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With the Light Tank Acquisition Project appearing to be nearing a final selection, MaxDefense would like to discuss the selection for the vehicles based on our analysis of the situation and the information on hand.

The Light Tank Acquisition Project of the Philippine Army is one of those given an "in-principle" approval by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte last June 2018 as part of the Php300 billion Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects under the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

MaxDefense was informed that the Light Tank Acquisition Project was also among those green-lighted for immediate implementation in the AFP-PNP Joint Command Conference last 07 May 2019. This means the project can be finalized and awarded to whoever the PA TWG and DND believe to have provided the best offer.

For further reading, you may give some time to read our previous blog entry discussing the Light Tank acquisition as well as other acquisitions of the Philippine Army for the Mechanized Infantry Division, which can be accessed below:

"Philippine Army's Planned Acquisition of Tanks and Armoured Assets for Horizon 2 Phase" - first posted on 24 March 2018

The General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS) ASCOD 2 Medium Main Battle Tank (MMBT) during Eurosatory 2018. Photo taken from Armada International.

The Shortlisted Proponents and Products:

It appears that we now have a final list of which ones were shortlisted by the Philippine Army for their Light Tank Acquisition Project, which is also based on the proponents that submitted a serious offer.

For the Tracked Light Tank, the following were said to have been considered:

1. Hanwha Defense Systems (South Korea): K21-105 Medium Tank;

2. Elbit Systems-General Dynamics European Land Systems (Israel-Austria): ASCOD 2 MMBT Medium Tank;

3. PT Pindad-FNSS (Indonesia-Turkey): Kaplan (Harimau) Medium Tank

From top to bottom: Hanwha Defense Systems K21-105 Medium Tank, Elbit Systems-General Dynamics European Land Systems ASCOD 2 Medium Main Battle Tank, and PT Pindad-FNSS Kaplan Medium Tank. Credits to original sources of photos.

For the Wheeled 8x8 Tank Destroyer are the following:

1. Elbit Systems-Excalibur Army (Israel-Czech Republic): Pandur 2 8x8 with 105mm gun;

2. IVECO (Italy): Centauro 2 8x8 with 105mm gun;

3. Otokar Otomotiv (Turkey): Arma 8x8 with 105mm gun

From top to bottom: Elbit Systems-Excalibur Army Pandur II 8x8 105mm, IVECO Centauro II 8x8 105mm, and Otokar Otomotiv Arma 8x8 105mm. Credits to original sources of the photos.

All other perceived potential proponents and products appears to have not been able to participate, or did not submit a serious offer to the Philippine Army despite receiving the Request for Information (RFI) from the PA Technical Working Group.

Perceived Winner by Deduction:

To be able to determine who we believe would win the tender based on the shortlist above, MaxDefense would base what it believes as the possible winning bidder by identifying the possible reasons for being removed from the selection, and taking out any shortlisted proponent and product and reduce the selection.

1. First off, MaxDefense will reduce the shortlist based on which one may not meet Philippine laws based on the Revised Government Procurement Act under RA 9184, and the Revised AFP Modernization Act under RA 10349.

According to these RAs, a product should already be in service with the origin's armed forces, or as an alternative, at least in service with 2 foreign armed forces.

For tracked vehicles:

* The Hanwha K21 armored fighting vehicle is in service active service with the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA).
* The GDELS ASCOD armored fighting vehicle is in service with the Spanish Army as the ASCOD Pizarro, the Austrian Army as the ASCOD Ulan. The ASCOD is also being introduced to the British Army as the Ajax. 
* The PT Pindad-FNSS Kaplan/Harimau medium tank is not yet in service, but is being introduced to the Indonesian Army (TNI-AD), with deliveries expected to happen in a few years.

While the K21 and ASCOD were used as armored fighting vehicles and were armed with medium caliber guns instead of a tank gun, it appears that the RA9184 and RA10349 allows its selection. Meanwhile, while the Kaplan/Harimau was designed as a medium tank, it is currently not in service with any military even by its origin (Turkey and Indonesia). This means the Kaplan/Harimau could be disqualified.

For the wheeled vehicles:

* The Excalibur Army Pandur 2 is currently in service with the Czech Army, Portuguese Army, Austrian Army, and the Indonesian Army. 
* The IVECO Centuaro is being used by the Italian Army, Spanish Army, plus the Royal Jordanian Army and the Royal Omani Army.
* The Otokar Arma is only in use by the Royal Bahraini Army.

Like in the tracked vehicles, the Pandur 2 and Centauro both meet the requirements of RA9184 and RA10349 for being in service with the country of origin or at least 2 foreign users. But Otokar's Arma is only in use by 1 foreign user, and not in use by the country of origin (Turkey). This means the Otokar Arma 8x8 could be disqualified.

The PT Pindad-FNSS Kaplan/Harimau medium tank has the most potential among the tracked vehicles shortlisted as the Indonesian Army intends to acquire them by the hundreds. But its development was too late to meet the Philippine requirements of being a proven product. Credits to original source of the photo.

2. Of all the tracked and wheeled vehicle offerings, there were only two suppliers of turrets: either CMI Defence Cockerill from Belgium, or Oto Melara from Italy.

The Hanwha K21-105 and PT Pindad-FNSS Kaplan, and the Otokar Arma 8x8 all use turrets made by CMI Defence Cockerill, while the Elbit-GDELS ASCOD 2 MMBT, Elbit-Excalibur Army Pandur 2 8x8, and the IVECO Centauro 2 8x8 all use an Oto Melara-made turret.

As MaxDefense has been saying for more than a year now, Belgium's Walloon regional government has imposed an very tight export control to the Philippines due to their fear that the Philippine government may use Belgian products in Human Rights abuses or Extra-Judicial Killings. This despite the AFP's good record of not participating in HR or EJK issues.

By deduction, it means only the ASCOD 2 MMBT, Pandur 2 8x8 and Centauro 2 8x8 may be feasible for selection due to their non-usage of Belgian-made or sourced turrets and guns. Meanwhile, the Hanwha K21-105 medium tank could be disqualified as the Philippine Army is expected not to select a model that uses a Belgian-made turret and gun.

The use of a turret and gun from Belgium's CMI Defence may have costed Hanwha to be selected in the Light Tank acquisition project of the Philippine Army. Photo taken from Armored Warfare website.

3. By this time, only the Elbit Systems-GDELS ASCOD 2 MMBT remains as the only tracked vehicle in the shortlist. But for the wheeled vehicles, there are still two: the Elbit-Excalibur Army Pandur II, and the IVECO Centauro 2.

