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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Philippine Air Force Selects the Rafael SPYDER Air Defense System for its GBADS Requirements

On Christmas Day,MaxDefense posted a hint in its Facebook page on the Rafael SPYDER air defense system, as photos from one of our community members was shared to us as early as 2 weeks ago. We did not post the photos back then as we thought it was only one of the product endorsements made to the Philippine Air Force which is quite normal in the past several months.

But addition confirmation from sources has finally been made available to us, and that the Philippine Air Force has officially selected the Rafael SPYDER (Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby) air defense system for its Ground Based Air Defense System (GBADS) acquisition project. Apparently, the selection was already passed to the Department of National Defense (DND) for negotiation and implementation of the procurement process vis-a-vis their counterparts with the Israel Ministry of Defense – International Defense Cooperation Directorate (SIBAT) and Rafael Advance Systems Ltd.

The SPYDER-MR launcher (front) differs from the SPYDER-SR for having a larger and more launching boxes (8 versus 4 in SPYER-SR), and the launchers being vertical when in launching position compared to slanted on the SPYDER-SR.
Photo taken from Defense Update's website.

Ground Based Air Defense System and Selection of SPYDER ADS:

As early as June 2013 or 5 ½ years ago, MaxDefense reported that the Rafael SPYDER ADS is already at the forefront of any GBADS acquisition plan of the Philippine Air Force. The blog post we made on this can be accessed on the link below:

"Israeli SPYDER Air Defense Missile System for the Philippines - A Good Choice" - first published 18 June 2013

But several delays in the project implementation, including not being included in the finalized Horizon 1 phase, or even the approved 2nd List of Horizon 1 phase, that the GBADS acquisition project was forced to be move to the next Horizon 2 phase, for implementation between 2018 to 2022.

It was revealed to MaxDefense by our defense and military sources that the PAF's Technical Working Group (TWG) for the Ground Based Air Defense System (GBADS) acquisition project has finally selected the Israeli-made SPYDER ADS from Rafael Advance Systems Ltd. MaxDefense was told that the selection by the PAF GBADSAP TWG was made just recently, and was supported and approved by the PAF leadership headed by then Philippine Air Force Commanding General Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar.

Prior to this, there were already several hints made by the PAF in recent weeks.

First of, during the preparations for the Christmas season, the PAF's newly formed unit to handle ground based air defense systems, the 960th Ground Based Air Defense Group (960th GBADG), showcased the Rafael SPYDER ADS in their display, even including a life-size model of the missiles used by the said system, the Rafael Python 5 short range and Derby medium range surface to air missiles, in their display.

The PAF's 960th GBADG had this Christmas presentation showing a full size replica of a Python-5 and a Derby missiles, both of which are used by the Rafael SPYDER air defense system.
Photo taken and shared to us by MaxDefense community member Efraim Morota.

During the Change of Command ceremony of the Philippine Air Force last 21 December 2018 that resulted in Lt. Gen. Kintanar's replacement by new CGPAF Lt. Gen. Rozanno Briguez just before Christmas, the outgoing CGPAF disclosed that the PAF willacquire 3 GBADS from Israel. It should be noted that only Rafael's SPYDER air defense system was the only Israeli GBADS product offered to the PAF. While Lt. Gen. Kintanar did not mention any specific model, it is obvious that he was pointing to the Rafael SPYDER ADS.

An example of a SPYDER-SR mobile launching unit, this specific one owned by the Republic of  Singapore Air Force (RSAF), one of the first users of the type.
Photo taken and credited to deslee74's Flickr account, taken in 2012.

The Rafael SPYDER is said to be the PAF's favourite to win the selection process, as Rafael was among the first to offer a GBAD system even before they started the actual pre-procurement process. It was also said that the SPYDER ADS could have been used as a basis for the project's Technical Specifications, while MaxDefense previously reported several years ago that several DND and PAF officials already went to Israel to check on the system and the production in Israeli factories.

The SPYDER was said to be competing with several other weapon system from other countries, including Diehl Defense's IRIS-T SL from Germany, LIGNex1 KM-SAM from South Korea, the Bharat Dynamics Akash from India, , among others.

