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!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Updates on the Sensors, Fire Control System, and Weapons Systems Upgrade of the Philippine Navy's Jacinto-class vessels

The Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) has confirmed that the bidding for upgrades of the Philippine Navy's Jacinto-class ships is being restarted, and released more information regarding the said projects. There are 2 projects that are made available for this work, titled:

"Phase 3A: Restoration and Sustainment of 76mm Gun Systems for two (2) JCPVs & three (3) 25mm Gun Systems for three (3) JCPVs for two (2) JCPV,s Upgrade of two (2) Electro Optical Fire Control Systems and Sensors for two (2) JCPVs, and Supply of One Hundred Fifty (15) Target Practice (TP) rounds of 76mm OTO Melara Gun and Six Hundred Sixty (660) TP rounds of 25mm Gun Ammunition for the three JCPVs",

and the second one as:

"Phase 3B: Restoration and Sustainment of 76mm Gun System, Upgrade of Electro Optical Fire Control System and Sensors for one (1) JCPV".

BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36) during exercises with the US Navy.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.

JCPV refers to the Jacinto-class patrol vessel, formerly known as the Peacock-class patrol vessel of the Royal Navy. Phase 3A has a Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) of Php 630,637,163.60 (around US$13.6 million), while Phase 3B has an ABC of Php 224,000,000.00 (around US$4.83 million).

Combining both projects, it is summarized as an effort to upgrade/replace the radar and electro-optical fire control systems, and restoration works for the 76mm Oto Melara 76/62 Compact main gun and 25mm MSI Defense DS25 autocannons of the three Jacinto-class ships, namely BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35), BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36), and BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37). It also includes acquiring several target practice rounds for the two types of guns.

This project is actually in its re-bid phase, with an initial effort failing earlier this year. With the project among those approved by President Benigno Aquino III last July 2015, it now has the financial backing it requires and may now proceed without funding problem hook-ups.

The new bid documents for both projects were not shared by the DND's website last time. But the DND recently released a new Supplemental Bid Bulletin (SBB # DND/PN-JCPV-P3-15-01) last October 19, 2015 which answered queries submitted by potential bidders for both projects. 

Further information can also be gathered from previous Supplemental Bid Bulletins provided by the DND, SBB # DND/PN-JCPV-P3-15-02 dated 20th February 2015, and SBB # DND/PN-JCPV-P3-15-04 dated 17th March 2015. Some information may still remain relevant although whatever similar information provided on the newer SBB is considered latest.

Potential Bidders:

Among the information made available are the potential bidders for the projects:

1. Insis System Engineering - an Italian company, Insis S.p.A. is involved in design and manufacture of multi-technological systems, including those used for military applications. Their company profile and products can be viewed HERE. It appears that they can provide certain items of the project, specifically the electro-optical fire control component, but not the rest. 

2. OTO Melara - another Italian company, they are the original designer and manufacturer of the 76mm OTO Melara Compact gun being used by the JCPVs. Restoration and sustainment of these guns would definitely be their forte, even if the Compact gun is already out of production. MaxDefense believes they can also supply the ammunition for the gun, since they design and manufacture them as well. 

3. Propmech Corporation - a Filipino company with experience in bagging DND/PN projects including the Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC), Landing Craft Utility (LCU), and refurbishing and repair works on patrol gunboats. While they do not manufacture any electronic component, it appears that they would be working with specialist companies either as the contractor or the sub-contractor. 

4. Navantia - the Spanish shipbuilder is also a systems integrator, and can do ship refurbishing works. They would probably be working with partners, as stated in their query due to their lack of presence in the Philippines. Navantia also produces several naval systems including the Dorna Fire Control System, although they are expected to outsource the sensors, gun rehabilitation, and ammunition requirements.

5. Sagem Safran - is a major French defense company involved in electronics and communications systems. Their naval solutions include surveillance and fire control system, as well as navigation equipment. are well known and proven products used by major navies. Being specialized, 

6. Thales S.A. - another major French defense conglomerate, and among the largest defense companies in the world, a major global manufacturer of electronics and naval solutions. They could be involved in the EO-FCS and sensor/radar systems part of the project.