With the ASCOD 2 MMBT probably selected, the selection of the wheeled vehicle could be a combination of performance and practicality. Since the Pandur 2 is also being offered by Elbit Systems, it is much simple to award the entire Light Tank Acquisition Project to a single proponent rather than distributing it to two proponents despite having a very small order.

In this case, IVECO's Centauro 2 may be placed in 2nd place for the wheeled vehicle requirement, with both the Elbit-GDELS ASCOD 2 MMBT and the Elbit-Excalibur Army Pandur II 8x8 possibly selected for the project.

MaxDefense's Opinion:

Based on the above deduction, MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Army may select the Elbit Systems-General Dynamics European Land Systems ASCOD 2 MMBT for the tracked requirements, and the Elbit Systems-Excalibur Army Pandur 2 8x8 for the wheeled requirement.

Aside from the deduction we made, we also believe that recent actions by the Department of National Defense (DND) itself may lead to such selections.

First was the recent visit of DND officials in Excalibur Army's facility in the Czech Republic, wherein the DND was able to view the Pandur 2 8x8. This was in between visits made by Excalibur Army officials to the DND office in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City to further discuss their offers

Philippine officials visit the facility of Excalibur Army in Czech Republic. Credits to a community member who wish to remain anonymous for sharing this photo.

Also, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana recently called for the strengthening of defense relations between the Philippines and Spain, and an impending signing by the two countries of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on logistics, defense materiel, armaments and defense industry cooperation agreeement would further strengthen the position of GDELS.

This impending MOU was also discussed in a separate blog entry we made, which can be seen on the link below:

"PAF's LRPA Project Expected to Benefit with Improvement of PH-Spain Defense Cooperation" - first posted 03 November 2018

What's Next:

While our opinion above is what we think would happen, it could be wrong as we are not the one making the decisions here.

It is still up to the Philippine Army's Technical Working Group (TWG) and Defense Acquisition System Assessment Team (DASAT) on the Light Tank Acquisition Project who will make their selection, which in turn would be raised to the Commanding General, Philippine Army (CGPA) for support and recommendation to the DND.

Anything can still happen unless the PA and DND already made a final decision.

Anyway, MaxDefense wishes good luck to all proponents and to the Philippine Army on whatever selection they will make.


Project Summary:

Light Tank Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 16 July 2019.

* End User: Philippine Army (Mechanized Infantry Division)
* Quantity: 44 units total in 2 lots
* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects of RAFPMP
* Project ABC: Php9,484,332,000.00
* Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) Procurement
* Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund, to be paid via Multi-Year Obligatory Allocations (MYOA).
* SARO Release: TBA
* Winning Proponent: TBA
* Product for Delivery: 
    - Tracked Light Tanks with 105mm gun: Quantity and model TBA
    - Wheeled Light Tanks (8x8) with 105mm gun: Quantity and model TBA
* Contract Price: TBA
* First post by MaxDefense: 15 November 2015
* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PALightTankAcquisition
* Status: Pre-procurement phase ongoing. Awaiting DND's decision and Acquisition Decision Memorandum.


First edit and release: 16 July 2019
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines
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The Philippine Army (PA) is expected to receive its shipment of Russian-made RPG-7V2 rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launchers in the next few days. These RPGs were delivered to the PA by Russia's defense export agency Rosoboronexport under a contract signed between the Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) in late 2017.

This is despite the both the Philippine and Russian sides having problems on how to proceed with payments due to the US government's Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) issues.

MaxDefense received this news last week, but needed to check on the matter since there are issues surrounding the deal. Knowing what's happening allows us to provide better information that just reporting its arrival.

The RPG-7V2 handheld rocket propelled grenade launcher on display in an arms expo. Photo taken from the collection of Vitaly V. Kuzmin.


The Philippine Army requested for the delivery of 744 units of Rocket Propelled Grenades under its Rocket Launcher Light (Phase 2) Acquisition Project as part of the Horizon 1 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP).

This is to replace the remaining M67 90mm recoilless rifles (RR) still being used, while improving the overall firepower of infantry units by having them distributed to smaller units that did not have access to RRs before.

An M67 90mm recoilless rifle used by the Philippine Army against terrorists groups in 2018. Photo taken from Inquirer.net's report on a clash between the PA and BIFF terrorists in Maguindanao.

The initial batch bought under Phase 1 of the project was acquired through US Foreign Military Sales (US FMS) program, delivering 250 units of ATGL-L rocket propelled grenades made by Bulgaria's Arsenal JSCo. The ATGL-L RPGs started arriving in late 2016 and have all been delivered by 2017, with some of the units used by the Philippine Army against Maute Group ISIS-inspired terrorists in the Battle of Marawi in 2017.

Further discussion on the Phase 1 of the project can be found on our earlier blog entry on the topic, which can be accessed through the link provided below:

"Philippine Army Receives Complete Shipment of ATGL-L RPGs, Immediately Puts into Service" - first posted on 16 July 2017

The ATGL-L rocket propelled grenade launcher from Bulgaria's Arsenal JSCo. Photo taken from Arsenal JSCo.'s website.

For the second batch, the Department of National Defense decided to go for a Government-to-Government (G2G) procurement instead of tendering it. MaxDefense reported in the past the several proponents were interested in supplying these RPGs to the Philippine Army, including Arsenal JSCo. of Bulgaria, and several other arms manfuacturers from Europe.

As a G2G project, the DND decided to go with the offer from the Russian government, which promised to supply the required units plus unspecified number and type of RPG ammunition. A report by Russian state media agency TASS confirmed that a contract was signed between the Philippines and Russia by late 2017, with deliveries expected to commence by 2018.

A Philippine Army officer demonstrate the use the ATGL-L (RPG-7) rocket propelled grenade launcher during a training exercise. Photo c/o 33rd Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army.

Delays and Issues on CAATSA:

But despite the quick movement from decision making to project awarding to contract signing, the project was stalled on the Opening of Letter of Credit (LOC), which is a requirement to support payment transactions. 

The Letter of Credit is a document from a bank or financial institution which guarantees a buyer's payment to the seller will be received on time and for the correct amount. This gives Rosoboronexport guarantee that the DND or the Philippine government will pay for the products it ordered, in this case, the RPGs.

But due to CAATSA issues, no financial institution or bank based in the Philippines, or even from Russia are willing to transact the deal, which also includes guaranteeing for the payments. These banks and financial institutions fear that the US government may impose sanctions on them, which could be disastrous in a business' point of view.

Since the deal cannot move forward until this issue is settled, the project was stuck and the delivery scheduled was delayed. Considering the contract was for Rosoboronexport to deliver the RPGs by 2018, none arrived up until July 2019.

Different Russian ammunition types for the RPG-7, some of which may be among those included in the delivery for the Philippine Army. Photo taken from IPFS.

