Tag Archives: Modernization

What is the FA-50PH really for?

The Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50PH is the single most sophisticated aircraft in the Philippine Air Force inventory. The arrival of the first two aircraft on November 28, 2015 heralded the formal start of the service’s efforts to rebuild it’s air defense operations capability. These two “Fighting Eagles”, as South Korea calls them, were the first of what will ultimately be 12 aircraft. According to multiple PAF sources, two more aircraft are due in the final quarter of 2016, while the remainder will be delivered in 2017 at a rate of one a month.

The aircraft in question appears below. Photographs c/o Lester Tongco, reposted with permission.

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The FA-50 represents many firsts for the PAF, to include the following:

  • First brand-new fixed-wing combat aircraft acquired since the F-5A Freedom Fighters that were acquired in the early 60s.
  • First aircraft with fly-by-wire technology
  • First combat aircraft capable of integrating with network-centric warfare environments
  • First supersonic aircraft since the retirement of the last F-5A in 2005.

On February 19, 2016, these two aircraft conducted an air interception exercise involving a Philippine Air Lines Airbus carrying President Aquino who was returning from a US-ASEAN summit in the United States. This was reportedly the first intercept exercise of its type attempted by the Philippine Air Force since 1998 using its now retired F-5As. This exercise not only benefited the pilots of the aircraft, but also practiced coordination between air traffic controllers of the Civil Aviation Administration of the Philippines (CAAP) and the PAF’s Air Defense Wing. CAAP and PAF controllers were responsible for tracking the President’s aircraft and guiding the FA-50s to a point where they could use their own radars to find the airliner.

During the PAF’s heyday, in the US-bases funded 60s, such intercepts were part of normal operations for enforcing the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone (PADIZ). During this period PAF fighters would intercept all manner of aircraft, from Soviet bombers transiting the South China Sea enroute to Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam, to Air Force One on a visit to the Philippines as shown below.

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Photograph c/o Francis Neri Albums

These aircraft, however, appear to have a questionable future under the administration of President Rudrigo Duterte, who raised a firestorm in defense social media circles when he called the FA-50 “useless” at an economic consultation forum in Davao City on the 21st of June

The President had the following to say about the crown jewel of the PAF’s jet-aircraft fleet. Relevant excerpt begins at  Time index 36:07:

Video Excerpt:
DUTERTE: “You only have . . . what . . . two F-50s? Bakit mo binili yan?

Kayong mga taga Air Force, do not misconstrue my . . . I am a Filipino, I’m a citizen of this country and I have every right to say what I want to say. Sayang ang pera doon. You cannot use it for anti-insurgency which is really the problem of the moment. You can only use it for ceremonial fly-bys. What do I care about <fade out>. Kung binili mo ng choppers na may night vision, you when the kidnapping . . . you could have a catch up those guys

There’s only one purpose for buying it. To match the airpower . . . at least 1-on-1 sa China. Pero, beyond that Scarborough Shoal, anak ng hueteng there are 300 Migs there. They can reach Manila in 6 minutes”

Duterte’s objections to the aircraft are predicated upon three assumptions:

  • The FA-50s were acquired to counter Chinese air power in the West Philippine Sea
  • FA-50s cannot be used for the anti-insurgency campaign
  • The AFP prioritized the FA-50s in lieu of helicopters with night-fighting capability

This article seeks to fact-check these assumptions.

Assumption 1: The FA-50s were acquired to counter Chinese air power

The short response to this would be: “No it is not”.

A detailed answer will require an understanding of what the FA-50 can and cannot do, and a high-level review of the AFP modernization program as a whole. To draw attention to the misconceptions surrounding this aircraft, both among its critics and even some of its well-meaning supporters, this article will begin with what the aircraft can’t do.

Had the Philippine Air Force sought an effective counter to Chinese fighters, the FA-50 would have been a poor choice. In South Korean Air Force service, the Fighting Eagle is a replacement for aging F-5E and F-4 fighters. Both are second-string combat aircraft relegated to supporting roles for Korea’s principal fighters, namely the F-15K air superiority fighter and the relatively smaller — but still formidable — F-16K multi-role fighter.

