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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Philippine Navy Releases the Basic Requirement for the Horizon 2 Corvette Acquisition Project

MaxDefense has finally received updates on the Philippine Navy's upcoming Corvette Acquisition Project under the Revised AFP Modernization Program's Horizon 2 Phase.

The Philippine Navy provided subtle details of the project during the recently concluded Maritime Security Symposium 2018 held yesterday 11 May 2018 in New World Hotel in Malate, Manila. This is in addition to information gathered by MaxDefense from sources.

This is our 2nd blog entry regarding this upcoming project. Our earlier blog entry, dated 04 October 2017 and the link provided below, discussed our initial assessment of what the Corvette Acquisition Project may be like, an initial forecast on possible contenders, and the possibility of using the Frigate Acquisition Project as basis.

"Philippine Navy Plans to Acquire New Corvettes Under Horizon 2 Modernization Phase" - dated 04 October 2017

Although there's no confirmation yet, MaxDefense believes that Damen may have offered the SIGMA 9813 design (above) or the newer SIGMA 9814 (similar to those originally proposed for Vietnam) for the Philippine Navy's Corvette Acquisition Project. The example above is a SIGMA 9813 corvette operated by the Royal Moroccan Navy.
Photo taken from Damen's website.

7 months later, MaxDefense has a clearer picture of what is expected as there were movements noted on the project. And here are among those updates.

Basic Requirements:

So far the Philippine Navy is expected to have an easier time creating the basic requirements of the Corvettes due to good and bad experiences with the earlier Frigate Acquisition Project under the Horizon 1 phase.

MaxDefense was informed by sources that the Philippine Navy's Technical Working Group (TWG) for the Corvette is being more careful now in formulating the final Technical Specifications to make sure that they have a more airtight requirement and make sure they get the subsystems and design that they really wanted, unless outside intervention from powers that may be happen again.

Here are the Basic Requirements as provided by the Philippine Navy during the Maritime Security Symposium 2018:

- Corvette shall be of proven design (as required by Republic Act 10349);
- Designed to operate in tropic environment, within Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and beyond;
- Fit for service in Surface Warfare (SuW), Anti Air Warfare (AAW), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Electronic Warfare (EW) missions;
- Able to survive Sea State 6 or higher;
- Must be able to accommodate AW159 Wildcat or SH-60 Seahawk naval helicopters;
- Endurance of 20 days or longer;
- Displacement between 1,500 to 2,700 tons;
- Length between 80 meters to 105 meters;
- Speed at full displacement at 25 knots or higher;
- Accommodation for 70 personnel or more;
- Ship designed with low Radar Cross-Section (RCS);
- Able to accommodate container mission modules;
- Launch and recovery of two 7-meter RHIBs;
- Satisfy international maritime safety and environmental compliance standard.

Armaments may include:

- Main Gun: 76mm/62 Super Rapid;
- Secondary Gun: 1 x 30mm Machine Gun System;
- 2 x 4 Surface-to-surface Missiles;
- 2 x 8 Surface-to-air Missiles;
- 2 x Triple Torpedo Launchers;
- EW Suite;
- Chaffs and Decoys

Interesting enough is the platform chosen by the PN's TWG for ther illustration: Sweden's Visby-class stealth corvettes built by Saab-Kockums Naval Solutions. 

The corvettes will be under the operational control of the Offshore Combat Force (OCF) of the Philippine Fleet.

This was displayed by the Philippine Navy in the recently concluded Maritime Security Symposium 2018. So far this is the only solid evidence of the Corvette Acquisition Project's basic requirements that is allowed for public consumption.
Photo exclusively shared by a MaxDefense community member who prefers to remain anonymous, credit belongs to him.

MaxDefense's Observation:


Based on the information above, it is now becoming clear what the future corvettes may look like. Dimension-wise, the TWG is open to have the corvettes to be as large as the Horizon 1 frigates being built by Hyundai Heavy Industries, or smaller as long as it meets the requirements.

Being specific on the maximum displacement and length of the ship is something disagreeable since it limits the shipbuilder to the ship's size. MaxDefense bekieves that the Philippine Navy might be trying to make sure that the Horizon 2 Corvette must be a little smaller than the Horizon 1 Frigate to differentiate the two classes of ships from each other.

