Tag Archives: Government Arsenal

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

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

A Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) roadmap and a DARPA-equivalent

In 2013, the Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) program — an ongoing albeit lackadaisical effort to create an indigenous defense industry — saw the most tangible display of high-level support in recent decades, when the Department of National Defense committed significant resources to the modernization of the Government Arsenal (GA), and facilitated the organization of the Defense Industries Association of the Philippines (DIAP). Both actions came on the heels of the successful entry into Philippine Navy service of a series of indigenously constructed marine vessels: The BRP Tagbanua (AT-296), the largest locally manufactured warship in history, and three Multi-Purpose Assault Craft (MPAC) Mk.II, arguably the fastest ships in the fleet. Both joined the fleet a year earlier.

640_ZZZ_022513_2_d  577267_366994123357610_114373295286362_947344_1115157720_n

The year also saw the operational use C-130 #3633, the first Philippine Air Force Hercules transport aircraft to undergo Programmed Depot Management careof the 410th Maintenance Wing. It was an achievement many hoped would herald a new era in improved Hercules availability — all by Filipino hands.

309447_462461293810892_2075470411_n

Prospects for SRDP looked more promising in 2013 than it had ever been in recent years. But would it really last?

SRDP history shows that the Philippines neither lacks the imagination nor the talent to initiate domestic weapons production. However that same account also shows a long track record of failure to sustain such efforts. While the aforementioned recent SRDP developments showed a promising change in institutional outlook towards self-sufficiency, a change in the status quo will require more than a mere high-level peek into the current state of local-manufacture. This bump in interest must be institutionalized if it is ever to achieve any lasting effects.

Towards this end, the Philippines needs to establish an SRDP roadmap that clearly defines the following:

  • The key defense articles that the Philippines needs to produce on it own to achieve its security goals
  • Among the above-mentioned articles, which does the government intend to produce by itself and which ones will it farm out to Philippine industry

Before local industry commits the capital and resources necessary to research, develop, and eventually manufacture goods for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), it needs to understand the nature of the demand. Without this, the pool of willing entrepreneurs will be slim at best . . . if not non-existent.

What we need to produce ourselves

SRDP sought to protect the country from geopolitically motivated disruptions in the supply of defense material, as well as to allow local industry and labor to benefit from defense expenditure. The AFP spends billions of pesos to both acquire new equipment and maintain existing ones. Unless local industry learns to satisfy these needs itself, all these funds would be destined for foreign vendors.  SRDP was supposed to control this foreign-currency hemorrhage and help keep funds in-country.

The ability to pursue this program has been hampered by a multitude of factors: funding, lack of an industrial base, etc.. However, even if these prevailing limitations were addressed, the program’s objective shouldn’t be to completely eliminate importation of all defense equipment from foreign sources.

Very few countries actually design and/or manufacture every single defense article entirely on their own. Even the United States, for all its wealth and manufacturing capacity, still has its soldiers’ uniforms manufactured in eastern Europe and Asia. The official sidearm of the US Army is Italian: the M9 Barreta. Its standard Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) and Medium Machine Gun (GPMG) are Belgian in origin: the M249 and M240 respectively, both built by Fabrique Nationale Manufacturing, Inc. (The latter replaced the iconic M60 machine gun) The UH-72 Lakota Light Utility Helicopter that recently entered service with the Army as a replacement for the UH-1 Huey and the OH-58 Kiowa is manufactured by Eurocopter. The most powerful military force in the world accepts the practicality and cost effectiveness of foreign solutions for their troops. A defense-spending fact that shouldn’t be lost upon SRDP advocates.

There are two main reasons for continuing to import items, both of which allow the AFP to acquire equipment in the most efficient and cost-effective manner:

  • Time to deploy
  • Economies of scale

Time-to-deploy

Decades of under-investment in national defense means that the AFP is in such a dire state that many of the items on the AFP modernization list are critical pieces of equipment that cannot be delayed by protracted development times. The military’s principal concerns are time-do-deploy and reliability. Acquiring off-the-shelf and proven equipment means that they can field weapon systems to the troops in the shortest possible time and with the confidence that the systems will work as advertised and as proven by other users around the world.

Off-the-shelf products can be deployed significantly faster than something that still needs to make the transition from the drawing board to the field. Take for example the largest military vessel produced by local industry for the Philippine Navy to date: the 51-meter BRP Tagbanua Landing Craft Utility (LCU). From bid initiation, to design definition, to actual delivery, this project took six years to complete. In contrast, Daewoo shipyard can complete an entire 122 meter Makassar class LPD in only four months using pre-existing designs.

