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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Re-Offering the SBMS for Use Against Internal Security Threats as a Precision Land Attack Weapon

The new administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, through his new Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, confirmed that the modernization efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be continued despite earlier statements made by the new president regarding the government’s focus on the fight against internal security challenges, including insurgency and crime, instead of territorial defense. But also, the new defense secretary clarified that territorial defense won’t be given less priority as is actually among the priorities of the new administration.

Despite the confusion, the common denominator is that programs of the AFP Modernization Program’s Horizon 2 phase, which was originally slated to start by 2018 but might be advanced forward to 2017, will continue with minor tweaks on the acquisition plans depending on the urgency of needs from the AFP’s requirements.

Thus, the AFP is compelled to make adjustments to its procurement plans to justify their use for internal security challenges, while still making sure its relevance as an asset for territorial defense. Among those that MaxDefense believes the AFP can use effectively both for internal and external threats was the previously shelved Shore Based Missile System (SBMS), which is among those approved for acquisition under the Revised AFP Modernization Program Horizon 1 Phase.

The original SBMS as offered to the Philippine Army. It could be seen here that the system can also be used against ground troops. So it means it could also be used against Abu Sayyaf Group terrorists and other internal security threats as a better alternative to artillery and air strikes.
Photo from IMI.

The Shore Based Missile System: A Background:

MaxDefense previously discussed the Shore Based Missile System project, which was the most expensive project in the Philippine Army’s request under the Horizon 1 phase. It has an Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) worth Php 6.5 billion, and is to be procured by direct negotiation under a government-to-government (G2G) procurement deal with Israel and Israel Military Industries (IMI).

The original offer made by IMI involves the acquisition of a small battalion, with 2 batteries composed of 2 platoons per battery of mobile guided rocket / missile system that could be fired against threats from the sea, including ships, landing crafts, and even fixed positions on sea features. It also involves the acquisition of a battery of short-range air defense system that will defend the SBMS against aerial threats.

Each platoon will have its truck-mounted launchers and ammunition reload carrier/loader, radar, and platoon fire direction centre, while the battery has its own command post, FDC, support equipment, forward observation equipment, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for surveillance and target acquisition.

The system is centred on IMI’s Lynx MLRS modular launch system, which is configured to fire different rocket and missile systems. To be able to hit small moving targets at sea, IMI has offered their 306mm EXTRA guided rocket which has a published range of 150 kilometres, and can carry several types of warheads up to 120 kilograms.

EXTRA is guided to its target by a GPS-augmented inertial navigation system developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI). According to inside sources, the rocket adjusts its trajectory as the target’s position changes while in flight. This results to a circular error probable (CEP) of only 10 meters, although MaxDefense was informed that actual CEP is lower than published.

The project was already in the advanced stages when it was cancelled by then PhilippineArmy chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri for reasons explained in our previous blog entry. Instead, he proposed to use the Php 6.5 billion budget to frontload the acquisition of sniper rifles, force protection equipment, and other items for the Philippine Army that are originally scheduled for acquisition on the Horizon 2 phase. This proposal was ultimately not approved for implementation even until now. While the general said he didn’t cancel the project and just moved it to a later date, the project is still not implemented as of this writing.

Chile operates the IMI Lynx under a different name as it was said to be manufactured locally. The Lynx is the foremost launcher used for IMI's offer for the Shore Based Missile System (SBMS) project of the Philippine Army.

The SBMS was discussed previously in a MaxDefense blog, with the link below:

The IMI 303mm EXTRA guided rocket. This has a published range of 150 kilometers, and can hit naval targets as it could adjust its flight trajectory while in flight.
Photo from IMI's website.

The SBMS's Relevance in the AFP Modernization Program's Horizon 1 & 2 Phases:

The Philippine Army still has a requirement for the Shore Based Missile System (SBMS) under their Capability Upgrade Program's Horizon 2 phase which runs from 2018 to 2022. Based on this, they are looking to acquire at least 3 batteries of Shore Based Missile System, in addition to the initial requirements posted under the Horizon 1 phase which involved the acquisition of 2 batteries.

This CUP program still appears to be subject to changes depending on leadership, planning, requirement, and operational changes and needs. So it is still possible to revise the requirement depending on the situation.

This year until next year is still covered by the Horizon 1 phase, so technically we can only push for whatever is still left in this phase for implementation immediately.

