Tracking the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization program

1Jan/17Off

2016: What’s happening with the AFP Modernization

The year 2016 delivered the last of the Aquino administration's contributions to the AFP modernization effort. While many had their genesis during the Arroyo administration, credit for continuation and eventual completion of these projects can -- within reason -- be attributed to BSA III. As with 2015, this year continued the trend towards high-value, capability-leap-frogging, acquisitions for all three services.

Among the capabilities that the AFP acquired this year are:

  • Additional supersonic assets
  • Continued increase in cargo transport capability, both by air and sea
  • Armored, night-fighting-capable, mobility for mechanized troops

Among the highlights for the year was the transit of the Philippine Navy's latest frigate past the iconic Golden Gate bridge, as it made its way from Coast Guard Island in Alameda to the Philippines.

BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17) crossing the Golden Gate bridge. A DefensePH.net exclusive photo SND Delfin Lorenzana tweeting about the FF-17 photo

To give a more complete view of the state of the modernization program, this year's article is divided into the following sections, presented here in reverse order:

  • Pending acquisitions - these are acquisitions that have been publicly announced, either in conventional media or on the DND Website, that are still in various stages of completion. Some are still awaiting results of bids or re-bids. Others have had Notices to Proceed (NTP) to issued. Notable examples of projects in this state are the the Philippine Navy Frigate and yet-again-restarted Close Air Support Aircraft projects.
  • Awaiting delivery - these are are projects for which the acquisitions are in the process of being built from scratch, or are currently undergoing mandatory refurbishment, and have yet to be formally turned over to the AFP for operational use. Notable examples of acquisitions in this state would be the Strategic Sealift Vessel, which is currently undergoing trials in Indonesia and the ex-ROKN Mulkae class LCU, which is already in the Philippines, but is still awaiting refurbishment before it can be commissioned into service.
  • Acquisition list - these are items that are officially in the possession of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In addition to the various official acquisitions, South Korea has committed to providing the Philippines with one surplus Pohang Class corvette (see here). To this date, details of this project have not been firmed up. It is unclear if this project will materialize.

Note: This article is also available on the DefensePH.net forum on the long standing What's happening with the AFP Transformation Roadmap / Modernization Program thread that's been documenting the progress of the up-arming effort since 2003.

The acquisition list

The following list focuses on actual deliveries of equipment that were made in 2016.

PAF_mod  Surface Attack Aircraft / Lead-In Fighter Trainer   The second batch of two FA-50PH aircraft, #003 and #004, arrived from South Korea, via Taiwan, at 1130H on December 1, 2016 . FA-50PH #002 suffered Foreign Object Damage (FOD) to its engine grounding the aircraft for most of 2016, but a replacement engine was acquired in time to allow it and FA-50 #001 to escort their newer bretheren upon their arrival. See DefensePH discussion here.
C-130T acquisition   The second C-130T (#5040) Hercules acquired from the United States as EDA arrived at 7:56 p.m on October 10, 2016 at Benito Ebuen AFB in Mactan, Cebu. The photograph on the left shows the aircraft enroute to the Philippines at an air base in Southern California. See DefensePH discussion here.
UH-1 upgrade program  huey Four (4) UH-1 Iroquois helicopters, with upgraded engines, tail boom strake, and fast fin, were commissioned into PAF service on January 20, 2016. Photograph c/o Philippine Air Force
PN_mod BRP Tarlac (LD-601) The first Strategic Support Vessel built in PT PAL (Indonesia) was launched as the BRP Tarlac (LD-601) on January 18, 2016, and arrived in Manila on May 16, 2016. The ships of the Tarlac class are the largest combat vessels in Philippine Navy history. See here for the DefensePH discussion on this ship.

See the construction timeline for this ship here.

BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17)   The US government sold the ex-USCGC Boutwell to the Philippine government on July 21, 2016 as part of the Excess Defense Article (EDA) program. It sailed for the Philippines on November 1, 2016 and arrived at Pier 13 of Manila South Harbor on December the 9th. Incidentally, the first crew of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, previously the USCGC Hamilton, served on board the Boutwell as part of their training for accepting the PN's first Hamilton class WHEC. See here.
BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702)    The research vessel R/V Melville was transferred to the Philippine Navy on April 29, 2016, arrived on ____, and named after Dr. Gregorio Velasquez -- the father of Philippine Phycology, the study of algae. See DefensePH discussion here.
BRP Agta (LC-290)
BRP Iwak (LC-289)
BRP Waray (LC-288)
 The Australian government donated HMAS Brunei and HMAS Tarakan, members of the Balikpapaan class Landing Craft Heavy (LCH), which eventually became BRP Ivatan and BRP Batak respectively. The Philippine Navy then acquired the remainder of the class and commissioned them on May 30 as the BRP Agta, BRP Iwak, and BRP Waray.
71155_327179393712_8339928_n  Elbit UT-25 RCWS    Select M-113s, that the LAD received last year, were up-armed with Elbit systems, thermal imager equipped,  25mm Unmanned Turret (UT-25). See here.
Rubber tracks    LAD started fielding one-piece rubber tracks manufactured by Soucy Defense in their M-113-based vehicles. See here.
Battle Dress Uniform   The Philippine Army issued a new Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) developed by a Canadian manufacturer. See here.
ga Rotary Ammo Loading Machine    The GA commissioned its first rotary loading machines which were acquired from the Vasini Corporation (Italy). These are slated to increase production by 25 million rounds, bringing the Arsenal's total annual production to 75 million rounds. See here.
Laser etching machine The photo on the left shows GA staff inspecting a laser etching machine that was eventually delivered to GA on August 25, 2016. With completion of the P35M acquisition, the GA gained the ability to place serial numbers on EACH individual cartridge it produces and then package them in 30-round cartons which will then be bar coded. This acquisition was designed to facilitate accounting and traceability of ammunition. This was a good governance measure undertaken in light of past controversy over AFP ammunition being found in the hands of enemies of the state. See here.
Philippine Navy SDMR & MSSR On October 27, 2016, the Philippine Navy received 36 refurbished and upgraded rifles. Ten units were in Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDMR) configuration w/ trijicon optical sight. Another 10 units were in Marine Scout Sniper Rifle (MSSR) Gen5 configuration with AAC sound suppressors. The remaining 16 units were in MSSR Gen-4 w/ AAC sound suppressors. See here.

Four sets of MSSR Gen 4 were delivered in May 20, 2016.

AFP JSOG SDMR AFP JSOG submitted 46 unserviceable rifles to the GA on May 27, 2015. These units were refurbished to Squad Designated Marksman Rifle standard, with 5 units being equipped with advanced combat optics and low-profile gas block. They were returned to JSOG on October 19, 2016. See here.
M249 refurbishment program The Government Arsenal undertook refurbishment of 5 M249 Squad Automatic Weapons. These machine guns were part of the first acquisition under the AFP Modernization Program in 2003. See here.

In addition to acquisitions via bidding, South Korea has committed to providing the Philippines with one surplus Pohang Class corvette, a landing craft, and several rubber boats. These and the aforementioned Korean acquisitions have yet to be delivered and have therefore been omitted from the list above.

Awaiting delivery

A significant number of high-profile projects remain pending, and have been omitted from the acquisition list. These are listed immediately below.

Service Ongoing projects
PAF_mod
Light-Lift Aircraft acquisition project - This is an P814M project to acquire two brand-new Light-Lift aircraft to supplement or replace the PAF's existing Nomad aircraft. This project went to PT Digantara of Indonesia which will be supplying two CN212 aircraft. Delivery issues, however, have plagued this project. See here.
PN_mod
BRP Davao del Sur (LD-602) - The second Tarlac class Strategic Support Vessel was launched on September 29, 2016 at the PT PAL shipyard in Indonesia and christened the BRP Davao del Sur. It is slated for delivery in mid-2017. See here.

ex-ROKN Mulkae class (LCU-78) - South Korea promised this EDA item in June 2014 and quietly delivered the boat in July 2015. A refit project costing P27,138,295.51 was approved for the vessel, but remains non-operational. Unverified reports suggest that the vessel might actually be Beyond Economical Repair (BER). See here.

Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) - Samsung Techwin was declared the lowest single calculated bidder for the P2.5B AAV project. Details here.

 

71155_327179393712_8339928_n
155mm Towed Howitzer project - the Philippine Star reported that Elbit Systems, an Israeli defense company, won the bid to supply 12 units of 155mm howitzers. A Notice of Award for this project was issued on June 17, 2015. Delivery of the howitzers was expected in 2016, but has been delayed. See here. 12295515_10154172773179123_8435373251160167289_n

Rocket Launcher Light Acquisition Project - Airtronic USA, Inc. was selected to supply 400 US-made RPG7 rocket launchers, and associated 40mm rockets, as part of a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) deal. While components of this deal have reportedly been delivered, the remainder remain obscure. For that reason, this project remains listed as "awaiting arrival. See  here

ga
Laser etching machine. The Government Arsenal is acquiring three additional laser etching machines in support of the AFP's ammunition accountability efforts. See here.  

Pending acquisitions

A significant number of high-profile projects remain pending, and have been omitted from the acquisition list at the bottom of this article. These are listed immediately below.

Service Pending projects
PAF_mod Long Range Patrol Aircraft acquisition project - the PAF issued an invitation to the 2nd-stage bidding for this project in October, 2016. See here. It is worth noting that the PAF is due to receive 5 leased TC-90 aircraft from Japan for use in maritime patrol. How this lease arrangement affects the long-standing LRPA project is uncertain.

Close Air Support Aircraft acquisition project - the bid for this project failed for the second time in December 2015. However, instead of proceeding with a negotiated procurement as per the IRR of RA9184, a third bid was announced in October 2016. See here.

AN/SPS-77 Sea Giraffe 3D Air Search Radars for the GDP class frigates - on December 14, 2016, the US State department approved the sale of two AN/SPS-77 Sea Giraffe, explicitly, for use on two ex-Hamilton class cutters in PN service. See here.

Air defense radar acquisition project - like the SAA/LIFT project, this P2.68B acquisition is part of the PAF's systems approach to reviving the country's ability to enforce the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone (PADIZ).  A notice of award for the project was issued in January 2016 to the Israeli company Elbit. See details here.

SAA/LIFT munitions - the ordnance that SAA-LIFT aircraft will carry are being acquired via a separate acquisition project. These include Air-to-Air Missiles (312 Pieces), Air-to-Surface Missiles (125 Pieces), 20mm ammo (93,600 Pieces), and Chaffs/IR Flares. Details here.

See also the following thread: Teddy Locsin: Letting the cat out of the bag re the SAA/LIFT Munitions project?

PN_mod Frigate Acquisition Program - this P18B project seeks to acquire two brand new multi-role frigates in a complicated two-stage bidding process. Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd of India was initially declared the Lowest Calculated Bidder. However they were rejected during Post Qualification due to concerns about the bidder's financial capacity and ability to implement the order. The contract was eventually awarded to Hyundai Heavy Industries. Details here.

Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition - Agustawestland was the only company that qualified to take part in the bidding in November 2015. The DND announced in January that post-qualification of the company and its offering: AW-159 Wildcat. See here.

Jacinto Class Patrol Vessel Upgrade Phase 3 - this project sought to upgrade the weapons and electro-optical systems of all three ships of the class. See here.

Jacinto Class Patrol Vessel Upgrade Phase 2 - this is a sought, among other things, to overhaul and improve the main propulsion system, electrical, and various auxiliary systems of BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37). Other members of the class had already been upgraded to this standard. See here.

Marine Forces Imagery and Targeting Support Systems (MITSS) - this P684.32M project sought to acquire 6 sets of Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, 9 sets of Target Acquisition Devices, and 12 kits of Tactical Sensor Integration Subsystems. Details here.

40mm automatic grenade launcher - the DND issued a Notice To Proceed (NTP) in favor of Advanced Material Engineer / ST Kinetics, represented locally be Floro International Corp, to supply and deliver eight (8) units of 40mm automatic grenade launchers for the contract price of P19,750,672.00 on March 4, 2014. Details here.

71155_327179393712_8339928_n Shore-Based Missile System - arguably, the AFP modernization controversy of the year was the deferral of the Philippine Army's Shore-Based Missile System (SBMS) to an as yet undisclosed "horizon" of the AFP Modernization Program. This was discussed on the DefensePH forum on the following thread. Funds for the P6.5B project -- which originally became public in 2011 and  -- were realigned to acquire force-protection equipment instead. It was a stunning reversal of a territorial defense initiative that drew boisterous condemnation on defense social media and earned the Chief of Staff AFP, General Hernando Iriberri, the monicker "General Helmet".

Thermal sights and cameras - on November 23, 2016, the DND issued bid documents for a P240M acquisition of thermal optical sights and thermal camera. See here.