Time-to-deploy considerations aren’t unique to the Philippines. Even the People’s Republic of China isn’t immune to such concerns, which is why they are still buying Russian engines for their vaunted new-generation aircraft instead of waiting for their design bureaus to perfect their designs.

How can time-to-deploy considerations be balanced with inevitable delays caused by development? Read on.

Economies of scale

Contrary to a sentiment popular amongst defense-commentators, in-country production will not automatically translate to lower cost of equipment. Setting up of industries is neither cheap nor easy. Acquisition of capital equipment and plant facilities – where none existed before – is a very financially intensive affair. All of those costs will have to be passed on to the buyer and unless the equipment is purchased in quantity, whatever is produced domestically could become the most expensive items of its kind in the world. (See older article about supply-and-demand). When buying equipment from foreign sources that are already ongoing concerns, one not only benefits from pre-existing infrastructure and experience, but also an existing global customer base that allows the vendor to spread out the cost of production resulting in lower per-unit costs.

Ultimately, SRDP program managers must be selective about what is produced locally. A balance between self-reliance and fiscal responsibility must be struck — all without compromising the AFP’s modernization efforts. A proposal for how to do this will be discussed later in this article.

Government-Private sector synergy: Who produces what?

Central to the DND’s ongoing efforts to reviving SRDP is the modernization of the Government Arsenal. The primacy of the Arsenal as an SRDP engine is affirmed in issuances such as Executive Order 303, Series of 2004 which states:

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;

To this end, the arsenal has increased production to levels that have now surpassed its previous output record of 20 million rounds set in 1978. Production for 2013 exceeded 23 million rounds. It is worth noting that the arsenal achieved this volume with its existing aging equipment. Much of the arsenal’s ongoing modernization efforts revolve around replacement or supplementation of existing equipment with state-of-the-art equivalents. Such as the new production line from Waterbury Farrel which will be dedicated to the production of M193/M855 5.56mm rounds. This and other new machines promise even more strides in production capacity thus allowing the GA to satisfy the routine ammunition needs of both the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP).

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The GA’s activities, however, do not end with ammunition production. With the creation of the Small Arms Repair and Upgrade Division (SARUD), the Arsenal has begun providing the AFP with small arms refurbishment services — bringing unserviceable rifles back to operational status. The SARUD is a key step towards the re-establishment of a small arms manufacturing capability back to the arsenal complex. A function that was lost when the martial-law era Elisco Tool stopped production of Philippine-made M-16s.

The growth in the arsenal’s capabilities, however, presents potential private sector SRDP players with an interesting quandry: “Will the business I setup eventually run into conflict with the GA’s offerings?” Solution: An SRDP roadmap.

A roadmap for SRDP

An SRDP roadmap would show where government agencies like the Government Arsenal growth are headed, thus allowing defense entrepreneurs to plan their investments accordingly and manage expectations. For example, a for-profit entity that produces ammunition would then understand that its role in SRDP would either be to simply provide surge capacity for national emergencies that call for more output than what the GA can accommodate otherwise it would need to enter into a Joint Venture (JV) with the DND — provided, of course, that the company is already a mature industry fixture. Areas of concern that are not on the plate of any government agency (e.g., GA, Philippine Aerospace Development Corp, Department of Science and Technology, etc.) would then be fair game and would merit more capital.

A side-benefit of maintaining a roadmap would be the definition of development horizons. It would give a timeline for when a particular piece of equipment is required, and therefore layout the AFP’s decision criteria for whether or not to wait for local prototypes to mature or to procure off-the-shelf. This avoids the time-to-deploy conflict between SRDP and the AFP modernization program that is mentioned above and would give private industry time to acquire the expertise and technology required to respond to a future government request for products. It also protects potential SRDP entrepreneurs from a state of limbo where their wares never leave the prototype stage. A situation that currently affects the “Project Trident Strike” Remote Control Weapon System (RCWS) developed by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NSSC) and the Mapua Institute of Technology. This RCWS has reportedly gone through several versions and modifications . . . and is no where near being deployed for operational testing.

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This roadmap would need to encompass the SRDP development activities of all AFP services and government agencies (e.g., GA, PADC, etc.). It would avoid duplication of effort among these organizations, in the same manner that the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) rationalized the aerospace and rocketry programs of various entities within the US government, whose fractured efforts reportedly gave the Soviet Union the opportunity to take the opening lead in the space race.

