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!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year-Ender: A Brief Summary of 2013 Accomplishments of the AFP Modernization Program

(Bloggers note: Due to a few requests for a year-ender at a time when we also try to celebrate and rest, we'll give a short and brief one. MaxDefense still hopes that this fast-break will be good enough to brief some of our readers who are still blur on updates on the AFP Modernization Program.)

MaxDefense celebrates the end of 2013 with a brief summary of the AFP Modernization Program's major accomplishments for the entire year. Being a program that has been hampered by so many delays, scandals, political maneuvering and financial difficulties, MaxDefense is confident to say that 2013 might have been the best year for the Modernization Program since 1995. Numerous programs have started to roll this year, and some of them have been awarded or even delivered within the year.

Here's a recap of what was accomplished this year. Click on the title of each item for a link to either a previous MaxDefense blog or a MaxDefense @ Facebook discussion:

1. Commissioning of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) frigate with the Philippine Fleet - the 2nd Gregorio del Pilar-class frigate will be a further addition to the limited capability of the Philippine Navy's surface fleet. Upon commissioning it was immediately sent to Leyte to assist in the HADR operations for Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda vicitims. Although it is only similar in capability to an offshore patrol vessel due to lack of sufficient sensors and missile weaponry, the PN is planning to install these when the ships go for a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) soon, which may include 3D surveillance radar systems, anti-ship missiles, and other defense and offensive systems that will transform this patrol frigate into something that can fight and defend itself while giving the navy the eyes and ears in the vast Philippine EEZ.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) leaving port right after the commissioning rites.

2. Commissioning of 3 AW109 Power naval multirole helicopters for the Naval Air Group - these helicopters will be based on navy ships and will be used in a variety of missions including surveillance, search and rescue (SAR), utility, and MEDEVAC. Future capability may include surface search, over the horizon target (OTHT) acquisition for naval ships, and probably even limited anti-submarine warfare (ASW) duties. We are expecting the delivery of 2 more helicopters, which according to the PN will be more capable than the 1st 3 units, being armed and with electronic warfare (EW) capability. 

The PN's AW109 Power naval helicopters during the commissioning ceremonies as part of the AFP's 78th Anniversary celebrations.
Photo taken from the Manila Times' Facebook page.

3. Awarding of the National Coast Watch Center system to Raytheon - this year also saw the awarding of a contract to Raytheon to construct and integrate the National Coast Watch Center. This include construction of the center, acquisition of related systems, andintegration of the entire Coast Watch system to different government agencies, including the AFP and the PN. The PN intends to complete several Coast Watch projects, including the Coast Watch South, Coast Watch North, and the main Coast Watch Project along the West Philippine Sea area.

Raytheon was awarded a contract to construct and integrate the National Coast Watch Center.
Photo taken fro Raytheon website.

4. Arrival of 6 Riverine Patrol Boats for the Philippine Marines - these Small Unit Riverine Craft (SURC) from Silver Boats USA will replace the some river armored crafts that the PMC previously used until they were turned-over to the Philippine Navy. They are armed with machine guns and best employed on river and coastal areas. The USMC operates a similar version of the boat for their riverine operations. 

The PMC's SURC during the presentation to public and commissioning rights.
Photo taken from Reuters.

5. Arrival of New 5-ton Kia KM-500 Artillery Prime Movers from South Korea, and other EDA Trucks from the US - the PMC displayed their new KM-500 trucks during the AFP 78th Anniversary, which will be used as prime movers for the impending 155mm Towed Howitzer purchase which is still ongoing. Aside from this new asset, the PMC also received some of the Excess Defense Article trucks provided by the US this year which can be used to increase the mobility capability of the corps. 

One of the PMC's KM-500 5-ton trucks on display during the AFP's 78th Anniversary celebrations.
Photo taken from Sandy @ Timawa Defense Forum.

1. Arrival of the last 2 W-3A Sokol helicopters from Poland - the final batch of the W-3A Sokol helicopters from PZL Swidnik of Poland arrived early in 2013 to complete the contract for 8 units. Although criticized by the Aquino government, the helicopters found a new mission as search and rescue (SAR) helicopters for the 505th Search and Rescue Group. Near the end of its warranty period, it is expected that the PAF will upgrade these helicopters for them to perform their SAR duties better, like installation of hoists, search lights and transponders. A new paint scheme may also follow soon, probably in white and yellow.

One of the W-3A Sokols now sporting a new paint scheme as rescue helicopters for the 505th Search and Rescue Group.
Photo taken from Sandy @ Timawa Defense Forum.

2. Refurbishing of S-76A helicopters to air ambulances for the 505th Search and Rescue Group - the former gunships of the PAF are also getting another lease of life being air ambulances for the 505th Search and Rescue Group. Being air ambulances, they are equipped with mobile life support systems and will be used in transporting critically injured soldiers or victims to hospitals. Although not all S-76A in PAF inventory underwent this transformation, this is a good sign that these helicopters can still continue service with the PAF for several more years. Reportedly there are around 6 helicopters in operational service with the PAF, and we hope to see more of those stored airframes to be revived within the year.