Main components of a typical SPYDER battery: the Missile Firing Units (which could be between 4 to 6 units, each capable of firing the Python 5 and Derby missile), the Command and Control Unit (CCU) which includes the radar system for detection, and the Missile Supply Vehicle and Service Vehicles which supports the unit.
Photo taken from Rafael's brochures.

The Rafael SPYDER Air Defense System:

MaxDefense decided to recycle several parts of what we wrote back in June 2013 about the SPYDER ADS, when it was first offered to the DND and AFP. Back then, strong interest was already shown by the Philippine side, and there were even talks that they are going to acquire the system.

The Rafael SPYDER ADS is a short to medium range air defense missile system based on the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Python-5 short range dual waveband imaging infrared (IIR) air-to-air missile, and the IAI Derby beyond visual range (BVR) active radar air-to-air missiles and are fired from ground-based launchers. 

There are two versions of the system: The SPYDER-SR and SPYDER-MR. The "SR" is a Short Range system, while the "MR" is a Medium Range system. Both use the Python-5 and Derby missile from IAI, although the MR uses a booster system installed on the missiles to allow more flight range, as well as the system using a longer-ranged, more powerful radar. The SPYDER-SR has an intercept range of over 15 kilometers, while the SPYDER-MR has an intercept range of around 50 kilometers at an altitude of over 16 kilometers.

Above shows the missiles that can be used by the SPYDER ADS: From left to right: Python 5 short range IIR missile and Derby medium range missile both of which are used by the SPYDER-SR system; the Python-5 MR and Derby-MR which are both used by the SPYDER-MR system. The Stunner missile is another type of missile that can be fired by a modified  SPYDER-MR system and is used in the David's Sling ABM system. Definitely a future capability worth looking at by the PAF and AFP in general.
Photo taken from

The SPYDER air defense system (ADS) battery/squadron is composed of a command & control unit which acts as the radar and communications unit, 4 to 6 launch vehicles (depending on size of battery), and associated missile loaders/supply vehicles and other service vehicles. 

It was also confirmed by another MaxDefense source based in Israel that the SPYDER ADS for the Philippines will be using radars and Command & Control (C2) systems from Israel's Elta Systems Ltd. The SPYDER-SR uses the Elta EL/M-2106 ATAR (a variant of which is already in service with the Philippine Air Force), while the SPYDER-MR uses the Elta EL/M-2084 MMR 3D AESA medium range multi-mission radar system.

PAF personnel from the 580th Aircraft Control and Warning Wing being oriented on the ELTA EL/M-2106 ATAR radar which is currently in service. The SPYDER-SR also uses the same radar, which is beneficial for the PAF due to their experience with the said radar. The SPYDER-MR uses a larger, longer ranged radar although still made by ELTA. The PAF's long range air defense radars are also made by ELTA, the EL/M-2288-ER AD-STAR Extended Range.
Photo screen-grabbed from 580th ACWW video as posted by Lt. Col. Franics Neri in his Facebook account. 

An advantage that MaxDefense see in the selection of the SPYDER ADS is that it uses the same IAI Python-5 and Derby missiles that can be used by fighter aircraft. This means that the compatibility, supply and maintenance issues can be simplified between them.

So why does it matter when the PAF doesn't operate the Python-5 and Derby missiles?

The PAF appears to also be interested in using Python-5 and Derby missiles for its existing fleet of KAI FA-50 fighters, and even on future Multi-Role Fighters as well. The FA-50 is said to be compatible with the Python-5 and Derby (and the newer I-Derby Extended Range) missiles, and current upgrades being made on some of the FA-50s will allow the use of both Israeli-made missiles, in addition to the upcoming AIM-9L(I)-1 Sidewinder short range IR air-to-air ordered by the PAF from Germany's Diehl Defense through US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) with Raytheon.

Due to the SPYDER's capability and the Israeli's cooperation in providing the Philippines with the arms it needs, the best delivery date, and less political strings attached, there is no doubt that a deal for the SPYDER-MR ADS will be taken easily by the government

Among its current users, it is worthwhile to note that Singapore's military uses the SPYDER-SR system as one of the cornerstones of its air defense capability. With Singapore's stringent defense product acceptance methods and consistent decisions in choosing the best military hardware out there, it is already a strong vote of confidence to the SPYDER's capabilities.

A typical configuration showing a complete battalion of SPYDER consisting of at least 3 batteries/squadrons of 6 firing units each. Since the PAF is acquiring 3 batteries, a similar configuration might be used.
Photo taken from Rafael's brochures.