7. Ultra Electronics - another active European defense electronics company based in the UK, they also have an extensive product offering that will suite the requirements of the JCPV upgrade, although guns and ammunition are not their forte. 

The first attempt to bid out these projects saw the presence of Indian conglomerate Larsen & Toubro and French company Nexeya Group, as shown in the previous Supplemental Bid Bulletin answering bidder's queries early this year. So far they did not appear to be among the prospective bidders as far as the latest SBB is concerned.

The presence of specialized companies in the prospective bidders list could mean that they would undertake parts of the upgrade project but will be working with a local company or partner where the works would be done.

For easier discussion, MaxDefense will divide the discussion into several components.

Upgrade of Sensors & Fire Control System :

First are the electronics systems of the ship, which include the sensor/radar system and the electro-optical fire control system.

Currently, the Jacinto-class ships are equipped with a  Radamec 1500 electro-optical fire control system, and the Sperry Marine Bridgemaster-E navigational and surface search radar. Both were installed more than 10 years ago as part of the original AFP Modernization Program under RA 7898, to replace an older system used during its service with the British Royal Navy.

a. Radar:

Based on the SBB, it seems that the Philippine Navy is looking for a new surface search radar which is protected from electronic jamming, and is integrated to the fire control system. Standard navigation radar are not designed for such, including its existing radar. The radar should be brand new and not overhauling the existing on-board systems, as per the reply on Sagem-Safran's query. 

As replied to Propmech's query, the radar will have a maximum instrumented range of at least 96 nautical miles (178 kilometers), although the maximum detection & tracking range is a maximum of at least 40 nautical miles (74 kilometers). Although not indicated in the new SBB, previous SBB indicated that it should be able to track two hundred (200) targets at the same time, and must have a minimum detection range of 0.075 nautical miles (around 40 meters)

It would be a X-band type solid state radar, as replied by DND to Navantia, but must have multiple frequency transmission capability. It will have at least 3 displays for navigation, tactical - fire control, and command & control (C2). 

Thales have several naval radar models in their catalogue, although its difficult to say which one they could offer. The NS100 is among those in their product list, but further technical checking is needed to see if it fits the bill. MaxDefense believes a simpler radar system might be used, probably less capable than the NS100.
Photo taken from Thales Nederlands website.

b. Fire Control System:

For the fire control system, the projects are intended to replace the existing Radamec 1500 EO-FCS with a brand new system, and overhauling of existing system is not allowed, as confirmed by the DND replied to Sagem-Safran's query

It is required to have a track and lock-on target capability of at least 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometers) distance on a clear visibility using daylight TV camera. Detection Recognition Identification feature is not required.

It is also required that the new FCS be open for growth capacity or will have an open architecture design to integrate other weapons systems, but the PN expects the other weapons to be smaller caliber guns and not missiles.

Not much queries were made with regards to the FCS as compared to the radar, and MaxDefense assumes that previous SBB or the revised Technical Specifications may have already provided the information needed by the bidders. 

Sagem Safran has several models of EO-FCS that can be offered that may cater to what the Philippine Navy needs for its Jacinto-class patrol vessels, with the most capable being the Vampir NG (bottom left).
Photo taken from Safran SAGEM's website.

c. Other Sensors:

The ships are also in need to replace several onboard sensors with new ones, including its Speedlog, Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS), Anemometer, and Ring Laser Gyroscopes. Discussing this will require more technical terms, so we'll skip on these issues.

It was confirmed that dry docking is needed to install some systems like the Speedlog, and the DND has confirmed that all three ships would be made available if works are about to start. As confirmed by DND on Propmech's query, the naval yard can't be used for dry docking, and instead the proponent must use a civilian shipyard.

Previous queries by Navantia also indicated that there will be no work on Combat Management System for both phases of the project.