Drafting and implementing a policy instrument of this breadth requires an entity with the expertise to grasp the technological hurdles that must be overcome, the military’s doctrinal considerations that must be satisfied, and possess the required business acumen to see the venture through. It must also have the means to either absorb technology transfers itself, or is able to farm this out qualified private sector entities.

To this end . . . the Philippines needs its equivalent to the American Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

A Philippine “DARPA”

Before crafting a Philippine DARPA, it would be best to understand what the original DARPA is and map it to the Philippine setting. Like NASA, DARPA was organized in response to the technological challenge that the Soviet Union presented during the space race and continues to play a key role in maintaining American leadership in military technology today. It was established in 1958 to oversee strategic application of United States research and development capacity to benefit of national defense and has since given rise to now-ubiquitous technologies such as the following:

  • ARPANET – this effort to link computers into a national network became the basis for the modern Internet
  • GPS –  early DARPA work on a positioning system called “TRANSIT” laid the groundwork for what eventually became the current Global Positioning System
  • M-16 assault rifle – DARPA initiated the Project Agile study that eventually created the rifle that has been the official US military assault rifle for the past 50 years

In recent years, it has organized technology competitions like the DARPA Robotics Challenge whose participants are currently tasked to develop robots that are capable of “assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters”.

DARPA leverages both government and private sector research organizations for its projects. The agency’s 50th anniversary publication summarizes how it manages its projects as follows:

 The DARPA program manager will seek out and fund researchers within U.S. defense contractors, private companies, and universities to bring the incipient concept into fruition. Thus, the research is outcome-driven to achieve results toward identified goals, not to pursue science per se. The goals may vary from demonstrating that an idea is technically feasible to providing proof-of-concept for an operational capability. 

By design, DARPA leverages the industrial capacity and existing research infrastructure of the United States to achieve its goals. As a consequence — surprisingly, as related by the document linked above — DARPA doesn’t have its own organic research facilities and is entirely dependent on the capabilities of its research partners. DARPA projects are also focused on developing cutting-edge technologies, leaving comparatively less risky development projects to other procurement organizations within the Department of Defense. For this reason, a pure US-DARPA model is at best a source of inspiration for what can be done, but cannot be completely replicated in a country with limited manufacturing capacity like the Philippines.

Other nations who’ve adopted national policies that apply technological solutions to defense, and developed indigenous military industrial complexes have come up with their own variations of the DARPA concept. Consider the following countries: South Korea, India, Pakistan, and Singapore. These countries have very robust domestic defense materiel production capabilities and are even able to export their products, or take part in co-production ventures.

Lessons from South Korea

Thanks to the selection of the Korean Aerospace Industry FA-50 Golden Eagle for the Philippine Air Force’s Lead-In Fighter Trainer / Surface Attack Aircraft requirement, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has gained prominence in the Philippine defense social media circles for its involvement in negotiations for the purchase of the aircraft. DAPA defense materiel acquired from South Korea and is tasked with the harnessing of manufacturing capacity of South Korean industry in that country’s defense.

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It’s Website describes its function as follows. The DAPA is tasked implementation of the following national policies:

  • Reinforcement of R&D in national defense
  • Reinforcement of global competitiveness of the acquisition program
  • Expansion of export support for the defense industry
  • Prioritization of domestic R&D
  • Strengthening cooperation of nation-wide science and technology

Like the US DARPA, this entity leverages already existing capabilities, but adds a marketing function to the equation because of its involvement in the export of South Korean defense technology.

Lessons from India

The Indian Department of Defense Production (DDP) takes a direct hand in the production of military equipment for the Indian military, from the HAL Tejas Light Combat Aircraft to the Arjun Main Battle Tank. The following organizations fall under this department’s control:

  • Ordnance Factory Board (OFB)
  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)
  • Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL)
  • Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Limited (GRSE)
  • Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL)
  • Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL)
  • Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL)
  • BEML Limited (BEML)
  • Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL)
  • Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited (MIDHANI)
  • Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA)
  • Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA)
  • Directorate of Standardisation (DOS)
  • Directorate of Planning & Coordination (Dte. of P&C)
  • Defence Exhibition Organisation (DEO)
  • National Institute for Research & Development in Defence Shipbuilding (NIRDESH)

DDP efforts put India in a position to absorb foreign technologies as part of co-production ventures. Hindustan Aircraft Limited, for example, is now gearing up for local production of France’s most advanced combat aircraft to-date: Rafale Multi-Role Fighters. It is worth noting that the DDP was created at a time when the defense industry was the reserved for the public sector. In 2001, India opened the industry up to private sector involvement with up to 100% domestic participation and a maximum of 26% foreign direct investment.