Is PAF Acquiring the SPYDER-SR or SPYDER-MR?

Based on the information we gathered since 2013 until now, it appears that the PAF is actually interested in acquiring both the SPYDER-MR and SPYDER-SR for two different requirements - the GBADS - Short Range, and the GBADS - Medium Range. In this case, MaxDefense believes that the PAF could be going for the GBADS-MR.

Here's why:

In June 2013 or 66 months ago, when MaxDefense first wrote about the planned acquisition of the SPYDER ADS, the Philippine Air Force was already in the process of evaluating the different models offered to them. There was already a strong indication back then that a medium-range system would be preferred as the extra range could allow air defense units to defend at a longer stand-off range.

By mid-2016, MaxDefense received confirmation from sources from the Philippine Air Force that the SPYDER-MR is already obviously leading in the PAF TWG's evaluation compared to competitors.
Both the SPYDER-SR and SPYDER-MR were submitted by Rafael, and was in competition with different offers made including the Diehl Defense IRIS-T SL and SLM, the Bharat Dynamics Akash, and the Raytheon MIM-23 HAWK XXI. Based on this evaluation, the SPYDER-MR got the highest scoring despite Diehl Defense's IRIS-T SLM closely edging the SPYDER-MR in terms of overall performance. Apparently, the SPYDER-MR was considered more cost effective as its cost is far lower than the IRIS-T SLM, and the PAF would be allowed to acquire more systems with the budget that they have.

The PAF's own evaluation of the Medium Range GBAD System as of 2016 pitted the SPYDER-MR against competitors like the IRIS-T SLM, MIMI-23 Hawk (confirmed later to MaxDefense as the latest Hawk XXI vaariant), and the AKASH.
Photo provided by MaxDefense source to us as early as mid-2016.

Last 22 October 2016, or more than 26 months ago, MaxDefense got confirmation from sources involved in the project that the Philippine Air Force is prioritizing the acquisition of Medium Range systems for its GBADS acquisition project. It was also mentioned that other systems like Russia's 9K37M1-2 Buk and South Korea's LIGNex1 KM-SAM Cheolmae-II were also included in the evaluation. This means that despite SPYDER-MR ranking 1st in the initial evaluation by the PAF TWG, it was again evaluated against new offers made.

Inspections made by top brass officials from the DND and AFP included the SPYDER-MR in their inspections. This includes not just the missile system, but also the radar system, as seen on the photo below from November 2016 which includes former CSAFPs Gen. Visaya and Gen. Ano.

On November 2016, MaxDefense got the exclusive report of DND an AFP officials checking on Israeli offers for the AFP Modernization. Among those inspected was the Elta EL/M-2084 (background) which is used not just for the SPYDER-MR but also for the SBMS system.
Photo shared by a MaxDefense source who was also in Israel during this inspection.

Based on information MaxDefense gathered as of mid-2017, the SPYDER-MR still edged out its competition based on both performance and pricing. The Russian BUK, as expected, will have problems on compatibility and interoperability with existing and new systems of the Philippine Air Force and the AFP's overall C4ISTAR system, as it uses a different system. No mention was made on how the SPYDER-MR edged out the Korean KM-SAM Cheolmae II.

It was also confirmed that the Department of National Defense (DND) has already decided to go for a Government-to-Government (G2G) route for the PAF's GBADS acquisition project, thus any decision of the PAF TWG and approved by the PAF's senior leadership would require the DND to talk to the source's government.

Another advantage is that Israel has an agreement with the Philippines that allows G2G acquisitions. Apparently this is not available if the PAF chose the IRIS-T SLM (which was considered the closest competitor) since the Philippines doesn't have a Defense Cooperation MOU/MOA with Germany that will allow G2G acquisitions.

The same information still prevailed as of 2018, with the Philippine Air Force only waiting for funding to be provided for the project as the TWG was already decided on the SPYDER-MR early on. Negotiations with Israel's Ministry of Defense - SIBAT and Rafael Advance Systems Ltd. has been going on for several months now, as further adjustments were being made on the overall offer, inclusionsAnd lady luck head the pleas of our PAF air defense boys and girls, as it was revealed that the government has finally allocated enough budget worth Php6,846,750,000.00, said to be good enough for 3 batteries as confirmed by a source who was previously involved in the project.