Previous requests by Larsen & Toubro, Thales, and Nexeya Systems to use a Fibre Optic Gyro (FOG) instead of a Ring Laser Gyro (RLG) has been declined by the DND, even if both claim that the FOG performs better and needs less maintenance the the RLG.

Restoration and Sustainment of 76mm and 25mm Guns:

Another important part of the projects are the works related to the 76mm Oto Melara 76/62 Compact main gun and the MSI Defense DS25 25mm secondary gun.

a. OTO Melara 76mm Compact Gun:

DND confirmed that Phase 3A will involve the 76mm guns of BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35) and BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36), while Phase 3B will be for the gun of BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37).

The SBB indicated that the guns may only need thorough inspection and minor refurbishing operations, although it also indicated the need to have its barrels replaced with new ones, although it appears that the barrels are furnished by the Philippine government/Philippine Navy. 

It also appears that the gun works will require the proponent to have all sub-systems to be brought to full operational status and updated to the latest design standard, thus requiring upgrades for the gun systems. It is unclear though if upgrade to latest design standard means retaining the gun as a Compact model or upgrading it to later Super Rapid standard. MaxDefense believes it would be retained as a Compact model as changing to Super Rapid standard may require more work, and more budget.

It also indicate that the projects will require the proponent to provide spares, special tools, and test equipment, as well as training package that will allow the Naval Combat Systems Center to have the capability to do intermediate level repair. This is a very important clause since the Philippine Navy have previous history wherein it cannot do the repair of the guns by itself and needed assistance from a foreign navy (previously coming from the Royal Australian Navy) to provide training.

For testing, the new and older SBBs retain that the 76mm guns must be static and dynamic aligned that 1st salvo (1 salvo = 10 rounds) must hit a 16ft. x 16ft. target at a minimum distance of 4 nautical miles. This should be tested on a sea state 5 status.

It is interesting to note that based on the PN's market study, there are at least 10 other companies that are licensed manufacturers of the OTO Melara 76mm gun, and they allowed to join the tender as a joint-venture with the main proponent should OTO Melara decide to become a main proponent itself.

The OTO Melara 76mm Compact gun, mounted on a ground platform and showing its magazine that is normally hidden on the ship's hull. Phase 3A involves work on 2 guns, while Phase 3B is for work on a 3rd gun.

b. MSI Defense DS25 25mm Gun:

Most of the requirements for work on the DS25 gun is similar to those of the OTO Melara 76mm gun, including the need to replace the barrels and for the testing of accuracy.

Previous queries by Ultra Electronics also indicated that the gun console for the DS25 25mm gun is to be replaced with a new one, with target information coming from the radar and gun camera, but not the EO-FCS.

Contrary, MSI Defense was already expected to join as a common sub-contractor for all major proponents to work on the MSI DS25 25mm guns.

The MSI Defense DS25 Seahawk mounting a 25mm autocannon, installed on all 3 Jacinto-class patrol vessels. The DS25 can be controlled remotely or manually as shown in the photo above.

Similar Works, 2 Projects?

The entire upgrade works for the 3 ships was divided into 2 separate and distinct projects, named Phase 3A and 3B. As confirmed in the replies by the DND on both the new and older SBBs, there is a possibility that 2 different proponents may win the 2 projects (1 proponent for each project), thus it is possibile that the products and services to be used or made on the ships involved will not be the same.

There were previous calls by some of the bidders to combine the two projects into one, but the DND insisted on maintaining two separate projects for the 3 ships. This would allow only 1 winner to bag the Phase 3A and 3B projects, allowing commonality and economics of scale.

As to why, MaxDefense has not yet found out from the DND. But MaxDefense believes that the DND should have just combined the 2 projects into 1, as Phase 3. This is to avoid multiple groups involved in similar works, resulting to having different types of radars, sensors, EO-FCS, and parts used on the ships, as well as varying quality of work and ILS problems in the future.