Lessons from Pakistan

Like it’s similarly-named Indian counterpart, the Pakistani Ministry of Defense Production (MODP) participates in the manufacture of defense materiel for its armed forces. Among other achievements, it is the driving force behind local production of the Chinese JF-17 Light Combat Aircraft. Its Website describes its role as follows:

  • Laying down policies or guidelines on all matters relating to defence production
  • Procurement of firearms, weapons, ammunition, equipment, stores and explosives for the defence forces
  • Declaration of industries necessary for the purpose of defence or for the prosecution of war
  • Research and development of defence equipment and stores
  • Co-ordination of defence science research with civil scientific research organizations
  • Indigenous production and manufacture of defence equipment and stores
  • Negotiations of agreements or MOUs for foreign assistance or collaboration and loans for purchase of military stores and technical know-how or transfer of technology
  • Export of defence products
  • Marketing and promotion of activities relating to export of defence products
  • Coordinate production activities of all defence production organizations or establishments

Like the Indian model, the Pakistani government is deeply involved in the manufacture of its own defense articles. Like the South Korean DAPA, the MODP also takes steps to promote the export of Pakistani technology.

Lessons from Singapore

The Defense Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) is the latest Singaporean Ministry of Defense (MINDEF) organization dealing with defense-related R&D and procurement. Its official Website describes its role as follows:

  • Acquiring platform and weapon systems for the SAF
  • Advising MINDEF on all defence science and technology matters
  • Designing, developing and maintaining defence systems and infrastructure
  • Providing engineering and related services in defence areas
  • Promoting and facilitating the development of defence science and technology in Singapore

It was established in 2000 and absorbed the functions of the what was then known as the Defense Technology Group (DTG). Tim Huxley, in his book Defending the Lion City, credited DTG with facilitating the creation of the Singaporean defense industry by acting as intermediaries between foreign defense companies who were willing to enter into Industrial Cooperation Programs (ICP) with Singapore and state-owned corporations to include the following:

  • Chartered Industries of Singapore (CIS) – initially established in 1967 to produce small arms ammunition, it eventually branched out into license production of M-16 rifles. By the 70s this company was manufacturing larger weapons like machine guns, mortars, and grenade launchers
  • Singapore Shipbuilding and Engineering – established in 1968 to maintaining and building naval vessels, entered into a technology transfer arrangement with the German firm Lurssen which eventually resulted in the construction of motor gun boats for the Royal Singaporean Navy
  • Singapore Electronic and Engineering Ltd – established in 1969 to provide electronic engineering services for the Singaporean Air Force

These and other companies were brought under a holding company owned by the Singaporean Ministry of Finance but directed by MINDEF. By 1989 this holding company was restructured to accommodate diversification of its activities beyond purely military ventures such as electronics and engineering and renamed Singapore Technologies (ST) Holdings.

The ICP arrangements brokered by DTG, now DSTA, initially allowed Singaporean companies to accomplish self-reliance activities such as in-country manufacturing components for the Singaporean Air Force’s CH-47 Chinook helicopters and F-16 fighters. In 1999 it allowed Singapore to become a major participant in the US-UK Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.

Implications for Philippine SRDP

Close scrutiny of the histories of the five self-reliance samples presented above offer a number of take-aways:

Stable self-reliance policies.  The political decision to establish and maintain a domestic defense industry must be measured in decades, not mere years, to give these policies a chance to yield results. The Indian Tejas LCA program, for example, started in 1983 but even as late as 27 years later (as  per Air Forces Monthly, May 2010) HAL was only producing its third Limited Series Production aircraft. Although the Tejas program is sometimes touted as an example of why domestic production is more a political decision than a practical one, it remains an example of the length of the gestation period for such endeavors — which go beyond time-in-grade timetables of individual officers, even beyond normal Presidential terms.

