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, April 26, 2017

Finally, the Philippine Navy (and Vietnam) are Set to Receive a Pohang-class Flight III Corvette from South Korea

MaxDefense Philippines finally received a confirmation from its sources that after more than 2 years of waiting, the Philippine Navy will be receiving a Pohang-class corvette from South Korea. This is NOT the same ship that was reported since 2014, which is a totally different project.

After conducting of the Joint Visual Inspection by the Philippine Navy in Jinhae Naval Base in South Korea, spearheaded by the Offshore Combat Force's commanding officer himself, the Philippine Navy decided to finally accept the offer made by the South Korean government to transfer the Pohang-class Flight III anti-submarine corvette. It appears that only 1 ship was offered by the South Korean government, while the other decommissioned Flight III ships will be going to 2 other countries. The ship is expected to be in service with the Philippine Navy by 4th quarter of 2017.

While the deal appears that the ship is free, the Philippine Navy will have to spend around Php 200 million for the entire transfer process, including reactivation, repair, minor refurbishing works, replacement of obsolete systems required for safe use of the ship, crew billeting and training, and other expenses.

The ship is expected to be assigned with the Offshore Combat Force (OCF) of the Philippine Fleet, and will be the primary anti-submarne warfare (ASW) platform of the service until the introduction of other ASW-capable units.

Pohang-class corvette ROKS Chungju (PCC-762), the unit reportedly assigned for transfer to the Philippine Navy.
Credits to owner of photo.

The Ship in Brief:

The ship, reported to be the former ROKS Chungju (PCC-762), was built by Korea Tacoma Shipyard, was commissioned with the Republic of Korea Navy in 1987, and served until it was decommissioned in December 2016. Based on these dates, the ship is around 30 years old, or at least 20 years younger than the Hamilton-class cutters acquired by the Philippine Navy from the US Coast Guard.

It is considered a Flight III sub-class of the Pohang-class combat corvette, which is configured for anti-submarine warfare. It is equipped with two Oto Melara 76mm Compact naval guns, two Breda twin 40mm/70 naval guns, two Mk. 32 triple torpedo tubes, and two Mk.9 depth charge racks. It was previously fitted with Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers, and while they are not included in the transfer, the ship won't need major alterations and adjustments for launchers to be re-installed again.

The ship's sensors suite include Raytheon AN/SPS-64 radar, Signaal WM-28 Fire Control system, and a Raytheon AN/SQS-58 hull mounted sonar which replaced an older model.

The ROKS Chungju is equipped with two Mk.32 triple torpedo launchers, similar to the photo above.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

As an Anti Submarine Warfare Training Ship:

The ship's Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) gear is the primary reason of the Philippine Navy's interest in the Pohang-class. With no warship in its fleet with ASW capability, the PN has almost zero capability in detecting and hunting submarines, as well as providing practical and actual ASW training to its personnel.

The ASW training is very important since the Philippine Navy is expecting the delivery of two new ASW-capable frigates in the next few years, and the training of potential crew members should start as early as possible. According to our sources, the Republic of Korea Navy will primarily assist in training PN personnel in ASW, while the PN will also be getting assistance from other friendly navies in growing the knowledge and experience base.

What Happened to the Earlier Offer:

In 2014, it was reported that the Philippine Navy will be receiving the Pohang-class Flight II ASuW corvette ROKS Mokpo (PCC-759) as a donation by the South Korean government. While the ship itself is free, the ship will need to undergo rehabilitation and refurbishing before it can set sail for the Philippines. And expenses for this would be paid for by the Philippine government.

A Joint Visual Inspection (JVI) team from the Philippine Navy found in 2014 that the ROKS Mokpo was in very poor condition, and will need a huge investment in time and money to be brought to tip top shape. Also, it is not an ASW-configured warship, and this is what the PN is actually putting priority in what they are looking for. Thus, the Philippine Navy rejected the offer, and instead requested the Korean government to provide an alternative offer. 

The latest proposal made by the Korean government has reached the Philippine Navy late last year, resulting to this latest arrangement for the transfer of ROKS Chungju.

While we were all hoping that the Koreans may have offered more than just 1 ship, MaxDefense received confirmation that the other available Flight III corvettes were earmarked for Vietnam, and another one for a South American country.

Until now there are reportedly no takers yet of the former ROKS Mokpo, suggesting that the inspection results from the PN may hold weight.

So let's stop looking for the Mokpo, shall we?

Future Plans:

The Philippine Navy has requested funding for a combat system upgrade for a single Pohang-class corvette as part of the AFP Modernization Program's Horizon 2 phase, as submitted by the AFP and DND to Malacanang. This will enable the PN to install a heavier weapons system like anti-ship missiles, while also upgrading its weapons and sensor suite.

