

  21. Imagine that if they get a 3 seaplane with only minimum capacity how reliable that plane can rescue 1,000 passenger Super Ferry?

  22. Sir any updates about the frigate,reburnished Huey,radar,light lift aircraft and maritime patrol aircraft,please?

    1. Hi 17. The frigates will have the 1st bid submission and opening on December. The Light Lift transports are for rebidding. The MPA and Radar are G2G transactions so they will be bought without bidding.

  23. @ Anonymous November 22, 2013 at
    3:53 PM

    Let's put your given situation in context. How many times do we have a super ferry size ship go down yearly? Now find out how many small vessels (i.e. barge, fishing vessel, pump boats and more) are involved in mishaps yearly in the Philippines? If you know your statistics you would know that most of those that get into mishaps are small vessels with small number of crews, so the SAR seaplane is sufficient foe its function. Also if you read the complete bid specs you will know that the SAR seaplane is going to carry rubber boats and life vests and has the ability to airdrop them to victims.


  24. Thanks to this info, Max. I am very much surprised to learn that the Phils. operated seaplanes in the past. As an island nation, the Phils. needs this type of air asset that can readily reach any part of our country as long as it
    is near a large body of water.

  25. China is making dangerous move expanding there air defense zone towards near S. Korea and Japan. The next is Phil. Any future plans to buy true MRF beside FA-50 and anti-missile coastal defense?

  26. An invitation for global "competitive" bidding when there's only one contender is a strange move. There are a few platforms that are smaller and can do those roles equally well, some of whom you have mentioned. Anyway, this is needed for the Philippines, that's for sure, so here's wishing the best!

  27. i just wonder why is Philippine airforce acquiring the seaplane? di ba s Philippine Navy dapat?

  28. kaya nga seaplane, for maritime and naval surveillance eh, dapat sa navy. has PAF also acquired NAVY vessels? or boats ships? what an armed forces

    1. Kaya nga sea"plane" kasi pwede sa airforce pwede din sa naval air group..

      So yung u.s.?? Ganun din??
      "What an armed forces??"

  29. What if we consider for the Beriev be 200E (english cockpit version) worth more or less than usd 40 million. We can pair it with 2 units of twin otter.

    Just a suggestion..
    What about it??


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