Your 1st for Philippine Defense

Austal leads Philippine Navy's OPV Acquisition Project!

SecDef Lorenzana confirms Austal is still the preferred OPV supplier for the PN

The Philippine Navy commissions its 2nd Jose Rizal-class frigate!

The Philippine Navy welcomes BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), its newest frigate!

The Philippine Navy selects Shaldag Mk. V for Fast Attack Interdiction Craft!

The DND has awarded the FAIC-M Acquisition Project to Israel Shipyards

The Philippine Air Force wants more Black Hawk helicopters!

The Philippine Air Force asks for more Black Hawks to allow the retirement of their Bell UH-1 Huey fleet

The Philippine Army orders the Sabrah Light Tank System from Israel!

Israel's Elbit Systems was declared the winner to supply light tanks to the PA

The Philippine Air Force receives full order of Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 UAVs!

All 9 Hermes 900 and 4 Hermes 450 MALE UAVs have been received by the PAF!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

MaxDefense PH's Year-ender for 2020 - A Summary of Project Updates on the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program

As part of our year ender for 2020, MaxDefense Philippines has summarized the modernization projects of the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force that have made significant positive AND negative movements in 2020.

Another year has passed, yet the COVID-19 pandemic has affected a lot of our expectations for the year, including the accomplishments of the Revised AFP Modernization Program for 2020.

But despite this, we still push through forward, including the improvement of the overall defense capability of the country, and provide our military and its men and women with the equipment they need and the state can afford.

PN and PAF assets during the 85th Anniversary of the AFP.

We'll try to make this as simple as possible, as many of them have resource pages that our readers can access in case of need for more information, background and updates.

Take note that phrases in BOLD BLUE letters can be clicked for links to the resource pages supporting the project.

Philippine Army:

For projects covered under the Horizon 1 Phase of the RAFPMP, the following projects were among those that were updated in 2020:

1. Rocket Launcher Light Phase 2
Deliveries of RPG launchers and ammunition from Russia, the RPG-7V made by NPO Bazalt, were reported to have been made in 2019 and 2020, although exact figures on completion of delivery is still pending. Payment remains an issue due to the Philippine government avoiding getting sanctioned under CAATSA.

An ATGL-L RPG-7 from Arsenal JSco as displayed on ADAS 2019. Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense Philippines.

2. Tactical Engagement Simulation System
While the V-TESS portion was already delivered by South Korea's SD Systems back in 2018, the I-TESS portion of the system was delivered by an American supplier only in 2020, with the system said to be completed this year.

3. Force Protection Equipment - Body Armor
Deliveries are said to still be ongoing as of 2020, with 37,744 units of body armor are to be supplied by South Korea's Dae-sung Tech Co. Ltd. We expect completion of the project by 2021.

4. Designated Marksman Rifle 7.62mm
While the SIG Sauer SIG716G2 designated marksman rifles were delivered in 2019, the rifles were only distributed to Army units in 2020, and are meant to replace the M14 DMRs used by the units receiving the new rifles.

A SIG716G2 DMR in the hands of a soldier from the 94th Infantry Battalion. Photo credits to 94th IB, PA.

5. Forward Support Equipment Phase 1:
The SARO for the acquisition of 2.5-ton and 5-ton forklifts were only renewed this year, and it remains to be seen if an award was made to any supplier.

6. Long Range Sniper Rifle Weapon System
The project has been awarded to American gunmaker Harris Gunworks through their local representative Armscor Global Defense back in 2018, but deliveries are said to still be pending. The rifles are .50 caliber anti-materiel model used for long range engagements.

7. Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Equipment Lot 2:
Funding has been provided for the acquisition of CBRN equipment in November 2019, with the project expected to be tendered in 2020. So far, no known tenders have been made that is related to the project, although MaxDefense PH is still on the lookout for any new updates on this project.

For Horizon 2 and 2nd List of Horizon 2 projects, below are the status of projects that moved in 2020:

1. Light Tanks
The project was awarded to Elbit Systems Land & C4I in 2020, although it remains to be seen if a contract was signed within the year. Elbit will supply the Sabrah Light Tank System, which utilizes the GDELS ASCOD 2 tracked and Excalibur Army Pandur 2 wheeled armored vehicles.

The Sabrah light tank using the GDELS ASCOD 2 platform. Photo credits to Elbit Systems.

2. Wheeled Armored Personnel Carriers:
Another project that was awarded to Elbit Systems Land & C4I within 2020, but the contract appears to be also pending as of end of 2020. Elbit is supplying the Iveco Guarani 6x6 APC with Israeli-made subsystems.

The Guarani 6x6 APC of the Brazilian Army. Credits to original source of photo.

3. 155mm Howitzer, Self Propelled System
This project had its contract signed with Elbit Systems Land & C4I on January 2020 for the delivery of 2 batteries of Soltam ATMOS 155mm Self Propelled Howitzer System, with production already started and the system scheduled for delivery starting 2021.

4. Riverine Assault Boats Lot 1 - Light Boats
The Philippine Army received the first batches of the FRP-hulled Riverine Light Boats made by local company Stoneworks Specialists in 2020. More will be delivered in 2021.

A Riverine Light Boat from Stoneworks Specialists. Photo credits to PA.

5. 40mm Revolving Grenade Launchers
The project was awarded to Rippel Effect in 2019 for the supply of the XRGL40 multi-shot 40mm grenade launchers, although the contract was signed in 2020. Deliveries are expected to proceed within 2020, but apparently there are some issues regarding this project.