Aside from that, the Philippine Navy is also hoping that the South Korean government will again offer more Pohang-class corvettes, as the PN wanted to have at least 3 units in its fleet. This is logical, considering that operating a single Pohang-class ship does not make sense, and would be a logistical problem for the PN since it uses parts and systems that are currently not in their logistics and maintenance chain. More ships of the class in PN service makes its continued use more reasonable in both operations and logistics point of view.

These ships are also expected to replace some of the World War 2-era assets of the Philippine Navy, which they wanted to retire from service by year 2020. 

The Pohang-class are actually configured to carry and fire Harpoon anti-ship missiles, as seen on the photo above. The combat system upgrade requested by the PN for the Pohang-class under the Horizon 2 phase of the Navy's modernization programme may include the acquisition and installation of such systems, enabling the ship to have the capability to engage enemy ships in longer distances.
Credits to the owner of the photo.

MaxDefense will update this blog entry as more information comes in the near future. Meanwhile, MaxDefense readers are adviced to also read our old blog entry regarding the Pohang-class acquisition by the Philippine Navy, which I believe is still relevant up to now:


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Australia's Adelaide-class Frigates: Best and Last Chance for the Philippine Navy to Acquire Oliver Hazard Perry Frigates

While it was already discussed numerous times here in MaxDefense Philippines blogs and in our Facebook community, the Philippine Navy has been consistent in the past that they are not keen on getting the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates. This is due to the ship's high operating cost which stems out from the ship's use of gas turbine engines as its main propulsion.

But with the Philippine Navy struggling to build a formidable fleet of capable, newer fighting ships, is it not really possible for them to reconsider the possibility of having the Oliver Hazard Perry frigates in its fleet?

HMAS Melbourne (FFG 05), an Adelaide-class frigate of the Royal Australian Navy on rough seas. The ship is still in active service with the RAN although it is scheduled for retirement very soon as the Hobart-class air warfare destroyers become online.
Photo taken from

The US Navy's Oliver Hazard Perry-class Frigates:

This class of general purpose frigates, also known as Perry or OHP class, are robust warships built for the United States Navy to provide fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) platform with respectable surface warfare capabilities, and can be used individually for patrol missions aside from its original intention of escorting fast aircraft carriers and protecting them from submarine threats.

Aside from the USN, other friendly navies like the Royal Australian Navy, the Spanish Navy, and the Republic of China Navy chose the OHP as their frigate of choice, building some of their units in their respective home shipyards. Other countries like the Pakistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, and Poland have taken in retired USN OHPs, while Taiwan has also received former US OHPs as well to augment its fleet.

Other countries like Thailand, Mexico and Malaysia, to name a few, have expressed their interest to acquire the type as well. The Philippines were previously offered by the US with these ships, but were reportedly declined because the Philippines wanted to buy new ships, and because the Oliver Hazard Perry-class were reportedly expensive to operate.

These countries, except for the Spanish Navy, do not operate aircraft carriers. Even the Spanish carriers during the time the OHP design was selected was not the same as the US Navy carriers that are fast movers at open sea.

In the past few years, the US Navy has completely retired the entire OHP class from its fleet, and has offered several of them for transfer although it still remains to be seen if interested countries will be taking them in. The Philippines is not among these countries as of last year. According to the US Navy's Naval Sea Systems Command as of September 2016, there are still 10 Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates in inactive status, stripped of essential equipment, that are ready for transfer or Foreign Military Sales (FMS). Some of them were intended for other countries like Turkey, Taiwan and Thailand, but are not yet taken up due to political reasons.

So if the US may have difficulties to provide Oliver Hazard Perry frigates to provide for the Philippines, why is MaxDefense still proposing the class for the Philippine Navy? Enter Australia's Adelaide-class frigates, which MaxDefense believes is the best and last chance for the Philippine Navy to acquire these robust warships.

The USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG-60) with her Mk. 13 arm-type missile launcher removed. The ship is currently in inactive list and some of its systems stripped off. It was originally intended for foreign military sales (FMS) together with 9 other Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates as of September 2016.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.

The Royal Australian Navy's Adelaide-class Frigates:

As mentioned earlier, Australia was among those friendly countries that chose the Oliver Hazard Perry-class for its frigate requirements. Six united were acquired by the Royal Australian Navy. 4 of the ships were built by American shipyard Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, while 2 were built in Australia by AMECON - Transfield Defence Systems.

The photos show the upgrades made on the Adelaide-class frigates, as well as their respective use in battle.
Photos taken from

Three units are still in service with the RAN, while one is still for disposal but would likely be stripped off all its equipment. The other two units were retired earlier and are already disposed of.

The three remaining active ships are currently among the most capable OHPs in the world, upgraded by the RAN and Thales Australia years ago under the SEA 1390 programme.