Issues on Commonality and Future Proofing:

There was no indication if whatever products acquired for the Jacinto-class ships will also be used by existing or upcoming assets of the Philippine Navy. Two upcoming ships, the Strategic Sealift Vessel (SSV) and the Frigate, are expected to require radar and EO-FCS systems as well, and having a similar system used to whatever is the winning proponent can benefit in terms on commonality, compatibility, logistics and spares, and training. 

The point that the project is divided into 2, and the possibility of having 2 different proponents winning the 2 separate projects already showed that the PN and the DND may have not considered this issue of coming at all. If they allowed this to happen, it is then very possible that the upcoming ships will definitely have different models of sensors as well.

Another is the indication of missile or more advanced weapons systems installed on the ships in the future. It appears that there are no plans as of this time, except for small caliber guns as replied by DND to one of the queries. This, despite previous information that the Philippine Navy is interested in installing lightweight, short range surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missile systems to the ships. The only possibility now is for more advanced tracking systems supporting missiles to be installed later on, and for the PN to decide on a lightweight missile system that would not affect the inherent top-heaviness design of the class.

With the Radamec 1500 EO-FCS and Sperry Marine Bridgemaster-E radar being replaced, it is possible that these systems are still repairable or overhauled, and can be installed on existing PN ships using older systems like the BRP Rajah Humabon, the Rizal-class, or the Miguel Malvar-class ships. With just over 10 years under its belt, MaxDefense believes that these could still be useable for other purposes especially with the limited resources the PN has. Previous queries by Sagem Safran as shown on older SBBs proved this to be possible.

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PS-36 is seen here on drydock together with PS-35, taken several years ago while both ships were undergoing works.
Photo taken from

This time, MaxDefense won't be suggesting possible radar and EO-FCS systems that could be offered by the proponents since it is also unclear who will go as a main proponent, and who will opt to be a sub-contractor. MaxDefense believes that not all companies that submitted queries will join the project as the main proponent since majority are specialists that could only provide certain items of the project. 

It would be difficult to determine also which companies are partnered or in a joint-venture with the possible proponents since it was not indicated nor needed to be listed in this SBB, and will only be named as part of the bid submission.

In the end, it is expected that not much will be added to the ship's capability after the upgrades are done. MaxDefense is only expecting a slight improvement on the ship's surveillance and detection capability with the introduction of a better radar and EO-fire control system compared to the previous models the ship uses, but aside from these the Jacinto-class will remain as what it currently are.

Aside from answering queries, the SBB from the DND also confirmed that the bid submission and opening is now scheduled on 10th November 2015. It is expected that re-schedule may happen but MaxDefense hopes that there is no need for that.

As the bid opening proceed, MaxDefense will provide more updates as information starts to come in, especially on the outcome of the bidding. It is also expected that we can get information on the entities involved with the proponent, enabling us to provide analysis on what the Philippine Navy might be getting.


March 13, 2016: 

The Department of National Defense has awarded the JCPV Phase 3B project to a joint venture between Filipino company Propmech Corporation and Swedish defense manfacturer Saab A.B. The project will involve the restoration and sustainment of an Oto Melara 76mm Compact naval gun, and upgrade of Electro-Optical Fire Control System and Sensors of a single Jacinto-class patrol vessel. 

A separate award for the same works will be made for two other Jacinto-class patrol vessels under the JCPV Phase 3A project.

Propmech will probably be in-charge of the dockworks and installation works, while Saab manufactures and will supply its own EO/IR systems, Fire Control System, Radars and other sensor components for naval vessels.

The DND has awarded the JCPV Phase 3B project to Propmech-Saab JV.
Photo taken from c/o 40niner_com.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Government Arsenal's Pursuit of a Rifle Manufacturing Program - Is the DND up to Support it?

The Government Arsenal (GA), an agency under the Department of National Defense (DND) under the leadership of Director Jonathan Martir, has made several leaps to boost its capability to produce rifles and ammunition for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and all other armed military and civilian agencies of the Philippine government.