6. Combat Engineering Equipment Lot 1 - Armored Vehicle Launched-Bridge
Delays have been encountered in this project, which was awarded to Elbit Systems Land & C4I in early 2020. Elbit was said to have offered a variant of the Leonardo-IMI Joint Assault Bridge, and would be using a Leopard 2 platform. Delivery is expected in either 2021 or 2022.

7. Combat Engineering Equipment Lot 4 - Amrored Combat Engineering Vehicle
The project was awarded to Turkey's FNSS for their Kunduz Amphibious Armored Combat Engineer vehicle in 2020. While contract signing confirmation is still pending, we are expecting funding delays that will affect the positive movement of this project.

The Kunduz AACE from FNSS. Photo credits to Shephard Media.

8. Combat Engineering Equipment Lot 7 - Mini Mine Detectors
Another project that has been delayed due to bidding failures. The project was re-tendered in 2020 although it remains to be seen if the tender was successful.

9. Tank Gunnery Simulator
The project was awarded to Singapore's Wolfberry Asia on December 2019, but it appears that no contract has been signed with the DND. This remains a pending project, as MaxDefense previously reported that there were indications the award to Wolfberry Asia was cancelled, and the tender decalred as a failure as of February 2020. 

10. All-Terrain Vehicles:
The Philippine Army received the delivery of 15 Can-Am Commander Max all-terrain vehicles on October 2020. So far this is one of the projects of the Philippine Army that was completed this year.

11. Army C4ISTAR Lots 1 to 7
7 lots of projects related to the Army's C4ISTAR system, including the acquisition of Unmanned Aerial Systems, ground jammers, thermal imagers, radio direction finder systems, combat net MANET radios, and unmanned ground vehicles were contracted to Israeli companies in 2020 under a Government-to-Government deal with the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Production of equipment are all ongoing and for delivery between 2021 and 2022.

So far, only 2 projects can be considered completed within year 2020, and these are the Designated Marksman Rifle 7.62mm with the SIG Sauer SIG716G2 which are currently in service with several Philippine Army units; and the All-Terrain Vehicles project with the Can-Am Commander Max ATVs that were already delivered to the Philippine Army for use by special operations units, most likely the Light Reaction Regiment.

Other projects that have been continuing negotiations include:
M113 APC Firepower Upgrade, which is said to be potentially awarded to Turkey's FNSS; 
Combat Engineering Equipment Lots 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8 which are almost ready for awarding pending funding allocation; 
Land Based Missile System which is for final negotiations with India's Brahmos Aerospace, 
* the still pending Multi-Launch Rocket System donation of K136 Kooryong MLRS from South Korea which the Philippine Army is still trying to comply the conditions set by the South Korean Ministry of National Defense.
* Forward Support Equipment Phase 2 Lot 1, which covers the acquisition of two dozens of 10-ton Medium Wrecker Trucks, which the DND confirmed during the Senate hearing on Defense budget for 2021 as planned for inclusion under the Php5 billion Unprogrammed Appropriations.
* Negotiations with the US government and some US boat manufacturers are ongoing for the acquisition of Riverine Assault Boats, Scout Boats and Support Boats, which would be acquired through US Foreign Military Sales (US FMS). The US government submitted a proposed sale approval to the US Congress in 2020.

Philippine Air Force:

For Horizon 1, the following projects have some significant movement within 2020:

1. Close Air Support Aircraft
One of the biggest projects completed in 2020, the delivery of 6 Embraer A-29B Super Tucano light attack aircraft was completed in late 2020. While the contract includes training of PAF personnel in the Philippines remains to be complied, the delivery is the most important part of the contract.

Three of the six A-29B Super Tucano light attack aircraft delivered to the PAF in 2020. Photo credits to PAF.

2. Radar Basing Support System
This project is in support of the radars acquired from Israel under the Air Surveillance Radar Phase 1 project. As of 2020, works related to the project are still ongoing, although it is expected to be completed by 2021. The radar stations are located in Gozar Air Station in Lubang Island, the Paredes Air Station in Ilocos Norte, and Mt. Salacot Station in Palawan.

3. Fighter/Surface Attack Aircraft/Lead-in Fighter Trainer Munitions Lots 1 to 3
So far, Lots 1 to 3 appear to still be ongoing, with Lot 1 to supply the AIM-9L/I-1 Sidewinder short range air-to-air missile and Lot 2 to supply the AGM-65G2 Maverick air-to-ground missiles are still pending complete delivery, while Lot 3 to supply countermeasures is still unresolved. Lot 4 involving the supply of 20mm ammunition were already completed at an earlier date.

4. Flight Simulator for Bell 412 and AW109
After a massive delay on the project due to the cancellation of contract with an American company a few years ago, the PAF and DND decided to give the project another go, with modifications on the project's requirements. But still, the tender was declared a failure as of October 2020, and no further plan was made for 2020.

For Horizon 2 projects:

1. Air Surveillance Radar Phase 2:
The project has been given to Japan's Mitsubishi Electric Corp. in August 2020  as part of a Government-to-Government deal with the Japanese Ministry of Defense. Delivery is expected to proceed only in late 2021 or 2022. MELCO is expected to deliver the J/FPS-3ME fixed and J/TPS-14ME mobile radars.

2. Attack Helicopter Phase 2:
After a long drama due to issues not directly related to the Philippines, the DND has signed a contract with Turkish Aerospace Industries through a Government-to-Government deal with the Turkish government in late 2020. The PAF is still pushing for the delivery of the first batch of helicopters by 2021, although this seems to be a difficult task for TAI considering the political issues and timeframe.

The T129B ATAK attack helicopter. Photo credits to original source.