This also limits the choices to a certain degree, as certain shipbuilders are expected to offer designs that may exceed the required dimensions. For example, the Kamorta-class, in its current design is already longer and heavier than the requirement.

Sensors and Mission Profile:

The sensors requirement is obviously being kept under wraps for now as this is the source of dilemma of the Horizon 1 Frigates, an issue so big that it costed a Philippine Navy chief his job, and the conflict becoming a national issue.

But the presence of a requirement for mission module containers will be a gamechanger. This feature is usually found on European Corvette/OPV designs and may include mission modules for mine warfare and remotely operated vehicle operations, mine laying, unmanned underwater or aerial vehicle operations, extra accommodation for Special Forces, towed array variable depth sonar, Signal or Electronic Intelligence (SIGINT/ELINT), or even oceanography or pollution control / management systems.

The mission module containers may require additional spaces in the ship, either by increasing the ship's length or improving the layout like elevating the helicopter deck and placing the containers below.

This is in addition to its usual missions of SuW, ASW, AAW and EW.

Thales may have another shot in offering the NS100 series AESA air/surface search radars for the corvettes, after being sideswiped by HHI in the PN's Horizon 1 Frigates.
Photo taken from Thales Nederland's website.


Weapons-wise, the Corvette will definitely pack more punch the the Horizon 1 Frigate. It has more anti-ship missile launchers than the Horizon 1 Frigate (although the Horizon 1 Frigate has space allocations for up to 16 anti-ship missile launchers based on the approved CDR drawings). While the Horizon 1 Frigates will be armed with the LIGNex1 SSM-700K C-Star anti-ship cruise missiles, the Philippine Navy previously expressed its interest to use the MBDA MM40 Exocet Block 3 during the FAP's CDR phase. Whatever specifications the TWG will provide may dictate the type of missile to be used for the corvettes.

It also required to use a "Super Rapid" gun, quite odd considering the end user is not allowed to specify a specifc brand since the name "Super Rapid" obviously points to a product made by Italian company Oto Melara, UNLESS they go for a negotiated procurement for this project which is actually possible to shorten and simplify the procurement process and duration. MaxDefense believes it would have been better if the TWG can specify the primary gun to something close to the Oto Melara 76mm/62 Super Rapid Strales, which could be used to defeat supersonic sea-skimming anti-ship missiles using guided ammunition.

MaxDefense believes it would be advance thinking if the PN's TWG could specify the corvette's main gun to be something that points to Oto Melara's 76mm/62 Super Rapid Strales, which can be used to defend the ship from supersonic sea-skimming or ballistic anti-ship missiles.
Credits to owner of the photo.

The requirement for 2 x 8 SAMs is actually odd as well. Based on the current market, most if not all shipbourne SAM systems are launched via Vertical Launching Systems (VLS) which usually comes in capacites of 8 cells.

MaxDefense bekieves that "2 x 8 SAMs" probably means 2 x 8 VLS-launched SAMs.  And this could even be a minimum. The most common that meets this requirement is the MBDA VL-MICA-M which can be launched from a modular proprietary VLS or the Sylver VLS, and the MBDA Aster-15 and Aster-30 surface-to-air missile, which can be launched from the Sylver VLS. The Aster family is quite expensive so MaxDefense believes that this system won't be specified due to cost issues.

Another possibility is having one or two 8-cell VLS firing quadpacked SAMs, which allows the ship to have a maximum of 32 missiles per 8-cell VLS. Among examples of this are the MBDA Sea Ceptor (CAMM) and the Raytheon Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM).

MaxDefense suggests for the specifications to point to a VLS system that can accept not just a specific missile, but can be used to launch most modern missile systems, and can also accept quadpacked missiles. MaxDefense suggests the use of the Lockheed Martin Mk.41 8-cell VLS.
Photo taken from Navy Recognition.

Opening the requirements to just 16 SAMs means that the TWG is open to the use of non-quadpacked missile systems although MaxDefense prefers quadpacked systems, since these anti-air missiles are often used also to defend the ship from incoming sea-skimming or ballistic anti-ship missiles. Having 32 missiles in an 8-cell VLS is a more versatile and future-proof option in my opinion.