Under normal circumstances, it would have been very beneficial for them that the government is pushing for the modernization of the AFP which has started in 1995 and was extended in 2013 all the way to 2028. In all phases of the modernization program, there were several requirements for arms and ammunition which the Government Arsenal's capability could be beneficial. This is also true for the PNP, PCG, and other agencies like the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), etc.

But recent acquisitions of the intended users of these products, the AFP and PNP, as well as other government agencies, recently completed their own small arms acquisition without considering GA's products. 

The Government Arsenal proposed different rifles for different purposes, but all coming from the M16 / M4 family.
Photo taken from Government Arsenal's Facebook page.

Small Arms Acquisition under the Aqunio Administration:

Among the rifle acquisition projects undertaken by all armed agencies within the administration of President Benigno Aquino III include the following, but not limited to:

1. Assault Rifle for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, in which the Israeli-made IWI Tavor CTAR-21 was selected in 2011;

2. Several Designated Marksman Rifle acquisitions for the AFP Joint Special Operations Group, in which several types were acquired from foreign suppliers starting in 2013;

3. An attempted plan to acquire 1,500 rifles for the Philippine National Police - Special Action Force, and 1,800 rifles for the Regional Mobile Groups, both were scrapped in 2014 upon Pres. Aquino's instructions;

4. Submachine Gun acquisition for the Philippine Coast Guard, in which the CZ Scorpion Evo 3 from the Czech Republic was selected;

5. Joint Philippine Army-Philippine Marine Corps Assault Rifle Acquisition Project, in which the Remington R4A3 from the US was selected in 2014;

6. Submachine Gun acquisition for the Philippine National Police, in which the US-made KRISS Vector SMG 9mm was selected in 2015;

7. The 7.62mm Designated Marksman Rifle acquisition for the Philippine Navy & Philippine Marine Corps, which will be for tender as part of Horizon 1 modernization phase;

8. The 5.56mm Standard Weapons System acquisition for the Philippine Navy & Philippine Marine Corps, which us also for tender as part of Horizon 1 modernization phase.

It is quite noticeable that none of the projects that were implemented included a product made by the Government Arsenal. Even the attempted acquisition of rifles for the PNP-SAF and PNP-RMG definitely did not consider any GA-manufactured rifle.

So why is that the case?

The Government Arsenal's Rifle Manufacturing Capability:

GA Director Jonathan Martir showing their product line-up to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin during the SecDef's visit at GA's facility in Bataan.
Photo taken from GA's Facebook page.

The Government Arsenal has only recently been able to manufacture rifles on its own, and is still not capable of doing so in full production as most of its offerings are proposals or prototypes as of this writing. Most of its proposals are based on the M16 and M4 rifle variant, which is the current standard rifle of the entire AFP and many other Philippine government armed agencies.

The choice to stay true to the M16 / M4 line was more of a practical choice. Rather than moving to a new product which requires a total system change for the entire weapon support and user system, it was best to stick to the proven weapon of choice of its main ally, the United States, while making use of the extensive knowledge of GA, AFP, and PNP with the M16/M4 line, and making use of its inventory of common parts and accessories used on exisiting M16 and M4 rifles.

GA also has equipment to manufacture certain parts of the of M16/M4 series, which minimizes the need to invest for new equipment to forge and build new types of rifles based on other foreign models. And sticking to the M16/M4 design reduces the need for familiarization or armorers and those involved in the manufacturing of the rifles.

These, among others, are the primary reason on the overwhelming decision of the DND and AFP to stick to the M16/M4 series to replace its older M16A1 rifles instead of buying newer designs like the Israeli Tavor, the Korean K2, or the German G36.

But creating its own rifle was not an easy task, and it took the GA several years and attempts to produce its own M16-based weapon systems, without assistance from foreign arms manufacturers except for provision of certain parts like barrel, buttstock, plastic parts, and sights.