Russia's Determination:

With the delays, there are some groups who are already pushing for the cancellation of the contract with Russia as the Philippine Army ends up receiving nothing. And this was taken seriously by the Russian side.

MaxDefense sources confirmed that Russia pressed-on with the production and delivery of the RPGs despite the Philippines not releasing payments for them. This is to make sure that the project proceeds and the Philippine side would not back out of the deal.

And since the amount is not significant (project cost is said to be Php408 million), it appears that Russia has agreed to settle the payment issues later on as both sides continue to find ways. Sources mentioned that both parties are looking at having payments made in Euros or another currency instead of the US dollar, and this would allow a 3rd party financial institution to assist in the payments.

The same is being eyed in case the Philippines pushes through with larger defense acquisitions from Russia including the planned acquisition of 16 to 17 units of Russian Helicopters Mil Mi-171Sh medium lift helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

Using other means to pay for the goods acquired from Russia are eyed by both Russian and Philippine governments to go around CAATSA issues. This is the same route being made by several countries including India, and may allow the Philippines to fulfil its plans to purchase Russian helicopters like the Mi-171Sh.

MaxDefense will try to provide the latest news on the arrival of these RPGs from Russia, which we will be making on our community page @ Facebook. Further updates will also be made on our resource page, which MaxDefense will be posting on our AFP & PCG Modernization resource portal soon.

Project Summary:

Rocket Laucher Light (Phase 2) Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 14 July 2019.

* End User: Philippine Army (multiple units)
* Quantity: 744 units total plus unspecified quantity of ammunition
* Modernization Phase: Horizon 1 Phase Priority Projects of RAFPMP
* Project ABC: Php408,000,000.00
* Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) Procurement
* Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund
* SARO Release: SARO-BMB-D-18-0013668 dated 13 June 2018
* Winning Proponent: Rosoboronexport (Russia)
* Product for Delivery: 
    - RPG-7V2 rocket propelled grenade launcher
    - Unspecified number and type of RPG ammunition
* Contract Price: Php408,000,000.00
* First post by MaxDefense: 05 November 2016
* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PARLLPhase2Acquisition
* Status: Awaiting delivery from Russia's Rosoboronexport. Reported to MaxDefense as arriving by July 2019.

First edit and release: 14 July 2019
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines
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In this specific blog entry, we invited one of our contributors, who gives special focus on projects of the Philippine Coast Guard, to write on behalf of MaxDefense Philippines. We would like to thank our contributor and MaxDefense community member "Herbie" for making this effort. Herbie has been following the Philippine defense, modernization, and asset acquisition for more than a decade, and has been a MaxDefense community member for almost 6 years.

In our more than 6 years of operation, Herbie would be our third guest writer to have posted an original entry with MaxDefense Philippines, as we continue to widen our base aside from the page's sole editor, Max Montero.


To improve the capability of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in responding to offshore and coastal maritime incidents such as Search and Rescue (SAR), Maritime Law Enforcement (MARLEN), Maritime Security (MARSEC) operations, the PCG requested the acquisition of two (2) 94 meter Multi-Role Response Vessels (MRRV) as part of the PCG's Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project (MSCIP) Phase II program.

The Japan Coast Guard Kunigami-class patrol vessel Ikema (PL-86).
Photo for reference only, taken from J-Hangarspace website.


The requirement for MRRVs was first published in the documennt “RA008-02: Formulating a National Transport Plan” that dates back to March 2010. 

It was commissioned by the Philippines – Australia Partnership for Economic Governance Reforms (PEGR) group and was initiated by the Australian Government. It stated that the Philippine Government work for the “Development of maritime disaster response capabilities.” The indicator to achieve this objective is a target of  acquiring twelve (12) “Maritime Disaster Response Vessels”.

Contrary to beliefs that the MRRV project was a Japanese initiative, it was actually the collaboration by the Philippine government and the Australian government that made way to the idea of acquiring such vessels.
Photo taken fro AusAID website.

Also, the same MRRV requirement was stated more clearly in a July 2011 commitment plan of the Philippines to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Counter-Terrorism Action Plan

It stated a ”Need to acquire the following surface assets: two (2) 100-meter high endurance vessels” among other PCG requirements stated. 

By 2013, the former Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) detailed a plan for the “Acquisition of two- 92-meter Multi-Role Response Vessels”.

This report from the former DOTC indicated the requirement for the "Acquisition of two 92-meter Multi-Role Response Vessels. Photo taken from the former DOTC website.

By November 2015, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) issued a Note Verbale transmitting the Government of the Philippines (GOP)’s official request to secure loan financing from the Government of Japan.  

From January to February 2016, JICA’s Feasibility Study Review and Appraisal Mission were dispatched and made a report in the link.

The planned deployment of the 94-meter MRRV as indicated in the Japan MOFA's case study on the request for funding assistance submitted by the Philippine government. Photo taken from Japan MOFA's website.

During a June 2016 NEDA-ICC review, the title, technical specifications, cost and implementation period of the project following the appraisals by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) 

Among the changes were:

*  The adjustment of the total length from 92 meters to 94 meters
* Amount of funding required from US$89.73 million to US$142.85 million 

On September 2016, the NEDA Board finally approved the project. And finally on October 2016, the GOP and the GOJ signed a JICA Official Development Assistance (ODA) Loan Agreement, specifically a STEP loan during Philippine Pres. Rodrigo Duterte's visit to Japan. 

The Special Terms for Economic Partnership (STEP) was applied to the project in the agreement that was signed, and it was expected that only Japanese shipbuilding technologies will be utilized. During the October 2016 signing, the project was targeted to be completed on June 2021.

The terms of the STEP loan are first they are required to use the service of Japanese companies. Payable in 40 years, the loan amount is JPY16.455 Billion with an annual interest of 0.1. The bonus is that the loan has a grace period of 10 years.

Project Implementation:

There are two contracts for this project:
First is the Consulting Services for the construction of the vessels which was awarded on 28 September 2018 and the Notice to Proceed (NTP) was issued on 09 November 2018. 

In this project, the Joint Venture of Japan Marine Science and PADECO Co. Ltd. won the contract. This contract was delayed due to the slow procurement process of the Philippine Department of Transportation (DOTr, which replaced the DOTC after the government decided to separate the scope of communications from the agency).  

The second project is the Vessel Construction contract which is due for bidding sometime between June to November 2019. 

As of June 2019, target completion of the two vessels are now March 2020 and June 2020. Japan Marine United Corp, Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., and Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. are the shortlisted shipbuilding firms for this contract. The latest scheduled Pre-bid meeting is scheduled on 10 July 2019.