The Duterte Presidency - Change Towards Internal Security Challenges:

With Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte becoming the new President of the Republic of the Philippines, he already mentioned that priority of his administration will beto resolve the internal security challenges, including the defeat of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) during his term. While his idea might be based on his experience as a mayor in Mindanao, or possibly due to either lack of information, lack of comprehensive understanding or briefing of the security challenges of the Philippines, or because of wrong information fed by people around him (see MaxDefense’s recent post on the Facebook page wall), the AFP is being limited in its acquisitions. But even so, it needs to push the limits to procure the necessary equipment it needs, whatever the call for attention is by the current administration.

It is still too early to say if the president is serious in his previous statements that external or territorial defense requirements will be given a backseat until he settles the internal security issues, but the AFP won’t be taking this easily and must act swiftly, smartly, and decisively.

Why Focus of SBMS?

MaxDefense chose to discuss the SBMS again because this project is among those already approved by the government for implementation, and was already previously allocated with funding based on the ABC previously requested by the DND and AFP, at Php 6.5 billion. 

With Horizon 1 already in its final years, the AFP should implement this project and not put the entire effort to waste. It's still not too late. Discontinuing the project will require the Army to return the budget back to the Department of Budget Management and it would be difficult to request for funding again next time. The AFP should also avoid the project from being overtaken by those included in the Horizon 2 phase that are still subject for funding and approval. MaxDefense believes that the SBMS, even in its current guise, is still relevant to the challenges that Pres. Duterte wanted to focus with, which will be discussed later on.

The CIDS is the basis of IMI's offer to the SBMS project of the Philippine Army, although IMI's offer did not include fixed launchers. The CIDS is already in service with the Vietnamese armed forces.
Photo from IMI's website.

Re-Offering and Re-Branding the SBMS and Meet New Requirements:

To answer the calls for equipment that are relevant and highly effective in ensuring the defeat of internal threats, MaxDefense believes that the SBMS, is still relevant for use not only against threats from the sea but also land targets.

To make it palatable to the current administration, MaxDefense proposes the re-branding of the project, moving away from the Shore Based Missile System name which focuses on territorial defense against naval threats. The name could be anything, as long as it sounds focused on internal security operations. MaxDefense proposes the name “Land Based Missile System (LBMS)” to describe the new system, for the sake of this discussion.

MaxDefense proposes that Israel’s SIBAT and IMI retain the system to be offered under the rebranded project. Everything will be the same: it still consists of the Lynx truck-mounted launcher system, and will still include the necessary support and logistics components like reloader, command posts, fire direction centre and radar systems, forward observation equipment, umanned aerial vehicles, and communications systems.

Ammunition will remain, using the 303mm EXTRA guided rocket optimized for use against ships or hard structures, while also considering the use of smaller guided rockets like IMI’s Accular, which is available in both 122mm and 160mm calibers for use against smaller and softer targets like formations, landing crafts, and soft structures. They could also open the option for the Philippine Army to acquire small cruise missiles that are compatible with the Lynx launching system, like the Delilah GL which not only has a longer range at 250 kilometres (published range) than the EXTRA, but can also pack a larger warhead, and has smarter capabilities like the ability to loiter for before homing to its target. This ability of loitering allows the missile to act as a surveillance system, or to allow the user to shift to a different target based on the data provided by the missile’s camera.

Also, allowing the Delilah to be incorporated to the system will allow the missile system to be true a “missile system”, which employs not only guided rockets, but actual land-attack cruise missiles.

The Delilah GL cruise missile can be an option for the Philippine Army to acquire later on as the Lynx can also launch them as an alternative to EXTRA, Accular, LAR-160 and Grad.
The Lynx can be seen here with a mix of Accular guided rocket launch pod (left) and Delilah GL cruise missile launch pod (right) mixed together.

The SBMS – Also an Accurate Land Attack Weapon:

Being a system that can be used to accurately hit naval and sea-based targets like moving ships and fixed structures on rocks or shoals, the SBMS (or LBMS) can also be used to hit land targets, be it fixed or mobile. This has been overlooked by many, even in the AFP, considering that there is not much difference on how the system works against land and sea targets.

Naval targets are actually more difficult to hit compared to land targets due to their nature of moving practically anywhere while in open sea, ability to detect incoming aerial threats and availability of hard and soft kill systems especially for surface combatants, and difficulty to provide target coordinates as there are only a few options to know where the ships are. Only aircraft, UAVs with surveillance and targeting capability, and long range search radars could provide information to set the munition’s course.

Meanwhile, ground targets are normally slow-moving or stationary, normally does not have detection and kill capabilities, and can be targeted by hidden forward observers close to the target, which can provide more accurate data to feed the launchers. MaxDefense also got clarification from Rafael Advance Systems that EXTRA and Accular does not need radar feed to provide target and guide the munition, as UAVs or forward observers would be good enough. If the system can effectively hit naval targets, no doubt it could do better against ground targets.

