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!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lightweight Torpedoes for the Philippine Navy - a Re-introduction to ASW Weapons Systems

Earlier we discussed the possibility of having the MBDA FASGW(H), also known as the Sea Venom or the ANL, for the Philippine Navy (PN). This is due to entry of anti-submarine warfare helicopters being contested between the AW-159 Wildcat and the AS565MB Panther. Both helicopters are capable of carrying the FASGW(H), and both helicopters are the top contenders for the PN's ASW Helicopter acquisition project.

With the impending acquisition, it is worth noting that aside from helicopter launched anti-ship missiles, the PN is also looking at helicopter launched lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes, as specified in the ASW helicopter acquisition specifications. With no decision from the DND and PN on the helicopter platform yet, MaxDefense will be discussing the possible torpedoes models being offered to the PN.

The Eurotorp MU90/IMPACT torpedo, as carried by a French Navy NH90NFH naval helicopter.
Photo taken from website.

Lightweight Anti-Submarine Torpedoes
The DND and PN's Technical Specifications for the ASW Helicopters indicated the following conditions for the anti-submarine torpedo requirements:

- 6 warshot and exercise torpedoes per helicopter (total of 12 torpedoes);
- lightweight;
- impact detonated;
- with sub-surface target homing capability in active, passive, or mixed acoustic modes;
- with a range not less than 10 kilometers;
- seawater battery operated with electrically rechargeable power source;
- to include Flight in Air Material (FIAM) gears;
- torpedoes should be the same as those being procured for the PN's new frigate (pending PN's updated technical specifications for the frigate's torpedo system).

The specifications did not indicate the torpedo's calibre, although it is expected that the PN will be acquiring those in the 323.7mm (commonly known as the 324mm) NATO standard LWT calibre. 

Based on the size alone, the possible candidates for the PN's requirement may include the following torpedo models:

1. Raytheon Mark 54 MAKO (USA);
2. BAE Systems Sting Ray Mod 1 (UK);
3. Eurotorp MU90/IMPACT (France/Italy);
4. LIG Next1 K745 Blue Shark (South Korea)

The US Mark 46 and the Italian A244/S Mod. 3 are probably not being considered, as they are already being replaced by the newer Mark 54 MAKO and the MU90/IMPACT, respectively.

Torpedo Propulsion System:
But each of these torpedo models have different propulsion systems, although majority uses the seawater battery type, which are believed to have less heat signatures and left no wake as compared to thermal propulsion systems like those using liquid propellants. Seawater battery means that it can be activated by exposing them to seawater. So far, only the Eurotorp MU90/IMPACT, the LIG Nex1 K745 Blue Shark and the BAE Systems Sting Ray are powered by seawater batteries. Both the MU90/IMPACT and the K745 Blue Shark are powered by Aluminum-Silver Oxide (AlAgO) seawater battery, while the Sting Ray Mod1 with the Magnesium/Silver-Chloride (MgAgCl) seawater battery from SAFTThe Mark 54 MAKO uses the Otto II liquid fuel, effectively taking it out of the possible choices.

The Mark 54 torpedo being launched from a USN destroyer. Being powered by liquid Otto Fuel II, it does not meet the specifications provided by the PN, which specifically mentioned the use of seawater battery system found in other torpedo models like the Sting Ray, MU90 and Blue Shark.
Photo taken from Wikimedia.

The Possible Candidates:
According to most defense journals, the MU90/IMPACT is the most modern, and probably the best lightweight torpedo in the market today, with its capabilities in terms of speed and range, depth requirement for launching being applicable to shallow waters, high immunity to countermeasures, having an insensitive warhead, broadband sonar and a tactical computer. But this also means that it could be the most expensive of the possible offers. It also suffered some problems with the Australian Navy, which could be a possible reason for doubt by other countries including the Philippines. The MU90/IMPACT is currently in use by France, Italy, and many other nations including Germany and Denmark, and can be carried by the AS565MB Panther, the NH90NFH, and the AW101 Merlin. It can also be carried by the AW-159 and the MH-60/S-70 helicopter, which can be modified to do so and were tested with such configuration a few years ago.