Being a Japanese-funded and built class of ships, it is expected that the model will be based on an existing proven design used by the Japan Coast Guard, like the Kunigami-class (above). Credits to original source of the above photo.

Technical Requirements:
Based on the design created for this project, these are some of the basic specifications of the ships:

* Overall Length: about 94 meters
* Length, waterlines: about 87.50 meters
* Breadth, moulded: about 11.5 meters
* Designed load draft, moulded: about 4 meters
* Speed: Not less than 24 knots maximum, 12-18 knots cruising
* Range: Not less than 4,000 nautical miles @ 12 knots
* Endurance: Not less than 15 days
* Crew: 67  
* Survivor capacity: 36
* Engine: 2 x 6,600kW diesel engines, with option to fit slow-speed electric drive for fuel savings
* RHIB/FRP: 2 units 8 meter boats lowered by davit cranes
* Gross tonnage(as per International Tonnage, 1969): about 2,300 tons

Photo taken from Technical Requirements of the 94-meter MRRV project as indicated in the Bid Documents.

To ensure the possibility of day and night helicopter operations, the vessel should be equipped with a helicopter landing deck platform, hangar, landing aids and associated equipment. Vessel and helicopter launching and recovery facilities shall be designed and supplied to allow for helicopter operations up to sea state 4 (WMO sea states) in Philippine sea areas.

The helicopter landing deck platform, associated equipment and landing aids may be designed using Japanese Coast Guard norms and standards similar or equivalent to the standards used for the PCG’s offshore patrol vessel. 

Ship-helicopter interface compatibility must be taken into consideration. Helicopter recovery assist, secure and traverse equipment required for safe and efficient helicopter operations to include equipment for; communications, approach, hover, landing/take-off, traversing and stowing shall be provided.

Helicopter landing deck with hangar shall be arranged aft part of the Vessel. The following helicopters shall be considered for the design of helideck strength, helideck fittings, helicopter stowing, refueling, electrical, firefighting equipment, associated equipment and landing aids, etc. 

As a minimum, design load of helideck platform and hangar should be able to accommodate the maximum-take-off weight of the heavier helicopter listed below with a margin for heavy landing conditions/ factor of safety:

1) Airbus EC145 T2
2) Sikorsky S-76C
3) AgustaWestland AW139
4) Bell 412EP

Helicopter hangar shall be designed as to safely store and lash the one EC145 Eurocopter through manual operations, with applicable safety regulations.

The PCG has an order for two (2) Airbus Helicopters EC145 T2 (H125) twin-engine helicopters and are scheduled to arrive soon. The PCG is also eyeing the acquisition of larger helicopters and is said to looking at the AgustaWestland AW139. Credits to original source of the photo.

The vessel shall be so designed and equipped to be able to safely tow another vessel of at least similar size or weight. Towing capacity shall be modeled after the existing similar-type JCG vessels.

The vessel will have Anti-Rolling Devices: Anti-Rolling Tank-Passive type Anti-Rolling tank shall be provided. Fin Stabilizer- A fixed type (non-retractable) fin stabilizer shall be provided at engine room.

A Fixed diving platform shall be provided at stern above full load line. An ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) system shall be provided.

Updated Specifications:

Based on the latest bid documents for the Vessel Construction Project, the latest 94-Meter MRRV Technical Specifications are:

It now specifically mentioned the Kunigami model, which is the Japan Coast Guard's Kunigami-class large patrol vessel. The JCG has eighteen (18) such ships and is considered a proven design.

It now remains to be seen who will be selected to build the ships for the PCG. It is also worth noting that all three interested proponents Japan Marine United, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Shipbuilding and Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding all had experience in building the Kunigami-class for the JCG between 2011 to 2017.

Some photos of Kunigami-class large patrol vessels of the JCG. Credits to original sources of the photos.

This project will be updated later on thorough our MaxDefense AFP & PCG Modernization Resource Portal, considering that this project is now moving is just awaiting for the Bidding process to be completed on or before November 2019.


First edit and release: 06 July 2019
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines & "Herbie"

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MaxDefense has some updates on the Philippine Air Force's Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Acquisition Project, which is a Horizon 2 Phase Priority Project under the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

It would be noted that the project was awarded to Israel's Elbit Systems to supply and deliver the Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAVs to the PAF.

The photo below was shared to us, showing the first Elbit Hermes 450 UAV of the Philippine Air Force, probably taken in Israel.

The PAF's first Hermes 450 MALE UAV from Elbit Systems. Photo shared exclusively to MaxDefense.

Apparently, a source told us that its been sitting in crates in Israel waiting for the Philippine government to release funds before it gets shipped. 

It was also said that this unit is the freebie unit which will be used by the PAF to train in UAV ops in the Philippines while the rest of the Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 are being prepared for delivery between now and late 2020.

MaxDefense was informed that 2 UAVs will be arriving as first batch of Hermes 450. The rest will arrive at a later date, most likely before the end of 2019.

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In previous MaxDefense reports made through our blog entries, and social media posts, and later corroborated by reports by local and international media and defense outlets, it was reported that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) Technical Working Group (TWG) has selected the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) T129 ATAK attack helicopter for the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project under the Horizon 2 phase Priority Projects of the RAFPMP.

The TAI T129 ATAK attack helicopter during an airshow. Credits to original source of the photo.

The Department of National Defense (DND) through Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana also supported this decision, and was the submitted request to Malacanang for approval by the President Rodrigo Duterte. Despite Pres. Duterte's preference on Russian attack helicopters, he approved the request of the DND and PAF for implementation, allowing the DND to finalize negotiations with TAI and the Turkish Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Trade.

For further reading, you may refer to a previous blog entry regarding the decision to acquire the T129 ATAK attack helicopters from Turkey, which can be accessed from the link provided below:

"Philippine Air Force Technical Group Picks TAI's T129 ATAK as its Future Attack Helicopter" - first posted on 28 November 28 2018.

The PAF, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Filipino people were all expecting the release of Notice of Award (NOA) in favor of Turkish Aerospace Industries, and eventually a Contract Signing between them and the DND, which was planned to be made sometime between March and May 2019.

A scale model of the T129 during the Philippines-Turkey Defense MOU Signing last December 2018 in Manila. Photo taken from CNN Turk.

But it's already almost July 2019. No NOA has been released in favor of TAI. No contract signed.

Another helicopter acquisition project running parallel and done separately with the Attack Helicopter acquisition project went through smoothly and has completed contract signing a few months ago.

So what happened?

The Turkish S400 Triumf deal and its Implications:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decision to acquire the Russian-made S400 Triumf long range air defense system has placed Turkey at odds with its allies with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) led by the United States of America.