One of the PAF's S-76A Air Ambulances from the 505th Search and Rescue Group.
Photo taken from Sandy @ Timawa Defense Forum.

3. Awarding of Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project to AgustaWestland for AW109 Power helicopters - The major acquisition project for 2013 is this, which will complement the smaller and older MD-520MG gunships of the PAF. This might also be the platform that will eventually replace these "Defenders" in the future. Armed with rocket and gun pods, these helicopters can also be configured as anti-tank platforms following further upgrades to make them compatible to fire guided missiles. In the meantime, the MD-520MG could also begin its SLEP program to extend their life for several more years.

AgustaWestland was awarded to supply 8 AW109 armed helicopters to the PAF.
Photo taken from malaysiaflyingherald blog site.

4. Notice of Award for Supply of 21 UH-1H Helicopters to Rice Aircraft Services and Eagle Copter - just before the year ended, the PAF finally awarded the supply the long delayed 21 refurbished UH-1H Huey combat utility helicopters to a joint venture of US-based Rice Aircraft Services and Canadian-based Eagle Copter. The helicopters are expected to arrive starting June next year. This will strengthen the helicopter fleet of the PAF while it waits for new assets to be procured in the near future. 13 of the UH-1H will be standard refurbished units, while 8 units will be upgraded versions.

Rice Aircraft Services and Eagle Copter finally gets a notice of award from the DND and PAF for the supply of UH-1H combat utility helicopters.
Photo taken from Rice Aircraft Services website.

1. Introduction of the M69B 81mm Mortars - Up to 100 units of the Bosnian-Serbian mortars were delivered to the Philippine Army (PA) this year to increase the firepower of all its infantry brigades and complement existing but older mortars in the service. More are expected to be procured of the type by the PA.

The M69B mortars displayed during the AFP's 78th Anniversary celebrations.
Photo taken from Hukbong Katihan ng Pilipinas' Facebook page.

2. Introduction of Raptor and Knight Falcon Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) - the Zamboanga City Crisis saw these UAS being deployed in action and successfully providing the needed information to the operators on the ground. The UAS are simple, small, cheap, yet effective enough for limited surveillance use and can be deployed in numbers for field operating units. The PA's Research and Development Center is still developing more advanced versions of the UAS and might be available by next year.

The Raptor and Knight Falcon UAS displayed during the AFP's 78th Anniversary celebrations.
Photo taken from Hukbong Katihan ng Pilipinas Facebook page.

3. Awarding of the Assault Rifle Acquisition Project to Remington Arms for the R4 rifle - together with the Philippine Marines (PMC), the PA will be receiving new Remington R4 carbines (M4) starting next year. These rifles will be issued to front line troopers, probably starting with the Mechanized Infantry Division troops (due to the need for a shorter rifle for those riding armored personnel carriers). Remington may also provide technical assistance to the Government Arsenal (GA) in developing future M16-derived rifles for the AFP. 

The Remington R4 carbine will be delivered starting next year.
Photo taken from Remington Defense website.

4. Introduction of M16A1 (enhanced) and M16A1 Dissipator from the Government Arsenal - several batches of refurbish and upgraded M16A1 rifles were handed over by the GA to the AFP, with majority of the rifles being delivered for the PA. The enhanced M16A1 rifles gives a new lease of life to the venerable M16A1, while the Dissipator 16" is a prelude to the proposed GA rifles to be provided to standard infantry units but still using the M16A1 as a base. More rifles are being refurbished by the GA, and we may also see M1911 refurbished pistols by next year.

M16A1 Dissipators on display during hand-over of 1 batch to the AFP.
Photo taken from Government Arsenal Facebook page.

5. Arrival of excess Armored Humvees M1114, and assorted trucks M939 and M35 series from the US - several utility vehicles were distributed to the Philippine Army from US Army EDA stocks, including armored Humvee M1114 series, and several 5-ton M939 and 2 1/2-ton M35 trucks in assorted variants like cargo & troop carrier, tractor heads, wreckers, dump trucks and van bodies. These armored Humvees saw action in the Zamboanga City Crisis providing armor and fire support for the troops.

M1114 Uparmored Humvees still in desert tan colored were utilized by the PA during the Zamboanga City Crisis. Several were delivered to the PA from US Army EDAs.

Special mention also to the modernization efforts of the Government Arsenal, which received several important items to improve their capability like the Universal Weapon Rest from SABER UK and Weighing and Gauging Machine from Waterbury Farrel of Canada delivered this year, and ongoing procurement for Electronic Pressure, Velocity, Action Time Testing Machine (EPVAT), and other items which will be procured by next year.

The Universal Weapon Rest procured from SABER of the United Kingdom.
Photo taken from Government Arsenal, DND Philippines Facebook page.