These ships were installed with an 8-cell Mk. 41 vertical launch system capable of storing and firing up to 32 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), retaining the Mk.13 arm-type launcher which can now launch the SM-2MR Standard and RGM-84 Harpoon missiles, while also having upgrades for its Phalanx CIWS to Block 1B. A more detailed discussion of the upgrades made, including problems encountered, can be seen on the website below:

Australia’s Hazard(ous) Frigate Upgrades: Done at Last

Aside from these weapons, the Adelaide-class are also armed with the familiar Oto Melara 76mm Compact naval gun, as well as two Mk. 32 triple lightweight torpedo tubes. 

For sensors, the ship is equipped with mostly US-made systems including the AN/SPS-49 2D air search radar and AN/SPS-55 surface search radar, an AN/SQS-56 hull mounted sonar, and the PN-familiar Mk.92 fire control radar, albeit in an much more advanced version.

The RAN will be replacing these ships with the newer, larger, and more capable Hobart-class air defense destroyers starting 2018, thus the remaining Adelaides are expected to be retired very soon, with HMAS Darwin scheduled for retirement in November this year, HMAS Melbourne by 2018, and HMAS Newcastle soon after.

While Poland was reported earlier this month to be interested in acquiring two of the ships once they are retired, nothing has been finalized yet and its still open for anyone to grab.

HMAS Darwin (FFG 04) as it appear before the SEA 1390 modernization programme.
Photo taken from

Expected Ship Availability Problems of the PN for the Next Few Years:

The Philippine Navy's new frigate project, which was awarded to Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) is scheduled for delivery and commissioning starting 2020 if it pushes through without much delays. That means that until then, the Del Pilar-class frigates must shoulder on as the PN's premier warships despite lacking modern defensive and offensive weapons, as well as effective surveillance and detection sensors.

The Philippine Navy's new frigates, if ever they push through, are expected to be commissioned only starting 2020. And while Horizon 2 phase of the AFP Modernization is expected to proceed within the Duterte administration, MaxDefense and even DND and AFP leaders believe that the entire request may not be approved for implementation due to its massive budgetary requirements that far eclipse the Horizon 1 phase many times over in its current state.
Photo taken from Hyundai Heavy Industries website.

Any additional frigate projects under the Horizon 2 phase are still unconfirmed considering that there are doubts within the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Department of National Defense that the Philippine government can actually implement the totality of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Horizon 2 modernization phase without cuts in the proposed projects. Based on the Horizon 2 wish list submitted to Malacanang earlier this year, the Philippine Navy is requesting an additional 4 new frigates to be acquired within the Duterte administration.

At its current iteration, the Philippine Navy's request alone already exceed Php350 billion for Horizon 2. Compare that to the Horizon 1 phase for the ENTIRE AFP which is now running at less than Php100 billion, but was already difficult for the government to implement.

Also, the proposed combat systems upgrades for the PN's three Del Pilar-class frigates are also part of Horizon 2 phase. And while MaxDefense believes that upgrades for these ships are urgently needed, it is still a question when the PN can actually implement it soon. Not to mention the duration it will take to undertake the modernization. At the current rate, MaxDefense believes that the Del Pilar-class combat system modernization program may start only by late 2018 at best, or 2019, while finishing the work will take almost 1 year for each ship, based on timelines provided by different defense contractors on their submitted proposals. 

The Philippine Navy is expected to only allow one ship to undergo upgrade at a time. And while the Del Pilars are being upgraded, there are no other ships in the PN that can provide the same capability, thus placing the PN at risk of being incapable of conducting its mission requirements for several months to a few years. Even with 3 ships, present condition already shows that these are not enough to provide maritime security for the entire country.

MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Navy needed another class of frigates, with around 2 to 3 ships, and younger than the Del Pilar-class, slotted in between the old Del Pilars and the new Hyundai-made frigates, which will cover the Philippine Navy's operational needs while they wait for the new frigates to materialize and the Del Pilars undergo combat system modernization.

Aside from covering the dock time of the Del Pilars and construction of new ships, the acquisition of used frigates will allow the PN to make sure that it has the assets it needs just in case the frigate requests under the Navy modernization's Horizon 2 phase fizzles out, or acquisition of additional new frigates gets delayed. Used frigates are like insurance policy for the PN that they'll have enough assets in their fleet, whether or not funding for new frigates becomes available.

Why Revisit The Oliver Hazard Perry-class / Adelaide-class?

The Philippine Navy, as reported by MaxDefense several times in the past, is in the look-out for ships to replace ther World War 2-era warships. They hope to accomplish this before 2020, which is just 3 years from now.

Based on military and industry sources, there are only a few used warships that are still in good condition and are ready for transfer, either by sale or by grant, to friendly nations anytime soon. Only a few countries are scheduled to retire frigate-sized warships in their fleets within the next 2 years, which includes only France, Italy, Australia, South Korea, and Germany.