NATO and the US government has been asking Turkey to re-consider its acquisition of the Russian S-400 system since it would expose vulnerabilities on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, which Turkey also plans to buy as their next generation fighter aircraft.

Russia's S-400 Triumf long range air defense system, said to be among the best in the world, and Turkey wants it. Credits to original source of the photo.

The US believes that the considerable exposure of the F-35 to the S-400's radars and targeting system could transmit data to the Russian manufacturers of the system, and ultimately to the Russian military and government, which would enable them to get valuable information on the aircraft and probably create ways to counter it.

Also, the US insists that buying from Russia, specifically the state-run arms export agency Rosoboronexport is in the US government's blacklist, and dealing with them can be a reason to receive sanctions through the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

But Turkey insisted on pushing through with the deal despite the US giving them a deadline of up to the end of July 2019 to cancel the deal with Russia. This is because they do not agree with the US' assessment on the S-400 affecting the F-35 aircraft, while also believing that the S-400 is a better performing product than what its western allies have or are willing to sell to Turkey.

The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter - unknowingly the Philippines was indirectly affected by issues regarding this aircraft. Photo taken from the National Interest website.

The US threatened sanctions to Turkey if the deal proceeds, including cancellation of sale of the F-35 JSF, as well as economic and trade sanctions through CAATSA including elimination of Turkish suppliers and manufacturers from the F-35 supply chain.

This sanction may also include export of technology, equipment and components, spare parts, weapons and munitions by the US and its allies who support the program against the Turkish government and industrial sector.

Turkey's TAI would be greatly affected by any sanctions triggered by the government's decision to buy the Russian S-400 Triumf air defense system. And it will affect not just the production of the T129 ATAK but also almost all of TAI's aircraft products until new sources of components and new certifications can be received. Credits to original source of the photo.

The Philippines' planned T129 ATAK acquisition:

While these political events are happening in Turkey, the Philippines selected the Turkish made TAI T129 ATAK attack helicopter for its own requirements.

The T129 ATAK is the result of Turkey's program to create an indigenous attack helicopter that they could manufacture and use for their armed forces, as well as for export to other countries. Technology was based mostly from the Agusta (later AgustaWestland) A129 Mangusta attack helicopter from Italy, which uses several components from the US and other allies.

Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana in the background of a  TAI T129 ATAK scale model during the Defense MOU signing last December 2018 in Manila. Photo taken from CNN Turk.

The T129 ATAK is an improvement over the original A129 Mangusta, replacing minor Italian or foreign-made components with equivalent Turkish made ones while continuing the use of foreign made components that are not yet available in Turkey's own facilities. This is while also increasing performance values including the use of more powerful engines to support the new aircraft.

While Turkey is very much willing to sell the TAI T129 ATAK to the Philippines, the problem now lies on the effects of CAATSA to the ability of TAI to secure the components needed to build new T129 ATAK attack helicopters and other products, as well as providing spare parts and support once these aircraft are delivered.

The T129 ATAK attack helicopter of the Turkish Army. Credits to original source and owners of the photo.

Based on information gathered by MaxDefense for the last several months through sources from the DND, PAF, and friends from local and international defense industry and aviation industry, it turns out that everything looks gloomy for the DND's deal with TAI and its Turkish counterparts.

Due to TAI and the Turkish government's inability to provide assurances that US-made component including the LHTEC CTS800-4A turboshaft engines and many other components, it was decided by the DND and the PAF TWG and leaders to STOP the deal with TAI and the Turkish government.

The LHTEC CTS800 turboshaft engine, the same engine powering the T129 ATAK and the AW159 Wildcat helicopters.
Photo taken from Honeywell Aerospace's website.

It was also decided that since TAI may be unable to deliver the T129 ATAK to the Philippines, the PAF TWG was requested to re-open its evaluation and selection process for the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project.

In short, it could be safe to say that the acquisition of TAI T129 ATAK is practically dead.

It is probably also safe to say now that the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project is rebooted, or may even be put on-hold for now.


While the PAF TWG was asked to start re-evaluating the products previously offered to them, the process may take some time before a new model gets selected.

This also means re-opening the door to previous offers made to the PAF which may include the Bell AH-1Z Viper, the Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian, the Russian Helicopters Mil Mi-28 Havoc and Mil Mi-35 Hind, and other helicopter models.

Previously, the PAF TWG's findings on not selecting these helicopters were attributed to different things: the AH-1Z and AH-64E were both too expensive, and may take a considerable time to deliver due to the long process of getting approvals for buying American products. While the Mi-28 Havoc and Mi-35 has inter-operability, compatibility, and support issues, not to mention CAATSA issues on both helicopters, and size and performance issues on the Mi-35.

Other new offers were made to the PAF, including that from Sikorsky with their S-70i Battlehawk proposal, which is strongly being considered due to its commonality in parts, logistics, training and everything else with the S-70i Black Hawk Combat Utility Helicopters ordered by the PAF a few months ago.

The Sikorsky S-70i Battlehawk armed helicopter was also offered to the PAF when the deal for the T129 ATAK fell through. Photo credits to original source.

Currently, the only solution that is coming the PAF's way is the delivery of two (2) AH-1S Cobra helicopters from the Kingdom of Jordan, which were donated to the PAF although requires some work that the PAF and DND needed to shoulder.

The AH-1 Band-Air Solution?

 The incoming AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters donated by Jordan are the only thing that is closest to the Attack Helicopter or T129 ATAK that is arriving for the PAF. Despite previous posts by MaxDefense naming these helicopters as AH-1F (Foxtrot), it appears that they are actually older AH-1S (Sierra). But it does not matter since these AH-1S have the same performance as the newer AH-1F.

An info-graphic of the upcoming AH-1S Cobra attack helicopters of the PAF. And it turns out they are actually ex-IDF AH-1 Tzefas! Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense by a source.

According to MaxDefense's sources, these helicopters are actually former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) aircraft that were among the 14 units donated by Israel to Jordan. In short, we are getting 3rd hand helicopters. But its not bad after all.

These helicopters are actually ex-IDF AH-1 Tzefa attack helicopters, which are either AH-1S or AH-1F Cobra helicopters but brought to a common standard by the Israelis to simplify things by having commonality along the entire fleet. The only way to know the difference between a Foxtrot and Sierra Tzefas was looking at the body serials plate.

Ever wonder why the ex-Jordanian AH-1 Cobras can fire Spike-ER missiles as mentioned in the info-graphic above? Because these are Tzefas!!!

An Israel Defense Force AH-1S/F Tzefa attack helicopter, which were among those donated by Israel to Jordan, and now being donated by Jordan to the Philippines. Credits to original source of photo.