Among examples of weapons systems being developed by the Government Arsenal:

1. GA 5.56mm Carbine M4 - a prototype was released in 2011, with the GA director describing it as adhering to the M4A1 system used by most Western and allied Special Operations Forces. No full production was reported of this variant as of this writing.

2. GA 5.56mm Mid-Length Carbine - another prototype released in 2011, similar to the 14.5" barreled M4 carbine but using a 16" mid length barrel. A spin-off includes a DMR variant specially for the SOCOM units who prefer a 16" mid length barrel instead of the 18" variant. It is only this month that GA produced several units for testing and evaluation by the AFP's Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) and the Philippine Navy's Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG). It is expected that if the tests are favorable and only minimal changes were requested, GA could produce the final production variant by early 2016.

GA's 5.56mm 16" Mid-Length Carbine.
Photo taken from GA's Facebook page.

3. GA 5.56mm Special Purpose Rifle (SPR) - a prototype released in 2011 as the Designated Marksman Rifle / Special Purpose Rifle (DMR/SPR), it features an 18" free floating bull barrel in a 1:7 RH twist rifling, and optics that would allow it to be effective until a range of 800 meters. The development is considered a continuing development of the successful Marine Scout Sniper Rifle (MSSR) series used by the Philippine Marine Corps

GA's SMR rifle, as displayed in a recently concluded arms show in Manila.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.

4. GA 10" Personal Defense Weapon (PDW) - it was only in 2012 that GA was able to release the prototype of this rifle, which uses components from the M16-series rifle with a 10" long barrel in a 1:10 right hand twist rifling, while using a special 7.62x37mm Musang round designed specifically by GA for this rifle and is said to be effective for Close Quarter Battle (CQB) and Night Fighting requirements. It was expected to be in production by 2014. But as of this writing, it appears that production of several units for testing by the AFP was stalled due to lacking compnents which can be traced from supplier issues. The GA appears to have looked for other suppliers to provide the said parts.

GA's 10" PDW submachine gun, which uses components of the M16 family and a special 7.62x37mm Musang ammo.
Photo taken from Wikimedia commons.

5. GA M14 SOCOM 16 - using a standard M14 rifle, GA refurbished it, replacing old and worn out parts with new ones, used lighter components to reduce weight, and replaced the 22" barrel into a shortened 16" one, which is preferred length of Special Operations units. Several components were sourced from foreign manufacturers since the GA does not produce components for the M14 or for 7.62mm chambered rifles.

GA's M14 SOCOM 16 rifle, which is similar to the Springfield Armory's M1A SOCOM 16.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.

As earlier mentioned, all these products by the Government Arsenal are either considered as prototypes, or at best, are scheduled to be tested soon by field units of the AFP. Thus, with the AFP and other agencies already needing the weapons as soon as possible, it cannot wait for the GA to put its proposed products to complete testing and evaluation, rectification, and full production, which MaxDefense believes to be by 2016 at earliest.

The Remington R4A3 Acquisition for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marines:

The only major small arms acquisition project undertaken within the term of Pres. Aquino III is for the joint rifle requirement for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps. Originally, 50,629 units were acquired with a budget of Php 3.189 billion, with the Philippine Army getting 44,186 units while the Philippine Marines gets 6,443 units.

For discussions sake, the Philippine Army has around 90,000 men, while the Philippine Marine Corps has around 8,500 men.

With the Remington R4A3 acquisition, the rifles would be enough to arm almost 50% of the entire Army, and almost 75% of the entire Marine Corps, irregardless if they work in the field or not. And we have not yet even included the follow-up order made by the DND for an additional 23,622 rifles which would again be divided between the PA and PMC.

The executive summary of the Joint PA-PMC Assault Rifle Acquisition Project, showing the original and additional orders.
Photo taken from VJ Defense's blog page.

Although this sounds like good news, it seems to be the other way around for the Government Arsenal and for any effort to replace the old M16A1 with a locally made rifle.