While the Italian option may be looked at again, it now appears that Italy will be keeping their Maestrale-class frigates for sometime, except for the already retired lead ship of the class, until a new class of patrol vessels are made available. Not to mention that Italy may retain their previous offer for the Maestrale, which is quite expensive at more than Php7-8 billion per ship including refurbishing, minor upgrades, and replacement of obsolete systems.

It turns out that Italy asked the PN for around Php 7 billion for each Maestrale-class frigate a few years ago. That is quite expensive for a 30+ year old frigate. Also, the Italian Navy has delayed the retirement of the class, with only the lead ship Maestrale (F570) out of the service as of this writing. It is expected that the Italian government will still sell the ships at a premium price, which is not really a price we expect the Philippine Navy will bite at.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Germany is very strict in the sale or transfer of weapons to countries with questionable human rights issues, which the Philippines is currently very famous for in Europe at the moment, while France has not yet shown interest in providing used warships to the Philippines as far as our sources have mentioned.

That leaves Australia, South Korea, and the US. But South Korea is known for pushing their hardware too hard, with the ROKS Mokpo and the Mulgae-class LCU-78 (which were rejected by PN for transfer and refurbishing, respectively, for being in very poor condition as well) as good examples. Also, their Ulsan-class frigates also lack the missile capabilities the PN needed (aside from the capability to fire anti-ship missiles). Also, it turns out the Philippines has competition on the acquisition of Pohang-class corvettes, with a number of countries being offered by the Korean government aside from the Philippines.

The Korean Mulgae-class LCU-78, which has been with the Philippine Navy for some time now, is still languishing in Naval Base Cavite after they found the ship "Beyond Economical Repair" (BER). This is an example of how hard the Koreans use their naval assets, and reportedly many of those Pohang and Ulsan-class ships being retired by the ROKN are in probably in similar condition. The ROKS Mokpo, a Flight II Pohang-class offered to the PN in 2015, was among those the PN rejected for the same reason.
Photo taken by a MaxDefense community member who wish to remain anonymous.

And that leaves us with the Australian Adelaide-class and the American Oliver Hazard Perry-class. 

The last 3 Adelaides in RAN service are quite young compared to other alternatives from other countries, with HMAS Darwin @ 35 years old from launch, HMAS Melbourne @ 28 years, and HMAS Newcastle @ 27 years old. Compared to the 50+ year old Hamilton/Del Pilar-class, or even the Maestrale-class which were launched earlier than the Adelaides.

And with the first ship possibly available for transfer starting by early next year, the PN stands to get a capable warship that  does not require immediate dry-docking and modernization for now.

Compared to American OHPs whose capability to launch missiles has been removed with the phase-out of the Mk. 13 arm-type launchers, the Adelaides have even improved on what was already present before by having both the Mk.13 and Mk. 41.

The Mk. 13 arm-type missile launcher and the Mk. 41 vertical launching system as seen on the Adelaide-class frigate HMAS Sydney. The Mk. 13 is used to launch SM-2MR and Harpoon missiles, while the Mk. 41 is used to launch the ESSM missiles.
Photo taken from CV32 @

Australia has already provided the Philippine Navy with used ships in the past, including 5 Balikpapan-class heavy landing crafts. 

With Thales as the main integrator of the Adelaide-class during its modernization program years ago, as well as its maintenance service provider (Though Thales Australia), and is the expected integrator-supplier of systems for the Philippine Navy's new frigate, it could be an advantage that they are onboard both ship classes.

Last and not the least, MaxDefense received information supporting the possibility that the Philippine Navy could be interested in acquiring Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, although this is considered a speculation for now. There is a very compelling reason why the Philippine Navy may consider acquiring the COGAG-powered OHPs/Adelaides despie being notoriously expensive to operate and maintain. MaxDefense will go through that when the storm clears and we get approval to discuss it further.

Gas Turbine / Fuel Consumption Issues:

Gas turbines, yes, the naval powerplant least desired by the Philippine Navy because of its high fuel consumption, despite its more compact size and higher power output compared to diesel engines. The Philippine Navy operates the Pratt & Whitney FT4A-6 gas turbines on its Del Pilar-class frigates, MaxDefense sources mentioned that the Philippine Navy barely use them.

The LM2500 gas turbine engine - the same engine powering the CODOG-configured Pohang-class corvette, the Maestrale and Soldati-classes, the Bremen-class; as well as the COGAG-configured Oliver Hazard Perry and Adelaide-classes.

While it is true that the Adelaides are gas turbine powered ships that have higher operating costs than diesel-powered ships, the PN actually has little choice left. Its either it does not get the capabilities it needs because of non-availability of alternative ships for acquisition, or it gets the capabilities it needs at a little more premium than desired.

Also, with the Philippine Navy already in the process of acquiring at least 1 Pohang-class corvette from South Korea and is interested in acquiring more units, maintenance and logistics won't really be a huge issue anymore. The Pohang-class is a warship with a Combined Diesel or Gas (CODOG) propulsion configuration, with the gas turbine component using the LM2500 naval gas turbine, the same powerplant used by the Adelaide-class.

