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Monday, May 28, 2018

Philippine Army Negotiates to Acquire Used K136 Kooryong MLRS from South Korea

The Philippine Army (PA) has always been longing to have Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) in its inventory, as it found such system to be good in providing large amounts of projectiles fired at the same time at a specific area. Such concentration of firepower can only be achieved by either large numbers of gun-based artillery systems firing together.

During previous Balikatan Joint Military Exercises with the US Military, the US Army displayed the firepower capabilities of the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, to the Philippine military top brass. While the Philippine Army wanted such system in its inventory, the unit price is very much beyond their budget for modernization or asset acquisition. Thus HIMARS remains a dream that the PA hopes to one day have.

Aside from the HIMARS, numerous groups, either defense companies or government-supported groups, have expressed interest to supply the Philippine Army and also the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) with an MLRS system. Several systems were given consideration by these armed services, and has actually found two offers to be very promising and might be considered should the PA and/or PMC have the means to acquire them. 

MaxDefense won't incline to mention the specific systems, but they are actually from Israel and South Korea.

But alas! After the Philippine Army and the Philippine Navy (parent branch of service of the Philippine Marine Corps) submitted their proposed budgets for the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program, both services didn't get the budget they were expecting and deserved. And both services have no choice but to temporarily remove the MLRS requirements from both services' Horizon 2 Phase acquisition plans.

Thus the Philippine Army was left with no choice to find other means to be able to acquire even a basic MLRS system. This is for them to learn first hand the use of such system and incorporate it to their doctrines and development as a modern land force.

The Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps are both interested in acquiring MLRS systems to improve its artillery and firepower delivery. And lately the Philippine Army through the DND has shown interest in accepting South Korea's offer for K136 Kooryong MLRS from their Excess Defense Articles. Above photo shows a battery of K136 MLRS from the Republic of Korea Army firing at an unspecified target, probably at a firing range exercise.
Photo taken from Splendid Isolation's blog @ Naver.

K136 Kooryong MLRS for the Philippine Army:

In 2017, the South Korean Ministry of Defense (MOD) appeared to have offered their K136 Kooryong MLRS to the Department of National Defense (DND) as Excess Defense Articles (EDA), with the DND relaying the information to the Philippine Army. After some considerations, the Philippine Army has formalized its interest to the offer, and the DND confirmed the PA's interest by August 2017 to its South Korean counterparts.

By March 2018, the DND confirmed that the Philippine Army is interested in transferring an initial battalion worth of K136 Kooryong MLRS in the 130mm caliber, which is 18 units for 3 batteries of 6 firing units plus associated support vehicles and items.

Based on MaxDefense's information, the Philippine Army is scheduled, or may have already conducted the Joint Visual Inspection (JVI) which is a requirement by law for any transfer or acquisition of equipment from foreign sources. This is to determine if the weapons/systems being proposed for transfer or acquisition are feasible.

No word though if the Philippine Marine Corps has expressed interest in such offer.

Should the Philippine Army and even the PMC find the system suited for their needs and cost considerations, there is a possibility for both services to acquire more systems in the near future.

There was no specifics provided if when can these rocket system be transferred to the Philippine Army, but due to its simplicity compared to the transfer of the Pohang-class corvette ROKS Chungju to the Philippine Navy, MaxDefense believes that it is highly possible for the Philippine Army to obtain the entire battalion of MLRS within 2018.

It also appears that funding for any costs related to the transfer are not part of the Horizon 2 phase's funding program, and it is possible that the Philippine Army would shoulder the expenses using its own annual funding, or a separate fund will be used. 

MaxDefense expects costs to be coming from transporting the vehicles from South Korea to the Philippines, acquisition of spare parts, repair and refurbishing works as needed, and acquisition of 130mm rocket ammunition. While these are donated, it doesn't mean the Philippines won't spend anything. 

A K136A1 Kooryong MLRS on display in South Korea.
Photo taken from Splendid Isolation's blog @ Naver.

The K136 Kooryong Multiple Launch Rocket System:

The K136 Kooryong MRLS is South Korea's first indigenous MLRS system that was first fielded by the Republic of Korea Army in the late 1980s. The concept was taken from Cold War-era small calibre MLRS systems used by the Soviet Union as well as North Korea.