Tactical Engagement Simulation System (TESS) - on December 21, the DND issued bid documents for P80.4M acquisition of tactical simulation equipment. See here.

60mm Mortar Acquisition project - 150 mortars are being acquired. Details here.

KM-450 1/4-ton truck acquisition - on October 19, 2015, the DND issued a Notice to Proceed to Kia motors for the supply of 717 trucks to the Philippine Army. See here.

KM-451 ambulance acquisition - on October 19, 2015, the DND issued a Notice to Proceed to Kia motors for the supply of 60 units of Field Ambulances to the Philippine Army. See here.

 ga  Indigenous assault rifle production -  the Government Arsenal is in advanced negotiations with ST Motive of South Korea to acquire equipment for local manufacture of assault rifles based on the M-16/M-4 design. Similar arrangements with other manufacturers, such as Colt's Manufacturing Company are also being explored, but none are as advanced at ST Motive.

Related articles:

2015: What's happening with the AFP modernization program

2014: What’s happening with the AFP modernization program

2013: What’s happening with the AFP modernization program

2012: What’s happening in the AFP capability upgrade program

Flashback: AFP modernization – 2003 to 2006

Flashback: The AFP’s modernization plans in 1995

19Sep/16Off

AFP was a user of Chinese equipment long before Duterte

The 48th anniversary of the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing, on the 13th of September, 2016, gave President Duterte's critics yet another treasure-trove of "Duterteisms" that have since become fodder for punditry on defense social media and even generated international interest in Philippine foreign policy. In this latest episode, Duterte stated, among other controversial assertions, his openness towards equipment AFP equipment from China and Russia.

While its worth noting that in a separate speech in Cebu, President Duterte also mentioned interest in sourcing equipment from Israel, indicating a policy of broadened equipment sourcing beyond traditional sources, critics -- and numerous media articles -- focused on the "China" aspect of the discussion.

The prospect of Chinese weapons complicating the AFP's logistics picture with equipment that are incompatible with the existing Western-oriented support infrastructure is cause for legitimate concern. Should Sino-PH tension escalate, Chinese equipment could very well be subjected to a spare-parts embargo. Other than being part of an "unconventional warfare" operation, use of a potential opponent's weapons also introduces operational security (OPSEC) risks because the opposing force knows as much about weapon's capabilities as the user -- if not more so.

These risks however, arguably, are not lost upon AFP planners, and the chain of command. Sourcing equipment from China is not, in fact, new and have hitherto been restricted to non-kinetic equipment. It is actually very likely that all we will see will simply be more of the same.

The following Philippine Star article from May 27, 2007 relates one instance where the PRC offered assistance to the AFP:

DND seeks more military aid from China
Updated May 29, 2007 - 12:00am

The Department of National Defense (DND) has called for sustained defense and training exchanges with China, including military aid, following a security cooperation dialogue between the two countries last week.

Defense Undersecretary Antonio Santos relayed this message to Lt. Gen. Zhang Qinsheng, deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army, who led the Chinese delegation to the 3rd Annual RP-China security cooperation conference at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City Friday.
. . .
On top of allowing Filipino troops to undergo military schooling in Beijing, the Chinese government donated heavy military engineering and medical equipment to the Armed Forces of the Philippines last year. – Jaime Laude

An Inquirer.net article on the same story presented the following photograph of the donation of PY165H graders and unidentified bulldozers.

pic-09100206220684

Since then, these Chinese donated engineering equipment have been seen in the colors of all AFP services. Photographs are care of various Timawans.

 8  164018_1758656526807_1250847882_31938028_7774210_n OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Philippine Navy Philippine Air Force Philippine Army

Exactly what Chinese equipment Duterte is prepared to acquire for the AFP is unclear. What is certain, however, is that the potential equipment that can be had from China is as broad as its manufacturing base. Such equipment need not even be military in nature.

 

22Jun/16Off

Could self-reliance save AFP modernization under Duterte?

The Aquino administration's Presidential candidate, Mar Roxas, had campaigned on a promise of continuing with the courses of action of the outgoing administration and represented continuity of an AFP Modernization Program that achieved gains hitherto unseen:

Aquino administration   Arroyo administration    Ramos administration
2015

2014

2013

2012

2007 to 2011

2003 to 2006

 The Plan: 1995

But with the victory of President-elect Rudrigo Duterte, a self-described socialist whose campaign platform centered on an inward-focused good governance campaign, declarations of doom about the AFP Modernization Program swept across the defense-centric social media landscape. The perceived outlook for modernization, particularly for acquisitions that were either still planned or ongoing was bleak.

Further aggravating the concerns of the defense-enthusiast community were his controversial statements with regard to US and Australian relations and his openness to bilateral talks with China regarding the West Philippine Sea and an open aversion to war with the red dragon that had been gobbling up Philippine territory in its western approaches. To many, the nightmare scenario had arrived.

Stigma around implements of war

Given Duterte's preference to avoid conflict, and announced repertoire of populist programs that benefit the poor, defense planners have reason to worry about the still-unallocated billions of pesos required for ongoing and upcoming programs:

  • Ten of the 12 FA-50PH Surface Attack Aircraft / Lead-In Fighter Trainers remain in the queue for delivery
  • The Long-Range Patrol Aircraft has not yet even reached the bid invitation phase
  • The Close-Air Support project remains in bid-supplement limbo
  • The second Tarlac class Strategic Sealift Vessel (SSV) remains under construction
  • Two multi-purpose Frigates are still in the post qualification phase and are ripe for cancellation
  • Three Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC) Mk.3 whose design is still being finalized

While the Philippine Navy has been careful to couch the SSV project as a dual-purpose asset that will prove useful in the event of another Yolanda crisis as well as for evacuating Filipino OFWs in crisis zones like the Middle East -- in addition to its obvious amphibious assault function -- the other projects listed above lack this protection. All are clearly implements of war . . . a war that Duterte appears hell-bent on avoiding.

Highlighting the value of building up a credible defense capability is a given. For a mayor a major city, security as an enabler of progress should be a fairly well understood concept. Especially for one that oversaw a city that had its share of security crisises over the past decades.  Your constituents can't earn a living if they aren't safe.

External defense, however, would arguably be an unfamiliar rendition of an old tune. The enemy in this case is different, and enjoys an overmatch that is simply beyond whatever resources the Philippines could ever hope to muster on its own. Our current, and foreseeable, defense posture only makes sense when done in concert with our allies -- allies with whom Duterte's campaign rhetoric raised concerns. How such relationships play out over the next six years are hard to predict.

Defense planners need a ready answer for the question: "Would spending for external defense just be throwing money away?"

Among the plethora of reasonable answers to the questions above, one tack that the DND-AFP would do well to consider would be to highlight the opportunities these assets represent to the domestic economy. Benefits that would be available for both existing commercial offerings as well as potential future endeavors between the original manufacturer of the equipment and Philippine companies.

If the DND-AFP is able to demonstrate a reasonable, direct, return on investment for the Philippine economy, then the billions spent would be even more of an investment for national growth than the argument that defense is an enabler for economic prosperity. If the defense establishment can emphasize how these acquisitions put food on the table of Filipino workers, then these acquisitions will fit well with the President-elect's campaign focus on business opportunities. The local military industrial complex could very well be what saves the AFP modernization program.

The next two sections of this article will present concrete examples of opportunities that map to the list of projects, presented earlier, that could be at risk in the event of a budget crunch:

  • Economic windfall from aircraft aquisitions
  • Economic windfall from maritime acquisitions

Economic windfall from aircraft acquisitions

As of writing, the Philippines lacks any serious indigenous aeronautical endeavors. The dreams offered by the XL-14 Maya and XL-15 Tagak in the 50s, and even the Cali Pinto of the Marcos years have been relegated to the realm of the "what-if" with no clear-cut path to the here and now.

405305989_wPZhK-XL 425404_4129343752873_131820536_n
 XL-15 Tagak c/o Janes All the Worlds Aircraft 1954  Cali Pinto c/o Francis Neri albums

Near-term economic benefit from additional air assets, therefore, would be found in maintenance contract opportunities. The influx of new aircraft -- from supersonic jets to new transport and patrol aircraft -- create numerous potential service contracts for qualified companies. Keeping what we buy in the air with as much involvement of local companies -- providing licensed or OEM-certified services -- as possible ensures operational readiness of these aircraft as well as providing economic benefit to the local aerospace industry.

The increased capabilities of these new aircraft come at a price. Not only in terms of capital outlay, but upkeep. Modern electronics need levels of attention that older, less-sophisticated and less capable, systems could potentially get by without. This is particularly true of cutting-edge modular avionics systems that can't simply be jury-rigged into operation when they become nonoperational.

Consider the following aeronautical developments and a simplified sampling of their corresponding support burden would be candidates for logistical agreements:

 13087004_10208400522202393_3748465798342051335_o  pnoy1
The Korean Aircraft Industries FA-50 Lead-In Fighter Trainer / Surface Attack Aircraft represents a quantum leap in PAF capabilities. But those capabilities come with a corresponding maintenance overhead for its myriad of systems that the Philippine Air Force is operating for the first time. From its fly-by-wire system to its Mach 1 capable engines. There are currently two of these aircraft in the inventory, and another 10 are due to arrive. Photo c/o Lester Tongco Aircraft such as the FA-50 and S211 Basic Jet Trainer have two ejection seats each. One for each aircrew. These pilot safety systems require their own maintenance regimens that include periodic refurbishment of their components, to include rocket motors.
flir 1487270_131791810324818_1934297406_n
Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) systems allow PAF and PN AW-109 helicopters to find targets, or individuals in need of rescue, in all weathers. But these also require scheduled replacement of critical modules to stay operational. Photo c/o the Francis Neri albums All new acquisitions from the AW-109 helicopters to the CN-295 transports, feature multi-function displays (MFD) -- also called "glass cockpits". These reduce pilot workload by replacing the traditional gauges of Vietnam-era aircraft thus improving flight safety. These modular components introduce new maintenance routines. Photo c/o the Francis Neri albums.

Business-as-usual, part-by-part, piecemeal acquisitions -- that would have the AFP issue bid invitations for each individual component, with all the attendant bureaucratic overhead and potential for delay-causing re-bids -- would hamper operational readiness of these aircraft in ways that wouldn't on older but less-capable, Vietnam War-era aircraft. An FA-50, for example, could be fully operational in all respects. But if its fly-by-wire computers are rendered non-operational by the lack of appropriate spares it will stay on the ground. A non-operational "hangar queen" or non-mission-capable asset is a poor return on investment for the people's money.

While the AFP modernization law requires that each acquisition include provision for an Integrated Logistics Package (ILP) from the manufacturer, such packages are finite. The following excerpt from a Supplemental Bid Bulletin from the PAF's Attack Helicopter project, which eventually acquired the AgustaWestland AW109, presents an example of the extent of spares that are included in acquisitions. This document lays out how much time the AFP typically has to establish a more sustained spares acquisition scheme after a weapon system arrives.

spares_parts_program

For the long-term, in-country capability for supporting these aircraft must be developed. If done with the nation's interests in mind, this need could be filled by Philippine companies -- in partnership with foreign manufacturers of the equipment -- that would provide logistical support arrangements to ensure local availability of manufacture-approved parts as well as in-country maintenance and repair capabilities. Companies offering these services would be contracted to provide ready availability of critical components at pre-negotiated prices based on forecasts of the need for such parts (e.g., based on maintenance schedules, Mean-Time-Between-Failure (MTBF) data, statistical trends, etc.) as well as foreign currency fluctuation tolerances.

This would reduce the delays created by having to source replacement components overseas after having exhausted the AFP's own internal inventory -- assuming budgetary provisions permit the build-up of such an inventory as opposed to a Just-In-Time (JIT) parts requisition scheme. The red-tape generated by government procurement processes currently do not facilitate JIT acquisitions.

Note: The complexities of balancing quantities between in-house AFP component stocks with components sourced through these logistical arrangements are beyond the goals of this article and would require direct access to proprietary maintenance data. Attention must also be given to the tariffs that such companies would face for importing and then storing these components. The potential for leveraging the industrial park status of the Government Arsenal compound in Limay Bataan, to address these tariffs, would need to be investigated. See further below for details.

A foreign example of a commercial entity providing logistical support for a military organization would be Quantas Defense Services -- previously a wholly owned subsidiary of Quantas Airlines but was sold to Northrop Grumman in 2013. This company provided support for the Royal Australian Air Fore's A330 multi-role tanker transport fleet, operational logistics services for the Australian government's VIP aircraft, and engine overhaul services for the Lockheed Martin Orion P-3 and BAE Systems Hawk lead-in fighter trainer. It was recently given a contract to refurbish C-130s of the Indonesian Air Force.