Compared to the rarely-available FT4A-6 gas turbines, the LM2500 is a widely used naval gas turbine engine, a standard on many of the world's largest navies, and has parts and services readily available globally. 

Other Problems that could be encountered:

The biggest problem that could be encountered by the Philippine Navy will be the acquisition and transfer of the ships themselves. 

In the case of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class, any request for transfer of sale may undergo approval by the US Congress, as well as by the US State Department and Department of Defense despite the Philippines being classified as a Major Non-NATO Ally. These approvals might take time, and even rejection, as shown by the numerous other countries requesting for the ships, like Turkey and Pakistan, that did not materialize.

In the case of the Adelaide-class, both the US and Australian governments must have approval for the transfer. So instead of just undergoing the tedious processing in the US government, the same will happen on processing approvals from the Australian government as well. 

Another is Poland's recent interest in acquiring the at least 2 of the Adelaide-class ships, which means they could provide a better proposal than a possible Philippine offer to acquire them.

MaxDefense only hopes that being a US Major Non-NATO Ally, and a major security partner of Australia, plus being on the same ideological side with regards to dealing with Chinese military adventurism in the Asia Pacific region, both the US and Australia may see the importance of a strong Philippine Navy to help secure its borders and balance the military power in favour of the allies. Australia has repeatedly showed its interest to assist the modernization of the Philippine military, and this could be among the things they can allow to happen.

Another issue is obtaining the missiles from the US, especially the SM-2MR surface-to-air missile. The SM-2MR is among the best naval air defense missiles available, are expensive, and are export-controlled by the US government. Should the US reject any request by the Philippines to acquire the SM-2MR missile, then the Mk. 13 arm-type missile launcher would only be able to fire the Harpoon missiles, which could also be a problem again if US export controls clicks in. The Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) could also be affected by such measures. This is the reason why the Philippine Navy prefers to use weapons systems from other sources like France, South Korea and Israel, since they are willing to provide the weapons without too much strings attached, as compared to the US.

Obtaining the SM-2MR missile could also be a problem, as the US government may impose strict rules on exporting it to the Philippines. It is also more expensive and beyong the capabilities eyed by the Philippine Navy for its frigates.
Photo taken from

Reality bites: Defense is not cheap, and has never been. And the Philippine government should have realized it by now. If it doesn't, then the Philippines is screwed and is bound to lose more prime property and waters to foreign occupation and aggression.

#      #      #

Should there be updates regarding the possibility of acquiring Oliver Hazard Perry-class or Adelaide-class frigates for the Philippine Navy, it would be posted on this page.

April 30, 2017:

I was reading the comments section on this blog entry as well as on our Facebook community page highlight wall post and realised that among the factors affecting the possible acquisition by the Philippine Navy of the Adelaide-class, or the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate family in general, has always been connected to one thing: funding.

While funding is the main point, it is further subdivided into different concerns:
* Upfront expenditure - the initial cost of acquiring the ships itself, and may also include any works that will allow the ship to be brought back from storage, minor repair works, replacement of obsolete systems, making the ship safe to navigate in the open, training and billeting of personnel, initial ammunition load-out,  and other related expenditures.

* Operating and upkeep cost - the projected cost of operating and maintaining the ships while in service.This covers, fuel & lubricants, personnel salaries and costs, servicing, repair works,and other cost that allows for the smooth operation of the ship;

* Post-acquisition additional costs - it may include the funding to acquire items that are not included with the ship when it was acquired, including upgrades, ammunition, and PN-specific alterations to the ship's physical and cybernetic appearance and capability.

A. Upfront Expenditure:

Currently MaxDefense does not have any accurate figure on how much will it cost for the Philippines to acquire either the Oliver Hazard Perry-class from the US, or the Adelaide-class from Australia. 

But for the Oliver Hazard Perry-class, we can use a previous deal as a basis: the transfer of USS McInerney in 2010.

Back then, it was reported that the ship was given for free by the US government. But Pakistan, through US Foreign Military Funding (FMF), spent around US$58 million for the ship's re-activation, repair and refurbishing, plus another almost US$7 million to train 240 Pakistani Navy personnel on the ship's engineering, navigation, and combat system.

Among those included in the overhaul are mostly mechanical works, including the removal and overhaul of the diesel generators, air-conditioning system, fuel and oil tank cleaning, overhaul of controllable pitch propellers, and others. A new navigation system and bridge was also included, as well as overhauling the AN/SQS-56 SONAR system.

The ship was also installed with Harpoon missiles in fixed launchers, which is probably included in the cost.

In the Philippines' case, a similar deal might be provided, and will probably cost more than the total of US$65 million since inflation might have already increased the price. We can safely assume that it would cost around US$80 million for a similar set-up.