There are two types of K136 in service with the Republic of Korea Army: the standard K136, and the updated and improved K136A1. It is yet to be known which model will the Philippine Army receive although MaxDefense expects it to be the newer K136A1 which uses stainless steel tubes instead of normal carbon steel that is prone to rusting.

Several K136A1 Kooryong MLRS, probably a rocket artillery battery from the South Korean Army.
Photo taken from Splendid Isolation's blog @ Naver.

The rocket system consists of 36 tubes each, and is mounted on a Kia KM500 series 6x6 5-ton cargo truck which is in service with the PA and PMC. 

The system fires 2 types of rockets, the standard K30 rocket with an effective range of up to 22 kilometers, and the longer K33 rocket with an effective range of up to 30 kilometers. Both rockets are unguided, and could either have High Exposive (HE) warheads, or a Fragmentation High Explosive which has around 16,000 steel balls. The system can be configured to fire single rounds, as well as partial or full salvo.

The K136 Kooryong MLRS can fire up to 36 rounds of 130mm rockets, and can be fired either in single round, partial or full salvo. They are mounted on a Kia KM500 series 6x6 5-ton truck.
Photo taken from Army Recognition website.

Aside from the MLRS system, a reloading vehicle is also part of the system, which carries up to 72 reload rockets using the same Kia KM500 series 6x6 5-ton truck.

The system may also include a fire control system, which is carried by a smaller utility vehicle, and may include ballistic computers to improve targeting capability. 

MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Army would consider all options to form an artillery battalion using the K136 MLRS system.

The K136 Kooryong MLRS worked together with standard gun-based artillery systems and the US-made M270 MLRS providing the Republic of Korea Army with several options. But with the Koreans introducing the newly developed K239 Chunmoo K-MLRS, they have started to withdraw the K136 Kooryong from active service, thus the reason why EDA units are now available to countries like the Philippines.

The K239 Chunmoo K-MLRS is replacing the older K136 Kooryong MLRS with the Republic of Korea Army. It can fire both the old 130mm rockets, as well as the larger 239mm rockets and the 227mm rockets fired by the M240 MLRS also used by the Korean Army. Around 100 units are planned to be built and acquired by the ROKA.
Photo credits to Military (top) and Army Recognition (above).

What's in it for South Korea?

It is surprising that the South Koreans were the ones who made an offer to the Philippines to transfer these MLRS. So why is it that they did, aside from the usual "we like to help a friend" reasoning?

While the MLRS are free, the ammuniion is not. The Philippine Army will be needing to purchase the 130mm rockets. While South Korea isn't the only country producing them, the AFP in general purchase their rocket ammunition from South Korea, especially the 2.75" air launched rockets used by PAF attack helicopters and attack aircraft.

Then there's the possibility (but still needed more confirmation) that the K136 can fire South Korea's newly developed 130mm guided rockets made by LIGNex1, which are being considered for use by South Korean patrol boats to act as cheap anti-ship projectiles.

If the guided rocket is compatible with the K136 MLRS, then the PA may opt to buy them to reduce collateral damage when used in areas with civilian population nearby (example, terrorist hideouts inside far flung barrios, or in urban terraim). So allowing the PA have a 130mm MLRS means having a potential customer for their 130mm rocket ammunition.

Not to mention the possibility of the need to repair or replace existing parts or vehicles with new ones sourced from the Korean defense industry.

No Second Hand Equipment for the AFP?

It should be noted that several months ago, no less than Pres. Rodrigo Duterte announced several times to the AFP that he would not agree arming them with second-hand arms and equipment, due to their perceived less-than-appealing reliability and performance in the field brought upon by ageing and wear & tear.

While these MLRS are donated and not purchased by the AFP & DND, it still does not meet the president's instructions and promises made to the AFP, considering the MLRS may already be at least or almost 30 years old. 

Despite the age of the system, MaxDefense still agrees that the AFP and DND considered to get such system from South Korea, considering that the AFP, specifically the PA and PMC never had a similar system in its inventory in recent times, or probably ever.

Gaining experience from these donated systems would allow the PA and PMC to see if having MLRS does have a positive difference in the way they fight present and future internal and external wars, and allow them to consider the acquisition of much modern systems like those offered by Israel and South Korea.