Broadly speaking, this equipment-support capability is referred to as: Maintain, Repair, & Overhaul (MRO). The Philippines is no stranger to aeronautical MRO -- particularly the commercial MRO that is at the heart of this article. The Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation, a Government Owned & Controlled Corporation (GOCC), was established in 1973 with the following charter:

. . . the government’s arm for the development of the Philippine Aviation Industry. The driving motives for its establishment are self-reliance, national security and technology transfer.

padc

PADC currently provides MRO services for the following:

Services Description
Airframe  Inspection, repair and alteration of:

  • Britten Norman ISLANDER Model 2A and 2B Aircrafts
  • CESSNA Model 150, 172, 206, T206 Series 421, 421A and 421B Series
  • Piper Seneca Aircraft
Engines Lycoming and Continental piston engines up to four hundred (400) HP rating

As the Allison Authorized Maintenance and Overhaul Center (AMOC)in the Philippines, PADC undertook theForeign Military Sales (FMS) program on the overhaul of the Allison 250-C30 engines of the Sikorsky helicopters and the Allison 250-B17 engines of the Nomads

Propellers  Repair and overhaul facilities for:

  • Hartzell
  • MC Cauley
  • Sensenich
  • Hamilton Standard
Landing gear  Functional Test, Repair and Overhaul of landings gears for:

  • Britten-Norman Islander
  • Cessna

As shown by the list above -- which was taken from the PADC Website -- these capabilities remain limited to the types of aircraft that were in service at the time of this GOCC's inception. Whereas private MRO companies, such as Lufthansa Technik Philippines -- a joint venture between MacroAsia Corporation and Lufthansa Technik AG -- benefit from foreign capital and know-how and cater to larger and more sophisticated aircraft, the PADC's service offerings are comparatively stunted.

In its current form, the PADC is ill-suited to provide MRO services for the dozens of aircraft that are coming for the AFP. Closing the gap between current capabilities with what our new warplanes require will require a systemic evaluation of why the PADC atrophied in the first place. Assuming the PADC can be recapitalized and modernized, if not replaced with an equivalent but optimized organization, such an entity would be the perfect platform for Public-Private Partnership ventures that would not only satisfy the needs of the AFP, but also compete in the global MRO market.

For this to work, however, critical mass involving the following considerations must be reached:

  • Funding
  • Opportunity
  • Know-how

The funding is there, care of the various funding instruments that have been developed over the years to justify and enable defense spending. These include procedures for proper access of the AFP Modernization Trust Fund, legal basis for private contributions to that fund (c/o Section 6, sub-paragraph "i" of Republic Act 10349), to the implementing guidelines for Multi-Year Obligating Authority (MYOA) for DND acquisitions that exceed the annual budgetary allocation of the national budget.

"Opportunity" is a function of a multitude of factors but recapitalization of the air arms of the various services already create a baseline upon which to build. The new aircraft being acquired create this opportunity.

On the matter of "Know-How", a shining example of advancements in locally available skills came to the fore in 2013, when the Philippine Air Force reached a major capability milestone careof the 410th Maintenance Wing when it completed Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) for C-130 #3633. A PDM is the aircraft equivalent to a major overhaul for a car, and in the US Air Force is done every 48 to 64 months. The 410th MW not only identified sources for the necessary parts -- albeit piecemeal because of the lack of logistics arrangements -- it also mustered the necessary technical expertise to complete the PDM in-house.

309447_462461293810892_2075470411_n

Previously, the PAF had never undertaken its own PDM of its complicated Hercules transports. The event was a testament to the PAF's efforts to improve the technical proficiency of its personnel. While the need to retain these capabilities within the Philippine Air Force is important, the potential for leveraging these skills and lessons-learned in this effort to compete in the global Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul (MRO) market for military aircraft -- as a properly OEM-certified maintenance facility -- should not be ignored.

It is worth noting that the Malaysian Air Force unit responsible for similar functions was eventually privatized as a joint-venture with Lockheed Martin and became Airod Malaysia, which continues to provide support for the Malaysian Air Force. In 1997, Airod provided PDM services fo PAF C-130 #4593.

A conscious effort to maintain PAF equipment using a combination of in-house capabilities and domestic MRO companies as part of a self-reliance program would boost the MRO industry to the benefit of the Philippine labor force. Not only would this strengthen the local aerospace industry, it would also reduce the outflow of foreign currency. The experience, and resulting capital build up generated by a maintain-locally policy could very well give impetus to more ambitious aerospace manufacturing ventures. Provided, of course, that the Philippines were properly organized for such a transition. (See further down for how to organize for this shift).

Keeping aircraft in the air will mean profit for someone. Why not make sure that that "someone" is the Filipino people?

Economic windfall from maritime acquisitions

The Philippine Navy is in the midst of the largest post-Martial Law build up in its history. Plans to recapitalize the service have been in existence since the 1995 modernization program. The Navy reminded the public of this effort when it published it's "desired force mix" in 2012 providing specific force-strength requirements for various types of vessels. The service refreshed this notice again three years later when it published he following infographic on the Philippine Navy website.

pn_horizons

The individual components of the PN's modernization plan are the most expensive members of the AFP modernization effort. Consider the following projects on the list at the start of this article:

Project Authorized Budget for Contract Quantity
 Strategic Sealift Vessel Acquisition Project  P4,000,000,000.00  2
 Frigate Acquisition Project  P18,000,000,000.00  2

With an annual modernization budget of only P5B per year, many of the navy's projects would not even be possible without the Multi-Year Obligating Authority drafted in 2010. The SSV project budget alone is larger than the appropriations for either the Department of Science and Technology or Department of Trade and Industry. The sheer amount of monetary resources that these projects require make them prime candidates for the budget slasher's axe.

From a purely defense-centric perspective, the need for these acquisitions is undeniable. These vessels resolve long-standing capability gaps that prevent the Philippine Navy from operating in a modern maritime threat environment. It is the only navy in Southeast Asia without missile capable boats, and until its frigates arrive is the only maritime force with no response to a submarine threat.

But aside from emphasizing that these assets are par-for-the-course for 21st century maritime security, defense planners could also emphasize the economic benefits of continuing the maritime build-up -- regardless if the vessels are actually built locally or imported.

The obvious direct benefit to the economy would be to build ships on the modernization list locally. With the navy fresh on the heels of two relatively recent self-reliant shipbuilding programs, there is ample evidence to prove that Philippine shipyards are ready to answer the call to build military vessels. These two projects are the Multi-Purpose Assault Craft (MPAC) manufactured by Propmech in Subic Bay, and the largest domestically built military vessel in AFP history: the BRP Tagbanua Landing Craft Utility (LCU) which was manufactured in Philippine Iron Construction & Marine Works (PICMW) in Jasaan, Misamis Oriental. Both appear below.

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 BRP Tagbanua (PN photo)  Multi-Purpose Assault Craft (DND photo)

It's worth noting that the following components of the Sail Plan are comparable to the MPAC and LCU projects, in terms of vessel size, as well as technical and construction complexity, and would therefore be low-hanging-fruit for an indigenous shipbuilding program:

  • Fast Attack Craft (42 units)
  • Landing Craft Utility

Beyond these types of vessels, however, the Philippine Navy has thus far sought foreign assistance. The first SSV, the BRP Tarlac (LD-601) was built in PT PAL in Indonesia and the second SSV is being constructed at the same yard. For the Frigate project, a South Korean shipyard is currently undergoing Post Qualification evaluation for this two-ship acquisition.

There is good reason for this. While there are indeed shipyards in the Philippines with significant slipways and are capable of constructing as many as five massive container ships simultaneously, these large yards are actually foreign-owned and are focused primarily on building ships for their foreign owner's order books. The lack of participation of local shipyards in the bid invitations for the SSV and Frigate projects strongly implies that the local industry acknowledges this limitation.

Filipino controlled local shipyards face a number of challenges that need resolution. These range from the cost of electricity, supply chain issues (e.g., lack of domestic steel sources, etc.), to skills-deficits. On top of these industry challenges, there is also the matter of restricted access to key sub-systems that make up a modern warship. Foreign-manufactured sensors, advanced weapon systems, and similarly sensitive equipment are not available for export (e.g., ITAR) to non-state buyers. So local shipbuilders would not be able acquire these sub-systems themselves.

Therefore, for the near-term, we will need to resort to foreign sourcing for vessels that exceed our manufacturing capability or access to technology. This gives the AFP the best opportunity to achieve its modernization goals within a reasonable timeframe. The operative word being "near-term".

Philippine Navy Sail Plan 2020 requires multiple instances of each ship. Therefore even if the initial orders for ships go to foreign shipyards, subsequent order need not be. A prime example of this mode of acquisition is Indonesia, and actually involves the Strategic Support Vessel (SSV).

The recently delivered Tarlac class SSV is based on the based on the Indonesian Navy’s "improved Makassar" class Landing Ship Dock (LPD). This ship, in turn, was derived from a design by Daesun Shipbuilding & Engineering of South Korea which built the first two ships of the class for Indonesia in South Korean shipyards. PT PAL, the Indonesian shipyard which built the BRP Tarlac and is currently building its sister ship, acquired design rights to the Makassar class LPD from South Korea, and is now offering the vessels for export. Whether or not South Korea continues to receive compensation for future sales of their design is unclear.

The potential benefits for the Philippine economy are too great to ignore. With careful planning, industrial incentives, licensing agreements with foreign partners -- comparable to what Indonesia negotiated with South Korea -- and synergy with the local shipbuilding industry, the remaining items in the Sail Plan could function as a catalyst for the shipbuilding industry.

Basis in law

Incremental efforts, from the Ramos to the Arroyo administration have created a legal framework that actually reduces the legislative ground work that the Duterte administration needs to perform to implement the proposals listed above. The unprecedented volume of purchases completed or initiated during the Aquino administration is -- in truth -- a net effect of the efforts that have come before. There is, therefore, no legal or procedural impediment to continuation of the current trend.

The AFP modernization law explicitly favors locally-manufactured defense articles:

Sec. 10. Self-Reliant Defense Posture Program. — (a) In implementing the modernization program, the AFP shall, as far as practicable, give preference to Filipino contractors and suppliers or to foreign contractors or suppliers willing and able to locate a substantial portion of, if not the entire, production process of the term(s) involved, within the Philippines.

(b) In order to reduce foreign exchange outflow, generate local employment opportunities and enhance technology transfer to the Philippines, the Secretary of National Defense shall, as far as feasible, incorporate in each contract/agreement special foreign exchange reduction schemes such as countertrade, in country manufacture, co-production , or other innovative arrangements or combinations thereof.

(c) The AFP likewise ensure that in negotiating all applicable contracts or agreements, provisions are incorporated respecting the transfer to the AFP of the principal technology involved as well as the training of AFP personnel to operate and maintain such equipment or technology.

The "spirit of the law" favors a Filipino-First procurement scheme.

As things currently stand, all pending acquisitions are required to have a local Philippine partner. A requirement enshrined in the Carlos Garcia-era Republic Act 5183 prohibits the Philippine government from sourcing items from companies that aren’t majority Filipino owned. This means that any foreign vendor seeking to sell its wares to the AFP needs to establish arrangements with Philippine business entities, which will then be responsible for representing the vendor in public biddings and similar engagements.

The legal framework for domestic windfall from the billions of pesos slated for defense expenditure for already-ongoing projects is already in-place. All that a prospective Secretary of National Defense, Chief of Staff AFP, or defense adviser would need do is to highlight this prospectively unaware policy makers within a Duterte cabinet.

Putting the plan in action

The law calls for technology transfers as part of as many acquisitions as possible. But creating the entities that would actually absorb that technology are simply non-existent. The Philippines' failure to implement a far-reaching industrialization program has been a persistent stumbling block to the local defense industry. There are few, if any, companies that could oversee a turn-key transfer of defense technology.

While RA 5183 has been in existence for over half a decade, thus far it's principal achievement as been the institutionalization of the "middle-man" industry: companies that simply peddle access to the corridors of power rather than actually promote the local defense industry.

Three key enablers must exist for this self-reliance based modernization program to take root:

  • coordinating body that can marshall government and industry resources for the identification and evaluation of technologies that would be candidates for technology transfer
  • A manufacturing entity that would either serve as a catalyst for its sector or as proof of concept for local manufacture of defense articles
  • A skills development agency that would ensure that existing, and prospective defense companies would have a pool of properly trained and educated workers from which it can draw its manpower requirements

Without these three pillars of self-reliance, any indigenous development program would be doomed to failure. From the 1950s to the today, the history of the indigenous defense industry is littered with failed ventures and prototypes that went nowhere mainly because of the lack of this three-legged framework.

All three enablers can, theoretically, be either based on existing agencies or be entities that would have to be created.  The following sections presents one way such enablers could be setup.