The Philippines may even opt to request for the US to provide military assistance to pay for the upfront cost of the ship/s, which will allow the Philippines to spend as minimal as possible for the acquisition.

MaxDefense believes that it may probably cost less if the Philippine Navy will be given the chance to acquire the Adelaide-class ships free, and have them hot transferred from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) to the Philippine Navy. At its current condition, HMAS Darwin, HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Newcastle are still in tip-top share compared to any retired Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates stored in the US. But there will need to have some systems replacement since it is expected that the RAN will remove sensitive Australia-only systems from the ship, and the Philippine Navy may need to have a replacement for some of them, and probably a new navigation and bridge as well.

Should the Australian government only allow the Adelaide-class ships to be sold, then it is expected that the Philippines will pay a higher upfront cost as compared to getting retired Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates from the US. But the premium also means the PN will be getting a younger, recently upgraded, less beaten, and more capable warship due to the presence of anti-aircraft weapon systems that are not present in the American ships.

B. Operating and Upkeep Cost:

MaxDefense expects that the Philippine Navy will incur less operating expenses as compared to the ships being in service in the US and Australian navies. 

Information available online on RAN expenses on the Adelaide-class frigates puts it at an average of around A$279,325 a day as of 2012. But MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Navy won't be spending the same once the Adelaide-class is in its fleet. Here's why:

The information provided by the Australian Defence Ministry included the following costs: sustainment, fuel, salary, allowances, and superannuation.

A huge cut on the expenses will be attributed to the lower salaries and allowances a typical Filipino serviceman receives compared to his American or Australian counterparts.The difference of pay is very wide, with Filipinos probably getting only around 15%* of what an Australian serviceman gets.

*Note: MaxDefense estimates only based on old information of PN salaries, as we do not have current details on how much are today's Philippine Navy servicemen receive.

Also, the Philippines doesn't have superannuation system for its servicemen. Superannuation is contributed by the RAN every payday to its servicemen's funds, and is around 9.5% of salaries and allowances. The absence of such is already a big deduction to the costs. To further know about Australia's Superannuation system, please visit this website:

With regards to sustainment and fuel, it is also expected that the Philippine Navy will spend less, considering that the operational tempo of the PN is different and far less than with the RAN. The RAN is a regional blue-water navy which regularly join regional exercises and goodwill visits, its at-sea deployment is far longer and further. We all know that the US Navy operates their ships hard as well to maintain global dominance. Meanwhile, the PN is a brown-water navy and is expected to use frigates for patrols within its Exclusive Economic Zone only, with minimal deployment outside the country's regime, and conducts patrols on a more limited basis and without staying too long at sea per deployment. This is based on experience as a former officer in the PN, and with information directly coming from the RAN. 

The PN also conduct less maintenance work on its ships, and the maintenance schedule gaps are also wider compared to its USN and RAN counterparts. This is party due to PN ships being less active at sea, and because of PN doing adjustments to funding availability. Also maintenance costs are also expected to be less when done in the Philippines as compared to doing it in Australia (or the US).

Now comparing it to the existing Del Pilar-class frigates with the PN, MaxDefense expects that the Adelaide-class or Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates will be more expensive to operate. Most evident is  is because the Adelaides/Perrys uses gas turbine engines at all speeds as compared to the Del Pilars which uses diesel engines during patrols.

It is also expected that the Adelaides/Perrys will cost more to upkeep due to the presence of more advanced systems that require more maintenance work and will need more men to man. Currently the Del Pilars only require less than 100 men to operationally work, while the Adelaides require more than twice the number of men at full operational status. This means more men to pay, more men to feed.

But it should be remembered that the Adelaides/Perrys are combat frigates, not patrol frigates. MaxDefense believes that the PN won't be using the Adelaides/Perrys too often for patrols, but will be used mostly on standby, or will be anchored or stationary on certain areas and will use its more powerful sensors to monitor activities on its area of responsibility. Facing facts, these gas-turbine powered frigates are not best for patrols, but nonetheless are formidable assets for a small beat-up fleet like the Philippine Navy. The PN must strike a balance on how to use these assets once available.

C. Post-Acquisition Additional Cost:

This is actually tricky since MaxDefense believes that this would involve mostly ammunition for the ships that are not currently available in the PN's inventory. This includes the anti-ship missiles (expected to be the American Harpoon missile), and in the case of the Adelaide-class frigates, the Evovled Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) and the SM-2MR (if the US allows their sale). 

Missiles are expensive. And should the PN have the chance to have the Adelaides and the Americans allow the sale of the SM-2MR and ESSM to the Philippines, MaxDefense believes that the PN would not fully utilize the ship's full capacity to carry 32 ESSMs and 30+ SM-2MRs because of this dilemma. But these consumables are needed to maximize the use of the frigates as effective fighting ships. A fighting ship without munitions is nothing more than a target waiting to be destroyed, or at best, a surveillance platform.

