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Monday, March 14, 2016

Propmech and SAAB wins Philippine Navy's Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel Upgrade Phase 3B Project

The Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) recently released a copy of the Notice of Award for the Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel (JCPV) upgrade Phase 3B project. with the project awarded to a joint venture between Filipino company Propmech Corporation, and Swedish defence company SAAB A.B. 

This project was previously discussed in a MaxDefense blog released in October last year. For those who haven't had any idea about the project, please read the blog entry with the link provided below.

To summarize, the JCPV Phase 3B involves the upgrade and rehabilitation of the Oto Melara 76mm Compact naval gun, and upgrade of Electro-Optical Fire Control System and Sensors for a single Jacinto-class patrol vessel.

BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37), one of the Jacinto-class patrol vessels of the Philippine Navy. MaxDefense believes that this ship will be receiving the upgrades under the JCPV Phase 3B project.
Photo taken from Wikimedia.
The Notice of Award from the DND, which was received by Propmech-SAAB JV's representative as of December 2015.
Photo taken from Timawa defense forum c/o 40niner_com.

The Joint Venture:

Propmech Corporation has been involved with several Philippine Navy projects for many years now, being the prime contractor for the Multi-Purpose Attack Craft Mks I, II and III; the Tagbanua-class Landing Craft Utility; and several refurbishing or upgrade projects of existing ships of the Philippine Navy including the Tomas Batilo-class patrol gunboats.

SAAB A.B is a new entrant to the AFP Modernization Program, although they have been offering a lot of their products to the Armed Forces of the Philippines for decades now. As a group, they manufacture and supply radars, surveillance subsystems, underwater systems, and fighter aircraft.

Being the winner of the JCPV Phase 3B project, it is still unclear how the 2 companies will divide the work, but based on previous experience we can have some guestimate on what they might possibly do.

Both companies have been industry leaders in their own field, with Propmech leading in the local scene with successful naval projects in their portfolio, while SAAB is a global leader in defence. Combining their strengths is expected to produce results for the JCPV Phase 3B project of the Philippine Navy.

Project's Scope of Works:

Saab will definitely provide the subsystems and technical know-how for the upgrade of the fire control system and sensors.

Currently, SAAB has in products in its line-up that may suit the needs of the project, specifically the EOS-500 electro-optical director, which is ideal for the Oto Melara 76mm Compact and the MSI Seahawk 25mm naval gun systems. Currently the Jacinto-class patrol vessel utilizes a single Radamec 1500 series EO/IR FCS on top of the bridge, and is used to direct both the 76mm and 25mm guns towards a single target.

SAAB's products are among the best in the industry, and its use in the Philippine Navy would indeed be a leap forward to improve the ship's capability. 

Currently the JCPV uses the Radamec 1500 series EO/IR FCS (top photo, in red circle) acquired more than a decade ago, and it will be replaced with a new system. SAAB is expected to use its EOS-500 electro-optical director for the JCPV Phase 3B's requirement to improve the Fire Control System of the ship.
Top photo taken from defense forum, bottom photo taken from Saab's website.

It is expected that SAAB won't be using its more capable, heavier, and costlier CEROS 200 fire control radar, which is only effective if the ship will also have semi-active surface-to-air missile systems which is not possible on the JCPV due to size and weight considerations. Combined with the 9LV Gun Control Module, the EOS 500 would be suitable enough for use on the automated gun systems of the ship against surface and aerial targets.

SAAB also manufactures the CEROS 200 lightweight fire control radar. But it appears that a Fire Control Radar is not among the products required for the JCPV upgrade project.
Photo taken from SAAB's website.

MaxDefense believes that Propmech, being the local representative of the joint venture, will be in-charge of the physical work, coordination, and installation of subsystems of the ship. The work will be conducted in a facility that they have a subcontract with, as they don't have their own shipyard. 

As a joint venture, Propmech-SAAB would probably get a sub-contractor supply the navigation radar system, and for the rehabilitation and upgrade of the Oto Melara 76mm Compact naval gun, which are currently not a trade speciality of both companies. Saab does not have a navigation radar in its product line, and it is unlikely that they will use their more expensive 3D surveillance radar systems like the Sea Giraffe family for this project.