Coordinating body: A PH DARPA

The Philippines needs an equivalent to South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), Singapore's Defense Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), and the US' Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). These organizations are drivers for defense technology innovation in their respective countries. For additional details about how a prospective Philippine DARPA would emulate the roles of these agencies in the Philippine setting, see the following article, which was endorsed for consideration within the DND-AFP decision structure in 2014: A Self-Reliant Posture (SRDP) Roadmap and a DARPA equivalent.

DARPA Vector Logo.eps dapa150 download

This coordinating body's principal function would be to ensure that the DND-AFP is a "wise buyer". One that knows what it needs to buy, clearly articulate its needs to prospective bidders, and is able to distinguish between a lemon and a diamond-in-the-rough, when selecting items to be acquired. It would also determine whether or not the country's needs are best served by acquisition of specific technologies and licenses for local manufacture, or if an outright purchase of equipment from foreign vendors is more appropriate. For an older discussion about considerations for local manufacture, see here.

Once the prospective PH DARPA determines that technology or license acquisition is a practical option, selection of a method for ingesting that technology or license becomes the next SRDP imperative.

When the items to be acquired are either technology, or licenses to produce equipment locally, then it would be the prospective PH DARPA's role to facilitate absorption of that acquisition either by:

  • Using a government manufacturing entity such as the Government Arsenal
  • An existing commercial enterprise that would have to be selected through a competitive evaluation process to ensure the best qualified recipient, and to avoid allegations of impropriety
  • A completely new entity, either in the form of a Government Owned and Controlled Corporation, or a Public-Private Partnership

Integral to that function would be evaluation of existing manufacturing relationships, assessing their benefits to the government -- both for economics and security of access to materiel -- and implementing a plan to move forward.

Manufacturing entity: Government Arsenal

Earlier in this article, the Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation was presented as an imperfect potential government interface to Public-Private Partnerships that would satisfy the needs identified in this article. There is, however, another government entity -- under the Department of National Defense -- that is currently operational and setting production records for items under its charter -- a testament to the quality of its management, as well as the maturity of the organization: The Government Arsenal.

Although currently focused on munitions and small arms production, the Government Arsenal remains a logical starting point for any search for a model for domestic defense manufacture. It is a manufacturing entity that the government itself owns, and has a proven track record for marshaling engineering and manufacturing prowess in support of national defense. It has reached out to civilian agencies such as the Metals Industry Research and Development Center of the Department of Science & Technology, as well as private manufacturing concerns as part of its Research & Development efforts, making it a hub for defense technology knowledge.

By regulation, it is the primary source of war materiel for the AFP, PNP, and other uniformed services which can't source ammunition externally unless the arsenal is not able to satisfy the need. As per Executive Order 303, Series of 2004:

SECTION 1. Sourcing the Government Munitions Requirements. The AFP, PNP, and other government agencies are hereby directed to source their small arms ammunition and such other munitions requirements as may be available from the Government Arsenal;

This is a significant, albeit controversial, advantage that ensures any government investment in the institution will be put to use for its benefit.

In addition breaking ammunition production records that were set in the 70s, the revitalized Government Arsenal has also embarked on a modernization program designed to assure the quality of its products, enhance accountability, and improve production efficiency. The following photos summarizing recent modernization gains were obtained from the Arsenal's FB page.

13151480_10209855384129581_3461130087585725611_n 13178951_872627122848539_1174520011803985112_n 13226988_870420673069184_3548245051337675453_n
Government Arsenal new Laser Marking and packaging machine from WaterBury Farrel of Canada now undergoing commisioning in Bataan. A capacity of serializing cartridges at 200 pieces per minute and automatically packaging 5.56 ammo in 30 round carton boxes. Intended to enhance the traceability of ammunition issued to the AFP & PNP. The creation and establishment of the Small Arms Repair and Upgrade Unit (SARUU) on January 24, 2012 paved the way for the realization of another mandated function, wherein the GA had developed its home-grown capability for the repair, refurbishment, upgrade and enhancement of unserviceable small arms firearms being turned-over to its facility from various AFP units. Starting in CY 2012 up to 2015, some 2,813 units were already repaired and / or upgraded, providing our soldiers with lesser cost but reliable weapons in the field. The Electronic Pressure Velocity Action Time firing range is equipped with complete line of accessories to include Transducer Calibration and Automated Testing of ammunition. This is the most modern ammo testing facility in the Philippines. The EPVAT Firing Range was rehabilitated in the last quarter of 2014.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority recently approved its application to designate its sprawling complex in Lamao, Limay, Bataan as an industrial park. Once formally approved by the Office of the President, this status would put the arsenal in an interesting position to function as an "incubator" for defense-related enterprises.

2

Working under the oversight of the prospective PH DARPA, and in cooperation with business development agencies such

  • National Development Corporation
  • Philippine Investment & Trade Corporation
  • Public-Private Partnership Center of the Philippines
  • Board of Investments

Government Arsenal facilities and management expertise could be brought to bear to either establish new ventures, or form partnerships with existing enterprises, to fulfill the logistical and/or manufacturing needs created by the influx of new equipment or the new equipment requirements laid out by the AFP modernization program.

Circling back to the proposals put forth earlier in the article, one candidate use for the GA's industrial estate would be as host for affordable (if not outright free) manufacturing and office spaces embryonic defense companies, as well as secure storage facilities for goods that will eventually be sold to the AFP as part of logistical agreements. With the GA facility being a military base in its own right -- know officially as Camp Heneral Antonio Luna -- it provides unparalleled security for defense-industry investment.

Exploration of the potential tariff and immigration status incentives that could be offered for operating within the Industrial Estate must also be explored, but are currently beyond the scope of this article.

Whether these new ventures will eventually partner with the GA or a re-capitalized PADC, or if they will be entirely new separate ventures that could simply benefit from the GA's infrastructure, will ultimately depend upon the judgement of the prospective PH DARPA and its partner agencies.

Skills development agency: TESDA and the National Defense College of the Philippines

Defense industries require specific skills not normally found in the private sector. A chemist knowledgeable in the explosive yield of specific proportions of highly combustible chemical compounds, for example, won't be readily found among the roster of graduates of conventional schools. Neither will skilled rifled gun barrel makers.

Integral to the Government Arsenal's modernization efforts is skills development of its staff. For this reason, the Arsenal has established education linkages with various foreign governments and institutions to establish education linkages with with their centers for defense education. Arsenal personnel have been sent for advanced Turkey for ammunition quality control courses, to Czechoslovakia for barrel manufacturing training, and to Nevada in the United States for various armorer's courses.

A revitalized Philippine defense industry will need similar access to skills development opportunities as its range of services improve. A defense industrial complex will need its own schools to produce manpower with the right know-how.

tesda  200px-Ndcplogo

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), would be a logical starting point for the creation of the manufacturing base for defense companies. Apprenticeship programs could, theoretically, be arranged with the various manufacturing offices of the Government Arsenal, Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation (PADC) and similar institutions.

For more sophisticated projects (e.g., avionics design and maintenance, guidance software design), the Philippines could presumably follow the lead of Singapore's Temasek Defense Systems Institute, which offers post graduate degrees for a variety of fields (e.g., Master of Science (Defence Technology and Systems) and maintains linkages with similar institutions such as the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey CA.

The AFP's own institutions of learning would be obvious foundations upon which such a post graduate program could be built. Particularly the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) which is already recognized as an institution of higher learning, and is adept at maintaining linkages with the civilian academia.

Summary

To fulfill its constitutional mandate to protect the integrity of Philippine territory, the Armed Forces of the Philippines must be equipped to fight 21st century conflicts. From 1995 -- when the first modernization law was enacted -- to the present day, progress of this modernization effort has been snail-paced. Only in the past six years have significant strides been made, in no small part due to the existential threat posed by the People's Republic of China.

To sustain the gains of the defense buildup, particularly in a fiscal environment that favors domestic concerns and populist programs, the Department of National Defense must demonstrate that the billions of pesos spent on its acquisitions have a direct benefit to the Philippine economy. By implementing the provisions of the AFP Modernization Law that require technology transfers and domestic production, the AFP modernization program could be packaged as a investment in new income-generating industries rather than superfluous expenditure.

Support for the domestic arms industry, and the employment they generate, could very well be what ensures continuity of the modernization program in the Duterte administration.

24Dec/15Off

2015: What’s happening with the AFP modernization program

Whereas 2014 was the year of the "Notice of Award", 2015 was the year of deliveries. No less than 18 projects -- for all three services -- saw their first or full deliveries this year, making it the most active project-conclusion period since the first acquisitions of the AFP Modernization Program in 2003.

Among the capabilities that the AFP acquired this year are:

  • Supersonic flight with a limited capability for conducting air interception missions
  • Close air support platforms that can engage ground targets at night
  • Significant increase in cargo transport capability, both by air and sea
  • Armored, night-fighting-capable, mobility for mechanized troops
12342662_789719857823897_8823577461804422775_n 921233_1255251084501797_5414908113821209557_o
Commissioning ceremony for various PAF assets. Photo c/o DND Armored recovery vehicles during the 80th anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Photo c/o DND

To give a more complete view of the state of the modernization program, this year's article is divided into the following sections, presented here in reverse order:

  • Pending acquisitions - these are acquisitions that have been publicly announced, either in conventional media or on the DND Website, that are still in various stages of completion. Some are still awaiting results of bids or re-bids. Others have had Notices to Proceed (NTP) to issued. Notable examples of projects in this state are the Philippine Army Shore-based Missile System and the Philippine Navy Frigate projects. Both of which have experienced very public reversals over the past year.
  • Awaiting delivery - these are are projects for which the acquisitions are in the process of being built from scratch, or are currently undergoing mandatory refurbishment, and have yet to be formally turned over to the AFP for operational use. A notable examples of acquisitions in this state would be the Strategic Sealift Vessel which is currently underconstruction in Indonesia and the ex-ROKN Mulkae class LCU, which is already in the Philippines, but is still awaiting refurbishment before it can be commissioned into service.
  • Acquisition list - these are items that are officially in the possession of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In addition to the various official acquisitions, South Korea has committed to providing the Philippines with one surplus Pohang Class corvette (see here). To this date, details of this project have not been firmed up. It is unclear if this project will materialize.

Note: This article is also available on the Timawa.net forum on the long standing What's happening with the AFP modernization thread that's been documenting the progress of the up-arming effort since 2003.

The acquisition list

The following list focuses on actual deliveries of equipment that were made in 2015.

PAF_mod Surface Attack Aircraft / Lead-In Fighter Trainer touchdown After an arduous 5-year process -- from concept to signing -- the Philippine Air Force is finally slated to return to supersonic flight operations after almost a decade with the acquisition of twelve (12) Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50PH Fighting Eagle aircraft worth P18.9B. These will also be the first brand new supersonic aircraft that the PAF will acquire since the factory-fresh F-5A Freedom Fighters that were delivered in the 60s. Subsequent fighter acquisitions had focused on excess defense articles such as the F-8 Crusaders which were recovered from AMARC and 2nd-hand F-5As from South Korea. The first two aircraft were delivered to Clark Air Base on November 28, 2015 with the first aircraft touching down at 10:23AM GMT+8. Details here.

The screen capture on the right was taken from the official PAF video timeline of the event.

Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project ah3 The DND awarded the contract to supply eight Agustawestland AW109E helicopters in late 2013. Training of flight and maintenance crews commenced in Italy in 2014. The first two units were delivered in late December 2014 along with two Philippine Navy Multi-purpose AW109s. The remaining six were delivered this year and commissioned on the 5th of December.  Details here.
Combat Utility Helicopter (CUH)
bell-helicopter Not to be confused with the Arroyo-era CUH project that acquired the W-3 Sokol in 2009, this P4.8B project sought to acquire eight additional helicopters for combat and VIP duties. This project went to Bell Helicopter which will delivered Bell 412EP aircraft by 2015. Three of these helicopters will be delivered in VIP transport configuration. See here.
Refurbished UH-1 acquisition project
11700717_290856624418335_7202593519125218769_o  This P1.26B project sought to acquire 21 refurbished UH-1 Iroqouis helicopters. The helicopters eventually bought were ex-German "D" versions, built under license in Germany aircraft that were equivalent to the "H" versions that were already in service with the PAF. This effort was marred by scandal with allegations of extortion, resulting -- intially -- in the cancellation of the deal while deliveries were being made, and then made even more controversial by the DND's self-exoneration of all charges without the benefit of a third-party investigation. Details of this convoluted affair are available here.
Medium-Lift Aircraft acquisition project 11054305_10206004349448771_7413833246222450866_n Notice of award for this P5.3B acquisition was issued to Airbus for the delivery of three C-295 aircraft on February 2014. The first aircraft was delivered on March 30, 2015, while the second aircraft arrived on September 15, 2015, and the third arrived on December 11, 2015. Details here.
Rockwell OV-10 Bronco refurbishment 12308321_785915654870984_333680633146237671_n  OV-10 #636 returned to service in November 2015. This was part of a PhP16,490,363.56 effort to return two OV-10s to active duty. #402 is also slated for refurbishment See here.

