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Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Philippine Army will have new mine detection and emergency bridging capabilities soon

 
The Philippine Army (PA) is expected to gain a new capability soon as it acquires new assets as part of its modernization program.

Mine Clearing Operations have been part of the Philippine Army's capabilities for decades, but has been limited in terms of  scale, complexity, and scope. It has not been given enough focus due to the limited cases on uses of mines in the Philippines after World War 2.

With the experience in the Battle of Marawi in 2017 against ISIS-inspired terrorists that used IEDs and mines in urban combat operations, the Philippine Army may have realized the importance of having improved battlefield mine clearing capabilities to protect its troops in combat and non-combat / post-combat, and peacetime support operations.

Major emergency bridging capabilities is another non-existent capability within the Philippine Army.

This was also evident during the Battle of Marawi where the Philippine Army was pinned down in crossing a river as terrorist snipers and machine gunners were position near an existing major concrete bridge, when the Philippine Army could have crossed the river somewhere else and create another front.

A WFEL Dry Support Bridge launcher using an Iveco-made platform, with a simplified demonstration unit for the system. Photo credits to original source.

Mine Detection Capabilities:

The intention  to improve mine detection capabilities, as well as emergency bridging capabilities were evident in the acquisition plans the Philippine Army has forwarded for priority implementation under the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program covering years 2018 to 2022.

It was included in the Combat Engineering Equipment Acquisition Project, which includes 2 lots for mine detection capabilities, and 3 lots for bridging capabilities.

1. First is the Lot 7 - Mini Mine Detector (MMD) Acquisition Project which will provide handheld mine detection systems for small scale and space-restrained environments. The project is currently in the procurement phase but has encountered delays. This project has been discussed in our extension's resource page which can be accessed on the link below:

"Combat Engineering Equipment Lot 7 - Mini Mine Detectors Acquisition Project" - first posted at Philippine Defense Resource on 25 October 2019.

2. The second one, which is one of the main topics of this blog entry, is the Lot 6 - Vehicle Mounted Mine Detector (VMMD) Acquisition Project, which intends to bring in a mine detection capability to cover larger areas to protect operators.

Four (4) vehicle systems are planned, including all necessary accessories, integrated logistics support (ILS), and support for the vehicles, 
with a budget of Php138 million. This is very important since the PA does not have experience operating similar or same vehicles or equipment in the past.


According to MaxDefense Philippines sources from the Philippine Army, the Department of National Defense (DND) has awarded the project last month to UK-based Armtrac Ltd under a Philippines - United Kingdom Government-to-Government (G2G) deal supported by the UK's Ministry of Defence.

While no specific model was mentioned by our sources, Armtrac actually has four mine detection vehicles in its product offerings, only different from each other in terms of size and overall capability.

But based on the technical specifications from the DND and Philippine Army, we believe that the closest product to it is the Armtrac 100-350 Mk. 2 vehicle mounted mine detector.

The Armtrac 100-350 Mk.2 (above) is the closest to the specs of the specs of the project provided by PA sources to MaxDefense Philippines. Photo taken from Armtrac's website.


According to the product information of both equipment, the Armtrac 100-350 Mk. 2 is armored and have protected cabins, can be operated manually or via remote controlled system. It uses a Ground Probing Radar (GPR) for search and detection of IED, mines, and bombs. The GPR is used with a robotic arms, and also includes a vegetation cutter.

An example of how the Armtrac 100-350 Mk. 2 is utilized for mine detection using 2 robotic arms. Photo taken from Armtrac's website.

Aside from mine detection, the vehicle can actually be used also for route proving and clearing against mines, IEDs and bombs, and create safe passage ways for combat troops and vehicles. This can be done by installing the system's 3-meter Tiller and Flail header, as well as the Armtrac C-IED mine roller system.


Emergency Bridging Capabilities:

1. For emergency bridging capabilities, one of the projects that was previously discussed in our blogs and social media post was the Lot 1 - Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB) Acquisition Project, which was awarded to the Joint Venture of Elbit Systems and IMI Systems Ltd on 26 December 2019. This project has been discussed in our extension's resource page which can be accessed on the link below:

"Combat Engineering Equipment Lot 1 - Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge Acquisition Project" - first posted at Philippine Defense Resource on 24 October 2019.

An example of an AVLB using a Leopard 2 chassis. Photo taken from Defpost.com.

The project aims to provide a quick-deployment steel bridge capable of carrying loads up to Military Load Classification MLC 50 (50 tons) and a span of at least 18 meters long. 

But the product to be delivered by the winning bidder, which is based on the Leonardo DRS-IMI Joint Assault Bridge, would be providing is said to be capable of loads up to MLC 85 (85 tons), which includes main battle tanks and other heavy combat vehicles.

The AVLB would be suitable for rapid crossing of rivers and obstacles due to its short deployment and recovery times.