Aside from the programs realized and awarded this year, there are several ongoing bidding programs, G-2-G and FMS deals that are expected to be finalized and awarded or completed by next year. Major ticket items include, but not limited to the following:

- The Army's M113A2 delivery, Armored Recovery Vehicles, Shore-launched Anti-Ship Missile system;
- The Navy's Strategic Sealift Vessel (SSV), Frigates, procurement of additional MPAC, LCU, and SLEP for the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates;
- The Marine Corp's Amphibious Assault Vehicle and Small Amphibian Vehicle;
- The Air Force's Light and Medium Lift Aircraft, Search and Rescue Seaplane, Flight Simulators, the FA-50 SAA/LIFT aircraft and ammunition, air defense radars, Maritime Patrol Aircraft, additional C-130s, new CUH, and bases development;
- The Army and Marines' 155mm Towed Howitzers, Night Fighting Optics, Force Protection Equipment, Mortars, Grenade Launchers, Light Rocket Launchers, additional Trucks and vehicles, additional MilSpec Radios, and various ammunition.

The awarding of the Frigate Acquisition Project is expected to be made next year, together with several other big ticket items for the entire AFP.

MaxDefense expects that 2014 would even be a better year for the AFP Modernization as many of the projects will reach the awarding stage, and there are also several programs that will have deliveries commencing in 2014. We also expects more new project announcements, many which are big-ticket items that will definitely give the AFP its needed boost. If MaxDefense sources are correct, additional funds may also boost the program with emphasis on defending the Philippines' energy-related territories in the West Philippine Sea, and equipment for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations.

MaxDefense expects more big-ticket items to be announced in 2014, including the purchase of Maritime Patrol Aircraft, additional C-130s and transport planes, and more naval vessels and aircraft.

Aside from new procurements, MaxDefense expects the revival of several decommissioned or non-serviceable AFP assets due to the self-reliance and enhancement of maintenance capabilities gained these past few years. It may include additional C-130 aircraft, UH-1H and S-76A helicopters, and S-211 jets for the PAF, and armored vehicles and infantry weapons for the PA and PMC.

MaxDefense hopes that the PAF could revive another C-130 aircraft from the boneyard this 2014.

MaxDefense, as always, will try to keep its readers updated on the latest in Philippine and related defense matters, including updates on the AFP Modernization Program for 2014.  We will also try to tackle different defense issues pertaining to the Philippines and its neighbors. 

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and we welcome a great 2014 for the AFP and the Filipino people!!

Friday, December 27, 2013

New 81mm Mortars and UAV Confirmed with the Philippine Army

The 78th Anniversary and Thanksgiving celebrations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last December 20, 2013 confirmed 2 new systems with the Philippine Army (PA). These are the newly acquired 81mm Mortars and Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). Both projects were realized under the AFP Modernization Program and were quietly commissioned in the past.

President Aquino inspecting the new equipment of the AFP, which includes the Philippine Army's 81mm mortars & Unmanned Aerial Systems. Also displayed by the PA are its Garmin handheld GPS and M4 rifles.
Photo taken from GMA News website.

MaxDefense will discuss the 2 projects in this blog:

1. New M69B 81mm Mortar
The Department of National Defense (DND)_released an Invitation to Bid on November 2010, for a new project called 81mm Mortar Acquisition Project with project number AFPMP-G-PA-10-004. This project involves the acquisition of 100 new 81mm mortars, and 2,000 rounds of 81mm mortar ammunition. The Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) of this project is Php 190,320,000.00, with the mortar worth Php 170,320,000 while the ammunition is worth Php 20,000,000.00.

The M69B 81mm mortars displayed during the AFP's 78th Anniversary.
Photo taken from Hukbong Katihan ng Pilipinas' Facebook page.

Only 1 company, a joint venture of Joavi Philippines Corp. and Israeli firm Talon Secuirty Consulting and Trade Ltd. (Talon) submitted a bid worth Php 189,500,000.00. Interesting is the background of Talon which was also involved in a controversial deal for mortar ammunition with the AFP in 2009, which they were cleared later on. They were also involved in a controversial arms trade in Iraq by being the agent of defense companies in Serbia and Montenegro. This is probably the connection that was also used in winning the 81mm Mortar Acquistion Project, wherein the joint venture of Joavi and Talon offered the M69B from Serbia.

The M69B mortar during tests prior to delivery.
Photo taken from the PARDC Facebook page.

The Yugoslavian M69 was originally designed as an 82mm mortar for the Yugoslav People's Army. Upon the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the early 90s, most of the country's former states like Serbia and Bosnia brought with them the industry, technical know-how, and skill to make arms and weaponry. With the democratization of these former Yugoslav states, arms standardization slowly leaned towards NATO's own standard, which eventually affected the production of the M69 mortar. An 81mm NATO-compatible version was built, designated as M69B, which is the same model offered to the Philippine Army. 