The Eurotorp MU90/IMPACT in both the ship-launched and aircraft-launched variants.

The LIG Nex1 K745 Blue Shark was said to have been developed closely using the MU90/IMPACT as a basis. It uses the same technology for the propulsion and power source, but may cost far less that its European counterpart. It was reported that the torpedo only had a success hit rate of 50% during tests by the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) and confirmed by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) in 2012. It is expected that the ROKN will equip its upcoming AW-159 Wildcat naval helicopters with the K745 Blue Shark, in anticipation of their current policy of nationalizing its weapons system as much as possible.

Scale models of the LIG Nex1 C-Star anti-ship missile (above) and the K745 Blue Shark lightweight torpedo.

The BAE Systems Sting Ray, currently in its Mod.1 version, is the foremost lightweight torpedo used by the Royal Navy. Compared to the older Mod.0, it uses a new sonar system, an insensitive munition warhead, a new tactical and navigation system and a new seawater battery system. It also prides itself of being a low maintenance torpedo using longer life seals and improved bearing lubricating system. The Sting Ray Mod.1 is the initial torpedo model carried by the AW-159 Wildcat, and can also be carried by the NH90NFH, and is currently in service with British Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, and the Norwegian Navy.  

A Royal Navy AW-159 Wildcat carrying a pair of Sting Ray torpedoes.

All torpedoes mentioned above can be carried and launched by helicopters, are impact detonated, with sub-surface homing capability in both active and passive modes. All mentioned torpedo models have ranges exceeding the 10 kilometers, 

Ship-Launched Lightweight Torpedoes:
With a requirement from the PN for the helicopter-launched torpedoes to be of the same model as the frigate-launched ones, the selection of torpedoes for both platforms will be dependent on which project will be awarded first. 

The PN also has a requirement for lightweight torpedoes to arm its upcoming new frigates, as well as a possibility to upgrade its existing naval assets to fire torpedoes as well.
Photo taken from Wikimedia.

So far the PN's frigate acquisition project is already going for the second stage bid, but since the PN already decided to separate the acquisition of weapons systems from the frigate itself, there might be some changes in their requirement that can still be made. Although based on commonality and practicality, the original requirement for the frigate and helicopter to have a common torpedo model is still probably the way to go.

Whatever the outcome is of the acquisition plans for anti-submarine lightweight torpedoes, the main point is that the Philippine Navy will finally be having torpedoes in its arsenal again after a long absence. And not only will it have ship-launched torpedoes, but also air-launched as well. This will definitely boost the PN's capabilities as compared to what it has now, and with proper training, maintenance, and funding, as well as close coordination with its neighbors and allies, the PN may well again be returning to regain its lost prestige as one of the most proficient ASW combat force in the Pacific region. 

MaxDefense anticipates that the acquisition of torpedoes will be separated from the acquisition of the helicopters, as what was done with the PN's new frigate project.

Aside from the Philippine Navy, it is also expected that the Philippine Air Force will benefit from such acquisition plans, with their Long Range Patrol Aircraft (aka Maritime Patrol Aircraft) also expected to be armed with air-launched torpedoes as ASW missions are part of its requirement. 

A C-295 maritime patrol aircraft dropping an air-launched anti-submarine lightweight torpedo during tests. Aside from the PN, the PAF is also expected to acquire lightweight torpedoes for its upcoming Long Range Patrol Aircraft. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Fight for the PN's ASW Helicopter Still On, and Possible Acquisition of the FASGW(H) Sea Venom Missile for the Helicopters

With the bidding for the Philippine Navy's (PN) requirement for 2 Anti-Submarine Warfare Helicopters failing in its first attempt, the Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) has issued another Invitation to Bid for another attempt. The ABC remains the same at Php 5.405 billion.The pre-bid conference was done last October 7, 2014, in which according to reports, 4 companies attended and showed interest in the project. These are AgustaWestland, PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI), Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and a joint venture between Bell Helicopter Asia and Serpenair Group. The absence of Airbus Helicopters is a surprise although MaxDefense sources said that they are now working together with PTDI, which were given local production licenses and marketing rights for some of their helicopter offerings.

The AgustaWestland AW-159 still appears to be in the forefront of the PN ASW Helicopter acquisition.