The FA-50s range is limited. Airforce-technology.com cites a range of 1,851 km for the pure trainer version of this aircraft: the T-50 . While the Fighting Eagle’s actual range is classified, the fact that it’s external dimensions are virtually identical to the T-50, it stands to reason that it’s range would be no better, and could only be worse given the range-sapping external weapons pylons and the weight of additional equipment of the FA-50. In contrast, the smaller of the multi-role fighters cited above — the F-16 — has range of 3,221 km.

To put these figures into a counter-China context, Pag-asa island is approximately 852.77 kilometers from Metro Manila — a one-way flight that’s already almost half the aircraft’s range . This leaves the FA-50 little time to remain on station over Pag-asa before it needs to return to an airfield to refuel. It also has no in-flight refueling capability, therefore to reach, and loiter, over Philippine garrisons in the West Philippine Sea, it would need to sacrifice its precious few under-wing pylons to carrying fuel tanks, much as it did during its ferry flight from South Korea to the Philippines. Fuel tanks in lieu of weapons.

 Landing in Taiwan enroute to the Philippines. Note fuel tanks on the various hardpoints

The FA-50 is also hampered by lack of manufacturer-certified Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air weaponry. Official KAI documentation only cites AIM-9 short-range air-to-air missiles as its principal counter-aircraft armament, along with its 20mm gatling gun. While support for longer ranged missiles is not impossible, it will require a compatibility testing process that has not yet taken place.

All these facts inevitably lead to the question: If the aircraft is at such a significant disadvantage when facing Chinese fighters, why did the PAF bother to buy the FA-50 in the first place? Or in Duterte’s words “Bakit mo binili yan?”

The PAF’s long-term modernization program actually calls for the acquisition of Multi-Role Fighters (MRF) that can establish air superiority within the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone (PADIZ), as well as provide air support for AFP forces on the ground or on water. These would be the “true fighters” that would challenge Chinese Sukhois (not Migs) in the event of escalation of hostilities and not the FA-50.

As per a Department of National Defense White Paper on the Philippine Defense Transformation — the successor to the AFP Modernization Program and the Capability Upgrade Program — the PDT’s goals with respect to air power are as follows:

Strategic Air Strike Force through a combination of manned and unmanned assets in order to gain and maintain air superiority over friendly and contested territories.  The force should be capable of neutralizing a threat’s military potential that may be used against our forces; and, of supporting our surface forces through air-delivered weapons.  The force should have multi-role fighter aircrafts and unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV)23 capable of air interdiction, air combat maneuvering, air-to-ground and air-to-ship missions.  Inherent to the assigned missions is the training and proficiency of the fighter pilots and operators. Continuous training and participation in joint and/or combined air, land, and sea exercises shall be undertaken towards developing a proficient Strategic Air Strike Force.

While a number of candidates for MRFs have been discussed in Philippine media at various points over the past 6 years — from the Saab Gripen to the Lockheed-Martin F-16 — selection of the actual aircraft has not yet been made. Nevertheless, the nature of the mission assures the following facts about these prospective MRFs will apply:

  • There will be a significant performance gap between existing PAF trainers and MRFs. Although the F-5As were retired in 2005, PAF pilots have not been flying supersonic since long before then because concerns about the material condition of the F-5s restricted them to subs0nic flight. This has implications at multiple levels, to include the physical training regimen for pilots that would acclimate to high-g maneuvers.
  • MRFs will employ technologies that are generations ahead of whatever currently exists within the PAF. Fly-by-wire, for example, is the gold standard for modern fighter aircraft. This a system of multiple flight-computers that translate what a pilot wants to do, into actual control surface configurations. A pilot’s flight controls are no longer directly connected to the tail, ailerons, and elevators of the aircraft, they simply send requests to the fly-by-wire computers. While relatively common in the civilian airline industry, the PAF has virtual no experience operating — and more importantly maintaining — this technology. Other avionics components present in modern MRFs, from multi-mode radars to advanced low-bypass turbofans, present similar learning curves for airplane handlers — both on the ground and in the air.
  • MRFs will require a level of logistical support to which the service is unaccustomed. The quantum leap in capability of MRFs comes at a price, not only in pesos, but also in logistical complexity. The piecemeal acquisition of replacement components and cannibalization of existing aircraft for parts — that have become the norm for the PAF — will have a much more detrimental effect on these sophisticated aircraft than on its existing fleet of Vietnam-era aircraft. This will will require paradigm shifts within the organization, no only for aircraft maintainers, but even the budgetary planners responsible for forecasting logistical requirements.