With only two (2) units arriving, these helicopters are obviously not enough to cover the delays in the Attack Helicopter acquisition project. And this could be a good reason for the PAF to consider the acquisition of more AH-1S/F Cobra attack helicopters from either Jordan, Israel, or other friendly countries as a temporary solution, and to give meaning to the introduction of Cobra attack helicopters into the PAF's fleet.

Having 2 AH-1S Tzefa Cobra attack helicopters isn't enough. How to solve this? By getting more of the same helicopters to make the earlier decision to accept 2 helicopters become relevant and reasonable.
Credits to original source of photo.

For further reading regarding the discussions, you may refer to our previous blog entry discussing the Jordanian donation of AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters to the Philippines, you may refer to an old blog entry discussing this, which can be accessed on the link provided below:

"Is the Philippine Air Force Getting Bell AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopters from Jordan?" - first posted on 21 August 21, 2017

What's Next for the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project?

And if our sources is correct, it appears that the PAF TWG may wait until the 2 AH-1S Tzefa Cobra helicopters arrive late this year before they make a new decision. This is for the PAF, specifically the 15th Strike Wing, to evaluate the helicopters to decide if they really would go for a purpose-built attack helicopter, or re-consider the Battle Taxi option like the S-70i Battlehawk offer.

But the PAF TWG should decide quickly. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has already released the funds for the PAF's Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project for 2019. And if the DND and PAF do not make use of the funds for the project by the end of 2019, the funds will have to be transmitted back to the DBM, with the PAF and DND again requesting for its release. And everyone following the defense modernization knows how lengthy this process is.

So the only way to go now for the PAF and DND is forward - make a new selection soon, award the project and complete the procurement phase within the year.

MaxDefense's only concern is that this also opens a new door for Pres. Duterte and his friends to push again their preferences, like those from Russia.

Its sad that the Philippines lost an opportunity to have a promising attack helicopter, but in this case, its not our fault but the fault of others - Turkey to be exact.

Any updates regarding the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project will now be posted also in our MaxDefense Resource Page portal under the Philippine Air Force Modernization Program Projects.

This could be accessed through the link provided below:

"Attack Helicopter (Horizon 2) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force" - to be updated continuously.

Project Summary:

Attack Helicopter (Horizon 2)Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 29 June 2019.

* End User: Philippine Air Force (15th Strike Wing)

Quantity: no specific quantity, cost dependent

* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:

Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government deal, originally with Turkish Ministry of Defense (cancelled)

* Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund, to be paid via Multi-Year Obligation Authority (MYOA) process.

* SARO Release/s:

* Winning Proponent: TBA

Product for Delivery: TBA

* Contract Price: TBA

* First post by MaxDefense: TBA

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PAFAHAcquisition 

* Status: for re-evaluation by PAF TWG after deal with Turkish Ministry of Defense and TAI fell through.


First post, edit and release: 29 June 2019
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines
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As part of the Department of National Defense's (DND) deal with Israel's Elbit Systems Land & C4I, the Philippine Army's Mechanized Infantry Division (MID) would be receiving another batch of upgraded M113A2 tracked armored personnel carriers (APC) fitted with the Elbit Systems 12.7mm overhead remote controlled weapon stations (ORCWS).

12 newly rehabilitated and upgraded M113A2 tracked APCs equipped with Elbit's 12.7mm ORCWS. Photo shared exclusively to MaxDefense by a source.

The deal is part of the Philippine Army's M113 Firepower Upgrade Project, which is a Horizon 1 Phase 2nd List Project of the Revised AFP Modernization Program. The projects aims to deliver the upgrade for 44 M113A2 tracked armored personnel carriers that include installation of the Elbit Systems 12.7mm ORCWS and other systems, and conversion of 5 M113A2 to armored mortar carriers and installation of the Soltam Cardom 81mm Recoil Mortar System.

More details can be found on an earlier blog entry posted specifically for this project, which can be accessed through the link below:

"Elbit Systems Wins Contract to Upgrade Philippine Army M113A2 with RCWS and Mortars" - first posted on 14 June 2018

For this batch, twelve (12) units are for delivery. These are former US Army M113A2 tracked APCs  that underwent rehabilitation works with the Mechanized Infantry Division's maintenance battalion, and were modified to allow the installation of Elbit Systems' 12.7mm ORCWS on the commander's hatch, replacing the manually-operated armored open mount usually found on standard PA M113s.

M113A2s armed with the 12.7mm ORCWS will be undergoing Technical Inspection and Acceptance Tests prior to handover to the Philippine Army. Photo exclusively shared by a MaxDefense source.

Aside from up-arming, these vehicles were also installed with Elbit Systems' Combat NG Battlefield Management System (BMS) allowing them to be integrated into a network with other similarly-equipped units of the Philippine Army.

While the electronic and mechanical systems like the weapon mounts and computers were all imported from Elbit Systems, the rehabilitation and modifications of the M113s, as well as the installation works of the RCWS and computer systems were all made by the Mechanized Infantry Division with technical assistance provided by Elbit Systems. This means the MID now has the know-how and capability to not just install, but also conduct maintenance works of these complicated systems.

Originally, Elbit Systems was supposed to deliver 17 units for the first batch, but the Philippine Army requested for an initial 5 units to be delivered earlier to allow the vehicles to be deployed to Jolo, Sulu before the 2019 Mid Term Elections last May 2019.

The examples above are the first batch of M113A2s that received the new 12.7mm ORCWS and vehicle upgrades. They were set to Sulu last May 2019 to provide security during the 2019 Mid Term Elections. Photo shared to MaxDefense by a community member who wish to remain anonymous.

The vehicles underwent the Technical Inspection and Acceptance Tests a few days ago. Once they are rated by the project's Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee (TIAC) as passed, the vehicles will then be prepared for official hand-over to the Mechanized Infantry Division.

This would mark the delivery of a total of 17 upgraded vehicles with the 12.7mm ORCWS under this M113 Firepower Upgrade Project.

In total, the Philippine Army already has 11 units of M113A2 tracked armored personnel carriers equipped with a 12.7mm RCWS system (if one would include the delivery made by Elbit Systems in a separate project in 2016), and the delivery of 12 more will make the total go up to 23 units.

The difference between the M113A2 tracked APCs that received upgrades to install 12.7mm RCWS:
Left photo shows those delivered by Elbit Systems in 2016 using a ex-Belgian Army M113A2+ and an earlier model variant of Elbit's 12.7mm ORCWS. The right shows a US-made M113A2 equipped with the latest variant of Elbit's 12.7mm ORCWS. Photo provided by a community member based on photos from other sources.