It is expected that AgustaWestland will be offering again the AW159 Wildcat, PTDI with the Airbus Helicopters AS565MB Panther, and Bell-Serpenair with a navalized Bell 412. IAI does not produce its own helicopters, and is expected to join or work together with a helicopter supplier.

The Airbus Helicopter AS565MB Panther, which might be the one offered by PT Dirgantara Indonesia.
Photo taken from John Bennett via Air-Britain Photographic Images Collection.

The bid submission and opening for this second attempt was originally scheduled today, October 21, 2014, but was moved to November 4, 2014 due to some clarifications made by PTDI and AgustaWestland.

Changes from the First Bidding Attempt:
There were actually some major changes in the Technical Specifications of the helicopters that MaxDefense believes is more reasonable than the initial version. Although it looks like this gave the AW159 Wildcat a higher chance of winning, it actually allowed other suppliers a better chance of clinching the deal. The major differences are as follows:

1. Endurance in full ASW configuration with munitions was reduced from 2 hours and 30 minutes to only 2 hours;

2. Range in full ASW configuration with munitions was reduced from 300nm to 240nm;
3. Requirement on number of the aircraft's users was reduced, from country of origin or at least 2 other countries, to country of origin or at least 1 other country;
4. Rigidity of the airframe was further defined to withstand and survive vertical crash impacts of up to 10G;

Other changes in the technical specfications include:

5. Suppliers are now given an option for alternatives on crew station requirements for tactical coordinator (TACCO) and sensor operator (SENSO);
6. Openness to an option for a manual rotor folding system for 4-bladed rotors instead of only accepting automatic folding systems;
7. Specified the included items for the Flight In Air Material (FIAM) gears;
8. The suppliers are given other options for the crew training requirements aside from what was specified.

It's Still a Cat Fight:
In the previous MaxDefense blog entry on this project, a "Cat Fight" between the Wildcat and the Panther was predicted. It certainly is the same for this second bidding attempt. But Bell's offer could be a wildcard although their chances, in MaxDefense's opinion, is slimmer than the 2 cat-named helicopters.

The AW-159 Wildcat still appears to be the point of reference for this bidding, and still has the highest chance of getting the deal, except if PTDI can meet the requirements AND shake the status quo by placing a significantly lower bid than AgustaWestland. MaxDefense believes that Airbus Helicopter's cooperation with PTDI for this project is well timed, with the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) recently choosing the AS565 Panther as its next ship-based ASW helicopter. With PTDI supplying the helicopters, costs could be driven down and may give it a chance to overtake the AgustaWestland offer.

The Venezuelan Navy operates a few Bell 412 in naval roles, although it is unclear if this version has the capabilities the PN is looking for.

So what's new here?

Should either the Wildcat or Panther be chosen, there is one major thing common between the 2 helicopters - both are planned to be equipped with the same new generation anti-ship missile systems from European missile system manufacturer MBDA. Enter the FASGW(H) missile series.

FASGW(H) Anti-Ship Missile:
MBDA is currently in the process of introducing a new anti-surface missiles to replace the ageing Sea Skua with the British Royal Navy (RN) and the AS.15TT designed to be fired from the the Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) Panther and Dauphin naval helicopters. The missile system was designated as the Future Anti Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) or Sea Venom for the British, and as the Anti-Nevire Legere (ANL) with the French. It was designed to be carried by the RN's Lynx and Wildcat helicopters, and the FN's Panther helicopters, and further development may allow it to be fired from other platforms, including other helicopters models, and possibly from surface ships. So far it was also confirmed that the NH90 helicopter can be equipped with the missile system.

The MBDA FASGW / ANL, together with the smaller Thales FASGWL / LMM.

With both the Wildcat and the Panther vying for the Philippine Navy requirement, the chances of the PN having this missile in its future inventory is very high. The ASW Helicopter's technical specifications require for a missile with weight not more than 150 kilograms, a warhead not less than 20 kilograms, a range not less than 20 kilometers, and equipped with a guidance system. In comparison, the Sea Venom/ANL weighs around 110 kilograms, a warhead at the 30 kilogram class, and a range said to exceed 25 kilometers. With not much alternatives, the FASGW(H) is certainly a perfect fit.

