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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Philippine Army receives first batch of upgraded M113A2 RCWS-equipped APC from Elbit Systems


Before everything, MaxDefense would like to thank its community member, Gobi Castle and in part by Buenabe June for raising this to our attention after raising it in our partner page, Philippine Defense Discussions @ Facebook.

On 11 May 2019, GMA News' reporter Raffy Tima posted a report and an accompanying video from his Twitter account on the deployment of additional Philippine Army (PA) assets in Jolo, Sulu to beef up security before the upcoming Mid-Term Elections this coming Monday 13 May 2019.


Cropped from GMA's Raffy Tima's video, showing one of the Philippine Army's M113A2 APC with RCWS disembarking on its own from the Philippine Navy's Bacolod City-class LSV BRP Bacolod City (LS-550).


The video shows one of five M113A2 armored personnel carriers equipped with a 12.7mm machine gun on a remote controlled weapon station (RCWS) as it disembarks from the Philippine Navy Bacolod City-class logistics support vessel BRP Bacolod City (LS-550) . A corresponding photo was also posted by GMA News as profile photo of their report in their Facebook page.

The said photo shows that there are slight differences with the Philippine Army's existing fleet of RCWS-armed M113A2 APCs, and the units that arrived in Jolo.

Upon closer inspection, and upon checking with our sources, it was confirmed that the Philippine Army is indeed in possession of additional M113A2 APCs with RCWS.



Overview:

In 2017, the Department of National Defense (DND) awarded a contract worth Php1.051 billion with Israel's Elbit Systems Land & C4I for the M113 APC Firepower Upgrade Project of the Philippine Army. 

This project involves the upgrade of 44 units of existing M113A2 armored personnel carriers of the Mechanized Infantry Division by equipping them with a new Remote Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS), and converting 5 existing M113A2 APCs to Armored Mortar Carriers. Both upgrades will include installation of battlefield computers connected to a networked system as part of the PA's C4ISTAR system.

Information received by MaxDefense is that Elbit will supply the already proven Dragon Overhead Remote Controlled Weapon Station (ORCWS) mounted with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun, which already proved its worth during the Battle of Marawi in 2017, and in other skirmishes on operations against terrorists groups.

More information can be read from MaxDefense's previous, more comprehensive blog regarding the project which can be found on the link below:

"Elbit Systems Wins Contract to Upgrade Philippine Army M113A2 with RCWS and Mortars" - first posted on 14 June 2018


Elbit Systems will deliver the RCWS to the Philippines, and installation and modifications on the existing M113A2 platforms will be done in the Philippines by a combined team from Elbit Systems and Philippine Army's Mechanized Infantry Division.

This set-up allows the MID's own maintenance personnel to be familiar with the installation and the entire RCWS system, enabling them to properly identify and conduct maintenance works without relying on Elbit's personnel.




Initial Delivery Confirmed:

MaxDefense previously mentioned in our past blog entry that Elbit Systems will deliver a first batch of around 19 vehicles by February 2019.

But this appears to have been moved, and on March 2019, MaxDefense received information that only 17 will be delivered starting April 2019. Originally some of the vehicles were supposed to be demonstrated to Pres. Duterte during the Philippine Army's anniversary in March 2019, but the plan was shelved.


With the photo of the M113A2 with RCWS in Jolo coming out and observations made by community members, we double-checked our sources just now.

It appears that Elbit Systems was able to deliver the first five (5) units of upgraded M113A2 with Dragon 12.7mm ORCWS only on the last week of April 2019, which were formally accepted by the Mechanized Infantry Division.

The M113A2 APCs with RCWS delivered by the Philippine Navy to Jolo, all five units feature the same new Elbit Dragon ORCWS mounts. The raised mount can also be seen at this angle.
Photo shared by a MaxDefense contributor who wish to remain anonymous.


Twelve (12) other units, which were part of the 17 units for first batch delivery, will be handed-over to the Mechanized Infantry Division this coming June 2019.

Elbit Systems will deliver the rest of the 27 units with RCWS in 2 more batches, with all expected to be delivered to the PA MID before the end of 2019.

Observations:

Among those observed in the units that were deployed to Jolo was the positioning of the RCWS. Viewed from the front, the RCWS is position in the center where the cupola is located. The position is different on those delivered by Elbit Systems a few years ago, which are located on the right side of the armored vehicle.



Here is a side-by-side photo showing the (left) ex-Belgian M113A2+ APC armed with the Elbit Dragon ORCWS, and (right) the ex-US Army M113A2 APC armed with the updated Elbit Dragon OCRWS. It is apparent here that the ex-Belgian vehicles have their RCWS off-center to the right, while the ex-US Army vehicles have the RCWS in a more centered position. Side by side photo posted by Buenabe June in Philippine Defense Discussion @ Facebook page, using screengrab from Raffy Tima's Twitter video.