Looking at the numbers, we can immediately see that the rifle requirement for both the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps are almost filled-up by the Remington R4A3 acquisition, considering that not all troops are assigned in the field and require a rifle, and that other troops are assigned with another existing weapon like snipers, marksmen, drivers and vehicle crew, squad automatic gunner, and many others.

Aside from these, several of the old M16A1s are being programmed for refurbishing and upgrade, before releasing again to field units to complement the new Remington R4A3 rifles.

So, who will now need a considerable quantity of new assault rifles?

Remaining Markets for Additional Rifles:

The Philippine Navy and Marine Corps have another request for 7,500 rifles as part of the RAFPMP Horizon 1 phase that will be acquired by public tender. If this project is awarded to another manufacturer, or is negotiated as another additional order with Remington, then that's 7,500 units of lost opportunity for the Government Arsenal.

Only the Philippine Air Force has not requested for new assault rifles, but their nature of work and organization size does not require many assault rifles in their arsenal. MaxDefense believes that there is nothing much to expect from the PAF in this regard, and at best they will require replacements only for their M16A1 in secondary duties like base defense.

So far, the AFP has not released an immediate requirement for funding of a sub-machine gun acquisition within the Horizon 1 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization program, although it could request such weapons in small numbers using their annual budget or other sources.

Horizon 2:

The only other significant opportunity for the Government Arsenal aside from the follow-on order from Remington by the DND is for any additional rifle and/or sub-machine gun orders from the AFP as part of the RAFPMP's Horizon 2 phase starting on 2018.

So far, the Philippine Army still has a large requirement for assault rifles for Horizon 2, exceeding 20,000 units more, plus several hundreds of Designated Marksman Rifles, probably to standardize the entire organization to a new rifle replacing the M16A1, plus additional rifles for reserve and other purposes.

In this regard, Remington's R4A3 and Knights Armaments SR-25 already have a head-start, being the new standard rifle and and current marksman/sniper rifle, respectively, of the Philippine Army. But the quality issues that affected the first batch of 50,000+ rifles and delayed its commissioning with the Philippine Army by almost a year could be a valid reason not to get more rifles directly from Remington.

If the DND will acquire rifles by direct procurement, then GA's M4A1 or 16" Mid-Length Carbine could be chosen, allowing GA to finally start a full production of its own rifle. But if the DND again go for tender, then the chances that GA will be chosen, or even allowed to join the tender is very slim.

Aside from rifles, the Philippine Army will also be needing a few hundred sub-machine guns within Horizon 2 phase. This is probably to replace older models still in service like the M3 Grease Gun still in used by armored vehicle crew from the Mechanized units. But an issue here is the specified requirement. Documents obtained by MaxDefense shows that the proposed requirement is for a sub-machine gun chambered for 9 mm rounds, not 7.62 mm rounds similar to GA's 10" PDW.

The Philippine Army still uses upgraded M3 Grease Guns, especially with the Mechanized Infantry Division as personal defense weapon of armored vehicle crew. The GA 10" PDW could be a good replacement for these weapons.

The Philippine Navy and Philippine Marine Corps will be the next possible market for new assault rifles within the AFP, but with the PMC expected to be saturated with the Remington R4A3 and whatever rifle they will choose for the Joint PN-PMC 5.56mm Standard Weapons System, orders will definitely be by small batches as well. 

If all these upcoming projects are not awarded to the Government Arsenal, MaxDefense doesn't see any other chance to economically produce its own rifle line with a large volume order soon. GA may only rely on small batch orders which may not be economical due to economies of scale.

Non-AFP Market:

Aside from the AFP, the largest possible market for GA-made assault rifles will come from the Philippine National Police, specifically the Special Action Force, Regional Mobile Groups, and the different SWAT teams.

But it is expected that the maximum they can order in the next few years will only be for a few thousand units, and may still be not enough for an economic production run.

