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Saturday, August 3, 2019

Discussing the 81mm Mortar Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy (Marines)

The Department of National Defense (DND) has started the procurement process for the acquisition of Mortars for the Philippine Navy (PN), which in turn will be provided to its sub-unit, the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC).

These additional new mortars will help improve the firepower and fire support capability of each of the Marine Battalion Landing Teams (MBLT), which are considered by many as under-equipped in terms of fire support assets.

To project, called the Mortar Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy, is among the Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects under the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP), as covered by Republic Act 10349.

French Foreign Legion troops preparing an LLR 81mm Mortar during exercises. Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.


The Philippine Navy has originally planned to procure a total of 420 units of infantry mortars of different sizes, consisting of 240 units of 60mm mortars, 120 units of 81mm mortars, and 60 units of 120mm mortars, as part of the Horizons 1 to 3 program of the RAFPMP.

All 420 mortars were programmed for acquisition under the Horizon 2 Phase.

But the final version of the Horizon 2 Priority Projects list approved by Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte and released in June 2018 significantly reduced the budget to just Php694,452,000.00, and quantity of the mortars to be acquired. MaxDefense believes that the quantity dropped to just 25% of what was originally requested.

This can be confirmed with the release of the Invitation to Bid (ITB) and Bid Documents for the first lot to be tendered, Lot 2 - 81mm Mortars, which is only after 30 units of 81mm mortars rather than 120 units.

It now remains to be seen if the Philippine Navy / Philippine Marine Corps will be pushing to have the balance quantity acquired under the Horizon 3 Phase, or the 2nd List of Horizon 2 Phase which is still being prepared as of this writing.

With the procurement phase of the 81mm mortars starting, the acquisition of the 60mm and 120mm mortars will be done separately, although it is still unclear if these would be tendered, or acquired through negotiated deal with a foreign government especially for the 120mm mortar.

The most recent acquisition of 81mm mortars by the AFP was made by the Philippine Army, acquiring 100 units of M69B 81mm mortars from Serbia. Photo taken from Philippine Army Research and Development Center's Facebook page.

Lot 2 - 81mm Mortars:

Based on the bid documents released by the DND for the project, the acquisition of 81mm Mortars was described in brief as follows (with grammar corrections made), and I quote:

"The Philippine Marine Corps units in its performance of littoral and at times, Internal Security Operations (ISO) throughout the country will make use of the 81mm Mortar System. 

It (will be) was employed on areas with varying terrains and environmental conditions where the temperature is relatively the same throughout the country except for high altitude which (has) was usually cooler climate than in the lowlands. Due to climate change, rainfall is now abundant in most part of the country throughout the year with certain months experiencing relative humidity. 

It (will be) is principally used against traditional threats to our national security such as local secessionist groups, terrorist and other lawless elements which are equally armed with high caliber weapons, rocket propelled grenades (RPG), sniper rifles and similar crew-served weapons which makes the mortar unit of the rifle company susceptible and vulnerable to heavy volumes of fires, both direct and indirect. The present technological advancement which is now also made available to the enemies of the government likewise poses a serious threat to mortar positions.

Lessons learned from previous encounters prompted the Corps to pursue the need to employ a mortar system in order to have the capability to easily provide the necessary combat power for the Marine Rifle Company in support of its units waiting for, or in absence of the Battalion combat support. 

Another reason is that apart from being vintage, the current 81mm mortar system in the PMC inventory have been used overtime which makes its quality no longer the same as it was before. Technological advancement is also a prime factor that was considered for this procurement. The advent of the Ballistic Computer will enable our mortar crews to react faster than the manual computation which gives the end user a quick and responsive indirect fire support "

The Philippine Marines still use the old M29 81mm mortar, which has been in service since the 1960s. Photo taken from Sputnik.

At the moment, the standard 81mm mortar of the Philippine Marines is the American M29 81mm mortar, which is in service with the AFP since the 1960s. This would be the first time that the Philippine Marines will have a brand new mortar in decades.

The Invitation to Bid's first paragraph, as snipped from the ITB on DND's Bid Documents.

30 units of 81mm Mortars will be acquired, each with its barrel assembly, bipod assembly, base plate assembly, and sight assembly. The mortars will have its own Ballistic Computer, and each Mortar Fire Support Battery will have a Forward Observer System set.

A total of 40 Ballistic Computers (including spares), as well as 8 Forward Observer System sets (including spares) are required as part of the project.

An Approved Budget of Contract (ABC) worth Php185,891,600.00 was allocated for the project, out of the Php694,452,000.00 approved for the entire Mortar Acquisition Project. 