This is due to the position of cupola in the different M113s in service with the Philippine Army. The ones delivered by Elbit Systems a few years ago were former Belgian Land Component (Belgian Army) M113A2 vehicles, wherein the cupolas are located off-center towards the right of the vehicle based on Belgium's requirements, to allow for an extra Commander's cupola just behind the driver's hatch. 


The current M113A2s being upgrade by Elbit Systems are former US Army models, whose cupolas are centered vis-a-vis the vehicle's width, as they do not have the extra Commander's cupola found on Belgian examples.



The position of RCWS in the 2 different M113A2 vehicles are apparent in these photos, with the top photo showing the ex-US Army variant with the RCWS in the center, and the ex-Belgian variant with the RCWS on the right side. The ex-US Army example doesn't have an extra Commander's hatch behind the driver's hatch, while the ex-Belgian model has an extra Commander's hatch found just behind the driver's hatch. Top photo from Raffy Tima's video, while bottom photo taken from the late John Chua's collection.



Another observation was that the RCWS delivered then and now look different.

Upon checking with our sources, it appears that the RCWS delivered by Elbit Systems to the Philippine Army this year are updated models of the Dragon ORCWS, which uses a different body with improvements over the older variant.

The newer Dragon ORCWS variant does not have an ammunition chute, and were raised further from the vehicle by using a longer "neck", raising the gun's elevation several centimeters higher than the older variant.


The new variant are also painted olive drab, while the older RCWS are painted in black.

Based on our sources, the newer RCWS also uses a better, updated camera with better video and photo resolutions than the previous model, which means clearer videos for feeding the gun operator and connection to the information sharing network.

The ex-Belgian M113A2+ armored vehicles supplied by Elbit Systems also have smoke grenade launchers in the front end of the vehicle, whule ex-US Army M113A2 used for the current RCWS upgrade do not have them. It is also clear that Elbit's upgrade did not include the installation of smoke grenade launchers on these vehicles.


Only ex-US Army variants are among the 44 units being upgraded by Elbit Systems in the current project.
Another comparison photo showing: an ex-US Army M113A2 without a smoke grenade launcher and ex-Belgian M113A2+  with a smoke grenade launcher system (top), the ex-Belgian M113A2+ with RCWS and smoke grenade launchers (middle), and the ex-US Army M113A2 upon their presentation after arriving from the US a few years ago (bottom). The one in Jolo does not have a smoke grenade launching system, and are definitely among the ex-US Army units upgraded by Elbit recently. Photo shared and posted by Buenabe June in Philippine Defense Discussions @ Facebook.


Summary:


M113 APC Firepower Upgrade Project of the Philippine Army
End User: Philippine Army (Mechanized Infantry Division)

Quantity:   * Lot 1 - Supply and Installation of 12.7mm RCWS (44 nos.)
                   * Lot 2 - Upgrade to Armored Mortar Carrier (5 nos)


Modernization Phase: RA 10349 Revised AFP Modernization Program HORIZON 1 (2nd List)

Project ABC: Php1,051,650,000.00

Acquisition Mode: Negotiated Procurement (Government-to-Government) between Philippines DND and Israel Ministry of Defense
SARO Release: SARO-BMB-D-17-0022354, released 29 November 2017

Winning Proponent: Elbit Systems Land & C4I (Israel)

Contract Price: Php1,051,650,000.00

First post by MaxDefense: 31 July 2017




Additional Information for Curious Readers:

It was discussed above that former Belgian Land Component M113A2 armored vehicles have the weapon cupola on the right side of the vehicle due to the presence of an extra Commander's hatch behind the driver's hatch.

So why is it that in the ex-Belgian M113A+ vehicles converted by Elbit Systems into Infantry Fighting Vehicles by installing the Elbit UT25 unmanned turret with 25mm gun, the turret is at the center of the vehicle vis-a-vis the width?


It can be answered by the photo below.


Modifications were made on the M113A2+ roof to allow Elbit to install the UT25 unmanned turret at the center of the vehicle rather than on the original cupola's position at the right side. This also allowed them to remove the Commander's hatch behind the driver's hatch. The steel plating can be seen just below the unmanned turret, which replaced the roof section that was cut during the upgrade works.
Photo taken from the late John Chua's collection.


It shows that there appears to be a modification done by Elbit Systems on the M113A2+ armored vehicle, wherein they cut the vehicle's roof section and replaced it with a new plating that allowed for the turret to be installed at the center and removing the extra Commander's hatch in the process.

Upon checking with our sources, the said modification was confirmed too.

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