MaxDefense also believes that in the case of the Adelaide-class, the PN won't be needing too many additional systems for installation. The ships are already fitted with the most important requirements that would allow it to do its duties. But the case of the US-supplied Oliver Hazard Perry-class is probably different, being stripped-off of several systems that needs replacement later on, including its air defense and anti-ship weapons, as well as upgrades for the older sensors and electronics systems. As I said earlier, these are among the benefits of getting the Adelaide-class as compared to the Oliver Hazard Perry-class.

Horizon 2 Frigates:

Speaking of costs, MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Navy may have realized that their requested budget for their wish list for the Horizon 2 phase of the AFP Modernization Program might be too difficult to attain. 

Based on their latest submitted Horizon 2 wish list, the Philippine Navy is requesting for 4 brand new frigates, with a budget for each ship bigger than those of the 2 earlier frigates funded during the Horizon 1 phase. The Philippine Navy might have also realized that the Php9 billion funded for each frigate during the Horizon 1 phase is just too low to really have a frigate with the capabilities needed to at least match the equivalent ships of its regional peers and expected adversaries. Remember that the Php 9 billion requested by the PN for each frigate does not include funding for many 'Fitted for but not with items", including a vertical launch missile system and a towed array sonar system, among others, and has reduced the specifications of its subsystems just to allow fitting within the budget.


Should the Philippine government reduce the budget requested by the PN, it has no choice but to adjust to still attain its request to have 4 frigates, by either reducing the budget for each frigate, or by having an option to have a combination buy of brand new and second hand units. 

It is also possible that the Philippine Navy might now have a more solid information on the operating expenses of the Del Pilar-class, which has been in service with the Philippine Navy since 2011. And this could have given the PN a somehow clearer understanding on what to expect when operating Adelaide/OHP-class frigates.

Although there are many more "possible" reasons, these are just some of the reasons why MaxDefense foresees the possibility to acquire used warships despite the better option to buy brand new.

In conclusion, the Philippine Navy should still step up its search of options to replace the World War 2-era warships in its fleet. Since most of these ships are actually more like patrol vessels rather than fighting assets, the PN should focus its replacement-searching on assets that are newer but could economically conduct patrols and peacetime operations than frigates. 

But the need for frigates should not be tied-up too much on getting patrol vessels, since these are two completely different types of naval assets.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Defending Against Ballistic Missile Attacks - What Options Does the Philippines Have?

Recently a news report came our from one of the leading Philippine news organization stating that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, though its spokesman BGen. Restituto Padilla, is looking for ways for allies to help defend the Philippines from a missile attack, possibly from North Korea, which has been lobbing missiles one after the other to the Sea of Japan lately.

In this blog entry, we discuss the Philippines' option in defending itself from ballistic missiles. Note that we will NOT DISCUSS the Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear (CBRN) side of such threat, but only the threat of the physical missiles.

Asking for Help from Who?:

Reality shows that currently, the Philippines cannot really do anything on this regard but to ask for help from more militarily capable allies and partners.

But there's a problem in this situation of the Philippines. So far the only countries the Philippines can ask help it to defend against ballistic missiles are either the United States of America or Japan. But Japan currently has no missile interceptors to spare for the Philippines. It is also getting its assurances from the US as their current systems, based on the US-made Patriot PAC-2 and PAC-3 systems and AEGIS-SM3 system, are not enough to effectively defend the Japanese home islands.

So there's no other country that can help other than the US.

The US may opt to deploy land-based Patriot PAC-3 missile systems, or the sea-based AEGIS-SM3 ABM systems if the Philippine government lands an agreement with the US for such deployments.
Photos taken from (above), and US Department of Defense (below).

Normally, you deploy missile interceptors to defend yourself before an actual missile attack happens, not after the attack itself. But with the Philippine government playing a hardball on the US and at the same time putting a very good face for China, how will the US help the Philippines get that anti-missile defense requirement without China putting pressure on the Philippines, and the US getting too involved with a government that is not only unfriendly, but also has reputation of passing the load of defending itself to its bigger ally? Not to mention a US legislature that is unsupportive of the Philippine president? 

Two options can be made by the US to deploy defensive missile systems in the Philippines, but both involve the Philippine government agreeing with the terms and conditions of such deployment, a tricky part that has a lot of strings attached. One is by deploying a land-based system, much like what the US does in Japan and South Korea, or a sea-based system which is more politically viable for the Philippines and US alike. Placing another Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system in the region will potential make China restless, and may hit back politically and economically on the Philippines, in the same way it is currently doing with South Korea when it decided to allow US THAAD's deployment in its soil.