The original M69 mortar uses a 82mm caliber, non-NATO compliant version. A NATO-compatible version, the M69B, is the model sold to the Philippine Army.
Photo taken from Krusik Holdings Corp. website.
According to media reports, the mortars were supplied by a Serbian company to the Joavi-Talon joint venture. MaxDefense also initially taught it was Serbian, being the dominant Yugoslav state and home to most of the former Yugoslavia's defense manufacturing sector. But a MaxDefense source involved in the actual transaction and testing of the mortars confirmed that the mortars were actually made by a Bosnian company, BNT-Tvornica Masina i Hidraulike, d.d (BNT-TMiH), based in Novi Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina. This company actually made the mortar's major components like the barrel, breech, breech block and the undercarriage, and also make mortar and artillery components for other major manufacturers from other Western countries. This company is also the manufacturer of the 155mm howitzer being offered by Joavi Philippines to the DND as part of the 155mm Howitzer Acquisition Project previously discussed in an earlier MaxDefense blog. In turn, this company's products were marketed internationally by a Serbian defense marketing agent which has the connections to the Israeli company. So to those asking, that was the reason why these mortars are actually Bosnian.

The M69B is among the products produced by Bosnian company BNT-TMiH.
Photo taken from BNT-TMiH company website.

Meanwhile, the M72 81mm mortar High Explosive (HE) ammunition are made in Serbia. 

The 81mm Mortar Acquisition Project suffered a setback in for more than a year until the project was again continued, with the DND signing a contract with the Joavi-Talon joint venture for the delivery of 100 units of M69B 81mm mortars. Field testing of the mortars and ammunition was done at Crow Valley, Tarlac on June 2013. According to the Philippine Army's spokesman, all have been delivered and were distributed to all infantry divisions..

2. Philippine Army Unmanned Aerial System (UAS)
Another item displayed in the anniversary celebrations are the Philippine Army's Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), which are actually small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) developed by the Philippine Army Research and Development Center. (PARDC).

The Philippine Army's UAS displayed during the AFP's 78th Anniversary celebrations.
Photo taken from Hukbong Katihan ng Pilipinas' Facebook page.

Although there is little information about these UAS, the PA claims that the Raptor and Knight Falcon (as they are called) UAS are capable of providing real time imagery and video feed from a distance of 3km to 7km, and has an endurance of 3 hours. According to the PA, these UAS will complements their existing Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) capabilities, and can also be used in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. 

MaxDefense previously posted a photo of the Raptor in action during the Zamboanga City crisis last September, 2013. The army claims that this is the first time they actually used the UAS in action.

From a simple look at the display, it appears that the drones look like commercial-designed models, specifically the Skywalker remote control aircraft used by hobbyists and commercial UAV operators. It is a simple and sturdy design, probably the reason why the PARDC chose this specific model as a platform for the army's UAS. The army quotes the Raptor at Php 150,000.00 each, while the Knight Falcon, although it looks similar to the Raptor, costs higher at Php 300,000.00. This is cheap compared to most military UAV systems used by other countries. Reportedly another larger, more advanced version is being developed and may cost at Php 1.5 million.

According to the Philippine Army, news reports and the Philippine Drones blog, the drones are said to carry a 12 megapixel camera capable of snapshots and video, and weighs at around 2.1 kilograms. It has a wingspan of 178 centimeters (1.78 meters) and can fly at an altitude of 1,000 feet. It's propulsion is an electric brush-less motor powered by lithium-polymer battery packs. Surprisingly, the entire autopilot system is probably Chinese-made, with a FeiyuTech UAV GPS capable autopilot system with radio datalink, ground station control software is FYGCS by Feiyu Electronics running on Windows-7, and a video link using FeiyuTech Hornet on screen display.

The UAS' ground station and autopilot program displayed during the AFP's 78th Anniversary celebrations.
Photo taken from Hukbong Katihan ng Pilipinas' Facebook page.

Both the army's mortar and UAS acquisitions are very important, as it improves the overall combat capability of the organization. MaxDefense believes that these are initial acquisitions, and follow-on orders or development may follow later on upon availability of more funds from the national government (as in the case of the UAS, it's a project that is continuously improving). 

The appearance of these items in the PA's capability list only shows that the modernization program is moving without the public knowing too much. It proves that modernization programs not being reported publicly does not mean there's no movement on the program at all.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Gift: Philippine Navy Gets AW109 Power Naval Helicopters

On December 18, 2013, the Philippine Navy (PN) commissions its first 3 AgustaWestland AW109 Power multipurpose naval helicopters as part of the AFP 78th Anniversary and Thanksgiving celebrations at AFP's headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. 

Commissioning of AW109 Power naval helicopters with the Philippine Navy on December 18, 2013.
Photo taken from Manila Times Facebook page.

The Naval Helicopter Acquisition Program:
On March 2010, the Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) released an invitation to bid for the procurement of 2 multipurpose helicopters including Intergrated Logistics Support (ILS) and air and ground crew training with an Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) amounting to Php 850.91 million. Award should have been to PZL Swidnik of Poland for a navalized W-3 Sokol variant, but this was deferred after reports of collusion between PZL Swidnik and a joint group from the Philippine Air Force and Navy was made public.

Taken by CatsMeow@TMW of Timawa defense forum just after it arrived at Camp Aguinaldo for the commissioning ceremonies.