The German-made IRIS-T SLM was said to be the closest competitor of the SPYDER-MR, but was found to be much more expensive. It was also more difficult to acquire since there is no agreements between Germany and the Philippines that could allow a G2G acquisition to happen. MaxDefense also found out recently that Germany may also have some issues in providing an export license to any arms deal with the Philippines, so that could be another potential problem should the PAF and DND choose the IRIS-T SLM.
Photo taken from Armada International's website.

What's Next on the PAF GBADS Acquisition Project?

Since the year is about to end, MaxDefense believes that no further negotiations can be made in the next few days leading to 2019. Thus, it is expected that any additional negotiations leading to the G2G deal with IMoD-SIBAT and Rafael would happen early next year.

MaxDefense also received a recent confirmation that a Letter of Award (LOA) is expected to be given to Rafael Advance Systems very soon, considering that Post Qualification Inspections might have already been completed.

It still remains to be seen how many rounds of Python-5 and Derby missile rounds are included in the deal, or if the PAF decided to go for 4 or 6 Mobile Missile Firing Units which would be dependent on the budget. Ideally 6 would be best but if the budget isn't enough, 4 MFUs per battery would be sufficient enough. MaxDefense won't get its hopes high though, considering the budget did not change too much from several years ago, while the value of the Philippine pesos went down since then.

A single battery of 6 MFUs will require at least 48 ready-to-fire missiles of a mix between the Pyton-5 and Derby. Thus, 3 batteries means 144 ready-to-fire missiles. A spare another 144 missiles would be the least acceptable number, although MaxDefense hopes that more missile spare rounds can be included to allow for live fire exercises, and to be ready in any eventuality.

Another question will be the model of trucks to be used. Currently the SPYDER ADS is compatible with MAN, Mercedes Benz, TATRA, and or Scania Trucks. MaxDefense believes that trucks from MAN would be best as MAN already has an good service support network in the Philippines. It would be noted that MAN is the most widely-used German-made truck model in the Philippines, and is even the official utility truck model used by the Philippine National Police.

Thus, MaxDefense hopes that 2019 would be a good year for our 960th Ground Based Air Defense Group, as we expect a contract to be signed between the DND and Rafael Advance Systems if all goes well. This is a project that has been in the making for 6 years or more, and it is definitely something that should be settled as soon as possible.

MaxDefense thanks its sources for providing us old and new information about the project.

Project Summary:

Ground Based Air Defense System (GBADS) acquisition project 

End User: Philippine Air Force (960th GBAD Group)
Modernization Phase: Revised AFP Modernization Program Horizon 2 phase
ABC: Php6,846,750,000.00
SARO Release: to be updated
Status as of this writing: Final Negotiations ongoing between DND and IMoD. Letter of Award pending.
Selected Proponent: Rafael Advance Systems Ltd. Israel
Contract Price: none yet, to be updated.


First edit and release: 26 December 2018
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines


  1. First hehe. Thanks sir max for the updates.

  2. great way to end the year..merry christmas to our afp and the defense community.

  3. If this goes through, PAF should seriously consider Derby missiles for the BVR capability of FA-50s and future MRFs. How about the planned acquisition of PA and PMC of their own ADS? Where would these acquisition fit in AFP's air defense network?

  4. Good news for the Philippine Air Force...... thanks Sir Max for the good information you provided to us .

  5. Selection of missiles should be based on agreement to license and manufacture locally with tech transfer plus upgrades so that these missiles can be produced in the thousands eventually.

    Once Horizon 3 is completed, a new Horizon can begin with local productions of military hardware locally. This future manufacturing capability can enhance expensive military assets multiple times in a much more economic manner.

  6. If only the wasted 60 billion pesos of the pork barrel is use to fund this gbad system, our gallant soldiers can have the capabilities to defend our country. Dams those corrupt politicians

  7. Could this be another option: ?

    A Dome missile cost only $100k-150k and supposedly has 90% accuracy. If the US Army is purchasing this system, this means it had been adequately tested and have passed their accuracy standard.

  8. Rheinmetall MAN SX Armored Cabin is the best vehicle for the SPYDER & ATMOS-2000

  9. How about the for Long Range Air Defense System?


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