Considered as an artillery asset, the SBMS/LBMS can pound soft targets like insurgents hiding in the thick jungles, and hard fixed targets like encampments, pillboxes and defensive positions. It also means that the system can be used against more powerful land threats like enemy armoured, artillery, and infantry formations that successfully landed on the country’s shores.

Compared to conventional gun and rocket artillery, the guided rocket systems reduces the chances of collateral damage as it will be homing on the target accurately with pinpoint accuracy, and will be able to do so most of the time.  It also reduces the need for huge quantities of munition being launched at a certain coordinate since it only need one or few to hit a target. In the Philippine setting, this is important, as civilians and infrastructure are normally close to where terrorist groups hide or operate, and use of inaccurate artillery like 155mm or 105mm howitzers are dangerous and highly destructive without ensuring all destruction received by the intended target.

As an alternative to the larger EXTRA guided rocket, the PA could use the smaller, cheper Accular guided rocket which is effective enough for ground targets up to 40 kilometers from the launch unit.
Photo taken from IMI.

These are some of the projectile types that Lynx can launch, with the Delilah GL being a missile, the EXTRA and Accular are guided rockets, while the TCS, LAR-160 and GRAD and unguided field artillery rockets.
Photo taken from IMI website.

The SBMS/LBMS Launcher as a Multiple Launch Rocket System:

Aside from being a component of the SBMS/LBMS, the IMI's Lynx launching system can also be utilized by the Philippine Army for its Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) requirement, which is among those planned for acquisition under the Horizon 2 and 3 phases of the Philippine Army Capability Upgrade Program. For Horizon 2, the Army intends to acquire 3 batteries, with each battery probably consisting of around 6 mobile launchers.

As an MLRS, the Lynx can utilize standard 122mm GRAD with high explosive warhead, or the larger 160mm IMI LAR-160 Mk. IV artillery rockets, which can carry submunitions. A single standard Lynx truck-mounted launching system can carry two launch pod containers, with each container being to hold 20 122mm GRAD or 13 LAR-160 rockets. Larger 220mm Uragan unguided rockets can also be used by Lynx with only minimum adjustments needed, and up to 4 can be carried by a single launch pod container.

This capability is in addition to the use of guided rockets like EXTRA and Accular, and the Delilah GL cruise missile. Since each truck-mounted launcher can carry 2 launch pod container, the user has the option to mix and match the different rocket systems as necessary.

Azerbaijan operates the IMI Lynx as a MLRS platform, and it can be seen on the photo above that it carries the IMI EXTRA 303mm guided rockets (left), the LAR-160 160mm unguided rockets (middle) and the Soviet-era GRAD 122mm unguided rockets (right).
Photo taken from

Other Purposes of the System:

Another important acquisition that is included in this project is the presence of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in the equation. These UAVs are small, silent, and are designed to operate for up to 7 hours, and has enough range to reach more than the maximum range of the EXTRA guided rocket and loiter for target acquisition and post attack surveillance.

This means that not only are they useful for the SBMS/LBMS, but could also be used for surveillance missions on areas where suspected rebels are hiding or operating. Even without the need to launch the rockets/missiles, the UAV can provide information to ground commanders. It would allow for an unrelenting and continuous flow of information that will allow the AFP to operate continuous with relentless day and night operations that will surely tire the enemy into submission. 

Surveillance and targeting UAVs could provide accurate information day and night, and will provide the targeting information for the launching system. 

Approval Under the Duterte Administration?

MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Army's leadership is actually open to the product since a few years ago, and a proposal to return it back to the priority acquisition under the still unfinished Horizon 1 phase is expected to be accepted gladly for implementation.  

Being a weapon system that can be used both for internal and external security threats, MaxDefense believes that this project will have no problem getting re-approval for implementation, as long as it meets the same Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) as previously provided to avoid further complicating the project with delays to approve funding and adjustments.

MaxDefense sources confirmed that the system can be delivered quickly once a contract, letter of credit, and notice to proceed is provided to the supplier, Israel Military Industries. Additional orders under Horizon 2 will also be easy as the Israeli Ministry of Defense has been very active in pursuing the export of their homegrown defense products to the Philippines. So far they have been the fastest to react to the new challenges and changes in the government, and is expected to make headway in other expected projects too.

But its up to the people above the AFP, the ones that say if a project is good to go or not, if this project will proceed this time or not.Ultimately its still up to the people of the AFP and DND to justify the need for their projects before the agencies involved.

Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Air Force Modernization Projects