In the Philippines, a fair number of SRDP-related endeavors are conducted by service-level research organizations, often resulting from serendipitous pairings of SRDP-minded officers with industrialists and/or inventors willing to take a chance at dealing with the Philippine government. While efforts these do have their place in the grand scheme of things, the more complicated projects that take this route that have historically churned out one-off products. Often times, when time-in-grade issues force AFP personnel handling projects to leave their positions, development stops. Even when a project reaches completion, the departure of its original proponents often cause a change in the institutional stance towards the endeavor, resulting in either outright cancellation of the project or worse: indefinite postponement.

An SRDP-czar-like body such as Philippine DARPA, that is independent of the various services but is supported by the Department of National Defense, could presumably provide some stability to the these sorts of efforts.

Each to his own competence. The military shouldn’t run these programs alone. Other sectors of the government have a role to play and their respective skill-sets must be brought to bear (e.g., Finance, Trade & Industry, etc.). Singapore, for example, drew about the expertise of the Ministry of Finance to setup financial a holding entity to manage and finance the various self-reliance companies and architect their expansion into alternative profit centers. Ministry of Defense involvement was primarily at the technical and requirements definition level.

Interfacing with private sector entities such as the aforementioned Defense Industry Association, or similar organizations, could draw in additional talent that would otherwise not be available in government service.

Profit. Export of whatever defense articles are produced is a key goal. This not only extends the longevity of the production line, it also facilitates achievement of economies of scale. As mentioned earlier, the South Korean DAPA served as the primary point of contact for the South Korean defense industry.

Mature procurement system. For the non-American samples, their self-reliance programs are closely tied to their procurement procedures. Implementation of an SRDP roadmap cannot outstrip the efficiency of the DND-AFP’s overall acquisition system. Therefore advancement of the DND’s procurement service is essential to progress in SRDP.

In the Singaporean system, both foreign and domestic defense companies take part in open bidding for MinDef contracts. However procurement rules grant participants in Industrial Cooperation Programs with Singaporean companies additional “weight” in the final selection. There are no such protections in the Philippine setting, where the original SRDP Presidential Decree was actually amended in December 2003 through GPPB Resolution 06-2003  which deprived the government of the option to pursue SRDP acquisitions without subjecting potential participants to public bidding. This reflects an institutional attitude towards defense that generally hostile to SRDP.

Arguably, DARPA, DAPA, and DSTA represent the ideal free-market oriented relationship between the defense department and private industry. With indigenous defense-oriented companies actively taking part in developing tailor-made weapon systems in response to government requests and receiving production contracts in open competition with both domestic and foreign companies. At this point in history, the Philippines is nowhere near having this state of affairs. Despite SRDP being a 14-year-old program, the Philippines remains closer to the starting points for DDP, MODP, and DSTA than the present-day state of either DAPA or DARPA.

In crafting its equivalent to DARPA / DAPA / DDP / MODP / DSTA, the Philippines with two choices:

1. Select an existing government entity and expand its role

2. Create a completely new entity with resources drawn from existing entities

The United States faced a similar question when it evaluated its efforts to put a man on the Moon by the 70s. One of the candidates foundations for the expanded effort was the National Advisory Committee for Astronautics (NACA) which had been organized in 1915 and had been guiding American aerospace development since then. However, on the strength of the General Accounting Office which had judged NACA as having become too lethargic to keep pace with technological developments at the time, the US Congress enacted legislation that created an entirely and NASA was born. What route the Philippines ultimately takes will depend on similar evaluations of existing Philippines departments and/or government owned and controlled corporations.

The following organizations, theoretically at least, possess the key elements necessary for the creation of a Philippine DARPA:

Government Arsenal – as already mentioned earlier, this institution has been chosen as the lynchpin for renewed SRDP efforts. Its plant site in Limay, Bataan has been designated as a Defense Industrial Estate and the GA recently issued a bid invitation for consultancy services for the creation of a Master Development Plan for its continued development. For this reason, this is the logical base upon which a Philippine DARPA and SRDP-roadmap-custodian can be based. However, to approach the capabilities of the above-mentioned self-reliance organizations it will require significant expansion beyond its current areas of expertise which are primarily in manufacturing and research & development and currently focused ordnance and small arms technology.