PN_mod  BRP Ivatan (AT-298)
 11807421_10153158676842956_1690246829469356166_o On the 2nd of July 2015, Philippine Navy personnel arrived in Australia to take possession of two Balikpapan Class Landing Craft Heavy (LCH): HMAS Brunei and HMAS Tarakan. They were donated by the Australian government as part of an aid package promised in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. Both ships were commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy in 1973 and were subject to navigational upgrades before being turned over to the Philippines.

The former HMAS Brunei entered service with the Philippine Navy as the BRP Ivatan on July the 23rd, 2015.  See Timawa discussion here.

BRP Batak (AT-299)
11794552_10153158676787956_6652083775256194849_o The former HMAS Tarakan entered service with the Philippine Navy as the BRP Ivatan on July the 23rd, 2015 and was donated by the Australian government along with the HMAS Brunei as described above. See Timawa discussion here.
BRP Lake Caliraya (AF-81) 11261072_974376752614795_17840048_n The first of three tankers that the Philippine Navy received from the Philippine National Oil Corporation (PNOC) was commissioned into service on the 23rd of May 2015 as the BRP Lake Caliraya . Timawa discussion here.
Agustawestland AW-109E gunships
 aw109e  Two armed AW-109E gunships were commissioned into Philippine Navy service on August 10, 2015. These joined the three AW-109s that were delivered in December 2014. These aircraft featured combination 0.50 cal gun and 2.75 inch rocket pods comparable to those carried by PAF AW-109s.

The photo on the left shows one of these gunships on a deck qualification landing on the BRP Gregorio del Pilar. Photo c/o of the Philippine Navy.

Britten Norman Islander refurbishment
 12063733_1030630973637808_5887084342542447356_n  The Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation (PADC) delivered a refurbished Philippine Navy BN Islander (#PN320) on July 21, 2015 sporting a new grey color scheme. See Timawa discussion here.
PF-16 weapons upgrade f19fa51e220de68bc2d1b9159ef748fb_zps3ece26f4 The two Mk.38 25mm RCWS were initially slated for installation prior to the ship's departure from South Carolina but had been delayed. Timawa discussion here.
General Purpose Machine gun 7.62mm  Capture On January 4, 2015, the Philippine Marines received 220 units of US Ordnance M-60E6 General Purpose Machine Guns via FMS. See Timawa discussion here. Photo c/o Philippine Star.
71155_327179393712_8339928_n ex-Belgian Army M113 Armored Personnel Carriers with RCWS
 elbit2 The first six of 28 ex-Belgian Army M113s from Israel were delivered on July the 28th. These units were armed with Elbit Remote Control Weapon Systems (RCWS) which featured .50 cal machine guns in a gyro-stablized mounts. In an interview with the PNA, Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato reported that fourteen of the remaining M-113s were configured as fire support vehicles, four as infantry fighting vehicles, and another four as armored recovery units. See Timawa discussion here.
ex-US Army M113A2 Armored Personnel Carriers
acdo3_zps8f095354 The Philippine Army acquired 114 M113A2 armored vehicles, in various configurations, from the US as Excess Defense Articles (EDA) (Timawa discussion here). While the transfer of the vehicles were completed as early as January 2014, difficulties in arranging for transport delayed actual delivery, which eventually cost the GRP P67.5M. The first 77 units were delivered to Subic on December 9, 2015
High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle - Ambulance variant 901a0724  Thirty units of HMMWV ambulances with associated shelter and medical equipment acquired. Twenty-three were delivered on January 26, while the remainder arrived the following month. Total value for this acquisition was 229,944,149.10. Details here.
AFP_philippines_seal Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear protective and detection gear
 2 The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)  received $1 million worth of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) protective gear and detection equipment from the United States intended for the Army Support Command on Thursday at Camp Aguinaldo. According to the US Embassy press release about the donation:

The Dismounted Reconnaissance Sets Kits and Outfits (DRSKO) is a portable collection of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) protective gear and detection equipment used to support dismounted Reconnaissance, Surveillance and CBRN site assessment missions. This increases the AFP’s capabilities to conduct CBRN site assessments to mitigate risks and gather intelligence on Chemical Agents, Biological Agents or other potential chemical hazards. The DRSKO is designed to equip a team of 27 CBRN personnel.

The photo shown on the right was taken from the above-mentioned embassy press release. See Timawa discussion here.

ga GA Special Purpose Rifle (SPR) / Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) 10872891_714195705362405_2481804744076689959_o Government Arsenal produced 70 units of these SPR/DMR for the Philippine Marine Corps and Philippine Army. For the Marines, this involved upgrading existing Marine Scout Sniper Rifles (MSSR) from their Generation-3 configuration to this, which could be called "Gen 4". For the Philippine Army, particularly the Scout Ranger Regiment, the GA upgraded unused lower-rifle components for M-16A1s that were previously in LOGCOM storage. See Timawa discussion here.
GA 5.56 16 inch mid-length barrel
 12032201_758301020947817_4679245858536353050_n  The Government Arsenal undertook refurbishment of 400 existing M-16A1 rifles to their GA Carbine 16 inch mid-length standard. First units were issued to JSOG and NAVSOG. See Timawa discussion here.

In addition to acquisitions via bidding, South Korea has committed to providing the Philippines with one surplus Pohang Class corvette, a landing craft, and several rubber boats.  These and the aforementioned Korean acquisitions have yet to be delivered and have therefore been omitted from the list above.

Awaiting delivery

A significant number of high-profile projects remain pending, and have been omitted from the acquisition list. These are listed immediately below.

Service  Ongoing projects
 PAF_mod
C-130T acquisition - Two C-130T Hercules are being acquired from the United States as EDA and are due for delivery in 2016. The photograph on the right, c/o of the US embassy in the Philippines, shows PAF personnel inspecting one of the aircraft. See Timawa discussion here. C130a
Light-Lift Aircraft acquisition project - This is an P814M project to acquire two brand-new Light-Lift aircraft to supplement or replace the PAF's existing Nomad aircraft. This project went to PT Digantara of Indonesia which will be supplying two CN212 aircraft. See here. 12247043_215928185405782_8011054129263123361_n
 PN_mod
Strategic Support Vessel (SSV) - Construction for both SSVs are underway. Steel-cutting ceremony for the first SSV took place on January 22, 2015. Delivery of the first vessel is expected in March 2016, with the second vessel to be delivered in 2017. Details here. Photograph of fully assembled SSV-1 below c/o "Mr Kruk" of Kaskus Forum Indonesia. The steel cutting ceremony for the second SSV took place on June 5,2015. 11-27

ex-ROKN Mulkae class (LCU-78) - South Korea promised this EDA item in June 2014 and quietly delivered the boat in July 2015. As of writing the ship remain queued for a refit costing P27,138,295.51, and has not yet been commissioned into PN service. See Timawa discussion here.

LCH 3, 4, and 5 - efforts are underway to acquire three more Balikpapan class Landing Craft Heavies from Australia. Invitiations to bid have even been issued for equipment associated with these vessels. See here.

Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) - Samsung Techwin was declared the lowest single calculated bidder for the P2.5B AAV project. Details here.

 

 71155_327179393712_8339928_n
155mm Towed Howitzer project - the Philippine Star reported that Elbit Systems, an Israeli defense company, won the bid to supply 12 units of 155mm howitzers. A Notice of Award for this project was issued on June 17, 2015. Deliveries are expected in 2016. See here. 12295515_10154172773179123_8435373251160167289_n

5.56mm assault rifle acquisition - this project went to Remington to supply rifles to both the Philippine Army and Philippine Marines in 2013 with deliveries made in 2014. However, issues with rifle quality hounded the acquisition which in faced termination earlier this year. The AFP announced that by August, Remington had replaced all defective rear-sights and that they were satisfied with them. It was unclear whether or not other quality related issues (e.g., quality of hand guards, rumored Front Sight Block alignment issues, etc.) were also resolved. Another batch of rifles is due for delivery.

Rocket Launcher Light Acquisition Project - Airtronic USA, Inc. was selected to supply 400 US-made RPG7 rocket launchers, and associated 40mm rockets, as part of a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) deal. While components of this deal have reportedly been delivered, the remainder remain obscure. For that reason, this project remains listed as "awaiting arrival. See Timawa discussion here.

ga
Laser etching machine. The photo on the right shows GA staff inspecting With completion of a P35M acquisition of laser etching and packaging machines, the GA gained the ability to place serial numbers on EACH individual cartridge it produces and then package them in 30-round cartons which will then be bar coded. This acquisition was designed to facilitate accounting and traceability of ammunition. This was a good governance measure undertaken in light of past controversy over AFP ammunition being found in the hands of enemies of the state. See Timawa discussion on this acquisition here. 1

Pending acquisitions

A significant number of high-profile projects remain pending, and have been omitted from the acquisition list at the bottom of this article. These are listed immediately below.

Service Pending projects
 PAF_mod Long Range Patrol Aircraft acquisition project - the DND declared a bidding failure in August due to documentation deficiencies among bid participants. see here.

Close Air Support Aircraft acquisition project - the bid for this project failed for the second time in December 2015. Based on procurement rules, the DND is now authorized to pursue negotiated procurement. However, an announcement to that effect has yet to be issued. See here.

Air defense radar acquisition project - like the SAA/LIFT project, this P2.68B acquisition is part of the PAF's systems approach to reviving the country's ability to enforce the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone (PADIZ). This project has been the subject of much speculation, with very little official discussion. The TPS-77 and Elta ELM 2288 are touted as contenders for this project, however media reports have touted the Israeli contender as being favored. See details here.

SAA/LIFT munitions - the ordnance that SAA-LIFT aircraft will carry are being acquired via a separate acquisition project. These include Air-to-Air Missiles (312 Pieces), Air-to-Surface Missiles (125 Pieces), 20mm ammo (93,600 Pieces), and Chaffs/IR Flares. Details here. Upon arrival of the first two FA-50s, however, the PAF revealed that this project had fallen behind and would not yield results till three years.

 PN_mod Frigate Acquisition Program - this P18B project seeks to acquire two brand new multi-role frigates in a complicated two-stage bidding process. To date, the following shipbuilders have signified interest in the project: Navantia Sepi (RTR Ventures), STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co Ltd, Hyundai Heavy Industries Inc., Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd of India, STX France SA. Details here.

Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition - as of writing, Agustawestland was the only company that qualified to take part in the bidding in November. Second-stage bidding set for December 22, 2015. See here.

USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719) - On November 17, 2015, the Office of the President of the United States issued a press statement that confirmed a planned transfer of the USCGC Boutwell to the Philippines as an Excess Defense Article item. This confirmed various US news reports circulating the month before of the impending transfer. Incidentally, the first crew of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, previously the USCGC Hamilton, served on board the Boutwell as part of their training for accepting the PN's first Hamilton class WHEC. See Timawa discussion here.

Jacinto Class Patrol Vessel Upgrade Phase 3 - this project sought to upgrade the weapons and electro-optical systems of all three ships of the class. See Timawa discussion here.

Jacinto Class Patrol Vessel Upgrade Phase 2 - this is a sought, among other things, to overhaul and improve the main propulsion system, electrical, and various auxiliary systems of BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37). Other members of the class had already been upgraded to this standard.  See Timawa discussion here.

Marine Forces Imagery and Targeting Support Systems (MITSS) - this P684.32M project sought to acquire 6 sets of Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, 9 sets of Target Acquisition Devices, and 12 kits of Tactical Sensor Integration Subsystems. Details here.

40mm automatic grenade launcher - the DND issued a Notice To Proceed (NTP) in favor of Advanced Material Engineer / ST Kinetics, represented locally be Floro International Corp, to supply and deliver eight (8) units of 40mm automatic grenade launchers for the contract price of P19,750,672.00 on March 4, 2014. Details here.

 71155_327179393712_8339928_n Shore-Based Missile System - arguably, the AFP modernization controversy of the year was the deferral of the Philippine Army's Shore-Based Missile System (SBMS) to an as yet undisclosed "horizon" of the AFP Modernization Program. This was discussed on the Timawa forum on the following thread. Funds for the P6.5B project -- which originally became public in 2011 and discussed on the forum here -- were realigned to acquire force-protection equipment instead. It was a stunning reversal of a territorial defense initiative that drew boisterous condemnation on defense social media and earned the Chief of Staff AFP, General Hernando Iriberri, the monicker "General Helmet".

To date, it is not clear to which horizon the SBMS had been moved. A new FPE project has been initiated to replace an earlier acquisition that also ended in controversy.