3. Combat Utility Helicopter Phase 3:
The delivery of 6 new Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters on November 2020 is also another major milestone for the PAF, although this is just a partial delivery considering 10 more are expected for delivery in 2021.

Some of the S-70i Black Hawk CUH delivered to PAF in 2020. Photo credits to

The PAF saw the delivery of a Gulfstream G280 business jet, which is said to be for use as a "Command and Control" aircraft despite its obvious use as a VIP jet due to lack of C2 subsystems. The aircraft was delivered on September 2020, which makes this another completed project for 2020.

5. Unmanned Aerial Systems Level 3:
The project involves the delivery of the Elbit Systems Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 UAVs to the PAF, which were completed as of mid-2020. This is another project which can be considered completed as of 2020.

6. C-130 Hercules with Avionics Upgrade and ILS
A project involving US Foreign Military Financing (US FMF) and US Foreign Military Sales (US FMS) programs, the PAF was suppose to receive 2 refurbished C-130 Hercules from the US, with one of them for delivery by December 2020. So far, no delivery has been reported as of the last day of 2020.

7. PAF Aviation Engineering Equipment
This project comprises 32 individual lots of construction-related equipment and services, with majority of the lots already awarded to respective contractors as of 2020. Several lots were already delivered in 2020 although there are still some that are still unresolved, and other lots are still for delivery by 2021.

8. Kia KM-250 6x6 Trucks
Another project completed in 2020, the PAF received 50 new Kia KM-250 trucks from South Korea and inducted into service on October 2020. These trucks will help improve logistics support of the PAF.

9. Basing Support System Phases 2 to 4 at Pag-Asa Island:
This project is dependent on the completion of the beaching ramp and pier at Pag-asa Island. With both projects completed by the civilian government agencies in 2020, the military-side of the project is expected to proceed only in 2021.

10. Heavy Lift Helicopters:
An award was said to have been provided to Russia for the supply of Mil Mi-171 Hip medium helicopters. But we received confirmation that CAATSA remains to be an issue, and could even be the reason for the PAF and DND to potentially cancel this in favor of additional S-70i Black Hawk helicopters.

The Mil Mi-171 Hip medium helicopter.

11. Brand New Additional Transport Aircraft:

In case you are all wondering, this is the OFFICIAL name of the project involving the acquisition of brand new C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft. So far, negotiations are ongoing with Lockheed Martin as of 2020, and budget for the initial payment is expected to be released only by 2021.

To summarize, the PAF completed 4 projects in 2020, namely the Close Air Support Aircraft, the Command and Control Jet Aircraft, the Unmanned Aerial Systems Level 3 and the Kia KM-250 6x6 Trucks Acquisition Projects. While significant due to the introduction of several new air assets, the number of projects completed remain dismal considering the number of projects ongoing.

Other projects that have been in the negotiation stages include:
Multi-Role Fighter and Munition System, which has been going through a lot due to conflicts in decision between the PAF and DND, and other factors including price changes and political issues; 
Medium Lift Aircraft which is under negotiations with Airbus-CASA for additional C-295 aircraft;
* Trainer Aircraft which is the pre-planning stages and negotiations ongoing with several aircraft manufacturers including KAI, TAI, Aero Vodochody, and others; 
PAF C4ISTAR Lots 1 to 4 which are in different stages of delivery phase; 
Kia KM-450 4x4 Trucks which are expected for delivery to the PAF soon;
Additional Light Lift Aircraft project which is being negotiated with Indonesia's PT Dirgantara Indonesia for the potential sale of 6 NC-212i aircraft.
* While negotiations were already completed, the PAF is awaiting the delivery of the Ground Based Air Defense System (GBADS), which includes 3 batteries of the Rafael SPYDER-ER short-mid range air defense missile system, which are scheduled for delivery in 2021. Funding for its Multi-Year allocations have been continuous for 2020, and is already approved for its last funding allocation in 2021.

An F-16 fighter of the USAF. Photo credits to

Philippine Navy (including Philippine Marine Corps):

For Horizon 1, the following projects have some significant movement within 2020:

1. Frigates Lot 1 - Platform
The Philippine Navy received its first Jose Rizal-class frigate on May 2020, and was commissioned as BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) on June 2020. Delays were encountered on the delivery of the 2nd ship, which was suppose to be for delivery by 4th quarter of 2020, but was moved to 1st quarter of 2021.

The PN frigate BRP Jose Rizal with three of the recently delivered S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters of the PAF. Credits to original source of photo.

2. Frigates Lot 2 - Munitions:
The partial delivery of Mistral short range surface-to-air missiles were made in 2020, and these already equip the BRP Jose Rizal, although full delivery is expected to be completed only by October 2021. The contract for the supply of SSM-700K C-Star anti-ship missiles was made in 2020, and delivery is expected only by 2022. We received confirmation as well that the 76mm ammunition were already delivered to the PN in 2020, and the same is true for the 30mm ammunition for the ship's guns.

3. Base Support and Logistics Phase 1 for Naval Base Rafael Ramos (Cebu):
Works appear to be ongoing on the construction of Phase 1 at Naval Base Rafael Ramos in Cebu, although we are not familiar with the percentage completion of the construction project works.

4. Fast Boats for NAVSOCOM:
The Philippine Navy received a partial delivery of 7 new RHIBs as part of the project in 2020, with 3 other units expected to be delivered by 2021. These boats are to be used by the Boat Unit of the Naval Special Operations Command.

For Horizon 2 Phase:

1. Landing Docks:
The project has been tendered in 2019, and although post-qualification inspections were made in 2020, the DND and PN has not made a decision yet to award the project to Indonesia's PT PAL (Persero), which offered a revised and improved version of the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Dock. Two ships are for acquisition under this project.