To ensure a safe, sustainable, transition to this class of advanced aircraft, the Philippine Air Force deemed it necessary to acquire a bridging platform that would help the entire organization prepare for the herculean task of assimilating future MRFs into the fleet. The consequences of transitioning neophyte pilots to advanced MRFs too quickly are illustrated by the accident rate of the Indian Air Force, which is partly attributed to the lack of intermediate-performance aircraft, that the aerospace industry currently refers to as Lead In Fighter Trainers (LIFT).

This search for a bridging platform gave rise to the acquisition project formally called the “Surface Attack Aircraft / Lead-In Fighter Trainer” project. This is an amalgamation of two previously separate projects: an effort to acquire ground attack aircraft which dates back to the original 1995 modernization program, and the relatively new LIFT project. To put the role of the FA-50 into perspective, LIFT will be discussed first.

In the PAF, LIFT fits into the following training syllabus (photos c/o of the Francis Neri Albums reposted with permission):

 555660_4137923887371_1913264358_n  sf260  1092119_596083070414122_1193737797_o insert  PAF_mod
Basic Trainer Advanced Trainer Basic Jet Trainer Lead In Fighter Trainer Multi-Role Fighter

Prospective PAF student pilots begin flight instruction with the Cessna T-41s of the PAF Flying School. Pilots that pass the initial screening phase and are destined for fixed wing aircraft proceed to the SIAI-Marchetti SF-260 for more advanced flight instruction. The subset of candidates that are qualified for fighter pilot duty with the Air Defense Wing learn the air defense trade on the SIAI-Marchetti S211 Basic Jet Trainer.

In addition helping new pilots transition to high-performance fighters, LIFT also reduces operational costs associated with multi-role fighters by offloading part of proficiency training to the comparatively cheaper LIFT.

A notable difference with the PAF’s LIFT, compared to similar aircraft in other nations, is that it is combat-capable. South Korea, for example, uses the unarmed T-50 for its LIFT purposes, while using their FA-50s for the above-mentioned low-end attack role. To understand why the PAF went this route, one must understand the service’s experience with its trainers.

t50 fa50

Training aircraft in the PAF have, historically, found themselves pressed into combat service either to make up for force-deficiencies, or as a stop-gap for a complete lack of suitable combat aircraft. When the T-28 Trojan close air support aircraft were withdrawn from service in the wake of the 1989 coup, select SF-260 trainers were converted into combat configuration. The retirement of the F-5A fighters in 2005 gave rise to Project Falcon, which produced the air superiority-grey colored AS211 which served as the PAF principal “fighter substitute” for almost a decade.

In a move that seemingly accepted the inevitability of history repeating itself, the PAF Project Management Team merged its LIFT requirement with its long-standing Surface Attack Aircraft project. So instead of acquiring a pure LIFT aircraft which would have been limited to flight instruction, the project acquired the FA-50PH: an aircraft suitably equipped to prepare the organization for the arrival of more capable multi-role fighters, with a secondary function of providing ground attack functionality. Like the S211 that came before it, it will also serve as an interim fighter — simply because the PAF doesn’t have anything else that even remotely approximates its capabilities.

Assumption 2: FA-50 cannot be used for anti-insurgency

Unlike it’s air-to-air weaponry, the FA-50 is already cleared to use a variety of ground attack weapons. All of which could be brought to bear in internal counter-insurgency campaigns, particularly against groups with a predilection for constructing defensive fortifications. The most recent instance of military action requiring fixed-wing strike was in Lanao in August 2008 where AS-211s were used.

The FA-50 can carry more ordnance than either the AS211s or the Vietnam-era OV-10 Broncos of the 15th Strike Wing. For comparison, the following table indicates the number of Mk.32 500lb bombs that each plane carries. Data reported from multiple sources within the PAF.

Aircraft Number of Mk.82 500 lb
OV-10 4
AS-211 2
FA-50 6

A brochure from Korean Aerospace Industries gives the following insight into the capacities of the various hardpoints, as well as support for bomb racks on the inner pylons, which makes the six-bomb report possible.