60mm Mortar Acquisition project - 150 mortars are being acquired. Details here.

KM-450 1/4-ton truck acquisition - on October 19, 2015, the DND issued a Notice to Proceed to Kia motors for the supply of 717 trucks to the Philippine Army. See here.

KM-451 ambulance acquisition - on October 19, 2015, the DND issued a Notice to Proceed to Kia motors for the supply of 60 units of Field Ambulances to the Philippine Army. See here.

Related articles:

2014: What’s happening with the AFP modernization program

2013: What’s happening with the AFP modernization program

2012: What’s happening in the AFP capability upgrade program

Flashback: AFP modernization – 2003 to 2006

Flashback: The AFP’s modernization plans in 1995

27Nov/15Off

FA-50s on the way from South Korea

The Philippine Air Force posted the following on their FB page

press_release

Korean Aerospace posted pictures of the take off sequence here.

For updates on the progress of the aircraft, see the following thread on Timawa.net. Note that this Timawa thread will eventually be merged with the original SAA/LIFT thread, so the first link will eventually be deactivated.

8Aug/15Off

A role for seaplanes in the Armed Forces of the Philippines

Seaplanes and flying boats are aircraft with the unique ability to travel to any marine destination, at fixed-wing-aircraft speed, and then land and take-off from water. It is a category of aircraft that is -- theoretically -- well suited to an archipelagic country like the Philippines.

The Philippine Navy's 15-year development plan calls for the acquisition of eight (8) Amphibious Maritime Patrol Aircraft. More recently, the Philippine Air Forces issued a P2.6B invitation to bid for three Search and Rescue seaplanes in November 2013. Both acquisitions, however, are currently on-hold. This suggests that while the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recognizes the value of this category of aircraft, they are not particularly high in the priority list. Which is unfortunate given the unique missions that only they can perform.

In this article, let us explore this category of aircraft, the different sub-categories within, their operational challenges, and the roles they play.

Seaplanes, flying boats, atbp.

The term "seaplane" is often used to describe all planes that take off and land on water. But this really only correctly describes one type of machine.

Seaplanes have floats beneath their aircraft upon which they land on water. The floats serve as their landing gear, and are typically permanently suspended beneath the plane. This aerodynamic penalty is the price paid for marine operation.

Flying boats, on the other-hand, have specially designed fuselages designed to operate in water. This makes for an aerodynamically clean fuselage. Some designs have additional floats on the wings to keep the plane upright in the water, while others have specially designed extensions that serve this purpose.

"Amphibians" are a sub-category of flying boat that land on water exclusively, and only use their landing gear to taxi from water on to land. On paper, this is the type of aircraft that the Philippine Navy is eyeing. Lack of clarity about the Authorized Budget for Contract that will be allocated to the project makes it difficult to predict the outcome of the project.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has operated both seaplanes and flying boats over the years, but have since retired them.

airjuan-grand-caravan-seaplane  hu16d_01
Cessna Grand Caravan seaplane.
Photo c/0 Air Juan Website
PAF HU-16 Albatross Flying boat

In the early 20th century, when limitations on aircraft endurance necessitated more refueling stops than there were aerodromes, flying boats like the PanAm Clippers were the only way to fly, for example, from San Francisco to Manila. This could be done by way of water landings at Honolulu, Midway, Wake, and Guam. The path they took appears in the map below, taken from the Website clipperflyingboats.com.

pacific-map-web-500x215
 Photo c/o clipperflyingboats.com

Advances in aviation design have since made it possible to fly previously unimaginable distances without refueling. Today Philippine Airlines regularly flies the San Francisco  to Manila route via direct 13-hour flights.

Since World War II, seaplanes and flying boats have been relegated to specialized roles, and only by a drastically reduced number of countries. Early champions of the aircraft type, the United States and the United Kingdom, have all retired their floatplanes without replacements. Japan, Russia, and Canada are the only remaining players in the military / government flying boat market. Other manufacturers, like Cessna and Dornier, are mainly aimed at the civilian market which focus on light aircraft for niche applications.

The reasons for this decline are multi-faceted and are beyond the scope of this article. But among them are the challenges inherent to this aircraft type.

Operating seaplanes

The book Corsairville: The lost domain of the flying boat by Graham Coster is a travel book that sought the story behind a British flying boat that crashed in the Belgian Congo. As part of that exploration, the author chronicled the changing attitudes towards seaplanes and flying boats. It contained numerous interesting insights into the challenges of operating seaplanes, which could be summarized as follows:

  • Salt vs aluminum
  • Water landings
  • Foreign Object Damage concerns

Salt vs aluminum

Salt water is corrosive. This is obvious to anyone who's been on a ship or frequents the coasts. While marine aluminum is more corrosion resistant than steel (corrosion rate of 1mm/year versus 120mm, see here), corrosion still occurs. This necessitates measures to combat this phenomena.

The following quotes from the book directly reference this issue. Note that "Seaplane" and "Pan-Am Air Bridge" were seaplane operators that the author used for his research into seaplane operations.

A floatplane did little more that dip its toes in on each landing, but at the end of everyday, Seaplane's Cessna had the hose turned on it for an hour and a half.

. . .

Two out of Pan-Am Air Bridge's (aka Chalk's Ocean Airways) 5 Mallards needed work . . . That insinuating, continuously destructive, salt again: everyday they had to run fresh water through the airframes, wash down the hull, apply all kinds of preservatives, coat rivet lines and joins with grease. 'For every hour we fly' . . . your going to take 3 to 4 hours of maintenance.

Philippine aircraft operators are no strangers to salt. With a significant portion or all airports and airfields being close to the sea, and salty sea spray, measures to control the build-up of this corrosive substance, ideally, ought to be common place knowledge. However, an aircraft that deliberately makes contact with salt water will require additional attention to ensure longevity.

Water landings

Whereas salt water's effects on the seaplane's airframe presented what amounts to an inconvenience to its maintainers and the organization that operates them, the floatplane's operating environment presents challenges for its pilot.

The book presented insights from a former Sunderland pilot. The Sunderland is a British flying boat shown blow. This particular photo shows an Australian example of the aircraft.

461_Sqn_Sunderland_AWM_P01520

Here are the pilot's thoughts about the idiosyncracies of floatplane flight:

For a take-off, once you were out on the water, everything was variable. 'It won't just sit on the runway -- it'll roll -- so the wings won't stay level: you have to use the ailerons. Then, because of the torque of the engines, it'll swing: you have to use the rudder to keep it straight'. Because the swing was habitually to port, you opened up the port engines first, and built up speed to 50, 60 knots until the flying boat's 5-foot draught was out of the water and the craft was planing on its step . . .

The variability of the landing surface also requires an additional skill for pilots: "reading the water". The following excerpt from the book illustrates this skill, c/o an interview with an Alaskan seaplane pilot.

See those black spots in the water?' They were like scuffmarks, bruise-shadows in the indigo bay. 'That's where the wind is denting the water -- coming down over this mountain and kind of bouncing off it'. Cat's paws was the aviator's nickname for them, because they also looked like a scatter of prints: the sight of them warned you that as you descended below that mountain the gusts could knock you about. Over east in the next bay . . . the water was fish-scaled silver . . . like silver-thread cloth, but said Fred, that fish-scaling was the wind whipping up the water. Try to land near that and both descent and touchdown would be a lot rougher. 'We learn to read the water.'

The Federal Aviation Authority's seaplane manual highlights the conditions that pilots have to "read":

While a land plane pilot can rely on windsocks and indicators adjacent to the runway, a seaplane pilot needs to be able to read wind direction and speed from the water itself. On the other hand, the landplane pilot may be restricted to operating in a certain direction because of the orientation of the runway, while the seaplane pilot can usually choose a takeoff or landing direction directly into the wind.

Even relatively small waves and swell can complicate seaplane operations. Takeoffs on rough water can subject the floats to hard pounding as they strike consecutive wave crests. Operating on the surface in rough conditions exposes the seaplane to forces that can potentially cause damage or, in some cases, overturn the seaplane. When a swell is not aligned with the wind, the pilot must weigh the dangers posed by the swell against limited crosswind capability, as well as pilot experience.

While landing gears provide some level of forgiveness during hard landings, such landings for a flying boat have serious consequences, as shown in this excerpt from Corsairville:

Ken Emmott had once had to swim for it . .  in Southampton Water when his BOAC captain had landed too fast, bounced their Sunderland off the water and cut away a large section of the nose before they sank to the bottom.

The Federal Aviation Authoriy's seaplane manual affirms the plane's sensitivity to hard landings

Because floats are mounted rigidly to the structure of the fuselage, they provide no shock absorbing function, unlike the landing gear of landplanes. While water may seem soft and yielding, damaging forces and shocks can be transmitted directly through the floats and struts to the basic structure of the airplane.

Foreign Object Damage concerns

The unique handling characteristics of seaplanes and flying boats require specialized training and flight experience. But there is one issue that no amount of flight training can completely address: debris.

The FAA seaplane manual offers the following guideline for seaplane landings:

It is usually a good practice to circle the area of intended landing and examine it thoroughly for obstructions such as pilings or floating debris, and to note the direction of movement of any boats that may be in or moving toward the intended landing site. Even if the boats themselves will remain clear of the landing area, look for wakes that could create hazardous swells if they move into the touchdown zone.

Ocular surveys from the air, however, can only go so far. As Iren Dornier and his crew demonstrated spectacularly at an Austrian airshow in Salzkammergut in July 2015.

Dornier, the pilot, is the grandson of the German Aviation Pioneer Dr. Claude Dornier and has significant investments in the Philippines to include South East Asian Airlines (SEAir) and a flying boat factory at the former Clark AFB in Pampanga, where his company manufactures the S-Ray 007 amphibian. He and his crew had been flying their refurbished World War 2-era DO 24ATT flying boat as part of a round-the-world tour to raise funds for the UNICEF, and were thus experienced flying boat operators. His floatplane credentials and lineage are impressive. That, however, did not make him or his crew them immune to floating debris.

The following photographs show what happens if a flying boat makes contact with unseen floating debris (believed to be a tree trunk) during landing. The object tore a fist-sized hole in the side of the DO 24ATT flying boat, which then took on water. The plane had to be towed to shore. None of the crew were injured.

dornier2 dornier3
dornier4  dornier5
 dornier6  dornier7

Video of the event available below

Given the amount of debris in Philippine water ways, from flood water run-off, garbage thrown off ships, and cast-offs of various marine economic activities, the probability of similar contact is not insignificant

Bodies of water are constantly changing. Even if a seaplane were to take off and land from the same location. The condition of that landing point will never be same as it was when the plane took off from it. What was safe when the pilot left it, might not be so upon return. It is that variability that increases the uncertainty.

Seaplanes alternatives

Arguably, one contributory factor to the decline of the seaplanes and and flying boats was the rise of the helicopter. It replaced the floatplane as the preferred platform for non-aircraft-carrier-based aerial missions. Seaplanes used to perform reconnaissance, liaison, and search and rescue missions from ships large enough to accommodate them.

In World War II, some vessels could launch their planes using catapaults. However to recover them, the ship had to stop to bring the plane back onboard -- a risky and time consuming maneuver. If the sea state around the recovering ship was unfavorable, landing alongside the recovery ship would be impossible.

float-plane-12 floatplane-19
 Catapault launch photo c/o Pacificaviationmuseum.org Seaplane recovery photo c/o Pacificaviationmuseum.org

Helicopters on the other hand could land on ships while underway, and in a broad range of sea states. They could also rescue individuals in the water, without needing to risk the aircraft in a water landing, by hovering above them and lowering a rescue winch.

Long range maritime patrol missions have also been traditional fixtures the flying boat's offerings. The same qualities that made floatplanes the principal means of air travel across the Pacific, also made them the ideal maritime patrol aircraft for their time. Their ability to take off from water meant that they could be based closer to the intended patrol area without needing runways, and could be refueled and re-provisioned by ship.

However advances in aviation technology have given conventional land-based aircraft the range and reliability to perform such missions, all from the safety of a non-variable runway . Furthermore, land-based aircraft do not require the aerodynamic compromises imposed by water landing requirements (e.g., floats and associated struts, etc.) thus improving performance.

Air forces simply no longer needed flying boats for the bulk of their traditional missions. But . . . not all.

Flying boats, and to a large extent seaplanes, retain the advantage of speed over helicopters. Whereas a relatively slow World War II flying boat like a PBY Catalina only flies at 189 mph, the Philippine Navy's newest multipurpose helicopter, the AgustaWestland AW109 only had a maximum cruising speed of 177 mph. That speed advantage is a key differentiator.