2. Del Pilar-class (Frigate) Upgrade:
Despite Hanwha Systems bagging the project in 2019, nothing much has been made in 2020. Hanwha is scheduled to inspect all 3 ships of the class by early 2021, with inspection dates already marked and provided to MaxDefense. The upgrades only involves sensors and combat systems, but no weapon upgrades.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16), a Del Pilar-class ship of the PN. Photo credits to PN.

3. Marine Engineering Upgrades for BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37):
Another long delayed project that has been passed to the Horizon 2 phase after failing to start during the Horizon 1 phase. So far, drydocking works has been awarded to Herma Shipyard on January 2020, although it remains to be seen if the actual repowering works are included in their contract.

4. MPAC (Batch 4) Combat Systems and Capability Upgrade:
This project, which comprises 2 lots for the supply of weapon systems by Rafael Advance Systems and installation works by Propmech Corporation, has been delayed for a year, considering the original schedule of delivery and installation of these weapon systems and upgrades were suppose to have been done by 2020. The delivery of weapon systems were moved to 2021.

5. Squad Rocket Launcher Light:
A requirement for 702 units of RPG-7s from Bulgaria's Arsenal JSCo has been finalized in 2020, although delivery is only expected to be made by 2021. These RPGs will be used by the Philippine Marines, as they start improving squad firepower and replacing older recoilless rifles.

6. Force Protection Equipment (Helmets and Body Armor):
Israel's Marom Dolphin Tactical Equipment bagged the project, and was awarded the project on August 2020. So far, no indication was found on a contract signed with DND, which means this is still potentially another pending project. The project involves the supply of 8,860 sets of body armor vests and helmets for the Philippine Marine Corps.

7. Mortars Lot 2 - 81mm Mortars:
Another project that seems to be pending, we expected a contract to be signed with EXPAL Systems by early 2020, but this remains to be confirmed. The project was awarded to EXPAL in late 2019, which aims to supply 

8. Fast Attack Interdiction Craft with Missiles:
The project is also considered a delayed one, with the funding for the project only released on December 2020. This means an award for the project, which is expected to be for Israeli Shipyards Ltd, is only expected to happen in 2021. The PN hopes to receive the first Shaldag Mk. V fast attack craft by 2022.
A CGI of the Shaldag Mk. V FAC which the PN is currently negotiating. Photo credits to Israel Shipyards.

To summarize, the PN has not completed any RAFPMP project in 2020, despite several projects reaching major milestones and partial delivery and completion. This is dismal considering the number of projects ongoing, even if many projects take years to complete.

But to give credit, the PN received 8 new ScanEagle 2 UAVs from the US government, which is a major milestone for the service as it received its first fixed wing tactical UAV. Despite not being part of the PN's own modernization program, this is still an important accomplishment in 2020.

A ScanEagle 2 UAV of the PN. Photo credits to PN.

Other projects that have been in the negotiation stages include:
Corvette project which is said to be undergoing final negotiations with South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries for a potential Jose Rizal-class Flight II;
Offshore Patrol Vessel project, which is still under negotiations with other shipbuilders from South Korea and Thailand despite an earlier selection of Australia's Austal, specifically its local shipyard in Cebu, to be the shipbuilder and supplier for the project.
Submarine project which is under intense negotiations with France's Naval Group and South Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering;
Shore Based Anti-Ship Missile System, which is also being negotiated with India's Brahmos Aerospace, although other offers from other countries are still being pushed;
Shore Based Air Defense Missile System, which is still in advanced pre-procurement and negotiation stage with several suppliers from South Korea, India, Norway, and others.
Frigate Project Lot 3, which involves the supply of torpedoes, chaffs, and acoustic decoy for the Jose Rizal-class frigates. The chaffs and acoustic decoys are currently in the procurement phase through public bidding, which is expected to be opened on January 2021, while the torpedoes are to be acquired through direct negotiation with South Korea's LIGNex1 for their Blue Shark torpedoes.

The OPV design for the PN from Austal. Photo credits to Austal.

Our Hopes for 2021:

With the list above, we can say that 2021 appears to be a busy year for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its modernization programs. Even as early as January 2021, we can already see some new deliveries and project finalizations to happen.

We at MaxDefense Philippines and Philippine Defense Resource are hopeful that the government under the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte will do its best to make sure the AFP's modernization goes on smoothly, cleanly, and without interference from questionable personalities from the administration.

We hope that they come to their senses and put the interests of the Philippines and the Filipino people first before their own personal interests.

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all our readers, contributors, supporters and friends! We hope to have your continuous and strong support for 2021!!

First release: 31 December 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Is Italy's Leonardo involved in engine supply for T129B Attack Helicopters for the Philippine Air Force?


Previous posts we made confirmed that the Department of National Defense (DND) already released the Notice of Award (NOA) for the Philippine Air Force's Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project in favor of Turkey's Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), and has signed the contract with TAI a few months ago.

This was after TAI, which offered its T129B ATAK attack helicopter, was selected by the PAF for the project, and the DND's Bids and Awards Committee finding TAI and the T129B ATAK meeting all requirements it submitted as part of the tender.

The TAI T129B ATAK attack helicopter, which is contracted for delivery to the Philippine Air Force. Photo credited to Reddit.

But due to issues surrounding Turkey's ability to have a steady supply of US-made engines, specifically the LHTEC CTS800 turboshaft engines, due to Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) being potentially imposed on Turkey, the DND delayed the project's contract signing with TAI. And even when the contract was signed, the DND held the release of the Notice to Proceed (NTP) for sometime.