Not only did it specify to provide allocation for SAMs, indirectly to VLS based on our assessment above, but it states that the ship should have them when they are delivered, an improvement from the allocation only specs in the Horizon 1 frigates.

Embedded Aircraft and Seacraft:

The RHIB requirement is a sign that the corvettes would be used not only for combat but also for patrol duties. These RHIBs would be used by ship-boarding teams during law enforcement missions.

And the helicopter carrying capacity shows the importance of an embedded aviation asset to enhance the ship's overall capability. Like the Horizon 1 frigates, the corvette is expected to be able to accommodate the Leonardo AW159 Wildcat, the PN's upcoming standard naval combat helicopter, as well as the larger Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk which is the standard naval helicopter of the Philippines' traditional ally the United States, and security partners like Japan and Australia.

If the Philippine Navy decides to acquire the Seahawk in the future, at least the ships are ready to accommodate them too.

Possible Contenders Updated:

As before,MaxDefense mentioned that there were already shipbuilders who made advances to offer their products to the Philippine Navy. These past several months have seen several of them making a more serious offer to the Corvette TWG, which could help shape the Technical Specifications of the corvettes to their favour.

MaxDefense received solid confirmation that among those who already made serious offers are:

- ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) of Germany with their MEKO A100 Corvette family,
- Damen of the Netherlands with their Sigma family,
- Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) of South Korea with a modified design based on the PN Horizon 1 frigates that they are building,
- Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) with their a modified Kamorta-class design,
- Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) with a new design based on the larger Daegu-class frigates;

MaxDefense was also told that other shipbuilders like Naval Group of France, Navantia of Spain, Saab Kockums Naval Solutions of Sweden, and Goa Shipyards of India have shown interest to submit their offers.

TKMS previously joined the Horizon 1 Frigate Acquisition Project but didn't make it to the 2nd stage bidding. The shipbuilder currently utilizes the A100 Corvette design, which can be modified to suite the end user's requirements. But according to several Navy and industry sources, usually TKMS' pricing is on the high side. TKMS previously indicated their possible agreement to local construction of the corvettes and other potential ship projects in the Philippines.

TKMS has several variants of the MEKO A100 Corvette design, among them the A100 Patrol Corvette which allows mission module containers, and a dimension that isn't too large.
Photo taken from Navy Recognition.

Damen is a newcomer in the Philippines, but their tie-up with local naval contractor Propmech Corporation may be helpful. Their offer for the corvette will definitely be from their Sigma family line of light naval warships. Although there is no confirmation, MaxDefense believes that their offer could be based on the Sigma 9813 design, or the 9814 design based on balance of size and meeting the basic requirements of the PN. 

Damen offered the Sigma 9814 design to Vietnam, which did not push through as Vietnam decided to purchase more Russian-made Gepard-class light frigates instead. MaxDefense believes that Damen's offer may not exceed a length of 100 meters to keep the price within the PN's budget.
Photo credited to Quôc Phòng Viêt Nam.

Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), despite the strong sentiments against them for the mess surrounding the Frigate Acquisition Project, is still a strong contender for the Corvette Acquisition Project, as they are already entrenched with the local defense officials and PN officers including its chief. Apparently HHI offered to use a slightly modified version of the Horizon 1 Frigate, tweaked to "meet the requirements", if they know how to do it. Some officers in the Philippine Navy already voiced out their concern that since the frigates have not yet been tested in actual conditions, they have some concerns that the design may not be as good as expected, and gambling the Corvettes for the same hull may be a potential issue. 

The offer made by HHI is said to be similar to that of the frigates they are building for the PN, with some modifications, and "improved" subsystems based on the final specs. With HHI breaching technical specifications in the frigate project, MaxDefense worries that they will do it again in the Corvette Acquisition Project, especially if the same people are in power in the DND and PN. Above is the updated illustration of the subsystems to be installed on the frigate as approved during the Critical Design Review phase of the Frigate Acquistion Project.
CGI originally from HHI, illustration created jointly by MaxDefense and Pitz Defense Analysis.

Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE), the lowest bidder of the Horizon 1 Frigate Acquisition Program, returns with vengeance after that bittersweet steal by HHI when they were found to be non-complying to financial requirements of the project. According to sources, GRSE's offer is practically the same as their original offer for the Horizon 1 Frigate based on a modified Kamorta-class hull. It should be noted that for the Horizon 1 Frigate, they offered a full-Thales sensor and communication suite and MBDA MM40 Exocet anti-ship missiles, which they might do again in addition to the new requirements. MaxDefense hopes that the accident in GRSE's yard last month would not affect the capability to receive new contracts and build them according to schedule.

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) has been aggressive lately, even having the chance to meet PN and DND officials during their visits to South Korea. There's no accurate take on what DSME offered for the Corvette Acquisition Project, but it may not be far from the Corvette design it offered to Malaysia a few years ago aside from adjustments to make it bigger to accommodate the requirements of the PN. DSME is still under the watch of Korea Eximbank after having financial struggles in the past few years, so DSME may have troubles in meeting financial requirements if the project undergoes public bidding.

DSME offered this design to Malaysia a few years ago before cancelling their plans to acquire corvettes. MaxDefense believes that a modification of this design, lengthened to accommodate the requirements of the PN, might be the one offered by DSME for the Corvette Acquisition Project.
Photo taken from Navy Recognition.

While it is not confirmed if they submitted, Saab-Kockums Naval Solutions seems to have the corvette that the PN TWG have in mind: the Next Generation Corvette design. Based on the basic specs posted by Saab in their website, the ship meets almost all if not all of the basic requirements of the Corvette Acquisition Project.

Saab's Next Generation Corvette was spec'd almost similarly to the basic requirements of the PN's Corvette Acquisition Project. MaxDefense believes that the TWG may have used this as their initial basis although it is unclear yet if Saab did made a serious offer to the PN TWG.
Photo taken from Saab's website.

Project Status:

With the Corvette Acquisition Project already brewing, what's the status of the Horizon 2 Acquisition Plan for the AFP? As of our last check a few days before this writing, it is still not signed by Pres. Duterte, aside from those he gave in-principle approval last November 2017.

Sadly, the Corvette Acquisition Project is not one of those approved in-principle, so we'll have to wait a little longer since the project should be approved either as part of the entire Horizon 2 Acquisition Plan, or on its own, before any SARO of funding can be released by the Department of Budget Management, and before the Technical Working Group can proceed with the procurement process.

Based on documents obtained from the DND, the Corvette Acquisition Project is planned to be paid via Multi-Year Obligation Authority (MYOA), or in layman's term, instalment payment. The plan is to pay for them using funds sourced outside the annual General Appropriations to the AFP Modernization Program, and would be paid for from 2019 to 2022 in increasing amounts.

With this, it is expected that the project is planned to be ready for contract signing by 2019, and may benefit from lessons learned from the Horizon 1 Frigate Acquisition Project. MaxDefense believes it is highly possible for the project to be acquired via Negotiated Procurement or Government-to-Government to reduce time and red tape involved in public bidding.

But until then, the PN TWG still has time to finalize its Technical Specifications as well as all the necessary pre-procurement processes and documentation so when the project is approved for implementation, its ready for procurement phase.


Corvette Acquisition Project

Quantity: 2 brand new units
End User: Philippine Navy (Offshore Combat Force)
Modernization Phase: Revised AFP Modernization Program HORIZON 2 (Priority List)
ABC (Proposed): Php28,000,000,000.00
SARO Release: none yet
Winning Proponent: none yet
Contract Price: none yet
First post by MaxDefense: 30 December 2017

MaxDefense will be at the forefront on any updates regarding the Corvette Acquisition Program, a very important if not the most important warship acquisition project in the Horizon 2 phase of the RAFPMP.


  1. Cautiosly optimistic of this project. Hopefully the current administration will approve this contract as a means to appease the PN and in any case the steel cutting of this project will surely be after this current government and not anymore the problem of prrd. Unfortunately the horizons of the afp will surely not be completed in this term because of the wps and internal security concerns.

  2. i am pretty much excited with this corvette acquisition, packs a punch more than the new incoming frigates...though i would be more delighted if they will add provision for effective CIWS such as phalanx, SeaRAM, etc...i am imagining the 16-cell VLS would be 8 x SM-2ER/SM-6 and 8 x quad pack ESSM (32 missiles), now thats what you call AAW

  3. this is perfect fit for MEKO A-100

  4. Sir max my concern is the use pf different types of armaments (exocet and Cstar) will it cause a problem in logistics?
    Second should it be included that they should build it here so that we can benefit from it more just like indonesia on those sigmas.
    And finally it is just my opinion to recommend no more kimchi as they just as guilty as those dirty hand that meddle in the FAP in the first place.