Another attempt was made in 2012 now under the Naval Helicopter Acquisition Program, and the PN planned to embark these helicopters on the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates. The DND decided to negotiate with AgustaWestland for navalized AW109 Power helicopters, and was found to be the single calculated and responsive proponent. With the help of the Italian Ministry of Defense upon their review, the notice of award was provided to AgustaWestland S.p.A. and a contract was signed on December 20, 2012 for 3 helicopters worth Php 1,337,176,584.00 (US$32.544 million), to be financed by the AFP Modernization Program with assistance from the Department of Energy. An option for 2 more is also included in the contract, which was realized later on for a total budget for the 5 helicopters plus ILS for probably less than Php 2.2 billion. Expected delivery is around early 2014.

AW109 Power naval helicopter with the folding rotor kit installed.

An excellent photo of PN AW109 Power with tail no. 432 during one of its tests in Italy.
Photo taken from by Fabrizio Capenti and Malpensa Spotters Group.

The first batch of avionics and maintenance crew were sent to Sesto Calende, Italy for training on May 2013, while the 1st batch of pilots for training were sent to Italy on June 2013 while the last batch were sent on November 2013. The training for different crews vary between 2 to 4 months which will enable them to maintain and operate the helicopters with minimal or no help from AgustaWestland specialists.  

The first 3 helicopters arrived in the Philippines on December 7, 2013, way ahead of schedule, and were assembled at AgustaWestland's facility in Manila. Initial tests were made before the installation of the FLIR and accessories and commissioning rights.

The 3 AW109 Power naval helicopters on display during the AFP's 78th anniversary.
Photo taken from Manila Times Facebook page.

After the commissioning rights, the helicopters will then be used by PN NAG pilots in embarking and disembarking with the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, which would probably take several months or even years to reach proficiency among its rank. The helicopters will also be used to provide the PN with the background and experience to enable it to move up the ladder as it plans to acquire larger ASW-capable helicopters in the next few years.

Naval AW109 Power Features:
The helicopters were classified as "Multipurpose Naval Helicopters" and will be tasked as the embedded air asset of the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates. The choice of the AW109 was in part because of the said frigate's lack of sufficient space to take in larger naval helicopters in its small telescopic hangar. The helicopter could be used for surveillance, search and rescue, over the horizon targeting, insertion of SEAL Team, interdiction, vertical replenishment and utilitarian missions.

The AW109 will be the mainstay aviation asset of the PN's Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates.

The PN's AW109 feature a new exterior naval grey paint scheme different from the standard PN Naval Air Group royal blue. Exterior features that can be easily seen are the rescue winch on the starboard side, emergency flotation devices on the helicopter's sides, and the forward looking infra-red (FLIR) ball turret. 

A PN AW109 Power naval helicopter being tested in Italy.

Inside, the helicopter features a glass cockpit, a cabin for 2 pilots and 4 passengers (or space for stretchers if needed), and the FLIR control panel on the passenger cabin to be operated by a specialized crew member. The FLIR sensors, made by American firm FLIR Systems, will enable the helicopter crew to see in poor visibility or weather conditions due to the system's use of thermal radiation to create a picture. It can be used for surveillance of humans for target tracking or rescue at sea, target acquisition and tracking, and piloting of helicopter in poor weather condition. At the same time, the helicopter is equipped with a video transmitter that can send live feed video to land or ship bases. 

The FLIR ball turret and one of the emergency flotation devices.
Photo taken from Sandy @ Timawa defense forum.

The helicopter is also equipped with a weather radar, transponders and storm/lighting detection systems, very important features when operating on an open sea. As a navalized helicopter, it is also equipped with a foldable rotor system (a video of the blade folding kit installation can be seen HERE) which will enable it to fit inside the ship's hangar. Other features of the helicopter include the capability to do vertical replenishment (VERTREP), as the helicopter is equipped with a cargo hook on its underbelly, although the capacity of cargo that can be carried might be minimal due to the helicopter's small size. 

One of the PN's AW109 Power naval helicopter after testings, installed with the rescue winch, emergency flotation devices and FLIR ball turret.
Photo taken from Pinoy Aviator's Facebook page.

Another feature that it will be doing in the near future is Over the Horizon Targeting (OTHT) which will enable the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates or any missile-armed ship of the PN to extend the range of its anti-ship missiles beyond the curvature of the earth by using the helicopters as targeting systems. This will be possible when the helicopters are equipped with OTHT targeting radars and a data link that extends the ship's surveillance, tracking and targeting capability and overcome the line of sight concerns of naval vessels. So far the DND and AFP are still determining the data link system that they intend to use for the entire AFP, which is also one of the requirements of the PN's new frigates and refurbishing of the Gregorio del Pilar-class. This feature will be available after an upgrade of these helicopters.

Over the Horizon Targeting (OTHT) enables a naval vessel to extend its "eyes and ears" and use the helicopter's sensors to guide long range anti-ship missiles to its target. This is a planned feature of the AW109 helicopters after installing OTHT tracking and targeting radar.

If the reports are correct, it was reported that the 2 more AW109's arriving early next year will be armed and will have a significant electronic warfare (EW) capabilities, probably an electronic support measures (ESM) system installed. Except for these, it is difficult to know the difference of these 2 helicopters with the earlier 3 units, but MaxDefense believes that the 2 incoming EW capable armed naval helicopters will be the actual units to be assigned with the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16).