Upgrade and rehabilitation of the 76mm Oto Melara naval are not core competencies of Propmech and Saab, so it is expected that they will get a subcontractor to do the job for them.
Photo taken from Len Joson's collection.

There are no further information yet on what ship will be undertaking the JCPV Phase 3B based on information from DND or PhilGEPS. 

But MaxDefense sources indicated that the most possible ship to receive this upgrade is BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37), which is scheduled for dock works in Cebu very soon. 

Problems and Deficiencies of the Program:

This was already discussed in the previous blog entry, but for discussion's sake, MaxDefense is reviving this again in this blog entry.

1. Separating a single ship's project instead of consolidating the two projects into one for all 3 ships of the class is something MaxDefense does not agree with. This opens the possibility that there will be 2 different groups winning the project, one each with their own different products, logistics train, and trade competency. This means we could see a single class of only 3 ships but having 2 different navigation radars, fire control systems, electro-optical and radar directors, and processes in rehabilitating the 76mm Compact gun. MaxDefense believes this is absurd and illogical.

MaxDefense was already told by other sources that there is already a winning bidder for the Phase 3A project, and it is not Propmech-SAAB JV. This will be discussed later on as more accurate information comes in.

Among the bidders for the JCPV Phase 3A project is Ultra Electronics, which manufactures its own EO/IR Fire Control System (above). If another company wins the 3A phase instead of Propmech-SAAB, it means that 1 ship may have a different EO/IR FCS systems, as well as a navigation radar system.
Photo taken from Ultra Electronics website.

2. It is also yet unclear if the budget allocated by the DND and Philippine Navy is enough for the bidders to use a military-grade tactical navigation radar instead of a commercial-spec one. According to sources, military grade radar has better performance in detection of small targets like asymmetric threats, stealthy patrol boats or surface combatants, or even periscopes, which is normally difficult to detect using a commercial-spec navigation radar. But it is costlier than standard commercial-grade navigation radar.

Also, MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Navy should have used the upgrade program to improve the use of the Jacinto-class ships into domain awareness platforms with the introduction of at least a 2D air & surface search radar system. The navigation radars won't be able to provide aerial surveillance information as it is mostly used for surface detection, and at best, near sea level (very low level) aerial detection. 

The PN should have used most of its platforms to provide a wider maritime and aerial domain awareness capability and contribute to a bigger picture to a wider group. The JCPV project is a missed chance for such capability to be introduced to the class.

The Philippine Navy should have opted to provide the Jacinto-class patrol vessels with a air & surface search radar that is more capable in detecting surface and aerial targets than the standard navigation radar. A 2D system like the Terma Scanter 4100 (above) would have been a great addition to allow the JCPV to contribute further in maritime and aerial domain awareness capabilities of the Philippine Navy.
Photo taken from Terma's website.

3. With the DND acquiring missile systems from Rafael Advanced Systems for the upcoming MPAC Mk.3 to be built by Propmech-Lung Teh joint venture, would it not be better if the JCPV was also considered by the Philippine Navy to be installed with a lightweight air defense system like a MANPADS-based type? But since the ship won't be installed with an air search radar (as discussed in Item #3), even a short ranged one, this would be rendered ineffective against fast moving targets with just using the visual detection.

A VSHORAD air defense component like the MBDA Mistral Simbad system would have been a great addition to the ship's upgrade program. A single mount on the superstructure would not be heavy enough to create top-weight problems that are inherent with the Jacinto-class patrol vessel's design.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

How About Phase 3A Project?

MaxDefense sources informed that the DND already awarded the JCPV Phase 3A Project to another contractor, although this needs further clarification just to be sure. As the information relayed says, the winner was not Propmech-Saab, but another group. It is expected that if the project was only awarded recently, the Notice of Award might only be released in a month or two. 

MaxDefense will provide more information later on, upon confirmation of these information. In the meantime, stay tuned on our Facebook page which will probably be the first place MaxDefense will post additional information on the project.

Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Air Force Modernization Projects