CAATSA Against Turkey:

According to MaxDefense's military, defense and industry sources, as well as sources from the US, all confirmed that Turkey was indeed affected by the declining relations with the US, and has failed to get the export license for the supply of LHTEC CTS800 turboshaft engines powering the T129B ATAK attack helicopters.

The LHTEC CTS800 turboshaft engine, the main issue of TAI's problems to supply the T129 attack helicopter to the Philippines. Photo credited to Honeywell Aerospace.

The ban, which was said to have been set in early 2020, jeopardized TAI's export of the T129B ATAK, in addition to its existing contract to supply 30 units to the Pakistani Army, and a potential to sealing a deal with the Philippines DND to supply 6 units plus follow-on orders for the Philippine Air Force.

Without the engines, it would be impossible for Turkey to close its deals, and secure further export orders in the global market.

Further information shares to us by American sources confirmed that in early 2020, the DND was urged to talk to the US Embassy and to Joint US Military Advisory Group - Philippines (JUSMAG Philippines) to confirm the US government's export license rejection. But for some reason, the DND did not make an official enquiry, which could  have allowed the US government to provide a formal reply and explain the situation to the DND.

Turkey's insistence to procure the Russian S-400 long range air defense system (above), plus its activities in Syria and Armenia may have contributed to the rejection of export license of the LHTEC engines. Photo credits to Popular Mechanics.

The Waiting Game:

Between the time the NOA for the PAF's Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project was released to TAI up until mid 2020, the DND was said to be in continuous talks with TAI and the Turkish government regarding the issue of the helicopter engines and avionics availability, despite a contract already signed between the 2 parties.

Before the contract was signed between the DND and TAI, the PAF was getting ready for a possible cancellation of the NOA with TAI, and it made a re-evaluation of the project which resulted to the selection of an American-made helicopter as a possible replacement to the T129B ATAK.

Among those reconsidered were the Bell AH-1Z Viper (top) and the Sikorsky S-70i Armed Black Hawk (above). Photos credits to Flight Global and Defense News.

For some reason, the DND decided to continue negotiations with TAI, despite the growing list of reasons for the US government to reject its export of the LHTEC engines to Turkey, and even further imposing more sanctions against Turkey. Apparently, Turkey gave a guarantee to the DND that they can supply the helicopters with the complete engines and avionics, which was the reason why the DND continued with signing a contract with TAI.

A few months ago, we received confirmation from DND sources that Turkey negotiated with the DND on the Notice to Proceed (NTP). Apparently, TAI was pushing for the release of the Notice to Proceed (NTP) to be put on-hold. This is to allow TAI enough time to secure the LHTEC engines, and delay the start of production of the helicopters and the delivery date as this would be based on the date the NTP was released by TAI.

This is unfair to the Philippine side, since Turkey securing the LHTEC engines may take years considering its poor situation with the US government. If TAI never get to secure the engines, it means they are not liable for late deliveries should the Philippines agree to such arrangements.

Use of Turkish Engines Not an Option:

Despite Turkey developing a new indigenous turbine engine to power locally-made helicopters like the T129 ATAK and the T625 Gokbey helicopters, Turkey itself confirmed that development and testing of the engines are still ongoing, and it will take a few years for the engine to reach serial production, most likely by 2024 at earliest.

MaxDefense also mentioned before that testing, type certification of the T129 powered by the new engine, and other processes will take years, and it would be too late for the PAF and DND if it waiting for the local engine to be used on the T129 attack helicopter.

Even within the PAF and DND, it appears that the use of unproven Turkish engines are out of the question, as a major subsystem like an engine will need to meet the Philippines' legal government procurement and AFP modernization acquisition requirements that requires it to be a proven product.

The PAF being made as a guinea pig is definitely not acceptable.

The TEI TS1400 turboshaft engine from Turkey is still far from production, and is still an unproven product even by then. Photo credits to Defense Turkey Magazine.

Turkey Provides Guarantee to Supply Complete Helicopter:

Recenty, our sources confirmed that the DND has recently released the 15% initial payment for the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project, which means that the DND already has released the NTP for the project. Thus, it means that TAI is now legally liable for the delivery of the helicopters for the PAF.

This also means that the DND has accepted the guarantee from TAI and the Turkish government that they can supply the T129B ATAK attack helicopters with the needed engines and avionics, and provide support, spares and logistics needs for the aircraft.

So how did Turkey get a secure source of LHTEC engines for the Philippine T129Bs?

According to our sources, the engines would be supplied through TAI's Italian partner on the T129 program, defense conglomerate Leonardo.

The A129 Mangusta attack helicopter, which is the basis of the T129 ATAK attack helicopter. This example is with the Italian Army. Photo credits to

For those who are unfamiliar, the T129 ATAK was actually based on the Agusta A129 Mangusta (Mongoose), which is now a legacy product of Leonardo. The T129 is essentially an A129 helicopter but was modernized and improved by TAI, while using a large percentage of Turkish subsystems and parts, and integration with Turkish-developed munitions. The A129 uses the less powerful and older Rolls Royce Gem 2-1004D engines.

Also, Leonardo has good experience with the LHTEC CTS800 turbine engine as it also powers the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat naval helicopters. And to make things better for TAI, Leonardo is supporting the CTS800 engines found on the AW159 Wildcat helicopters of the Philippine Navy.

Leonardo has partners in the Philippines that can do the engine installations on the T129B ATAK on behalf of TAI. Photo credited to Scramble Magazine.

Potential Arrangements:

So, with Leonardo in charge of engine supply, it means that TAI will still be in charge of supplying the complete helicopters being the main contractor for the project. But the process might be different in this case.