Defense Industry Association – this is an group of Philippine companies that are have chosen to involve themselves in the domestic security market place. Its members include companies that were part of the original SRDP effort in the 70s and have varying levels of expertise in their respective fields. Arguably DIA members would be involved primarily in production and certain aspects of R&D, leaving responsibility for SRDP policy direction to the DND itself. How this relatively new entity develops remains to be seen

Philippine Aerospace Development Corp – this aerospace SRDP pioneer has assembled a total of 67 Britten Normal Islands and 44 BO-105 helicopters for the Philippine market and has established overhaul and maintenance facilities for various relatively low-technology aircraft  and engine components. The company is currently in such a dismal state that the Commission on Audit recommended considering closure of the company in 2012. Despite being certified for BN Islander overhaul, that still didn’t make it the preferred vendor for the Philippine Navy’s Britten Normal Islander refurbishment programs which when to Hawker Pacific Ltd instead.

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Philippine Investment & Trading Corporation – the PITC brings the necessary expertise to sell Philippine products to the world and would be a key player in the export of whatever defense articles the Philippine defense industry produces. This organization brings complex financial transaction experience to the table and was the AFP’s agent for past counter-trade deals that eventually acquired the SIAI-Marchetti S211 aircraft, and various communications equipment. What the organization lacks however, as reported for the Commission on Audit, is the technical expertise to adequately comprehend military requirements.

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While the Government Arsenal’s central role in SRDP, at least in the near term to mid-term, is both logical and inevitable, where SRDP goes in the long term will depend on a NACA-NASA-like evaluation of the GA’s performance, as well as those of the other entities listed above. Only time will tell if the SRDP roadmap and responsibility for a Philippine DARPA will go to an existing SRDP actors or an entirely new entity. All that is certain is that if the goals of SRDP are ever to be achieved the status quo cannot continue.

This article is also available on the Timawa.net forum at the following location: http://www.timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=36697.0

“To manufacture, or not to manufacture ?” . . . that is the question

Various defense commentators on social media have championed Philippine manufacture of all manner of weapons. From 20mm cannons to sophisticated aircraft and missiles. All too often, however, these Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) advocates side-step the need to be selective about what we push to make by ourselves. All forms of manufacture, to include weapons manufacture, is subject to laws of supply and demand. If the demand for an item — for example a 20mm cannon — cannot justify the cost of production, then it SHOULD NOT be produced.

The calculus is quite simple:

Per unit cost = Cost of production / Number of items produced

Cost of production includes capital expenditure for production equipment, cost of raw materials, salaries and consultancy fees, and other business start up costs.

The AFP cannot buy a weapon maker’s wares for forever, resulting in a limited production run.  The Philippines could end up with the most expensive examples of a specific type of equipment.

To sustain the business, therefore, the weapon maker must be able to sell his wares overseas. Given the number of established players for various arms segments, a new company with no track record will be at a significant disadvantage. Whatever employment opportunities such a venture would open could very well be short-lived, as production lines shutdown for lack of demand. A fact of business life that established companies like Lockheed Martin and Saab face with their F-16 and Gripen production lines respectively.

The local defense industry’s focus on small arms manufacture reflects pragmatic recognition of the prevailing state of affairs. The market for that class of weapon remains relatively open. While the necessary equipment for quality manufacture still requires significant investment, the potential rewards still justify the risks.

Those risks increase in direct proportion to the complexity and capability of the weapon. This is already apparent even while still focusing on the small arms category, but simply going up to the high-end of the caliber scale — 12.7mm/0.50. There’s a reason why the Browning M-2 and the DShK are still kings of the hill in those caliber categories despite their age. Although there are indeed pretenders to those two thrones, these arguably will remain ankle-biters for the foreseeable future. The specialized nature of these weapons translates to limited market growth which is already served by existing solutions and suppliers — Military channel documentaries not withstanding.

There is prestige in make systems yourself. But such vanity pursuits have to be tempered by practicality. You would be hard-pressed to find a successful businessman, with an eye for profit, who would risk capital in saturated weapons markets. The Government Arsenal (GA) could theoretically get involved in such ventures since profit is not their goal. But that would still be a poor use of the people’s hard earned taxes. Those funds could be applied to more sustainable SRDP endeavors that give the people more bang for the buck. The GA’s push into small arms manufacture, and even the upcoming production of small bombs for the Philippine Air Force, as well as the Navy’s focus on relatively unsophisticated boats (e.g. MPACs, etc.) — all of which focus on already-present, and unsatisfied, local demand — reflect the conservative approach that effective stewardship of the people’s money requires.

Does this mean that the Philippines should abandon all hope of manufacturing systems beyond the simple ones that it can now? Not at all. It simply means that it needs to pick its battles and choose sunrise technologies that still offer hope for, at the very least, profitable market penetration or at best market leadership. Production of me-too products will yield limited benefit.

