2016: What’s happening with the AFP Modernization

Sunday , 1, January 2017 Leave a comment

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

Among the capabilities that the AFP acquired this year are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The acquisition list

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

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

See the construction timeline for this ship here.

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

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

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

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

Awaiting delivery

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Pending acquisitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related articles:

2015: What’s happening with the AFP modernization program

2014: What’s happening with the AFP modernization program

2013: What’s happening with the AFP modernization program

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

Flashback: AFP modernization – 2003 to 2006

Flashback: The AFP’s modernization plans in 1995