Here's a summary of the Technical Requirements of the 81mm Mortar Project:

Mortar:* Caliber: 81mm
* Condition: Brand New
* Weight: not exceeding 52.6 kilograms

* Range: at least 4,512 meters
* Rate of Fire: at least 12 rounds per minute (sustained)
* Crew: can be operated by at least 4 men.
* Durability: 10,000 rounds minimum tube life, and can withstand adverse conditions
* Ammo: compatible to fire all types of NATO 81mm mortar ammunition

Ballistic Computer:

* Hardware: Intel i7-7Y75, with 16GB RAM
* Screen Size: 7" WXGA LCD 1200x800
* Weight: 1.15kg with battery
* Operating System: Windows 10

The ballistic computer being acquired appears to be a tablet-based computer due to the small size of its screen, and being touch-screen as well. Photo snipped from Elbit Systems' website.

Forward Observer System includes:* Digital Giniometer & Computer
* Tripod
* Hand-held Laser Range Finder
* Hand-held Thermal Imager

Thermal imaging camera is required for the forward obeserver system. Photo snipped from Elbit Systems' website.

Delivery is expected to be made within 360 days from issuance of Notice to Proceed (NTP), which usually happen around a month or less after the contract has been signed.

So far, MaxDefense received confirmation from several sources that among those interested in submitting a bid include proponents from Serbia, Czech Republic, Israel, Spain, and some unnamed European and Asian countries.
Proponents are required to be able to manufacture, supply and deliver 120mm and 60mm mortars, ballistic computers, and other components to be able to qualify. This means a manufacturer will have to be able to supply components without relying on other manufacturers or subcontractors. So far, MaxDefense can only think of a few companies capable of such, which includes Israel's Elbit Systems Land & C4I which is already supplying self-propelled mortars (Soltam Cardom) and artillery fire control systems (Combat NG) to the Philippine Army, while is also capable of manufacturing its own hand-held thermal imagers (Coral series) and ammunition.

Based on the bid documents, a Pre-Bid Conference will be held on 13 August 2019, and the bid submission and opening will be on 27 August 2019. Take note that these dates might still change due to circumstances or requests from proponents.

Copy of the Technical Specifications of the project can be downloaded from the link provided HERE.

60mm and 120mm Mortars:
Aside from 81mm Mortars, the Philippine Navy is also set to procure the smaller 60mm mortar, and the larger 120mm mortars for the Philippine Marine Corps. These would be discussed separately by MaxDefense in future blog entries.

MaxDefense can only assume for now that the Philippine Navy can acquire up to 60 units of 60mm mortars, and 12-18 units of 120mm mortars. Assuming each Fire Support Mortar Battery will have 6 mortars, the assumed quantities above may be able to form 10 batteries using 60mm (1 battery each for every Marine Battalion Landing Team), and 2 to 3 batteries using 120mm mortars (1 battery each for a Marine Brigade)

These would be done in a separate tender which the DND might still be preparing to release soon.

Philippine Marine troops preparing a 60mm mortar while being watched by US Marine troops duing PHIBLEX 2015 live fire exercises. Photo taken from DVIDS hub.

But this would be an interesting part of the procurement. With the DND requiring the 81mm Mortar proponent to be able to procure 120mm and 60mm mortars, there is a chance that whoever wins the Lot 2 - 81mm Mortar Project means that the DND may opt to go for a direct or negotiated procurement process including possible use of Government-to-Government (G2G) deal.

This means that whoever wins the 81mm Mortar acquisition project may have the strongest chance of bagging the 60mm and 120mm acquisition projects too.

MaxDefense will be watching this project closely, while also preparing once the tenders for the 60mm and 120mm Mortars become available.

Project Summary:

Mortar Acquisition Project Lot 2 - 81mm Mortar

Note: Edited as of 03 August 2019.

* End User: Philippine Navy (Philippine Marine Corps)

* Quantity: 30 nos. 81mm Mortar + associated accessories

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:

Acquisition Mode: Public Bidding

* Source of Funding: GAA Funded

* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: TBA

Product for Delivery:  - Brand and Model TBA
  - 30 nos. 81mm Mortar

  - 40 sets Ballistic Computer
  - 8 sets Forward Observer System

* Contract Price: 

* First post by MaxDefense: 
June 2019 (see MD's AFP Modernization Program List)

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PN81MortarAcquisition #PMC81MortarAcquisition

* Status: Bid process starting, bid submission on 27 August 2019.


First edit and release: 03 August 2019

Copyright MaxDefense Philippines


  1. But wait...the pending project for 155mm Howitzer, Self Propelled System Acquisition Project of the Philippine Army???

  2. cant we just manufacture our own mortar? it looks made up of simple parts, i am sure our GA with the help local companies could manufacture this kind of weapon if AFP will invest for the R&D.


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