  5. Won't it be a better option to just buy a lot of missile boats to swarm the enemy instead of large anf vulnerable frigates that get hit easily? Also why isn't AESA radar included plus CODAG for a faster acceleration? IP

    1. I agree with you to some extent. If PH is funding the PN properly, we'll get every type of ship from frigates to small missile boats. But sadly, the small budget is being slashed further so we have to be creative. Just a few big surface assets will be overwhelmed.

      I'm in favor of not acquiring frigates, however the missile boats have to be a lot bigger than the MPACs, and these boats would be in support role and not the primary assets.

      A mix of small fast attack craft, missile boats and multi-mission corvettes would be what I would prefer instead of a PN with frigates, and corvettes.

      To put names into 'em - the Shaldag Mk5, the KCR60, and the 88m Multi Mission Corvette.

    2. These larger ships are needed due to their size, meaning they have more endurance (they can stock up on more fuel and other provisions) to patrol the country's large eez. Being larger also means they can be higher taller than missile boats and even OPVs without compromising their seakeeping/center of gravity. This is important as sensors like the radar can be mounted higher up in order to cover a lot more area to monitor beyond the horizon, you just cant do that with smaller missile boats

  6. How many are to be procured under the Horizon 2 program? And how does the corvette compare to the FAP with regards to endurance?

  7. Considering 1 - 2 units of aquiring Corvettes (14 billion Php each) and planning to have another Two (2) Frigates (18 billion each) for funding within Horizon 2. (Hopefully not messed-up and absolutely not with HHI again). Slap!

    Whenever the Corvettes pushed through (Amen!), having a more heavily fire power than the Frigate Horizon 1 and would just play around with the dimensions, instead, why not label the first two Frigate as a Corvette, and the future Corvette as the Frigate interms of absolute pact of capabilities.

  8. Is there a " transfer of technology" associated with this procurement?

  9. Aren't the problems in funding structural, because the electorate is to much to the left, meaning the AFP will not be adequately funded until you get a second coming of Augusto Pinochet?

  10. Hello Max.

    Just an idea from me.

    Philippine Navy Horizon 2 2018-2023 (usd1.47 bil)

    3x SSV usd130mil
    2x HDF-3000 usd350mil
    2x Pohang (used) usd20mil
    6x OPV usd300mil
    2x Sodermanland sub (used) usd200mil
    2x MCMV (used) usd50mil
    4x Wildcat usd230mil

    Just skip the search for a "corvette" and get additional Hyundai Frigates. Yes it won't be popular with you but that would be the best considering operational reasons.

    OPVs would be anything around 80m in length from Damen, Luerssen or Fassmer, costing usd50 mil each.

    As the 1st sub, get something used, the sodermanland with AIP, and used by singapore too. Ease of training with a neighboring country and advanced capability for affordable cost.

    Same as for MCMV, something used from Italy or UK.

    That would be the best use of the Horizon 2 budget

    1. When it comes to submarines, brand new is a must. I would go for 3- less expensive 1300 ton new subs carrying only 13 torpedoes if need be. This would at least start the PN submarine training for current and future crews.

      Hopefully, Horizon 3 would provide more funding for the AFP. Three more 1300 ton subs and 3- 3000 ton ones may be affordable. Those Japanese Soryu class or the SK Bong il carrying 20-30 torpedoes could inflict heavy loses against enemy invasion fleet when going back to port to reload could be detrimental to the defensive force.

    2. no more hhi please, since they got away with monkey business once it would embolden them to do it again and worse as the same corrupt officials in cahoots with them are still in power

  11. There's no mention of CIWS as protection from ASM attack. If they are included in the warship acquisitions, what type are they? Can they shoot down incoming supersonic missiles?

  12. Think again PN,the 76mm gun is very attractive to radar because of its cylindrical shape turret. It is better that the PN should buy the 57mm stealth variant. For me I prefer Visby class because it's very difficult for the enemy to detect the ship especially Chinese ships.


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