11180636_1465213630446253_8275562330979501449_n agusta_zps2f72ac6a
 PAF PBY Catalina photo c/o Francis Neri Albums  AW109 photo c/o Philippine Navy

Justifying the risk

Water take off and landings compound the dangers already inherent in flying. If a helicopter or a conventional plane can do the mission better and safer, then the suitability of a floatplane for that task is debatable. However, there are specific missions that only seaplanes and flying boats are able to perform. These are unique requirements that justify their expense, both in pilot training and additional maintenance for the aircraft, as well as the risk inherent to operating from water.

No place in the Republic of the Philippines better illustrates the potential for floatplane use better than the garrisons in the West Philippine Sea. Among them, the BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as the republic's outpost on Ayungin reef. Because of its proximity to Panganiban Reef, known internationally as Mischief Reef, this ship is on the frontline of the EEZ conflict between the Philippines and the People's Republic of China.

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AFP Western Command resupplies this station by sea and by air. These missions are performed on a regular schedule, and the station itself is stocked with supplies to accommodate unexpected delays that, in the past, have doubled the tours of duty of the Marines guarding the ship.

Troop rotations are performed by boat. For Operational Security (OPSEC) reasons, exactly how resupply boats reach the station despite the Chinese blockade will not be discussed here.

Consumables and care packages, on the other hand, can be air dropped to the ship. Items are placed in sacks which are then enclosed in plastic along with bouyancy aids such as styrofoam. These are then dropped in the water beside the the outpost and the resident Philippine Marines simply bring them onboard. See inset on the photo below on the right.

 999642_610321529003252_1266993513_n 11403109_1464861363814813_6684020412641144776_n
 Logistic air drop. Photo c/o Philippine Navy  Philippine Navy islander dropping cargo. Photo c/o Philippine Air Force

To summarize the state of logistic affairs on Ayungin, existing techniques allow for either slow transport of large quantities of personnel and provisions, or rapid delivery of modest quantities of supplies. Neither method, however, can be used for rapid extraction of men or materiel. Which also means that neither method would be suitable for Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions. If AFP personnel on these outposts ever fall seriously ill or are injured, they will be in for a long wait before they can be given proper medical care.

Heli-deck equipped vessels, such as the Del Pilar class frigates, Frank Besson LSVs, even Philippine Coast Guard Tenix boats, could presumably dispatch helicopters to recover a stricken individual from the outpost. Rotary-wing aircraft could fly over any Chinese blockading ships to reach their destinations. But the ships would still have to travel to within helicopter-flying distance to be effective. Furthermore, the medical facilities on these ships are limited -- none are normally equipped for tertiary care. Once the patient is onboard, they would still have to sail at best possible speed to an alternative medical facility.

Seaplanes and flying boats would be the logical choice for the MEDEVAC role, as they are the only aircraft that can embark passengers from WPS outposts, and travel with sufficient speed back to air bases in Palawan, Metro Manila or at the very least to the medical health center on Pag-asa island.

These aircraft could also be used to satisfy the MEDEVAC needs of Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard ships on patrol or remote island communities in other parts of the Philippines. While acquired primarily for a military purpose, it has windfall benefits for the general population.

This is an operational challenge that needs a solution. The defenders of the West Philippine Sea deserve nothing less than the country's best effort in ensuring access to medical treatment within the all-important Golden Hour, during which medical intervention will yield the most benefit. Philippine Navy or Philippine Air Force floatplanes, whichever service gets them first, offer the best means for satisfying this need.

10891643_10205289800425044_4015153481141187948_n

About this article

The base research for this article was completed in 2006, as part of back-end work for the following thread on the Timawa.net forum: Operating Seaplanes.

Tagged as: Comments Off
21Dec/14Off

2014: What’s happening with the AFP modernization program

Note: This article is also available on the Timawa.net forum on the long standing What's happening with the AFP modernization thread that's been documenting the progress of the up-arming effort since 2003.

-----

The year 2014 continues the dramatic increase in defense acquisition efforts that started in 2010. Many of those efforts, however, remain unrealized as of year-end. While the year was long on award notices, it was noticeably short on deliveries. For this reason, the acquisition list at the end of this article will have many notable omissions since it ONLY shows deliveries that have actually been completed. The following high-profile projects are noticeably absent from the list:

Philippine Air Force

Surface Attack Aircraft / Lead-In Fighter Trainer (SAA/LIFT) - one of the highlights of the year was the signing of the long awaited purchase contract for the South Korean FA-50 Fighting Eagle Surface Attack Aircraft / Lead-In Fighter Trainer. After an arduous 5-year process -- from concept to signing -- the Philippine Air Force is finally slated to return to supersonic flight after almost a decade. These will also be the first brand new high-performance aircraft that the PAF will acquire since the factory-fresh F-5A Freedom Fighters in the 60s. Subsequent fighter acquisitions had focused on excess defense articles such as thethe F-8 Crusaders which were recovered from AMARC and 2nd-hand F-5As from South Korea. Although the project won't actually yield aircraft till 2015 (hence their exclusion from the main table below), training of the initial batch of instructor pilots in South Korea is proceeding. Payment terms for the SAA/LIFT program were finalized on February 21st with first deliveries set to begin in late 2015. Details here.

SSA/LIFT munitions - the ordnance that SAA-LIFT aircraft will carry are being acquired via a separate acquisition project. These include Air-to-Air Missiles (312 Pieces), Air-to-Surface Missiles (125 Pieces), 20mm Ammo (93,600 Pieces), and Chaffs/IR Flares. Details here.

Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project - while the decision to award the contract to supply eight Agustawestland AW109 helicopters had been made in late 2013, the first deliveries aren't scheduled till early 2015. Training of the flight and maintenance crews are underway in Italy.

Combat Utility Helicopter acquisition project - not to be confused with the CUH project that acquired the W-3 Sokol in 2009, this project sought acquire eight additional helicopters for combat and VIP duties. This project went to Bell Helicopter which will deliver Bell 412EP aircraft by 2015. Three of these helicopters will be delivered in VIP transport configuration. See here.

Medium-Lift Aircraft acquisition project - notice of award issued to Airbus for the delivery of three C-295 aircraft on February 2014. One aircraft is scheduled for delivery in 2015, with the remaining two for delivery in 2016. Details here.

Light-Lift Aircraft acquisition project - this project reportedly went to PT Digantara of Indonesia which will be supplying two CN212 aircraft. See here.

Philippine Navy

Strategic Support Vessel (SSV) - notice of award issued to PT Pal of Indonesia for the construction of two brand-new SSVs based on the Makassar class. Details here.

Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) - Samsung Techwin was declared the lowest single calculated bidder for the P2.5B AAV project. Details here.

PF-16 weapons upgrade - the often reported installation of Mk.38 25mm RCWS remains pending. These were initially slated for installation prior to the ship's departure from South Carolina but had been delayed. Timawa discussion here.

Marine Forces Imagery and Targeting Support Systems (MITSS) - this P684.32M project sought to acquire 6 sets of Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, 9 sets of Target Acquisition Devices, and 12 kits of Tactical Sensor Integration Subsystems. Details here.

40mm automatic grenade launcher - the DND issued a Notice To Proceed (NTP) in favor of Advanced Material Engineer / ST Kinetics, represented locally be Floro International Corp, to supply and deliver eight (8) units of 40mm automatic grenade launchers for the contract price of P19,750,672.00 on March 4, 2014. Details here.

Philippine Army

Armored Personnel Carrier acquisitions - the Philippine Army acquired 142 M113A2 armored vehicles, in various configurations, from the US as Excess Defense Articles (EDA) (Timawa discussion here) and 28 ex-Belgian Army M113s with Remote Controlled Weapon Systems (RCWS) from Israel (Timawa discussion here). Neither project has been delivered.

Rocket Launcher Light Acquisition Project - Airtronic USA, Inc. was selected to supply 400 US-made RPG7 rocket launchers, and associated 40mm rockets, as part of a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) deal. Timawa discussion here.

In addition to the projects for which notices of award (NOA) have already been issued, there are a number of other projects that remain in various stages of completion short of a NOA:

Frigate Acquisition Program - this P18B project seeks to acquire two brand new multi-role frigates in a complicated two-stage bidding process. To date, the following shipbuilders have signified interest in the project: Navantia Sepi (RTR Ventures), STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co Ltd, Hyundai Heavy Industries Inc., Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd of India, STX France SA. Details here.

Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition - as of writing, Agustawestland was the only company that qualified to take part in the bidding in November. See here

Long Range Patrol Aircraft acquisition project - the DND declared a bidding failure in August due to documentation deficiencies among bid participants. see here.

Close Air Support Aircraft acquisition project - bid submission for this project was moved to January 7, 2015 by virtue of Supplemental Bid Bulletin PAF-CASA 14-12-001. See here.

Air defense radar acquisition project - like the SAA/LIFT project, this P2.68B acquisition is part of the PAF's systems approach to reviving the country's ability to enforce the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone (PADIZ). This project has been the subject of much speculation, with very little official discussion. The TPS-77 and Elta ELM 2288 are touted as contenders for this project, however media reports have touted the Israeli contender as being favored. See details here.

155mm Towed Howitzer project - the Philippine Star reported that Elbit Systems, an Israeli defense company, won the bid to supply 12 units of 155mm howitzers. To date, however, a notice of award has not been posted on the DND Website. See here.

Land-based Anti-Ship Missile project - this high-priority project was discussed in the press briefly but has since progressed quietly, away from the limelight. See here.

In addition to acquisitions via bidding, South Korea has committed to providing the Philippines with one surplus Pohang Class corvette, a landing craft, and several rubber boats. Two C-130T Hercules are also being acquired from the United States as EDA. These and the aforementioned Korean acquisitions have yet to be delivered and have therefore been omitted from the list below.

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The acquisition list

The following list focuses on actual deliveries of equipment that were made in 2014.

PN_mod Multi-Purpose Helicopter Acquisition Project 1472035_131791830324816_1345652695_n The contract for the delivery of two additional AW109 helicopters was signed in February 2014, and the units were delivered to the PN in late December 2014, thus completing the order. Timawa.net discussion here. Photo c/o the Francis Neri albums shows the original units delivered in 2013.
Underway replenishment ship acquisition 5036473250_98682951e5_z Three retired tankers from the Philippine National Oil Corporation, c/o PNOC Shipping and Transport Corp., were donated to the Philippine Navy, on March 26, 2014, to serve as replenishment ships. Timawa discussion here.

The former MT Lapu-Lapu is now PN Tanker 1, and MT Rizal is PN Tanker 2.

Photo shows one of the tankers, PNOC Lapu-Lapu, while it was still in PNOC service in 2011. Shared on Flickr by fangedboy8 here

Refurbishment: Britten-Normal Islander  bniparked Four BN Islanders were refurbished and returned to service in January 2014. Timawa discussion here. Photo c/o Philippine Navy Website.
PAF_mod Refurbished UH-1H acquisition project uh1 After numerous aborted efforts, the PAF finally awarded a contract to supply 21 UH-1H helicopters to Rice Aircraft Services. Four units arrived in June, in time for the PAF anniversary on July the 1st. Timawa discussion here
71155_327179393712_8339928_n Assault rifle acquisition project rifle Remington Arms won the contract to sell the 50,629 pieces of M-4 assault rifles to the Philippines in 2013. The first deliveries for this contract arrived on July 5, with another delivery on July 31. Timawa discussion here. Incrementally, ground units will have their existing rifles replaced with these new units. The older rifles are slated for refurbishment and will be issued to reserve units, as per CSAFP Catapang. See here. Photo c/o Manila Bulletin
Boots, combat, lightweight  1017131_10152284970213330_1245848254_n The Philippine Army sought to replace its traditional leather boots with lightweight combat boots. Called the Hukbong Katihan Boots, or "Kubar" for short, that leveraged athletic shoe technology c/o a local company: Filboot. The boot was evaluated by the PA Research and Development Center in November 2013. However, after 5,000 pairs were delivered in early 2014, complaints arose over their quality. Philippine Army spokesman LTC Noel Detoyato hinted at a possible cancellation of the acquisition. Timawa discussion here
ga M-16A1 refurbishment program  1899896_498716810239574_1103701625_n The GA Small Arms Repair and Upgrade Division(SARUD) delivered another batch of 980 refurbished 5.56mm M-16A1 rifles to the DND. SARUD and DND are in the midst of a program to refurbish 8,000 non-functional AFP rifles were were previously in LOGCOM storage. This program, however, has been halted pending acquisition of additional barrels as those remaining in inventory were found to be unacceptable. Timawa.net discussion here.
M1911 refurbishment program 10511456_588200394624548_7202682966854307083_o SARUD turned over seventy (70) units of refurbished M1911A1 0.45 cal pistols were turned over to the Philippine Navy. Timawa discussion here
Multi-Station Machine  8 Waterbury Farrel of Canada delivered a multi-station machine for primer insertion & crimping, depth gauging and head & mouth varnishing. Timawa discussion here

 

22Feb/14Off

Flashback: AFP modernization – 2003 to 2006

As we ponder the never ending delays that plague defense acquisitions in the Aquino administration, it would be healthy to recall the state of affairs a mere 10 years ago. Back to the days of the Arroyo administration when modernization funding was completely pegged to the meager P5B annual allocation that the AFP modernization law had set as the floor for such funding. Despite its prevailing decrepit state, the AFP has actually come a long way. This article is an exploration of that recent-history. While the AFP modernization program covers a wide range of improvement efforts, from capability and materiel, bases, and even doctrines. This article focuses only one aspect of the effort: Capability and Materiel development.