A computer illustration of what an AW-159 Wildcat may look like with the FASGW(H) Sea Venom missiles.

Although the FASGW(H) / Sea Venom / ANL is no Exocet or Harpoon missile in terms of size and range, it is still a very capable missile that gives versatility to naval helicopters, providing anti-surface warfare capabilities in shorter ranges against smaller targets. It gives the helicopter enough punch to disable warships up to corvette size, and sink smaller ships and fast boats at stand-off distances. 

The ANL is expected to be used by the French Navy for their AS565 Panther naval helicopters, and should the PN get the same helicopters for its ASW Helicopter requirement, it may also get the ANL missile.
Photo taken from the Defenseindustrydaily website.

The only problem is...

The FASGW(H) / Sea Venom / ANL is expected to enter the RN service by January 2018 after encountering several delays during its development program. So it is expected that even if the PN becomes the first customer outside UK & France, the first missiles may arrive only around mid-2018. By that time, it is expected that the ASW helicopters are already in PN service. But being an ASW platform, the PN is probably giving more emphasis to ASW training and duties once the helicopters arrive, thus the urgency is more on having them armed with torpedoes instead of anti-surface missiles like the FASGW(H).

Previously MaxDefense discussed the Sea Skua as a possible missile for the AW-159 Wildcat, but since this is a model that is not in production anymore, it is not expected to enter the PN service, probably even as a second-hand defense article.


Delays in the procurement may happen due to circumstances that come along with the entire acquisition program, like what was experienced by the ASW Helicopter and Frigate acquisition programs. Nonetheless, the PN is still expected to gain from this acquisition, and it is expected that they will be acquiring more ASW helicopters as the fleet acquire more surface combatants with helicopter deck and hangar. Loosely following the Philippine Navy Desired Force Mix white paper, it might be possible for the PN to get more of whatever is chosen on this bidding as more funds become available in the second phase of the AFP Modernization Program slated from 2018-2022.

A computer generated image of a Sea Venom missile launched by an AW-159 Wildcat naval helicopter.
Photo taken from navyrecognition website.

Aside from the helicopters, it is expected that the PN will acquire more of the FASGW(H) missiles proportionate to the number of helicopters or assets capable of launching them. Aside from the air launched version, MaxDefense sources confirmed that there were offers from MBDA for a ship-launched version that is being developed, although this would probably be for a medium term goal as part of the next phase of the AFP Modernization.

October 25, 2014:
The DND released its newest supplementary bid bulleting regarding the ASW Helicopter acquisition project, with reference no. DND/AFP-PN-R-ASHAP-1014-03 dated October 23, 2014. The content clarifies several clauses from the DND Technical Specifications, and also answering the request for information (RFI) previously submitted by both AgustaWestland and PT Dirgantara Indonesia.

AgustaWestland got clarifications regarding the certification of the helicopter from aviation classification societies, the Tactical Data Exchange and Recording System, and documentation and administrative requirements. 

PTDI's queries are more complex, although by the queries they provided appears that they might be having problems meeting the basic requirements of the project. Their offer appears to have difficulties meeting both anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (AShW) capabilities. Also, the DND provided answers to their request on amendments on the delivery; terminologies regarding the product being used by the country of origin or at least 2 other countries; the requirement for an airframe hour meter to monitor the helicopter's airframe life; TACCO & SENSO operator configuration; GPS & VOR integration; weapons launcher requirement; and issues regarding training and maintenance work.

From the queries provided, it appears that AgustaWestland did offer the AW-159 Wildcat, while PTDI appears to be offering a small helicopter design, probably the AS565 Panther as discussed by MaxDefense in this blog entry. But following PTDI's concerns, there might be some limitations in their Panther model being offered as compared to the French-made version AS565MB Panther due to the possible absence of a capability to combine ASW & AShW missions. This would now be dependent on how Airbus Helicopters and PTDI can merge themselves to provide a complying offer.