A lightweight ESM receiver similar to the Northrop Grumman LR-100 RWR/ESM/ELINT system shown above may be carried by the AW109.
Photo taken from Northrop Grumman website.

Unfortunately the helicopter is too small to be an effective anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter, being unable to carry a dipping sonar, and may even have difficulty in carrying a torpedo. If the helicopter is equipped with a OTHT targeting radar, it may also have difficulty in carrying a long range anti-ship missile. So MaxDefense is skeptical on what kind of armaments that the incoming AW109 naval helicopters can carry.

Nonetheless, the helicopters are a welcome addition to the Philippine Navy's growing capability. Its a good Christmas indeed this year for the men and women of the Philippine Navy, especially those from the Naval Aviation Group. More photos of the helicopter can be seen on MaxDefense @ Facebook's photo albums HERE.

By the way....

Merry Christmas to all MaxDefense readers and supporters!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

3 Projects to Modernize the Assault Rifle Assets of the AFP; M16/M4 Series to Stay with Government Arsenal Improvements

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), through the Department of National Defense (DND) is now embarking on modernizing its firearms assets which, like the entire AFP as a whole, needs to be updated and improved with the future in mind. MaxDefense will discuss the 3 separate programs of the DND to improve the firearms supplied to the AFP for the present and for the future. 

The AFP has been a long time user of the M16 rifle. Seen here are Philippine Army Scout Rangers during a recent parade in Manila.

Short Background - M16 Rifle in the AFP:

The AFP has been a longtime user of the 5.56mm M16 rifle which is based on Eugene Stoner's AR-15 design, with initial units coming in from US military excess stocks during the Vietnam War era. The AFP received the M16 and M16A1 variants from the US government, and the country was also allowed to produce a license copy of the M16A1 through Elisco Tool & Manufacturing Company. This would eventually be the source of M16A1 rifles for the majority of the AFP. The last batch of M16A1 rifles received from the US government was through a shipment of 30,000 M16A1 (enhanced) during the term of President Gloria Arroyo as a goodwill gesture from the US President George W. Bush. Aside from the AFP, all government armed agencies are recipients of M16s, majority also coming from the AFP.

Aside from the M16, the AFP also uses other variants of the AR-15 series, including the Colt's CAR-15 carbine, and the M4 carbine all which were sourced from the US. There were also modifications made by the AFP to the M16 to meet certain requirements like the Philippine Marine Corps' Marine Scout Sniper Rifle (MSSR) and the Night Fighting Weapons System (NFWS)

The PMC developed the Marine Scout Sniper Rifle through the guidance of Maj. Gen. Jonathan Martin, now the Government Arsenal Director.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

1. New Remington R4 Rifles for the AFP:

Finally after a long wait, it is confirmed that American arms manufacturer Remington Arms Company LLC was indeed awarded a contract to supply 50,629 units of assault rifles based on the popular M4 carbine together with spare parts, training support, and accessories. The contract is worth Php 1,944,261,591.66, or almost 40% less than the Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) of Php 3,189,627,000.00, wherein Remington will be supplying their R4 carbine to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The rifles will then be distributed to the different branches of the AFP, probably majority to the Philippine Army (PA), and will arrive in several batches starting in 2014. Local company P.B. Dionisio and Company is the official local representative of Remington Arms in the Philippines, where it won over the bids coming from Colt Defense LLC, SIG Sauer Inc., and Manroy Defense Systems.

The Remington R4 is the company's version of the widely-used M4 carbine. This would be the next service rifle of the AFP, while older M16s will shoulder on after repairs and refurbishment.
Photo taken from Remington Defense website.

The rifles are meant to supplement and replace early models of the M16 and M16A1 rifle, which is the standard rifle of the entire AFP, majority of which were provided from ex-US military stocks since the 1970s, or were locally produced by the Elisco Tool Manufacturing Company. Many are already in poor condition and will need refurbishing or replacement, which is a separate program within the AFP Modernization Program. 

Product Overview:

The Remington R4 is a 5.56mm caliber rifle based on the proven Colt M4 and M16 series. It weighs around 7 lbs. and has a telescopic stock. It operates on a direct gas impingement and rotating bolt system, and has a rate of fire of between 700 to 950 rounds per minute and a maximum effective range of 600 meters. It has a barrel length of 14.5" with 6 Groove 1:7' right-hand twist that can fire the M855 (SS109) 62-grain ammunition being standardized in the AFP, although it can also fire the older 55-grain M193 ammunition. 

The R4 is capable of being fired in semi-automatic, full-automatic, or burst modes, and the rifle can use the Magpul P-Mag or the standard  GI-type magazines similar to what is already being used by the AFP for the M16 and M4 series. It is also compatible to most M16/M4 accessories and armorer equipment that is already with the AFP.
Members of the Philippine Army's Light Reaction Battalion being presented to President Aquino during an Army presentation of capability. The Philippine military is a major user of the M16 and M4 series rifles, being in service since the late 1960s. 