The AFP's long-standing dependency on US aid and Foreign Military Sales assistance meant that it sorely lacked the expertise required to conduct independent equipment acquisitions on the open defense market. Modernization proponents blame this deficiency for the delay in the implementation of the modernization program. Although the AFP Modernization Law had been signed in 1995, the first acquisitions as part of this program didn't yield results until 2003.

The first true modernization acquisition was the Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) acquisition for the Philippine Army and the Philippine Marines. The contract to supply the first batch of weapons went to FN Herstal of Belgium which supplied the AFP with 402 factory-fresh M249 5.56mm SAWs. A follow-on purchase for SAWs took place in 2007, but that contract did not go to FN Herstal.

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Another prominent was the acquisition of a Armored Recovery Vehicle from SS Savunma Sistemleri A. S. of Turkey. Reportedly hard lessons that Philippine armored units learned from the difficulties of operating without such vehicles in the 2000 Mindanao campaign against the MILF, only three years prior, reportedly served as a catalyst for the acquisition.

proj03

Other acquisitions from this landmark year and the following year are listed below. This table is a screen capture of an AFP modernization report.

2003-2004

Much to the dismay of external-defense advocates, the year 2005 radically altered the direction of the modernization program. At this point the Philippine Defense Reform program took effect and reworked the AFP Modernization Program into the Capability Upgrade Program, which shifted the focus of capability improvements to  Internal Security Operations. The change, however, was not without justification. The loss of US aid as result of the closure of US military bases in Clark and Subic had taken its toll on the AFP's material condition. Subsidies for the Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy had wrecked havoc on maintenance cycles. Land-based mobility capability had reportedly dipped below 50% of the AFP needs. Troops were communicating with each other using Vietnam-era radios that were sending messages in the clear -- which could be picked up by anyone with a commercial radio set that could be set to the same frequencies. The shift from the AFPMP to the CUP implemented a back-to-basics program that initially focused on a 5-year program to improve the AFP's Move-Shoot-Communicate capabilities. Subsequent phases were designed to return the armed forces back to an external defense focus.

Whereas 2003 saw the first modernization acquisition of any kind, AFP modernization watchers remember 2005 as the year of the first true external-defense-relevant purchase: digital radios with military-grade encryption c/o Harris Communications. Many of the features of these radios are still classified. What is known however is that the communication-security they provided was game-changing for ISO -- denying rebel signal intelligence of the data to which they had gotten accustomed -- and brought the AFP into the 21st century as far as signal communication was concerned. The Philippine Army received 1,853 units of VHF/FM 2W radios, while 103 units went to the Philippine Marines. Additional radios were acquired in subsequent years.

Untitled harris_cgpa100

Oriental Industry Ltd of South Korea received a contract to supply 3,100 sets of cermic-plate-based bulletproof vest and kevlar helmets for the Philippine Army and 5,000 kevlar helmets for the Marines. The first batch of 3,936 pieces of of ballistic helmets and 200 pieces of armor vests and plates were received on October 15, 2005 while the remainder were delivered December 2, 2005.

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A contract to acquire twenty (20) refurbished UH-1H helicopters from Singapore Technologies Aerospace was signed on January 2004. The helicopters were delivered in seven batches with the delivery taking place August 2004. The last batch was delivered in May 2005.

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Other acquisitions for the year are as follows:

2005

In keeping with the reduced scope of the AFP's upgrade program, a number of modest acquisitions took place in 2006. The Philippine Navy took delivery of two ex-South Korean Chamsuri class Patrol Killer Medium (PKM) boats where were commissioned as Tomas Batillo class gun boats. Because of a failure to find both interested and qualified bidders for the refurbishment of the boat in either South Korea or the Philippines, these were imported as-is in May of 2006. They were later upgraded.

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The Philippine Air Force acquired 2nd-hand Fokker F-27 Fellowship transport aircraft, with upgraded FAA/ICAO-compliant avionics, via a negotiated procurement with Aeroglobe Ltd. Inc on October 2005. The aircraft was delivered in October 2006.

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For the most part, capability upgrades in 2006 focused on maximizing existing assets. The Jacinto class OPVs received new electro-optical systems from QinetiQ Ltd and a 25mm Remote Controlled Weapon Station from MSI Defense Systems Ltd. The upgrades were performed at the Keppel Shipyard in Batangas and were completed in March 2006. This marked the first of three upgrade phases for the class. The second phase of the program involved an engineering upgrade that was eventually awarded to FF Cruz Inc on December 2006 after a series of bid failure for the project. Interestingly, the original winner of Phase 1, Keppel Shipyard, did not qualify for the 2nd phase of the program.

EO  25mm3us

OV-10 Broncos of the Philippine Air Force underwent a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) that included replacement of their original three-blade propellers with four-blade units and an overhaul of the aircraft's engines. The winning contractor for this bid was the tandem of Marsh Aviation and Aeromart. The first batch of 4 brand new propellers and 4 overhauled engines were delivered on 5 February 2005. Four engines and 4 propellers were subsequently delivered on 19 September 2005. The delivery of 6 propellers on 24 October 2005 completed the delivery of the propellers. The 4 remaining engines arrived on 12 September 2006.

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The following is a list of acquisition projects for this year.

2006
10Feb/14Off

2013: What’s happening with the AFP modernization program

Note: This article is also available on the Timawa.net forum on the long-standing "What's happening with the AFP modernization program" thread.

In comparison with the past two years, 2013 was significantly muted from a modernization perspective. Many of the acquisitions that had been announced in previous years have either been delayed, fell through, or have delivery dates after 2013. It was, however, a noteworthy year for "Notices of Award" and acquisition negotiations.

The following projects have reached this stage in the acquisition process and are in various stages of post-qualification or terms-of-reference negotiation. These efforts aren't expected to yield results till well after 2013 and their successful completion is not, by any stretch of the imagination, assured. For that reason they are separated from the actual acquisition list. Here is a sampling of prominent projects:

Philippine Air Force

  • Lead-In Fighter Trainer / Surface Attack Aircraft: KAI F/A-50 Golden Eagle selected by way of the Defense System of Management (DSOM). Negotiations for terms of payment ongoing (see here)
  • Attack Helicopter project: awarded to AgustaWestland for eight (8) AW109 helicopters due for delivery in 2014 (see here)
  • UH-1H acquisition project: Awarded to Rice Aircraft services for 21 refurbished UH-1H helicopters (see here)

Philippine Navy

  • National Coast Watch Center (NCWC): contract to design and construct the NCWC, with associated data integration with various stakeholders, awarded to Raytheon. Project completion scheduled for 2015. (see here)

Philippine Army / Philippine Marines

  • M-4 assault rifle acquisition project: contract to supply 50,629 M-4 rifles awarded to Remington Arms Co (see here)
  • M113A2 acquisition project: 142 Excess Defense Article (EDA) M113A2s are slated to be acquired from the United States (see here). The delivery date for this project is currently unclear

Arguably the most prominent arrival for the year was the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) for the Philippine Navy. However this ship was officially turned over to the PN in 2012 and rightfully counts as an acquisition of that year. PF-16 was formally commissioned as a PN frigate in 2013 after having spent the better part of a year in Charleston, NC USA after the turnover from the USCG.

One aspect of the modernization program that did get traction in 2013 was the Government Arsenal, with the arrival of key quality assurance equipment. Training for a brand-new multi-station bullet assembly machine, which the DND Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) awarded to Waterbury Farrel in 2011, commenced in May 2013 (see here). However delivery of the GA-customized machine was slated for 2014.

The following list focuses on actual deliveries of equipment that were made in 2013. These include refurbishment efforts that returned previously inactive assets to service. This list is in flux as definitive confirmation of key projects remain pending as of publication.

PN_mod Multi-Purpose Helicopter  agusta_zps2f72ac6a A batch of three (3) FLIR-equipped AgustaWestland AW109 Power helicopters were delivered in December 2013. Timawa discussion here
Small Unit Riverine Craft (SURC)  1237953_459876634127958_523532353_n Six (6) units of Silver Ships Small Unit Riverine Craft (SURC), which were acquired via FMS, were delivered to the Philippine Marines in September 2013. Timawa.net discussion here.
PAF_mod Combat Utility Helicopter  W3A_zpsce926b5a The final two W-3 Sokol helicopters arrived from Poland in February 2013 here. This delivery completed the 8-helicopter order.
Refurbishment: AS-211 1092119_596083070414122_1193737797_o Two S211 aircraft were refurbished and returned to service. Timawa discussion here.
Refurbishment: Sikorsky S-76 air ambulance IMG_1111_zps5b4a89e3 Two S-76 helicopters were refurbished and converted into air ambulance configuration and returned to service in December 2013. Timawa discussion here.
71155_327179393712_8339928_n 5-ton truck acquisition (Philippine Army & Philippines Marines)  IMG_1114_zpsfce8ba76 Twelve units of Kia KM-500 5-ton trucks were acquired for the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps. Timawa discussion here
1/4 ton-truck acquisition  command A batch of 190 Kai KM-450 trucks, including 4 ceremonial car versions, were acquired. Timawa discussion here
Flat-bed trailer acquisition Flat-bed trailers for the transport of tracked vehicles were acquired. Timawa discussion here
Force protection equipment acquisition Timawa discussion here
Global Position System (GPS) equipment Timawa discussion here
81mm mortar acquisition project  serbia_mortar One hundred (100) Serbian-made mortars were delivered as part of the Philippine Army's 81mm mortar acquisition project. Timawa discussion here.
ga Universal Weapon Rest  1238172_426250357486220_1969987738_n Universal Weapon Rest, manufactured by Saber (United Kingdom), used to test the accuracy of weapons such as as M-16, M-14, MSSR, SPR & various pistols was delivered and installed at the GA Ballistics Facility on September 16, 2013. Timawa discussion here.
Weighing and gauging machine 1624408_10203293132317387_861917462_n An automated electronic weighing and gauging machine from Waterbury Farrel -- a key component in the company's ammunition production system -- was delivered and installed at the GA. Timawa discussion here
27Jul/13Off

GUNNEX for Oto Melara ships

The Philippine Navy scheduled two separate gunnery exercises (GUNNEX) for ships armed with Oto Melara 76mm guns. As per Notice to Mariners (NOTAM) 072-2013, BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35) will conduct an exercise, explicitly for its main weapon, on 24 July 2013 off La Monja Island in Bataan. NOTAM 074-2013, on the other hand, announced a GUNNEX for BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) off the coast of Mariveles, Bataan on the same month.

These low-profile GUNNEXes demonstrate the progress the Philippine Navy has made thus far with this weapon system since its problematic introduction in 1997, with the acceptance of three ex-Royal Navy Peacock Class OPVs, later renamed the "Jacinto Class", into the Philippine Fleet. As related by a scathing paper written for the Joint Command & Staff College of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Navy reportedly struggled to keep the guns of the three Jacinto class ships operational. Because of inadequate preparation, the guns experienced de-rangement a year after entering service, and the navy found to its dismay that it had no personnel with the required expertise to restore the gun to operational status.

To remedy the situation, the service sought assistance from the Australian government which invited the Philippines to send personnel for training. Initially, the PN reportedly sent personnel with Gunner's mate ratings. These trainees, however, eventually found themselves out of their depth since their prior experience had been limited to World War II-era manual gun systems that lacked the sophisticated electronics of the thoroughly modern Oto Melara weapons. It wasn't until the following year, when the navy sent personnel with electronics technician ratings, that the Philippine Fleet began to build relevant maintenance experience. Given this history, the exercises listed above provide encouraging news about the Navy's efforts to improve its lot. The difficulties did not end there however, and the navy struggled with the gun type for years, during which time the OPVs were reportedly conducting patrols with their main armament in a questionable state.

That, however, was then. The GUNNEXes above show how things stand today.  The following video shows the PF-16 conducting gun trials off the coast of Florida during its transit to the Philippines.

The following ships in the Philippine Fleet are currently equipped with this weapon system:

  • BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35)
  • BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36)
  • BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37)
  • BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15)
  • BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16)
ncsc1   1016743_537910236256479_663810838_n
     
Jacinto Class (Philippine Navy photo)   WHEC (Philippine Navy photo)