MaxDefense was informed that another batch of upgraded M113s is scheduled for acceptance tests and hand-over this coming July 2019, and it would include some of the converted Armored Mortar Carriers armed with the Soltam Cardom 81mm Recoil Mortar System.

Rehabilitation, upgrade and installation works were all done in MID's facility in Camp O'Donnell in Tarlac, allowing MID to gain experience in the process. Photo shared exclusively to MaxDefense by a source form the PA.

More updates will be coming in probably by July once the next batch of deliveries are ready. Meanwhile, our readers can also access our resource portal for this project which can be found on the link below:

"M113 Firepower Upgrade Project (Horizon 1) of the Philippine Army" - continuous updates ongoing.

Project Summary:

M113 Firepower Upgrade Project

Note: Edited as of 22 June 2019.

* End User: Philippine Army (Mechanized Infantry Division)

* Quantity: to upgrade 49 M113 tracked APCs.

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 1 2nd List Projects of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php1,051,650,000.00

* Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) Procurement with the Israel Ministry of Defense-SIBAT

* Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund, to be paid via Multi-Year Obligatory Allocations (MYOA).

* SARO Release: SARO-BMB-D-17-0022354 dated 28 November 2017 worth Php1,051,650,000.00 (full amount), released 29 November 2017.

* Winning Proponent: Elbit Systems Land & C4I (Israel)

* Product for Delivery:
    - Modification of 49 M113A2 tracked APCs to accommodate upgrade
    - Upgrade of 44 M113A2 with installation of Elbit Systems 12.7mm ORCWS and other systems
    - Upgrade of 5 M113A2 with conversion to Armored Mortar Carrier with the Soltam Cardom 81mm Recoil Mortar System

* Contract Price: Php1,051,650,000.00

* First post by MaxDefense: 31 October 2016

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PAM113FirepowerUpgrade

* Status: Delivery ongoing, 1st batch of 5 units delivered April 2019, 2nd batch of 12 units for delivery June 2019.


First edit and release: 22 June 2019
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines
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Last 07 May 2019, the Department of National Defense (DND), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), held a Command Conference with Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and several cabinet members from the government to discuss defense and security issues.

Among those discussed was the status of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP), including the procurement plans from ongoing Horizon 1 and Horizon 2 projects, and pending Horizon 2 projects.

MaxDefense was able to get information from the outcome of the discussions on the AFP Modernization, wherein we can confirm that several good news came out of it and we will be discussing several of those in the upcoming blog entries.

We would start with one project that suddenly popped out of nowhere - the Fast Attack Interdiction Craft - Missile Capable (FAIC-M) Acquisition Project for the Philippine Navy.

The Shaldag Mk. V from Israel Shipyards, which was pre-selected for the FAIC-M acquisition project.
Screengrab taken from PN official video, as shared by a source from PN.

The Current Assets of the  Littoral Combat Force of the Philippine Fleet:

The Philippine Navy (PN) has been operating a fleet of fast patrol boats, being the type with the most number in the Philippine Fleet. These assets are currently operated by the Littoral Combat Force (LCF), which is in charge of naval operations in the littorals including operating of coastal patrol assets like patrol boats.

The PN currently has several patrol boat classes in service, with each class different from each other in terms of size, designed capabilities, and characteristics. This includes the following patrol assets above 50 tons in displacement:

* Tomas Batilo-class: fast patrol boats acquired second hand from South Korea in the 1990s. They are the most heavily armed patrol boats in the fleet, although they are among the oldest, being in service with the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) as the Chamsuri-class since the late 1970s-early 1980s before handing them over to the PN. Only four (4) boats remain as the PN decided to start retiring some of the boats in the past few years.

BRP Salvador Abcede (PB-114), a Tomas Batilo-class PKM fast attack craft of the PN. The entire class are the intended for replacement by the FAIC-M. Photo taken from Wikipedia.

Kagitingan-class: currently the largest patrol boats in the fleet, although they are plagued by poor serviceability and lacklustre performance. Two (2) boats remain and will need replacement soon.

BRP Bagong Silang (PB-104), one of the Kagitingan-class large patrol boats.

* Jose Andrada-class: currently the most numerous type of patrol boats in the fleet, with 22 boats in service since 1990. Although they are the "youngest" patrol boats (over 50 tons) in service with the PN, they are already nearing 30 years and would need replacements in the next few years. These boats were acquired with US assistance, and several were built locally.

* Alberto Navarette-class: the oldest patrol boats in the PN, the 2 boats of the class were formerly US Coast Guatd Point-class patrol boats, with both ships BRP Alberto Navarette and BRP Abraham Campo being in service with the USCG starting from 1967 and 1970, respectively. That puts them at 52 and 50 years in combined total service with the US Coast Guard and Philippine Navy!

The rest of the LCS's assets are surface assets below 50 tons in displacement., which includes the Multi-Purpose Attack Crafts, Swift and De Havilland 9209-classes of patrol crafts from the US and Australia respectively, and the recently donated Type 966Y patrol crafts from China.

Just a few years ago, the LCS also operated the larger Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo-class inshore patrol vessel and the smaller Conrado Yap-class fast patrol boat, both classes were retired without any replacement.

With the LCS becoming a smaller force due to the retirement of older assets, it was recommended that the force be provided with new assets as part of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

Plans Under the Revised AFP Modernization Program:

When the Philippine government under the administration of former Pres. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III was approved, the Philippine Navy submitted proposals on their programme of acquisitions from 2013 to 2028 under the Horizons 1, 2 and 3 of the RAFPMP. But over time, these proposals shifted depending on the AFP and PN leadership, the situation or challenges arising or expected, or depending on the budget approvals.

For Horizon 2, originally the Philippine Navy requested for the following assets to be acquired for the Littoral Combat Force:

* 15 Multi-Purpose Attack Crafts armed with missiles
* 14 Fast Attack & Interdiction Crafts armed with missiles

But after the review of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and his cabinet, the plan was reduced to just the following:

* Nothing on new surface assets;
* Combat Systems Upgrade for Multi-Purpose Attack Craft Batch 4 ordered during Horizon 1 phase.

Just imagine the disappointment of the men and women of the Littoral Combat Force when the approved Priority Projects of Horizon 2 came out last 2018!

Most of the approved Horizon 2 projects were focused on just meeting the minimum requirements of the Offshore Combat Force (OCF) and Sealift and Amphibious Force (SAF), as well as the requirements of the Philippine Marine Corps after the said groups also received cuts in their procurement plans.