November 5, 2014:
MaxDefense sources said that only AgustaWestland submitted a qualified bid for the PN's Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition (ASHA) project, which is the formal name of the PN's ASW Helicopter procurement program. Only 2 groups submitted a bid, the other being PT Dirgantara Indonesia, which failed the documentation requirements to prove that they were able to participate in a similar supply requirement. AgustaWestland is said to have offered their new AW-159 Wildcat helicopter, while it is still unconfirmed if PTDI did offer an Indonesian-made AS565 Panther as a partner of Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter).

MaxDefense believes that the Indonesian acquisition of ASW helicopters has not yet reached a status wherein PTDI was able to deliver a product to the TNI-AL (Indonesian Navy). This failed PTDI to conform to such requirement. According to open sources, PTDI was given until November 7, 2014 to file for a Motion for Reconsideration.

This is a two-stage bidding, so it is expected that the DND won't immediately go through a post bid qualification stage, instead, after the DND Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) finishes their evaluation of the entire bid document from AgustaWestland, the DND may further discuss and form a more comprehensive technical specifications which is more specific to the PN's requirements. With only 1 bidder if the DND does not recondsider PTDI's bid, then it is expected that the process will be faster as they only need to consider AgustaWestland's capability.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Is it Time to Replace the Philippine Air Force's S-211 Aircraft?

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is among the foremost organizations that has started its preparation for transition, with its manpower and organization, doctrine and training, and assets acquisition all pointing for a stronger emphasis to air defense, domain awareness, and maritime support capabilities. Among those that may require modernization are the training aircraft fleet, most notably the SIAI Marchetti AS-211 for fast-jet pilot training preparation, as the PAF is in the process of accepting more advanced fighters and fighter trainers.

The Philippine Air Force's AS-211 Warrior, a modified SIAI Marchetti S-211 basic jet trainer with limited attack capability.

SIAI Marchetti S-211 in Philippine Air Force: Currently the PAF's foremost asset is the SIAI-Marchetti (now Aermacchi) S-211 jet aircraft from Italy. It is the only jet powered combat and trainer aircraft in the PAF, and is only available in limited numbers due to poor serviceability and funding issues. Originally designed as a basic jet trainer, it was procured by the PAF in the early 1990s as the first step to improve the training capability of future PAF pilots. A total of 25 units were acquired, 9 units built by SIAI-Marchetti in Italy, 15 units assembled locally by the Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation (PADC), and 1 non-flying airframe. These aircraft were divided into 2 training squadrons, one each based in Fernando Air Base in Batangas and Basa Air Base in Pampanga.

PAF S-211s in flying school trainer colors, probably taken in the early 1990s.

Plans to acquire more sophisticated advanced jet trainers were made before 1995, with the PAF considering the BAE Hawk, Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatross, and Dassault Alpha Jet. But this plan did not materialize due to lack of funding and support from the national government. Instead, it was included in the 1995 AFP Modernization Program as part of the PAF's wishlist for around 24 Surface Attack / Advanced Jet Trainer Aircraft. And 17 years later on, nothing was acquired by the PAF for this role until the awarding of the SAA/LIFT acquisition project to Korea Aerospace Industries for its FA-50 Fighting Eagle.

Then PAF Gen. Loven Abadia (in orange) after conducting test flight with the Dassault Alpha Jet in the early 1990s, which was then offered to the PAF.
Photo taken from Lt. Col. Francis Neri (PAF) Facebook page on The Greats of the Philippine Fighter Force: Gen. Loven C. Abadia

The absence of an advanced jet trainer forced the S-211 to shoulder the role of transitioning pilots to the F-5A/B Freedom Fighter jets after the last T-33 Shooting Star jet trainer was withdrawn from PAF service in the early 90s. Then, with still no replacement for the ageing F-5A/B, the S-211 was again made to shoulder the role of being the PAF's only air defense asset and the entire working fleet were upgraded to AS-211 Warrior standards. Being an aircraft designed for as a basic jet trainer without radar, missile capability, internal gun, and enough power and size to match any of the Philippines' neighbors, it is only apparent that it is not the proper aircraft for the job. It was overused to do duties other than what it was designed for aside from lack of budget to maintain and repair the entire fleet, 

Current Training Aircraft Inventory of the PAF:
Currently, there are 2 aircraft models that all upcoming pilots will have to fly before moving on to specialist training. These are the Cessna T-41B/D Mescalero for Ab-initio / Primary Pilot Training, and the SF-260F/TP for Basic Flight Training. Pilot graduates that are going for advanced / specialized jet training will then proceed to the Air Defense Command to train with the AS-211.