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While superior bomb-carrying capacity is, by itself, a significant improvement. What sets the FA-50 apart is the increased bombing accuracy because of its avionics. Existing AS211 and OV-10 are largely dependent on the pilot’s aim, and restricted to specific bombing profiles that require flying over the target, at relatively low heights, for manual weapons release. The FA-50s, on the other hand, is not limited to such profiles.

While PAF sources are reticent to discuss these facets of the aircraft openly, the FA-50’s ground attack mission in the South Korean air force, combined with its lineage with the F-16 strongly, as well as open source data about the aircraft’s avionics (e.g., embedded GPS, Inertial Navigation System, Heads Up Display etc.) strongly suggests the presence of computer-assisted bombing capability that greatly improves the effectiveness of conventional bombs. In South Korean service, the FA-50 is equipped with an Israeli-made Elta EL/M 2032 Multi-Mode Fire Control radar system which aviation Website Daegel.com describes as:

The radar enhances a fighter jet’s air-to-air, air-to-ground, and air-to-sea capabilities, enabling long-range target detection and high-resolution mapping, among other features.

This translates to highly accurate “dumb bomb” delivery either via Constantly Computed Impact Point (CCIP) or Continuously Computed Release Point (CCRP) bombing modes. While these two bombing techniques have been in existence for decades, it wasn’t until the FA-50 that the PAF could begin training in them. CCRP would allow the FA-50 to drop its dumb bombs from very high altitude — above cloud cover — and still have reasonable accuracy. The exact Circular Error of Probability (CEP) for bombs dropped in this manner is secret, but will undeniably be less than that of Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) which public sources have cited at 20ft. However, CCIP and CCRP are still used in conjunction with PGMs for situations where guidance for the PGM becomes unavailable after weapons release (e.g., weather interfering with guidance laser, etc.). PGMs are, in fact, best used in conjunction with either CCIP or CCRP.

Purely for perspective, the following are two bombing maneuvers made possible by CCRP. These images were taken from an October 1957 article in Popular Mechanics about computer-assisted bombing in the USAF, purely based on Inertial Navigation Systems, and without the benefit of embedded GPS systems. Note that these samples are purely to enhance appreciation for the flexibility of the technology. It is not a declaration that these are, or will be, part of the PAF’s own Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP).

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 Bomb toss  Vertical release

Furthermore, as per PAF sources, the availability of embedded training systems on the aircraft — which were integral to its training function — permit the simulation of weapons delivery without actually expending ammunition.

Even without either CCIP or CCRP, the FA-50’s superior ordnance carrying capacity translates to more Paveway II Laser Guided Bombs (LGB) that can be brought to be bear on a target for precision targeting of multiple High Value Targets (HVT) with minimal collateral damage. This relatively new addition to the PAF arsenal provides a valuable capability in counter-insurgency, and one that was actually demonstrated in March 2012 reportedly c/o of an OV-10 carrying at least one such weapon. Although photographs of the event have never been release, a PAF modernization document with a photograph of a PAF OV-10 in the process of dropping a Paveway II was circulated in defense social media.

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 PAF OV-10 dropping Paveway II, photo c/o of a PAF pubication  Photo c/o Rappler.com

Assumption 3: The AFP prioritized the FA-50 in lieu of helicopters with night fighting capability

The AFP has already had five years of the COIN-centric first phase of the Capability Upgrade Program which initially replaced the 1995 AFP Modernization Program. It’s insurgency-focused capabilities are at an all-time high, as are it’s night fighting capabilities. Given that the speech was delivered before the President formally assumed office, and before his formal briefing about the AFP’s capabilities, it is not inconceivable that he was not aware that the Philippine Air Force actually already has eight (8) all-weather AgustaWestland AW-109 attack helicopters with the ability to detect ground targets day or night. These are addition to the two attack helicopters of the Philippine Navy.

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 AW-109 in hangar during Balikataan 2015. FLIR turret clearly visible under nose. Close-up of FLIR turret with view of rocket pod. Screen capture taken from a PAF video  Screen capture of a night-time firing of air-to-ground rockets. Screen capture taken from a PTV4 video

High speed photo reconnaissance

The rebuttals to the assumptions listed above have already addressed the question of “What is the FA-50 for?” in broad strokes. This section will explore other uses for which this aircraft is highly suited.