Patriotic considerations aside, some items are simply best bought from existing vendors overseas. For examples of companies that have successfully found niches in the local defense industry, see Sustainable defense manufacture in the Philippines.

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This article is also on Timawa.net here: http://www.timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=35948.0

Farewell to the Government Arsenal SAW-9

The Special Actions Weapon (SAW) 9 sub-machine gun was a joint research project between the Government Arsenal and Safariland Firearms Manufacturing Corp. Little is known about this weapon’s origins, but its alternative name — the “Efficient Reliable Assault Pistol (ERAP)” — suggests inception during the term of President Estrada.

It first appeared on the Timawa.net forum on October 14, 2004 by way of an ABS-CBN article that described the weapon as:

“. . . uses the close-bolt concept of the Heckler and Koch MP5 for accuracy; the barrel arrangement of the UZI for versatility; and the upper and lower receivers of the M-16 for ease in mass production. It fires the 5.56 mm round, that is also used by M-16s.”

The forum went through an almost four-year information drought before reports of the weapon’s failings came to light. Details found here. Issues with poor manufacturing quality, relatively small magazine capacity and an excessively high-rate of fire were exacerbated by a high price-point. Reportedly the only buyers of the weapon were the Mandaue SWAT and a number of private individuals. The AFP never adopted the weapon.

In June 2012, the director of the Government Arsenal revealed that the project had been abandoned in favor of an alternative rifle that will fire the new “Musang” round, that is designed for both CQB and Night Fighting Weapon System (NFWS) use. This alternative would require fewer modifications to the basic M-16/M-4 format, which the GA was poised to begin producing locally. Details here.

The SAW-9 story had come to an end.

Government Arsenal expands product line

The Government Arsenal announced via its Facebook account, and through Timawa.net, its plans to expand its product with the following rounds for 2012. The following photographs show the new cartridges.

The match-grade rounds for 7.62mm and 5.56mm are of particular interest. These are to be manufactured for the Philippine Army ASEAN Armies Rifle Meet shooting team and Philippine Marine Scout Snipers respectively and would minimize, if not eliminate, future need for bid invitations like the following.

Government Arsenal publishes second edition of Bullet-In

Related discussion on Timawa.nethttp://www.timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=29205.0

The Government Arsenal published the second edition of its new journal: The Government Arsenal Bullet-In. This edition features the following developments:

  • The arsenal’s return to assault rifle manufacture
  • In-house production of ballistics gel
  • An update on the arsenal’s modernization plans
Download the bulletin, click here:

Sustainable weapons manufacture in the Philippines

Sustainable weapons manufacture is the result the buildup of a wide variety of in-country capabilities. The presence of engineers and the like are merely one of the requirements.

All of the countries that manufacture their own weapons have one thing that we do not: “A well established manufacturing base”. The presence of either a civilian, for-profit, manufacturing base, or a well-funded state-run monopoly, ensures that many of the logistical requirements required to sustain a manufacturing venture are already readily available: surplus electrical power, established means of collecting raw materials, managerial skills, etc.

Although the US’ own capacity to make goods for its own citizens has been eroding for quite a long time, it still enjoys windfall benefits from its days when it was the “factory of the world”. Now that title has moved to China, which is rapidly developing its own weapons manufacturing capability.

One could say that the following is a list of requisites for having one’s own Military-Industrial Complex:

  • Technical know-how
  • Manufacturing base
  • Demand
  • R&D capacity

Technical know-how. People who tout that the Philippines has an abundance of engineers and skilled laborers, and point to that as proof that the Philippines can make its own weapons, are partly correct. You do, after all, need people who know how to do the work. But you also need other “classes” of workers to make a manufacturing venture viable. For example, you need skilled managers who keep workers working, and happy. You won’t be producing anything if your workers are always on strike. You will also need Industrial Engineers and Accountants to ensure efficient operations; suitably qualified human resources and training personnel to hire, train; and then retain skilled labor, etc.

Arguably, this is the easiest part of the jigsaw puzzle to address.

Manufacturing base. If weapons manufacturing were a birthday cake . . . this is the cake itself. Everything else is really just icing. Without the equipment, machinery, et. al. to produce the goods, then you have nothing.

If you do not have existing facilities, then you will need capital to acquire the equipment, the real estate for plant facilities, et. al. This will cost you billions, if not trillions, of pesos. Some sources put the Philippines’ outstanding debt at P1.46 Trillion. If the Philippine government were to shoulder the cost of establishing state-run weapons manufacturing facilities, then you will be adding to that.