Lacking enough aircraft, the PAF was forced to push the AS-211 to become its basic and advanced jet trainer, and combat jet all at the same time. With the FA-50 expected to enter service soon, the AS-211 may be given some rest on combat duties and might concentrate on advanced  training flights until a replacement is provided.

Why Replace the S-211?
The most obvious reason is that the AS-211 fleet is getting old, with the aircraft in service with the PAF for almost 24 years, its systems outdated, and is becoming a maintenance burden. The PAF, being the only remaining military operator of the type, was said to be experiencing difficulty in maintaining the remaining operational aircraft in its arsenal. The lack of enough operators of the type has made spare parts availability an issue, similar to what the PAF experienced with the F-5A/B in the past. There are several non-operational aircraft that are not being revived by the PAF even if budget can be made available for such move. Latest press releases by the PAF only indicated a plan to revive 2 non-working units to raise the total fleet to 6 aircraft.

A fleet of non-working F-5A/B and S-211 jets at Clark Air Base. Several S-211 airframes can be revived if the PAF wanted to, but the service is not making such effort. 

When Singapore retired their S-211, the PAF did not make any major effort to acquire them to beef up its current fleet, instead letting a private Australian firm have the priority to acquire most of the Singaporean aircraft. They were reportedly being sold at a very low price, and being a major operator of the type, the PAF was expected to push hard for its acquisition.  

MaxDefense believes that the PAF was already contemplating to find a suitable replacement for the aircraft, although budget is scarce as the PAF is prioritizing other aircraft requirements in their short term acquisition program.

The S-211 was preceded by the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, like the one shown in the photo above now displayed in the Philippine Air Force Museum, which was the PAF's jet trainer from the mid 1950s to the early 1990s.
Photo taken from Wikimedia.

The need for a bridge between the SF-260 and FA-50
The PAF's SF-260F basic trainer aircraft is said to be categorized in a lower level than the basic-advanced trainers used by friendly air forces, like the USAF's T-6 Texan II, the RoKAF's KT-1 Woongbi, the RAAF's PC-9, and the RSAF's PC-21. A cash-strapped PAF, which will definitely do its very best to protect its FA-50 from unnecessary losses due to pilot error, will probably not risk SF-260F graduates to go directly to the FA-50. 

This is even evident with the pilots chosen by the PAF to train in South Korea for its first batch of pilots, wherein they chose the pilots with the most flying hours and experience with the AS-211.

Any move by the PAF to retire the AS-211 may include inducting a new platform to bridge the performance gap between the SF-260 and the FA-50. A good example that can be used by the PAF is that of the Italian Air Force's system, which uses the SF-260 in the basic training role, bridged by an advanced trainer (currently filled by the MB-339), and finally with a LIFT (currently using the M-346 Master).

Options for Replacing the AS-211:
A. New Advanced Trainer:
There are several trainer aircraft in the global market today that meets the PAF's requirement for an S-211 replacement that could slot in between the SF-260 and FA-50. A good example to look into is the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), which is a former S-211 user, and the like the PAF, used the S-211 for basic to advanced flight training purposes. The RSAF replaced the S-211 with the Pilatus PC-21 turboprop aircraft, under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) contract awarded to Lockheed Martin Simulation, Training & Support in 2006, which in turn acquired 19 units together with flight simulators and maintenance. RSAF's first aircraft delivered by 2008. RSAF pilots finishing their training with the PC-21 moves up to the M-346 Master LIFT, which is in the same level as the PAF's FA-50.

The RSAF replaced the S-211 with the Pilatus PC-21 advance turboprop trainer.
Photo taken from Victor Pody c/o

Aside from the PC-21, other designs available in the market today include the  jet powered Alenia Aermacchi M-345 HET, a modern derivative of the PAF's S-211. Unlike the S-211 which did not enter service with the air force of its country of origin, the M-345 is slated to enter the Italian Air Force in the next few years to replace the ageing MB-339 in its arsenal including those of their famous aerobatic team the Frecce Tricolori.  