What's New with this Project?:

This specific procurement project has proven that the government can purchase quality assault rifles for a low price than most procurement projects in the past. For this project, each rifle costs at an average of Php 38,400, or around $869 (as of December 13, 2013 conversion). Previously it is normal for the AFP or all other armed agencies to get a standard rifle at past Php 70,000 price range. For example, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) got their M4 for Php107,000 each. With the amount saved on this project, there would be an additional Php 1 billion that can be used for other projects of the AFP Modernization Program.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) officers with their M4 carbines. PDEA reportedly paid Php107,000 for each of these M4, as compared to the Php38,400 paid by the AFP for their Remington R4. Very big difference and very scrupulous, isn't it? 

It also shows that the AFP will still see the M16/M4 rifle to shoulder on for the next 20-30 years as its rifle of choice considering the release of newer rifle designs in the world market. This saves the AFP on many factors, including the retraining of the end users (soldiers), armorers that maintain the rifles, and saving the accessories, machinery and other equipment bought by the AFP through the years to support and maintain the rifle type.

2. Repair & Updating of Old M16 Rifles by the Government Arsenal:

Another project that is being pushed by the DND and AFP is the refurbishing of existing M16 rifles, which many are out of service and defective after many years of use. The rifles may either be refurbished back to the original M16 The Government Arsenal (GA) is the primary government agency responsible for undertaking this project as they are, by right, the DND's official arms and ammunition manufacturer and armorer. And with their new capabilities they can now manufacture replacement and provide upgrades to the existing rifles besides repairing them back to top condition.

The photo above shows the condition of the M16s from the AFP before the refurbishing.
Photo taken from the Government Arsenal's Facebook page.
The needed repair work depends on the actual condition of the rifles, a MaxDefense source said that all are in very poor condition, were damaged both internally and externally, with several missing parts, and majority are not even in firing condition and were only stored by the AFP after finding them as not usable. 

a. M16A1 (enhanced):

According to a post of GA Director Maj. Gen. Jonathan Martir (Ret) in his own Facebook account, the GA received spare parts enough for 8,000 M16A1 rifles from the former Logistics Command (LOGCOM) of the AFP provided by Elisco before they closed down a few decades ago, and through US Foreign Military Sales (FMS). GA also obtained the technical data package of the M16A1 from Elisco,  and several machines and armorer equipment related to the M16A1 repair works. These upgraded rifles are called the M16A1 (enhanced) which is similar to what was made by the US armed forces for their National Guard units. The refurbishing includes the use of a new standard 20-inch 1:12 groove barrel, and new internal parts including the firing pin. Aside from the barrel and internals, GA retained the A1 receivers after repairs, and uses the newer A2-type hand guards, pistol grip, and fixed stocks.

The photo above shows what the M16A1 look like after the GA refurbishing and upgrade, and are called the M16A1 (enhanced). It now resembles an M16A2 although A1 barrels and receivers were retained.
Photo taken from the Government Arsenal's Facebook page.

Aside from the above described rifles, some were repaired and refurbished by GA according to the different requirements of the AFP.

b. M16 Dissipator:

Another upgrade version made by GA, called the M16 Dissipator and released on May 2013, uses a 16-inch long barrel with a 1:7 RH twist and chrome-lined chamber, installed with a GA-produced muzzle break, and addition of GA-produced enhanced trigger guard, tactical latch for charging handle, an ambidextrous safety selector, and a 1-point sling adapter. Buttstock can either be a Magpul adjustable type, or a A2 fixed buttstock although initial versions were produced with the Magpul adjustable type. 

video feature of the rifle was also posted in GA's Facebook page. These updates will also be included in the M16A1 refurbishing program, and also for those to be converted to M4 carbine (14.5-inch barrel) standard.

Some of the M16A1s were refurbished to follow the proposed future service rifle of the AFP, with a 16-inch barrel in 1:7 RH twist groove and A2-type parts. Photo doesn't show the GA-manufactured muzzle break.
Photo taken from the Government Arsenal's Facebook page.

GA's M16 "Dissipator" mode, a 16-inch barrel length version with enhanced features.
Photo taken from the Government Arsenal's Facebook page.

The first batch of refurbished M16s in enhanced and 16-inch versions were turned-over to the AFP on December 2012, and it was projected that the GA can refurbish at around 500 rifles every month for 2013. Several batches were already handed over to the AFP on both the 20-inch M16A1 (enhanced) and 16-inch M16 Dissipator versions.

AFP officers checking out GA's refurbished rifles during the handover of the 1st batch on December 2012.
Photo taken from Government Arsenal's Facebook page.
Another batch of 490 M16A1 (enhanced) and 25 M16A1 Dissipators were handed-over to the AFP on May 2013.
Photo taken from Government Arsenal's Facebook page. 

c. M4 Carbine-type:

Another refurbishment followed the M4 carbine standard, which uses a 1:7 RH twist groove in a 14.5-inch long barrel and telescopic stock, although it retained the original A1-type receivers, including being a fully automatic model similar to the M4A1. It was also installed with the GA-developed muzzle break and cycle reducer. The cycle reducer brings down the rate of fire of the M4 from around 910rpm to 600rpm. The initial batch of these upgrades were made for the GA's own Security Force

GA's own Security Force were issued with M16A1 refurbished into M4A1 configuration, although it retained the A1-receivers. It also received GA's muzzle break and cycle reducer. A testament of GA's armorer capabilities.
Photo taken from the Government Arsenal's Facebook page.