An illustration on how the Patriot PAC-3 and THAAD will defend South Korea from North Korean ballistic missiles. This applies to how such systems will defend the Philippines.
Photo illustration taken from The Korea Herald.
This is the reason why China is against the deployment of US THAAD systems in South Korea. While the THAAD's radar has limitations, it has the capability to detect air movements at very long distances. In the case of South Korea, the radar can see through inside parts of China. Putting up THAAD in the Philippines will also allow the US to see through the entire South China Sea and parts of Southern China, including its bases in Hainan Island and Paracel Islands, as well as the artificial islands in the Spratlys, giving the US a huge edge.
Photo illustration taken from 38 North US-Korea Institute at the Paul H. Nitze SAIS, John Hopkinds University

Among the strings MaxDefense sees that the US will put in will be related to the increased deployment of US equipment and personnel in the Philippines, placed within the boundaries of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Something that Pres. Duterte is too allergic to begin with, considering that previously, he announced that he wanted US presence out of the country during his term.

Running to China or Russia for help doesn't work, for obvious reasons. 

While the US solution could be the most realistic option the Philippines have, it won't happen as fast as everyone hopes for. Will Pres. Duterte soften its stand on US deployment in the Philippines and allow their troops to "play around" like it used to?

The AFP's Ballistic Missile Defense System Project - A Brief:

Its not normal for MaxDefense to discuss such matters if its not related to the AFP's modernization and recapitalization efforts. So here's the catch why its being discussed here in MaxDefense Philippines blogs.

There is such a thing as a Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) project in the AFP's Modernization Program, which is included within the AFP's planned Integrated Missile Defense System. The project calls for a capability within the AFP to defend critical areas of high interest against ballistic missile threats. 

Originally, the requirement raised by the AFP for acquisition is for at least 3 batteries, although MaxDefense is unsure if the requirement is for a tactical only, or a more advanced theatre ballistic missile defense capability. Based on MaxDefense's own analysis of data that we have, we believe that the AFP is looking at a tactical missile system rather than a theatre high altitude system.

Impossible as it may seem, yes, a Ballistic Missile Defense System is among those eyed by the AFP as part of its modernization efforts for Horizons 2 and 3 phases.
Cropped from the AFP's submitted proposal for their Horizon 1-3 procurement list plan.

Problems Ahead - The Usual Suspects:

The project was supposed to start within the Horizon 2 phase (2018-2022) of the Revised AFP Modernization Program, and runs until the Horizon 3 phase (2023-2028). "Supposed" is the key word here. Based on the latest Horizon 2 proposal submitted by the AFP and DND for approval, the BMDS, which was supposed to be a project assigned for the Philippine Army, was omitted. MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Army may have realized that it is not ready to undertake such project, considering that it has ZERO experience, and limited knowledge (mostly theoretical) on air defense missile systems and capabilities. Another consideration is the massive investment needed to undertake such project, considering that the AFP has a lot of gaps to fill that are considered as higher priority than the BMDS. 

With too much to modernize, an AFP and DND not proficient enough in procurement processes, a Procurement Law that is incompatible for the AFP's procurement programs, and not much cash to spare, the AFP situation is too complex to solve with the limited time and money that it has.

Hopes on the Horizon?:

In comparison, Vietnam, which is considered less economically capable than the Philippines, already has the S-300PMU1 tactical ballistic missile defense system in its inventory for years, and has been pushing for the acquisition of Russia's more advanced S-400 Triumf theatre ballistic missile defense system to defend against Chinese threats. It is expected that they would be able to acquire the S-400 system in a few years time, considering that they are very serious on their defense procurement programs. So it only shows, it is NOT IMPOSSIBLE for the Philippines to carry out such acquisition if only it is serious as well in putting up a strong face and will to defend itself.

It is expected that Pres. Duterte will be able to close a Philippines-Russia Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) during his state visit to Moscow this coming May 2017. While the visit is not expected to generate an agreement or contract to immediately supply weapons for the AFP, it does open the possibility of acquiring Russian weapon systems since a DCA is among the requirements for a government-to-government (G2G) procurement of weapon systems to happen.

Somewhere along the line, it is highly possible for Russia to offer advanced air / missile defense systems like the S-300 and S-400 to the AFP, and this becomes more realistic if Moscow offers a flexible payment scheme and Manila takes advantage of it. Reportedly and based on MaxDefense sources, Moscow has confirmed that they are willing to sell almost anything under the sun, as long as the Philippines pays for them in any way agreed upon - bananas, underwear and all.

Vietnam already has the Russian S-300PMU1 in service, which has the capability to defend against ballistic missiles.

As MaxDefense previously mentioned in its Facebook posts, the Horizon 2 shopping list is still liquid and could still be subjected to changes, depending on the financial capability of the government, and the threats faced by the country as recommended by the AFP and Department of National Defense. MaxDefense still hopes that there are positive news that we can still get regarding this project within Pres. Duterte's term.

In the meantime, the Philippine government must consider talking to the US regarding an interim solution of deploying US assets in the country to defend against a looming threat of wayward North Korean missile, or even a Chinese one.

S-400, anyone?

Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Air Force Modernization Projects