The Joint Assault Bridge being deployed across a wide trench during demonstrations. Photo taken from Leonardo DSI's website.

2. The second bridging capability equipment being acquired is the Lot 2 - Floating Support Bridge (FSB) Acquisition Project, which is still in procurement phase and has not been awarded yet. The system involves a bridging system that can float over water and can also be used like a raft to cross equipment over wider bodies of water.

These are capable of carrying main battle tanks and other heavy equipment, although its more suitable for calm bodies of water like rivers or lakes.

MaxDefense Philippines believes that the project is being negotiated with the UK Ministry of Defence as it is also planned to be acquired via G2G with the UK government, although there were also indications that DND officials close to the so-called Davao Group composed of close people to Pres. Duterte, are pushing for a Chinese solution which the Philippine Army is said to be against of.

According to sources from the Philippine Army who are involved in the project, the Chinese offering is far cheaper, but is believed to be less robust and have issues regarding longevity and quality.

A Ribbon Bridge, this example from General Dynamics European Land Systems, is an example of a floating support bridge. Photo taken from Contact Air Land Sea's webiste.



3. The third project, which is also one of the main topics of this entry is the Lot 3 - Dry Support Bridge (DSB), a tactical military bridging system that allows for use on longer spans, usually at least 45 meters long, at a very short period of time.

According to MaxDefense Philippines sources from the Philippine Army, the Department of National Defense (DND) has awarded the project last month to UK-based WFEL Ltd. under a Philippines - United Kingdom Government-to-Government (G2G) deal supported by the UK's Ministry of Defence.

Two sets of Dry Support Bridges, complete with the transport trucks, handling systems and all other accessories plus the Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) are part of the deal, which is estimated to be worth Php1.25 billion.

The WFEL Dry Support Bridge is an interesting system, which includes a launching system usually using a 10x10 military truck that builds a gantry that would allow the support and slinging of the bridge to the other end of the river or obstacle. It spans at around 49 meters, has a Military Load Classification of MLC 120 (around 120 tons), and can be completely deployed in less than 90 minutes.

The launching vehicle is being prepared to build the gantry, which is being assembled before expanding. Photo taken from Australian Defence Magazine.

The gantry has been assembled and extended over the obstacle. Once the gantry is extended, it would be deployed to support and sling the bridge. Photo taken from Australian Army's Twitter account.

The bridge components are slinged while supported by the extended gantry. Photo credits to original source.


Status of Projects:

The Vehicle Mounted Mine Detector and Dry Support Bridge Acquisition Projects were said to have the Notice of Award (NOA) released only in early January 2021, and it remains to be seen when the contract would be signed and the Notice to Proceed (NTP) released. But it is expected that partial deliveries would be made by 2022, and full delivery can be done by 2023.

As for the Floating Support Bridge Acquisition Project, we are expecting the procurement process to proceed this year, although it remains to be seen if it would be acquired through public bidding or negotiated procurement / Government-to-Government process.

The Mini Mine Detector Acquisition Project is already in procurement stage, and is expected to restart the bidding process in 2021.

So far, the Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge Acquisition Project is the only Combat Engineering Equipment project that has moved beyond NTP release and contract signing, which was made in 2020. 

Nonetheless, all these new acquisitions would provide the Philippine Army with expanded Combat Engineering capabilities, many of which are capabilities and assets they would be having for the first time.

As proven in several cases, these new assets would not just be helpful to support combat operations, but also provide support during emergencies and natural disasters, and in HADR operations during peacetime.

Project Summaries:

Vehicle-Mounted Mine Detector Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 06 February 2021.

* End User: Philippine Army (Combat Engineering units)

Quantity: 4 units


* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP


* Project ABC:
 Php138,000,000.00


Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) deal between Philippine DND and UK Ministry of Defence.

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

* SARO Release/s: 
TBA


* Winning Proponent: Armtrac Ltd.


* Product for Delivery: assumed to be the Armtrac 100-350 Mk.2 VMMD


* Contract Price: TBA


* First post by MaxDefense: 2019


* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PACEEVMMDAcquisition 


* Status: Project was implemented through G2G with UK government. Armtrac Ltd. received NOA on January 2021, contract and NTP release expected by February or March 2021.

X X X X X X X X X X

Dry Support Bridge Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 06 February 2021.

* End User: Philippine Army (Combat Engineering units)

Quantity: 2 units


* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP


* Project ABC:
 Php1,250,000,000.00


Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) deal between Philippine DND and UK Ministry of Defence.

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

* SARO Release/s: 
TBA


* Winning Proponent: WFEL Ltd.


* Product for Delivery: WFEL Dry Support Bridge


* Contract Price: TBA


* First post by MaxDefense: 2019


* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PACEEDSVAcquisition 


* Status: Project was implemented through G2G with UK government. WFEL Ltd. received NOA on January 2021, contract and NTP release expected by February or March 2021.


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First release: 06 February 2021
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

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