Aside from rifles, MaxDefense believes that all other government agencies will be more interested in small batches of sub-machine guns rather than rifles, but will probably go for models chambered for 9mm or .45 caliber types instead of 5.56mm NATO or the 7.62x37mm Musang due to commonality with what they already have, and in the case of the 10" PDW, to avoid the reliance on a new type of round that will tie them up with GA

The PNP recently chose the KRISS Vector SMG in the new 9mm version for their sub-machine gun requirement, in which they will acquire more than 700 units.

The AFP as GA's Best Hope:

The GA has been looking for a foreign partner for some years now for it to be able to produce high quality M16/M4 series assault rifles, and with the entry of Remington in the AFP's inventory, the DND should have asked them to partner with GA and build the rifles in GA's facility in Bataan instead of manufacturing and importing them again from the United States. Time-wise, it would be faster for Remington to deliver 23,000 rifles manufactured from their US facility. But the PA and PMC could adjust the delivery date in favor of a licensed Remington rifle manufactured by GA without hurting their requirements.

The partnership with a well established foreign partner like Remington would improve the Government Arsenal's capability, technology, facility, and knowledge base, while allowing it to gain experience and track record from the award of a project. As part of a joint venture deal, the foreign partner will provide GA a transfer of technology which is included in the licensing agreement.

The last time the Philippines manufactured a licensed international rifle was when Elisco Tool made the M16A1 assault rifle and M653P carbine under license from Colt USA starting in the mid-1970s.
Bottom photo taken from n2o2rox's Photobucket collection.

This technology could then be harnessed by GA for their own use, like further improving their products base like those listed earlier in this blog, although a theoretical GA-foreign entity partnership could also work well as a combined entity. It could also allow GA to export its products to other countries, including joining in tenders/biddings as their credibility as a supplier can be cemented if the AFP awarded them with a contract, especially those worth more than Php 1 billion like the follow-on order made by DND with Remington.

A similar example of this is what the Malaysian company SME Ordnance did with Colt USA that enabled them to locally produce the Colt M4 for the Malaysian Armed Forces, and even offer it for export to the Philippines as part of negotiations before the DND decided to bid the project that was ultimately won by Remington.

A Malaysian solider with a Colt M4A1 carbine manufactured under license by Malaysian company SME Ordnance Sdn Bhd.
Photo taken from Kuala Lumpur Security Review website

The DND should have not opted to outright acquire additional 23,622 R4A3 rifles from Remington for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps, and instead, should have assisted the Government Arsenal to find a joint venture investor first that will enable it to jump-start any rifle development. With more than 50,000 M16A1s being off-loaded by front line troops due to the issuance of the R4A3 rifles, the GA will have enough rifles to refurbish that could be issued to non-front line troops while waiting for a new rifle to be procured.

Also, the DND should stop tendering any rifle or sub-machine gun requirement for the entire AFP from now on, and instead support the Government Arsenal as its priority supplier by directly acquiring from them. A secure order for significant rifle and sub-machine gun orders under Horizon 2 and 3 are the best bet for the Government Arsenal to reach this aspiration of small arms self-sufficiency.

If the GA fails to find a joint venture partner, it would be difficult for GA to invest its limited resources on small arms production if the DND cannot commit to support them. Any effort to start would be a gamble that GA has to risk.

The question now is, will the DND support the Government Arsenal by pushing to acquire weapon systems from them, with or without a foreign partner? Or will it continue to go for foreign arms manufacturer, leaving GA to only supply ammunition, and do repair and refurbishing works of existing small arms? 

That remains to be seen. With the 16" Mid Length Carbine Mod. 0, 16" Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, and 10" PDW about to undergo field testing, MaxDefense believes that there is still hope for DND to consider GA's efforts and quest for a high quality, indigenous small arms manufacturing capability to support the Philippines' armed services.

Hundreds of 16" Mid Length Carbine are prepared for shipping to JSOG and NAVSOG units for field testing and evaluation.
Photo taken from Government Arsenal's Facebook page.

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