One function that the FA-50 is uniquely suited is high-speed reconnaissance. Not to be confused with maritime patrol, which is slated to be fulfilled by another PAF project, which will be discussed in another article.

No other Philippine asset, military or civilian, can put human eye-balls above a crisis point faster than the FA-50. Be it an emerging crisis anywhere within the Philippine EEZ, or photo reconnaissance of remote disaster stricken areas as part of the preliminary assessment of a disaster response plan.

Although not currently part of the SAA/LIFT munitions project, reconnaissance pods that can provide real-time images to a ground station do exist and could broaden the FA-50’s usefulness. The following pod is an example. Only proper evaluation and testing will determine its suitability for the our aircraft.

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 Reecelite Tactical Reconnaissance Pod. Photo c/o Rafale

Why a brand new plane for LIFT?

Older, 2nd-hand, aircraft to perform the SAA/LIFT function could have potentially been acquired in lieu of brand new aircraft. However the availability of low-use airframes, with sufficient airframe life to satisfy the requirements of Administrative Order 169, Series of 2007 , while not impossible, is questionable.

3.2.3. Used equipment or weapons system may be acquired, provided that:

a. The used equipment: or weapon system meets the desired operational requirements of the AFP;

b. It still has at least fifteen (15) years service life, or at least fifty percent (50%) of its service life remaining, or if subjected to a life extension program, is upgradeable to attain its original characteristics or capabilities;

c. Its acquisition cost is reasonable compared to the cost of new equipment; and

d. The supplier should ensure the availability of after-sales maintenance support and services,

At any rate, right or wrong, the previous administration’s experience with sticker shock at a lackadasical attempt to acquire refurbished F-16s in 2012, soured the DND against refurbished fighters. This ill-fated F-16 project is a story in itself, and is reserved for a future article.

Selecting brand new aircraft, on the other hand, that are still in production not only assures the PAF of thousands of flights hours of useful airframe life — which translates to decades of service — but also of continued availability of parts. A factory-fresh F-16, for example, has a designed airframe life of 4,500 flight hours which, depending on the sortie rate and demands of the mission profiles, will actually last decades.

Delving into the PAF’s history yet again, it was the lack of spares for an aircraft that had long since been retired from service with the country of origin that eventually grounded the most capable fighter the PAF has operated to date: the F-8H Crusader.

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 F-8H in flight. Photo c/o Vought Corp. F-8s scrapped in Clark AFB

Summary

Modernization of an air force cannot happen overnight. Dr Sanu Kainikaa, an air power strategist with the Royal Australian Air Force and a retired fighter pilot and Wing Commander of the Indian Air Force, summarizes this task on page 48 of his book “The Art of Air Power”, published by the Air Power Development Center of the Royal Australian Air Force:

Of all military capabilities, air power is the most cost intensive to develop, acquire and operate. This places an added responsibility on air force leaders to select and maintain the appropriate air power capabilities that will provide the necessary level of security to the nation. The situation is further complicated by the long lead time required to establish air power capabilities of the right calibre. In combination, the onus of responsibility on the air force leadership is ominous. On the other side of the coin, it has also to be emphasised that air power is critical to success in all contemporary conflicts and is, therefore, a crucial element in the overall warfighting capability of a military force.

Another aspect of the cost of developing air power capabilities is the quantum of resources that need to be expended to create a cadre of professionals who clearly understand all aspects of the professional application of air power. This is once again a drawnout process and cannot be put in place at short notice or in an ad hoc manner. Time and experience are of the essence here, perhaps even more than the need for financial resources. The resource intensiveness of the physical assets and the need to invest wisely in long-term developmental requirements—both in hardware and human capabilities—makes air power a unique capability. This also makes it a complex capability to sustain at the necessary level of competence.

Even if it were not the Duterte administration’s intention to pursue the PAF’s modernization during its tenure, it would be behoove his administration to preserve whatever gains had already been made to give future administrations the latitude to fulfill such plans. The momentum that the PAF is gaining with its FA-50s –if not in terms of raw military power, then in the airpower-related skills for the entire organization — must not be dismissed casually.