It is highly possible that TAI will start building the helicopters, and will receive the engines from Leonardo. But while the helicopters might be completed in Turkey, there is also a chance that the helicopters might be delivered to the Philippines without the engines, and that the engines will be installed, integrated and tested in the Philippines.

If that happens, Leonardo might be doing the engine integration on behalf of TAI since Leonardo already has partners in the Philippines who can do the engine installation and integration works.

If such arrangement happens, the flight tests would also be done in the Philippines, and so is the pre-delivery inspection and acceptance by the DND and PAF's Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee (TIAC) and Project Management Team (PMT).

Risks and Potential Problems:

MaxDefense Philippines believes that while this is possible, this could be a risky undertaking by both TAI and the DND, since Leonardo may encounter problems of its own in obtaining the LHTEC engines, especially if the US government takes notice of the arrangement. It is very obvious that TAI is using Leonardo as a proxy, and the US government may still impose export license restrictions.

Should Leonardo fail to get the engines, it means delays in the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project, since time spent on dealing with TAI would be worthless, and getting back the payment could be a sore legal issue that could take time to settle.

Also, should TAI be successful in delivering the T129B attack helicopters completely in any arrangement, there is still the risk of TAI possibly failing to provide proper support for the helicopters especially with regards to the engines and select avionics affected by the US export ban.

In foresight, even if TAI succeeds in delivering the 6 T129B attack helicopters to the PAF, there is also a chance that it could encounter issues in the future if the PAF decides to do a follow-on order, considering the situation between Turkey and the US remains tense even with a new leadership in the US government under President-elect Joe Biden in power by 2021.

Alternatively, the DND could have just gone with better options rather than take a risk that could be detrimental to Philippine interests and security plans.

Project Summary:

Attack Helicopter (Horizon 2)Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 23 December 2020.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (15th Strike Wing)

Quantity: 6 units

* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:

Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government deal with Turkish Ministry of Defense.

* Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund, to be paid via Multi-Year Obligation Authority (MYOA) process.

* SARO Release/s: 

* Winning Proponent: Turkish Aerospace Industries

Product for Delivery: starting late 2021, complete by 2022.

* Contract Price: TBA

* First post by MaxDefense: TBA

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PAFAHAcquisition #PAFAHPhase2Acquisition

* Status: TWG selected TAI T129 ATAK as basis for the Attack Helicopter project in 2018. Despite re-evaluation made in 2019 after Turkey had problems obtaining US and EU-sourced subsystems, NOA awarded to Turkish Aerospace Industries although PAF is looking at alternatives to the T129. Contract signed with TAI in 3rd quarter 2020, NTP and initial funding released as of November 2020.

The T129B ATAK attack helicopter. Photo credits to HeliHub.

First release: 23 December 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Philippine Navy to induct new Insitu ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles provided by US

The Philippine Navy (PN) is scheduled to induct a batch of brand new Insitu ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) provided by the United States government. The induction is expected to happen in a matter of days after this blog is posted.

These new UAVs were part of the US government's Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative Strategy (then called Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative), which was started by the Obama administration in 2016, and continued by the Trump administration.

These new ScanEagle UAVs will become the Philippine Navy's first fixed-wing drones that are actually inducted into service, rather than just tested and evaluated. 

One of the ScanEagle 2 UAVs handed-over to the PAF last March 2018. Credits to original source of photo.

US Grants to Philippines and Other Countries:

In 2017, the US government confirmed that another batch of ScanEagle UAVs will be granted to the Philippines, and will be a follow-on after the first batch that were also ordered in 2017 and handed over to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in March 2018.

ScanEagle 2 UAVs of the Philippine Air Force. Credits to original source of photo.

It was first thought that the second batch will still be for the PAF, but checking with sources within the Armed Forces of the Philippines, MaxDefense Philippines was told that it would be for the Philippine Navy (PN) as a similar request was also made that would be used primarily for maritime surveillance.

The Philippines will not be the only country to receive ScanEagle UAVs from the US. Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam are also earmarked to receive the same UAVs to assist them in improving their maritime surveillance capabilities. The orders for all 4 countries were only processed in 2019.

Malaysia was given priority, and received 6 units early this year. The Philippines is believed to be the second to receive ScanEagles this year, with an expected 8 units based on the reports made in 2019. It remains to be seen if the PN will indeed receive 8 units, since it is possible for the quantity to increase or decrease.

ScanEagle 3?

While the PAF received the ScanEagle 2 UAV in 2018, it remains to be seen if the PN will be receiving the same ScanEagle 2, or the newer ScanEagle 3 variant, which was launched only in 2018 after the PAF received their drones.

So far, there is no confirmation found if the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) received the ScanEagle 2 or ScanEagle 3, as it could be the best basis of what the Philippine Navy could be receiving.

The ScanEagle 3 is the latest variant of the ScanEagle family of small UAVs, with improvements made on payload carrying capacity, said to be almost double compared to earlier models, while retaining its freedom from International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) control.

A CGI of the new ScanEagle 3, which features twin tails siliar to the concept of the PAF's OV-10 Bronco attack aircraft. Credits to original source of photo.

This allows for additional or larger sensors to be carried that previous ScanEagle models are not capable of doing. It also allows for multiple sensors to be carried, improving its surveillance capabilities than ever before.

It also has improved endurance over previous models, using a new purpose-built propulsion system that allows more payload without compromising endurance. The new design allows for the wings to be adjusted and moved to alter the drone's center of gravity for rapid payload integration in the field. 