The PAF could also consider replacing the S-211 with its modern derivative, the Alenia Aermacchi M-345 jet trainer, which will see service with the Italian Air Force soon, and replace the MB-339 with the Italian aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori.

B. Adjusting the PAF's trainer fleet role:
Although MaxDefense believes that options "A" above is a better option, the PAF can look at adjusting the roles of its current trainer aircraft fleet. This includes retiring the Cessna T-41 Mescalero from the Ab-initio / primary training role and replacing them with the SF-260F. To fill in the basic to advance trainer, the PAF could opt to acquire more advanced turboprop trainers like the Pilatus PC-9MBeechcraft's T-6C Texan II, and Korea Aerospace Industries' KT-1 Woongbi

With the PAF currently in the market for Close Air Support (CAS) aircraft to compliment and eventually replace the venerable OV-10 Bronco with the 15th Strike Wing, the PAF can look at the trainer versions of the CAS candidates. As discussed in previous MaxDefense blog entries, possible candidates include the Embraer EMB-314 /A-29 Super Tucano, Beechcraft AT-6C Texan II, Korea Aerospace Industries KA-1 Woongbi, and IOMAX Archangel. Except for the Archangel, all are based on basic-advanced turboprop trainer aircraft, with the EMB-314 being a further development of the successful EMB-312 Tucano, the AT-6C and KA-1 being an armed variant of the T-6 Texan II and KT-1, respectively.

Beechcraft's T-6 Texan II can be a good replacement, especially if the PAF opted to get the AT-6C Texan II for its CAS aircraft requirements.
Photo taken from Beechcraft's website.

MaxDefense believes that the PAF could consolidate its CAS and basic/advanced trainer platforms to allow better and simplified logistics, training, and maintenance commonality. But this could be a problem if the PAF and DND's baseline specifications for the CAS aircraft allows for a specific model that doesn't have a trainer derivative like the IOMAX Archangel.

(Originally MaxDefense believes that the specifications indicated in the CAS project is very close to the A-29 Super Tucano from Embraer.)

According to MaxDefense sources, the EMB-314 Super Tucano (which MaxDefense believes is most possible choice for the CAS requirement) has disadvantages in being a platform for the training requirement, as the aircraft was design more for light attack use and have features that are not needed for training duties (examples are the rugged terrain landing gears, strengthened airframe to carry ordnance and additional armor, etc.) and may push the aircraft's cost higher than the competition. Although converting them to purely training aircraft by removing vital equipment used for armed missions can be done.

C. Send PAF pilots to get advance training with Air Forces of Friendly Countries:

The lack of enough aircraft to train upcoming pilots or keep its pilots in high operational readiness may require the PAF to get the assistance of friendly air forces for its pilot and even ground crew training requirements. AETC-graduate pilots may be sent to countries like the United States, Australia, or South Korea and train under their system. Although this is not a permanent solution, this might be needed to meet the PAF's training requirements in the shortest possible time. Not only are PAF pilots being trained, they are also immersed in a different and probably more advanced training system than what the PAF currently offers. These pilots could then pass on their knowledge and experience to the service by becoming PAF instructors later on to younger batches of pilots.

Whatever option the PAF chooses, it is inevitable for them to find a replacement for the aircraft, or acquire a new aircraft that could work in tandem with the S-211/AS-211 in the basic to advanced training requirements. The PAF expects the number of pilots ready for fast-jet training to increase in the coming years, and the current fleet number may not be enough to reach the required target. It is expected that aside from the S-211 getting older and more difficult to maintain, the PAF must upgrade its training curriculum to improve its pilot's capabilities and prepare them to fly more advanced aircraft like the incoming FA-50 Fighting Eagle and the expected new MRF the PAF plans to acquire beginning 2017.

Until then, the PAF should provide adequate budget to keep the AS-211 fleet in tip-top condition, provide the best maintenance support it can give, and make efforts to improve the fleet numbers and operational readiness of the fleet.

Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Air Force Modernization Projects