Had Duterte’s assumptions about the FA-50PH been correct, then he would have been justified in the stance he took at the SMX forum. With an acquisition cost of US$426.6 million (P19.9 billion), these 12 aircraft alone cost more than the budgets of the Department of Science & Technology and Department of Trade & Industry combined. These are funds that could have been put to use to shore up other aspects of the AFP’s capabilities, or kept in the AFP Modernization Trust Fund for use in the purchase of the true MRFs that the PAF intends to buy.

However, re-examination of the rationale behind why the FA-50 was purchased in the first place, its capabilities, and a simple review of the Philippine Defense Transformation program, yields flaws in these assumptions that arguably can be attributed to lack of information. This article was written in the spirit of aiding efforts that the DND, AFP, and PAF are undoubtedly taking to educate the President about the goals of the PAF component of the modernization plan. The sustainable transition to an external facing air defense posture and the future of the Air Defense Command hinge upon the success of this education campaign. It is of such importance that it deserves the support of any and all knowledgeable patriot.

Ensconced within that transition plan is the FA-50PH, and the training benefits it provides both pilots and plane handlers. It would do the AFP well to highlight the safety benefits that a bridging platform offers to pilots to the President.  After all, Duterte is a pilot himself.

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
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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

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.

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.

10154497_766812026664579_1662390795_n

 

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

 

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

“Sea denial” vs “Sea Control”

Thanks to a position paper published by Congressman Roilo Golez, the term “area denial” has entered mainstream Philippine social media discussions about tensions with China and territorial threats in the West Philippine Sea. But what exactly is “Sea Denial”? To fully appreciate that mission, one must also understand the super-set mission: “Sea Control”.

The following quotations were initially collected for the following discussion on the Timawa.net forum: Sea Control vs Sea Denial: Why small boats aren’t enough and provide an easy-to-follow layman’s guide to understanding these two concepts.

From an online excerpt of the book The Influence of Sea Power on History: 1600-1783, Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1896 by Mahan, A. T. comes the following concise distinction between control and denial

Sea denial. Sea denial, or commerce-destroying, provides a means for harrying and tiring an enemy. It may be a means to avoid losing a war. It may cause “great individual injury and discontent”. But by itself, a sea denial strategy is not a war-winning one. Nor is it a particularly deterring strategy.

Sea Control. Sea control means, fundamentally, the ability to carry your, and your allies’, commerce across the seas and to provide the means to project force upon a hostile, distant shore. A sea controller must limit the sea denial capabilities of the enemy. To quote the Prophet again, “… when a question arises of control over distant regions, … it must ultimately be decided by naval power, …, which represents the communications that form so prominent a feature in all strategy.”

Between the two strategies, sea denial remains the lowest hanging fruit. Expensive capital ships are principal means of exercising Sea Control and is therefore often beyond the resources of most maritime nations. Even China initially started with this strategy as related by Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at ANU. The paper not only points out China’s approach, but affirms the limitations of this strategy as explained above by Mahan

The Chinese have long understood that America’s sea control in the western Pacific has been the military foundation of its strategic primacy in Asia, and that the US Navy’s carriers are the key. They have therefore focused the formidable expansion of their naval and air forces over the past 20 years on trying to deprive the US of sea control by developing their capacity to sink American carriers. In this they appear to have been strikingly successful, to the point that US military leaders now acknowledge that their sea control in the western Pacific is slipping away.

But for China, depriving America of sea control is not the same as acquiring it themselves. Its naval strategy has focused on the much more limited aim that strategists call ”sea denial”: the ability to attack an adversary’s ships without being able to stop them attacking yours. These days, sea denial can be achieved without putting ships to sea, because land-based aircraft, long-range missiles and submarines can sink ships much more cost-effectively than other ships can. This is what China has done.

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The central fact of modern naval warfare – which the Chinese grasp as well as anyone – is that sea denial is relatively easy to achieve, but control is extremely hard. We seem to be entering an era in which many countries can achieve sea denial where it matters to them most, but none can achieve sea control against any serious adversary.

The key take away from White’s thesis is the multi-dimensional nature of the strategy. To enable its own sea denial capability, the AFP needs to make investments in the airborne, maritime, and land-based systems listed above. The Philippine Navy currently has an ongoing acquisition project for brand new Frigates with explicit, albeit limited, Anti-Air, Anti-Surface, and Anti-Submarine Warfare capability. The Philippine Army is moving ahead with studies to acquire land-based Anti-Ship Missile systems. The Philippine Air Force is pursuing a variety of patrol and surface attack aircraft projects. All these efforts, as of writing, remain works-in-progress and their successful and timely completion is hardly assured.