It has a length of 2.5 meters, a wingspan of 4 meters, and a gross takeoff weight of 36.3 kilograms. It now can carry 9.1 kilograms of payload which may include C2 datalinks, video datalins, Electro-optical turret, dual imager, and Mircowave Radiometer (MWR) that can detect radio or microwave energy emitted by targets.

An actual ScanEagle 3 during its unveiling in 2018. Photo credits to Shephard Media.

71 Maritime Unmanned Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron:

As reported several weeks ago by MaxDefense Philippines and our extension Philippine Defense Resource, the Philippine Navy's Naval Air Wing (NAW) has created a new squadron that will handle the operation of these new ScanEagle UAVs, which is the 71 Maritime Unmanned Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron.

The 71 Maritime Unmanned Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron's logo, which actually incorporates a ScanEagle UAV, albeit the older ScanEagle 1 variant showing the older nose design. As feared by MaxDefense Philippines, this could be a sign that many in the PN do not really know the difference between older and newer variants of the ScanEagle. Photo taken from the PN's publication.

The new squadron is expected to be the first UAV squadron of the PN NAW, as MaxDefense Philippines was told that the PN is interested in acquiring larger maritime surveillance UAVs in the future.
Similar to how the PAF deployed their ScanEagle 2 UAVs, it is expected that the PN would also deploy their ScanEagle UAVs in various locations, most notably facing the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and the tri-border with Malaysia and Indonesia.

But we are actually hoping for the Philippine Navy to consider deploying these ScanEagle UAVs on ships, and act as eyes and ears for the surface warfare ships on top of their existing radar and EO/IR systems.

Examples where the ScanEagle UAV can be deployed are the Jose Rizal-class frigates and the Del Pilar-class offshore patrol vessels, both of which have a helicopter landing decks. Even smaller ships like the Jacinto-class are capable of operating ScanEagles, as already demonstrated by other navies.

Singapore's Victory-class corvettes, which are almost the same size as the Jacinto-class OPV, are equipped with launcher and recovery systems for the ScanEagle UAV. Photo taken from RSN.

In any way, the addition of these ScanEagle UAVs to the Philippine Navy are very much appreciated to allow the force's continuous improvement, thanks again to the assistance of our ally.

It remains to be seen if the PN will receive another batch of ScanEagles, as the US government appears to have prepared for the allocation lof a 3rd batch of ScanEagle UAVs to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Since the Philippine Army is standardizing with Israeli-made UAVs which it bought on its own, additional ScanEagles could either be for the PAF or PN.

This would be dependent on the policies on upcoming US President Joe Biden, who is believed to be on its way to half US military assistance to the Philippines due to Philippine Pres. Rodrigo Duterte's poor human rights records.

Several weeks ago, our extension Philippine Defense Resource TV posted a video on the creation of a new unit to receive the new ScanEagle UAVs from the US. This was already a sign of things to come considering the deliveries have already started for the entire order made for the 4 selected Southeast Asian countries.


Project Summary:

ScanEagle UAV Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy:

Note: Edited as of 22 November 2020.

* End User: Philippine Navy (Naval Air Wing)

* Quantity: between 6 to 8 units

* Modernization Phase: Special Projects of the AFP

* Project ABC: Not applicable

* Acquisition Mode: US Military Assistance Grant

* Source of Funding: Funded by US government

* SARO Release: N/A

* Winning Proponent: Insitu Pacific Corp.

* Product for Delivery: 

    - 6 to 8 ScanEagle UAVs, still to be determined if ScanEagle 2 or 3 variant, including launching and recovery, and support equipment

* Contract Price: Not applicable

* Residual Price: Not applicable

* First post by MaxDefense: 11 December 2017

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag:

* Status: US government announced grant of surveillance equipment to select Asia-Pacific countries in 2017. Contract awarded by US government to Insitu Pacific in 2019, for delivery by late November 2020.

First edit and release: 22 November 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Discussing the Philippine Air Force's Heavy Lift Helicopter Project as Russia wins with the Mil Mi-171 Hip

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has embarked on the acquisition of Heavy Lift Helicopters as part of its 2nd List of Horizon 2 Phase projects. This project aims to provide the PAF with larger helicopters than what it currently has, to fit certain combat and peacetime requirements in tactical airlift and heliborne operations.

As reported earlier by our extension Philippine Defense Resource, the Notice of Award (NOA) was awarded, although it remains to be seen if it was through SOVTECHNOEXPORT or ROSOBORONEXPORT. In any case, the Russians offered to sell the Russian Helicopters Mil Mi-171 Hip medium military helicopter.

The Mil Mi-171Sh helicopter. Photo taken from AIN Online.


40 Years of Longing for a Heavy Lift Helicopter:

The Philippine Air Force has been eyeing heavy lift helicopters since the 1970s, with the Boeing CH-47 Chinook already being considered during modernization programs for the last 40 years.

In 1978, the US government actually considered selling the CH-47D Chinook, which was a new variant back then, in lieu of a request for 36 units of DHC-5 Buffalo medium lift aircraft. According to US declassified reports, if contract was signed for the CH-47D Chinook, they were projected to enter service with the PAF by 1981. But this did not push through due to the Philippine economy's poor performance.

The CH-47D Chinook of the Spanish Army. Photo credits to original source.

The 1995 AFP Modernization Program also listed a requirement for Heavy Lift Helicopters, with a total of 4 units requested to enter between 1995 to 2010. The CH-47D Chinook was also eyed by the PAF to meet this requirement. Again, due to the poor performance of the Philippine economy, the entire program did not push through, including the acquisition of  Heavy Lift Helicopters.