The key, therefore, will be to attract private investment.

Private investment will require access to credit. Credit will only be available if there is a viable business plan to ensure that the company will have a steady income stream to be able to pay back the loans. This brings us to the next point.

Demand. The AFP will not, and cannot, keep buying a particular weapon for forever. It only needs a finite amount of aircraft (previously published numbers for multi-role fighters, for example, only put the PAF’s need at 24 aircraft), only consumes a specific amount of ammunition per year (higher figures for small arms which is why we have the government-owned and run Government Arsenal, but less for cannon calibers from 20mm and higher), and so on.

This presents a problem to the manufacturing company: “How can the company generate income to continue manufacturing and pay its workers when the AFP’s needs have been met?”

This is actually the problem that Asian Armored Vehicle Technologies Corp., the local assembler of the GKN Simba, faced after the Philippine Army accepted all the Simbas that they were prepared to buy. With nothing else to do . . . the company folded.

One way to ensure survival would be to forecast the AFP’s periodic need, factor in a reasonable profit to cover wages and maintenance of equipment, and then charge the Philippine government a per-unit cost for the item that covers all of the company’s expenses. This is essentially what happened to the US with the B-2 bomber — which is the single most expensive airplane in the world. Total cost of production was divided between only a handful of bombers resulting in a US$2B price tag. Had the production run ran to the original projected number of 137, the per-unit cost would have been lower.

If we did this with artillery rounds, for example, then we could end up with the most expensive ammo in the world. You would get more bang-for-our-buck if we simply imported ammo in this case.

Legendary Philippine combat boot maker, Ang Tibay, which had been supplying boots to Philippine soldiers since before World War II, eventually folded up shop, partly because the AFP found it cheaper to buy its boots from suppliers who sourced their boots overseas. (The company was also saddled by a host of internal problems, not the least of which was government take over, and mismanagement).

A better way would be to produce products for export, thereby allowing the AFP to benefit from economies of scale. The per-unit cost would be driven down by foreign sales. The downside, of course, is that we would be competing with dozens of already-existing manufacturers that already have customer loyalty, brand recognition, and established track records. This had been AATV’s plan, to be the Simba retailer for Southeast Asia. When no buyers came . . . game over.

Getting a bank or consortium of banks, to fork out the funds for a military venture that is focused on supplying the AFP will be difficult at best.

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If we look at the various that have dabbled in SRDP, and survived, we will see that the key to survival is actually outside the AFP. Their military manufacturing ventures are not their principal object of business, but are instead opportunistic ventures. Take the following companies for example:

Steelcraft. This company has been trying to sell armored fighting vehicles to the AFP since the mid-80s, and has yet to succeed for various reasons (e.g., design shortcomings, procedural issues, etc.). Despite over 20 years of . . . lack of success . . . the company remains viable and it continues to try. It is able to do this because its core business is actually in steel manufacture. The owners view their efforts to sell armored vehicles to the AFP as a kind of expensive hobby.

Floro International Corp – this company manufactured the Mk9 sub-machinegun issued to NAVSOG, acts as a dealer for a number of offerings from Singapore Technologies, and offers a variety of defense products. The bulk of its business interests, however, remain outside the military sphere, from photo-reproduction, to the supply of office systems.

Armscorp. This is one of the original Marcos-era SRDP companies, and is engaged in weapons and ammunition manufacture. While still selling to the PNP, and to some extent the AFP, its principal market is the civilian gun market, both in the Philippines and abroad.

Filipinas Fabricator Sales, Inc. This company recently teamed up with Colorado Shipyard to win a bid to manufacture assault watercraft for the Philippine Army riverine battalion. In the mid-90s, this company forged a partnership with Hatch & Kirk, Inc. to replace the aging power plants of several World War II-era Philippine Navy boats giving these boats a new lease on life. Its bread-and-butter, however, does not appear to be with the AFP, and is instead in other ventures to include marine power generation.

R&D capacity. This is the true test of a company’s viability. The ability to continue to improve existing products, and anticipate future needs. This requires deep pockets since not every research venture results in a viable product, so the company must be willing to throw money away to investigate potential dead ends. Failure to innovate could very well spell the end of the company.

The story of the South African Rooivalk helicopter is food for thought: http://www.timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=9475.0

The Philippines needs to be selective about the weapons that it chooses to produce for itself.