While it is very unlikely that the Philippines will ever be able to make significant headway into sea control on its own, a sea-denial build-up will still put it in a better position to keep cadence with its allies. A coalition of countries with individual sea denial capabilities can approach sea control capability more effectively together than they could alone. A concerted effort to deploy sea-control-compatible assets, would also demonstrate the Philippines’ willingness to participate in an allied effort at sea control and establish its status as a reliable partner in such an allied effort, even if such assets can only maintain a tenuous presence in our EEZ when viewed in isolation.

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.

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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.

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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

Where are the defense entrepreneurs?

A fair number of discussions about SRDP, on various social groups, trumpet the abundance of skills in the Philippine labor force. This is how pronouncements typically go:

“We have so many engineers, computer graduates, OFWs with technology exposure overseas, etc. . . . so we should be able to make our own weapons!!!”.

These assertions, however, overlook one very important ingredient in every successful venture: The Entrepreneur

A weapons manufacturing company is a business. It needs start-up capital and it needs a market that it can satisfy and from which derive profits that sustain the business. Without capitalists and businessmen to get these ventures going . . . the much heralded engineers, computer graduates, etc. won’t have a company to work for and no weapon systems will be produced.

Even if a venture were to benefit from government assistance, to succeed there would still be a need for a business savy manager with an eye towards customer satisfaction as well as profitability. One way or another you need to attract business talent to the mix.

So when scratching our heads about why SRDP isn’t taking off, you shouldn’t just ask why aren’t our engineers being employed . . .

. . . you really also ought to ask, where are the defense-oriented entrepreneurs?

Why aren’t there any entrepreneurs lining up to produce weapons for the AFP despite the billions of pesos lined up for such projects?

That will require a discussion into government procurement practices, the problems plaguing the Self-Reliant Defense Posture program that are only now being addressed through the partnership between the Government Arsenal and a newly formed Philippine defense industry association, as well as gaps in national policy with regard to domestic production. You’d also have to go into the barriers to setting up any business in the Philippines in the first place. Topics that deserve an article all to themselves.

At this point let us simply salute the brave few who dared to risk time . . . and capital . . . to satisfy a customer whose rules and policies remain murky, and who decisions appear . . . randomly reversible.

This article was first posted on the Timawa.net forum here.

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)
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Jacinto Class (Philippine Navy photo)   WHEC (Philippine Navy photo)

Defense related items in the SONA 2013 technical report

The following is a defense-centric excerpt from the SONA technical report. Interestingly, most of the projects listed below were actually either initiated or awarded during the previous administration.

Parallel to the peaceful pursuit of it territorial disputes, the government prioritized the building of a minimum credible defense posture for the country through the AFP Modernization and Capability Upgrade Program (AFPM/CUP).

On 06 December 2012, the President signed RA 10349 (An Act Amending RA 7898, Establishing the Revised AFP Modernization Program and for Other Purposes), which extends the implementation of the AFPM/CUP for another 15 years and provides a five-year initial funding of at least P75 billion for the Program.

The government completed a total of 33 projects in 3 years, compared with the 43 projects completed during the whole 9 years of its predecessor.

72 These include the acquisition of the following:

-> BRP Gregorio del Pilar (first of two Weather High Endurance Cutters [WHEC]73);
-> BRP Tagbanua (the first locally-built landing craft utility);
-> Eight Sokol Combat Utility Helicopters;
-> 60 field ambulances; and
-> Mobility equipment (1¼ and 1½ ton troop carrier trucks).
-> The Philippines is currently negotiating the procurement of 12 units of F/A-50 aircraft from the Republic of Korea with a total cost of P18.98 billion (P1.58 billion/unit)
-> The AFP will also procure 50,629 units of M4 Caliber 5.56mm Assault Rifles for P1.94 billion (P38,402.13/unit), which is significantly lower than the P3.19 billion (P63,000/unit) ABC. This is a result of the AFP’s strict adherence to transparent and accountable bidding process.