A requirement for Heavy Lift Helicopters again surfaced when the AFP Modernization Program was revised and extended to cover years 2013 to 2027. But it was programmed to be included in the Horizon 3 phase of the new project.

Since the AFP and DND have an option to frontload projects depending on requirements, the Heavy Lift Helicopter Acquisition Project was moved to the 2nd List of Horizon 2 phase, which is an offshoot of the Horizon 2 phase depending if the government has extra funds available to frontload Horizon 3 projects.

Again, the CH-47 Chinook family was in eyed by the Philippine Air Force, this time a newer variant called the CH-47F being available fresh from the factory. Other helicopters were also considered including the AgustaWestland AW101, as well as Medium Helicopters like the Airbus H225M Caracal, and the Russian Helicopters Mil Mi-171Sh Hip.

Also considered was the AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin. This example is with the Danish Air Force. Photo taken from Wikipedia.

Originally, the PAF's Technical Working Group decided that the CH-47F Chinook was the only helicopter that met the PAF's requirements for heavy lift helicopters, which made it closer for the PAF to acquire the CH-47F Chinook.

The CH-47F Chinook, these examples with the Indian Air Force. Photo credits to IAF.

But it appears that this was overturned by the Department of National Defense (DND), which asked the PAF to reconsider its specifications due to political reasons. As we have posted last year in our Facebook community page, the president himself was involved in the decision of the DND to push the PAF to reconsider.

The Russian Connection:

We reported that, according to our sources within the DND and PAF, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte was not in favor of the Philippine Air Force and DND's decision to select the Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk for its Combat Utility Helicopter requirements, wherein 16 units were ordered for less than Php13 billion. But in the end, the president allowed the deal with Sikorsky to push through under one condition - that the PAF should also order helicopters from Russia, either transport or attack helicopters, or both.

With the PAF in a tight situation, the Heavy Lift Helicopter project was again re-evaluated with changes in the specifications, and it was recommended in the end that the Mil Mi-171 meets the PAF's revised requirements and is the most ideal due to the number of helicopters (quantity) the Russians have agreed to sell based on the Php12.8 billion budget.

While Russia agreed to sell 16 Mil Mi-171 helicopters, with a potential donation of 1 Mi-171 helicopter for VIP requirements, apparently Boeing was only able to offer 4 units under Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, or 5 units under Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) program.

The Mil Mi-171, this example with the Russian Army. Photo taken from Avia Russia.

Negotiations with Russia's Rosoboronexport commenced in 2018, although issues related to the US' Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) was deemed to be an obstacle to a deal being reached between the DND and Rosoboronexport.

It was noted that as of March 2019, a new Russian state shell company SOVTECHNOEXPORT appears to be the one handling the deal between the Philippines DND and Russia on the potential acquisition of the Mil Mi-171 helicopter.

As of 3rd quarter 2020, preparation was being made by the DND to release the Notice of Award (NOA) in favor of the Russian government, although it remains to be seen if it would be through SOVTECHNOEXPORT or ROSOBORONEXPORT.

What's Next?

Since the Mil Mi-171 is actually a Medium Helicopter rather than a Heavy Lift Helicopter, it remains a question as to why the Philippine Air Force decided to use the Heavy Lift Helicopter Acquisition Project as it means to acquire the Mil Mi-171, rather than frontload the Medium Lift Helicopter Acquisition Project, which is also slated under Horizon 3 phase, as it is more appropriate for the helicopter being sought after?

Also, since the PAF actually has requirements for helicopters that are larger than the Mil Mi-171, will they be raising a new Heavy Lift Helicopter Acquisition Project under the Horizon 3 phase, with specifications closer to than of the CH-47F Chinook rather than medium helicopters like the Mil Mi-171?

Other Possibilities:

Another possibility now is related to the Philippine Army, which was said to also have been offered both the Mil Mi-171 and the Boeing CH-47F Chinook for their own helicopter requirements.

Based on information MaxDefense got from sources from the Philippine Army, the Philippine Army leadership as well as the Army Aviation Regiment was said to be more in favor of the CH-47F Chinook, although it is currently not their priority as they wanted to build up their planned fleet of combat utility, scout, and attack helicopters, before they consider getting larger helicopters.

So it could be similar to the PAF's plan of potentially asking another batch of heavy helicopters under the Horizon 3 phase of the RAFPMP.


Project Summary:

Heavy Lift Helicopter Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 07 November 2020.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (still being determined if 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing or 220th Airlift Wing)

* Quantity: 16 military helicopters + potentially 1 VIP helicopter

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Priority Projects of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php12,800,000,000.00

* Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) Procurement with Russian government (Sovtechnoexport and/or Rosoboronexport)

* Source of Funding: Multi-Year Contractual Authority for 3 years, using General Appropriations Act (GAA) from FY2020 to FY2022.

* SARO Release: SARO-BMB-D-20-0018320 worth Php1,919,626,490.00 (15% initial payment) dated 29 October 2020, released 04 November 2020.

* Winning Proponent: TBC

* Product for Delivery: 

    - 16 Mil Mi-171, exact variant still being confirmed although most like Mi-171Sh
    - unconfirmed report of 1 Mil Mi-171 in VIP configuration, most likely Mi-171A2

* Contract Price: Php12,797,509,932.00

* Residual Price: Php2,490,068.00

* First post by MaxDefense: 28 June 2019

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag:

* Status: DND has decided to award the project to the Russian government, with the Notice of Award (NOA) being prepared to be released in either to Sovetechnoexport or Rosoboronexport. SARO for initial 15% funding was released on 04 November 2020, awaiting for NOA release which is expected before end of 2020.

First edit and release: 07 November 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Air Force Modernization Projects