It is actually foolish for the AFP not to consider second hand or used arms and equipment, considering that it is currently among the least funded military in the world, and its budget isn't exactly enough for it to acquire brand new weapons systems that it really needed urgently. 

It was also already a proven fact that even modern and well-funded armed forces still consider the acquisition of used systems depending on their needs. MaxDefense has already mentioned this before in previous blogs, but even the likes of Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, Turkey, Taiwan, Italy, Brazil, Chile, Greece, Israel, Egypt, and even the US itself - all well-funded and better equipped military forces than those of the Philippines, did acquired used arms and equipment to improve their military forces.

Second hand equipment proved to be effective in the Battle of Marawi. It was the 7.62 coaxial machine gun of an unmanned turret-mounted 2nd hand former Belgian Army M113 IFV (above) that killed the top leaders of the Maute terrorist group, not brand-new Chinese rifles as the President conveniently and unfairly says.
Credits to owner of the photo.

It would be noted that MaxDefense would be discussing other upcoming acquisition programs or plans that the AFP and DND are trying to push forward, many of which involving second-hand or used arms and equipment, while we are now waiting for the delivery of both the Pohang-class corvette from South Korea, and the Bell AH-1F Cobra helicopters from Jordan to improve the capabilities and firepower of the Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force, respectively. 

And to cap this blog entry, it should be noted that this project started under Pres. Duterte's term, through the efforts of the DND led by Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana.

U P D A T E S:

14 August 2018:

MaxDefense received confirmation that the Philippine Army already completed their inspection and evaluation of the K136 Kooryong MLRS that the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Korea is willing to donate.

Based on information we received, the Philippine Army was satisfied with the units that will be provided. They also completed their evaluation of the MLRS' purpose, the capability of the Philippine Army to acquire the ammunition, spare parts, and logistics support for the type, and in determining what capabilities it would be adding to the Philippine Army.

This means the next step for this deal to push forward is for the Philippine Army to secure funding for the transfer of the MLRS, which would require paying for the minor repair works, transportation from Korea to the Philippines, and purchasing the required ammunition from South Korean ammo suppliers or manufacturers.

MaxDefense will provide more updates on this acquisition project in the near future.


  1. I do now suppose that if this come to fruition we'll still have new kimchi corvettes in the future.

  2. Is it capable of intercepting missiles from the air like the patriot missiles of the US?

    1. No it's only for ground targets and it is not capable of intercepting missiles.

  3. I agree with your assertion sir that 2nd-hand big ticket acquisitions should not be set aside and whatever we acquire be used as a learning platform for our own military for future deals of similar or more advanced weaponry whenever funds becomes available.

  4. This is great news! PA need MLRS system even though it is 30 years old. I hope DU30 will approve this transfer which will enhance PA capability to defend the homeland. Sir Max, can DND buy the license to produce the system locally?

  5. So aside from Force protection the current government only has second hand equipment to show for the big assets. May I ask how much were the budgets of the pa and paf with regard to modernization? How small are they compared to the original h2. I know the navy's was slashed from 300b php to 77b php. How about the others?

  6. By the is it just me or does the Taliban or isis already have these kinds of mlrs albeit more crudely built.

  7. How about from that Israel MRL did they make an offer too?

  8. Sir Max, any updates on this purchase?

  9. If the present AFP administration is serious to acquire this unguided MLRS, why they don't consider the offerof PM Abe of Japan for missile defense system, maybe it is more modern and guided one

  10. AFP should procure SA 400 or at S300 from Russia at least 2 Batallion

    1. if you were looking at why the AFP did not want to get the helios of russia and the subs it would be the same reason why they will not be able to acquire those SAM's . Its hard to pay Russia due to the embargo and it will cost more to integrate soviet hardware with western hardware.

    2. if the philippines can deal with SANCTION ny the us, why not?

  11. In Marcos era, army had tested a MLRS but did not complete the testing due to transition of government

  12. Any update on this program

  13. After 7 months still no news updates on what happened to this planned procurement …

  14. Sir Max any update regarding K136 Kooryong MRLS?

  15. Pwede naman siguro yan. Eh nakatanggap nga tayo ng 3rd hand attack heli mula jordan, yan pa kayang 2nd hand na yan.


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