There are plans that once the spare parts taken from LOGCOM are all used up, GA will then turn to purchase new parts to further upgrade existing M16 rifles in the Philippine government. 

Several M16A1 rifles from the AFP have already undergone the refurbishing project, and this project is expected to continue and cover most of the AFP's old rifles. Besides the AFP, the other M16-equipped armed agencies can also avail of this program as prescribed by the government, which includes the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and others.

3. Production of Locally-made M16 and M4 Rifles by the Government Arsenal:

The third part of the AFP future rifle program is for GA to be self-sufficient in producing its own M16 derived firearms. Proposed by the GA is to use the 5.56mm 62-grain M855 (SS109) ammunition, which is now being produced by the GA as well. This is to improve on compatibility and inter-operability with the US armed forces, as well as to make use of the improvements from the development of the ammunition. The barrel will be made of chrome moly or stainless steel with a 1:7 right hand twist and chrome-lined chamber, and will be according to milspec. It will also have a semi and select fire options.

The GA 14.5" Recon/SOF 5.56mm rifle, as shown during one of the local gun shows in Manila.
Photo taken from the Government Arsenal's Facebook page.

3 variants were proposed by the GA, with the following descriptions as described by GA Director Martir:
  1. Service Rifle Model - this model will replace the M16A1 with the AFP, and is similar to the M16 Dissipator upgrade made by GA, as discussed a few paragraphs above. It will have a 16-inch standard contour barrel length with an A2-style rounded hand guards, the GA-produced muzzle break and bayonet sling, A2 front and upper receiver-installed rear sights and fixed carry handle, A2 fixed buttstock, and provisions for grenade launcher. 
  2. Recon/SOF Model - this model follows the M4 being used by most Special Operation Forces of Western armed forces, and will be used in the same way as the Philippines' counterparts. It will have a 14.5-inch standard contour barrel length, Picatinny rail and rail adapter system with milspec rail spaces,  flattop upper receiver with fixed cartridge case deflector, detachable carry handle, flip-up front sights, M4 4-position telescopic buttstock, and is capable of accepting SOPMOD accessories and grenade launcher. 
  3. DMR/SPR Model - a designated marksman or special purpose rifle following the lines of the Philippine Marine Corps' MSSR rifle, filing the gap between the regular infantryman and a sniper. It would have an effective range of up to 800 meters with optics. It will have an 18-inch bull free-floated barrel with an A2 standard flash suppressor, folding front and rear sights, Picatinny rail and flattop upper receiver, a special buttstock design as determined.
The 3 proposed 5.56mm rifle types of the GA based on the M16 series. From left to right: The 14.5" Recon/SOF model, the 18" DMR/SPR model, and the 16" Service Rifle model.
Photo taken from the Government Arsenal Facebook page.

With these 3 separate projects, we can see improvements on the service firearms of the AFP, and possibly of all other major armed agencies of the Philippine government. The most simple reason holds the key to this decision: practicality. Unlike Thailand and Singapore which shifted from the M16 to the Tavor and SAR-21, respectively, the AFP is not in an advantageous situation in skill, infrastructure and financial reasons to jump away from a proven platform. 

The AFP is already a longtime user of the M16 series, and has invested heavily on the rifle type since the late 1960s. Its personnel started and ended their careers with mastering the M16, its armorer's skills and equipment already in place, and with thousands of accessories and upgradable parts available in the market and within production capability of the GA, plus the unquestionable and proven capability of the rifle vis-a-vis its modern competitors has proven that the M16 series will stay for a considerable time in the future as a weapon of choice not only by the Philippines but also with the rest of the world.

A Philippine Marine Corps infantryman getting hands-on learning on the M16A4 used by the US Marines. Like the US, the Philippines will see the M16 series as part of its armed forces for several more decades to come.
Photo taken from the Marine Corps Times website.

MaxDefense believes that this decision by the DND, GA and the AFP is a wise one, and must be given importance as this is the most basic weapon of the entire modernization program. 3 different firearm programs, all into improving the AFP's infantrymen's capability and giving the best weapon the Republic has to offer to its soldiers. 

June 24, 2014:

The Philippine Army is scheduled to receive the initial batch of Remington R4 carbine from the USA by July 2014. The first 27,000 units are said to be immediately sent to front line army units, MaxDefense believes that the first units to receive are the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and units under the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). SOCOM may already have familiarity with the rifle, being similar to their existing M4 carbine. 

July 17, 2014:

A speech of Pres. Benigno Aquino III during the opening of Asian Defense and Security (ADAS) Exhibition 2014 confirmed that aside from the initial order of 50,629 units of Remington R4 carbine ordered by the Army, it has added another 12,657 units using some of the budget saved from the tender. This brings the total order to 63,286 units. 

Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Air Force Modernization Projects