For the approved Horizon 2 Priority Projects, not even a complete MPAC was included after Pres. Duterte slashed the proposal. Only included were the weapon systems and additional items for the MPAC Batch 4 that was ordered under the 2nd List of Horizon 1 phase.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

Urgent Requirement Raised:

With assets being retired and no new assets on the way, the Littoral Combat Force's leadership made its voice heard and requested the Philippine Navy's Flag Officer in Command (FOIC), Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad to assist in securing funding and approval for the acquisition of assets that can be used to patrol the southern borders of the Philippines facing Indonesia and Malaysia.

The proposal was still based on previous requirements: the acquisition of Fast Attack & Interdiction Craft (FAIC), between ten (10) to twelve (12) units and armed with small surface-to-surface missiles that are more lethal than those installed in their smaller Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC) Mk. 3, which are based on the Rafael Spike-ER small surface-to-surface missile.

The decision to go for FAICs instead of additional MPACs was made due to earlier observations made by several groups within the PN that believes the MPAC is too small for operations far from operating bases. The MPAC lacks liveable space and facilities to allow operations of at least a week at sea including a decent toilet and shower room, and bunk spaces.

There are also calls that the MPAC's Spike-ER is too small for use against territorial defense requirements against similar-sized or larger enemy naval assets. As MaxDefense previously commented on the capabilities of the missile-armed MPAC, the Spike-ER lacks the range and the warhead size to engage other surface assets which are armed with long range guns and longer-ranged missile systems.

Up until late 2018, IAI Ramta was still pushing for the Philippine Navy to select the Super Dvora Mk. III, which is smaller but said to be more comfortable and more agile than the Shaldag Mk. V. Photo shared exclusively to MaxDefense by a community member who was in ADAS 2018.

In a radio interview conducted by military radio station DWDD on February 2019, Vice Adm. Empedrad announced plans to request the acquisition of between 10 to 12 "Fast Patrol Boats" which will be used to combat piracy and terrorism based on recent calls by Pres. Duterte.

Back then, the FOIC confirmed that he has not yet made the request with the president, nor secured the funding for these boats. But prior to that, the Philippine Navy has already been exploring the possibility of acquiring new fast patrol boats and has received several offers from friendly countries including Israel, South Korea, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, the US, Netherlands, and Australia.

And the FOIC did had the chance to raise the requirement to be able to secure funding.

On 07 May 2019 during the Command Conference between Pres. Duterte, the DND, AFP, and other cabinet and agencies of the government, Vice Adm. Empedrad was said to have been given the green light to proceed with the acquisition phase, although with a smaller quantity and budget than earlier requested, with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) asked by Pres. Duterte to find funds to pay for the project.

This was later on re-confirmed during the 121st Founding Anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy, wherein Vice Adm. Empedrad mentioned it in his speech the plan to purchase eight (8) Fast Attack & Interdiction Crafts - Missile capable (FAIC-M), which was later shown as part of the video presentation of the PN during the celebrations.

No model was mentioned by the FOIC, but the video clearly shows the Shaldag Mk. V from Israel Shipyards.

A screengrab from the Philippine Navy's new institutional video for 2019, showing the Shaldag Mk. V representing the Fast Attack & Interdiction Craft - Missile (FAIC-M). Screengrab taken from PN video shared by PN sources.

In an interview with PN Spokesman Capt. Jonathan Zata, he also mentioned that the new FAIC-M will replace the eight (8) Patrol Killer Medium (PKM) fast attack crafts that they have in the fleet. He was referring to the Tomas Batilo-class fast attack crafts, which are called PKM boats when they were in service with the ROKN.

Capt. Zata also mentioned that the FAIC-Ms are intended to defend key sea lanes of communications (SLOCs) such as Mindoro, Balabac, Sibutu and Basilan Straits.

Despite Capt. Zata explaining that the new FAIC-Ms will replace the Tomas Batilo-class PKM fast attack crafts, MaxDefense believes that it would be more of a successor to the already retired Conrado Yap-class fast patrol boats, which are closer to the Shaldag Mk. V in terms of tonnage (75 on Conrado Yap-class tons versus Shaldag Mk. V's 95 tons and Tomas Batilo-class' 140 tons), although by length the Shaldag Mk. V is closer to the Tomas Batilo-class.  

Besides, the Conrado Yap-class were retired without a replacement coming in. MaxDefense doesn't agree that the MPAC Mks. 1 to 3 are their replacements either due to difference in size and capabilities offered.

The BRP Leopoldo Regis (PG-847), a fast patrol boat of the Conrado Yap-class. aka Haksaeng-class with the ROKN. The PN used to have ten (10) of these boats donated by the South Korean government in the early to mid 1990s. They were retired without a clear successor. Photo taken from Wikipedia.

The Project - Fast Attack Interdiction Craft:

Based on the approved plan, the Philippine Navy will procure eight (8) Fast Attack Interdiction Craft (FAIC) based on the technical requirements they submitted to the president. The budget will be Php10 billion (around US$193 million).

MaxDefense was informed by sources to not post the technical specifications, but based on what we have already seen, it appears that it was designed to suite the proposal made by Israel Shipyards Ltd to the Philippine Navy based on the company's Shaldag V fast patrol boat.

For those who remember, MaxDefense made a previous blog entry on Israel Shipyard's offer based on the Shaldag V as early as August 2016. The offer was made after a Request for Information (RFI) was released by the Philippine Navy to several shipbuilders.

For more on the Shaldag Mk. V, you may refer to an old blog entry, which can be accessed below:

"Israel Shipyard's Shaldag Mk. V Fast Patrol Boat Offered to the Philippine Navy" - first posted 16 August 2016

The Shaldag Mk. V from Israel Shipyards. Credits to original source of the photo.

Weapon Systems:

Also discussed will be the weapon systems installed on these boats - which would be acquired from a different company but would be installed once the boats are delivered.

The Philippine Navy has already selected the supplier, which would be Rafael Advance Systems Ltd (Rafael), which will supply systems mostly already familiar with the PN.

Among them are Rafael's Mini Typhoon 12.7mm  navalized Remote Controlled Weapon Stations (RCWS), the Typhoon 30mm navalized machine gun system, and the Typhoon MLS-NLOS capable of firing up to eight (8) rounds of Spike NLOS surface-to-surface missile.

The Rafael Typhoon MGS (top), and the Mini Typoon RCWS (above). The Typhoon MGS can be fitted with up to 30mm naval gun. All eight FAIC-Ms will have a Typhoon MGS armed with a 30mm gun, and two Mini Typhoon 12.7mm RCWS. Photos taken from Wikipedia (top) and Royal Australian Navy (above).

Each of the eight FAIC-Ms will be armed with one (1) Typhoon 30mm MGS and two (2) Mini Typhoon 12.7mm RCWS. But only four will be equipped with the Typhoon MLS-NLOS although the four other boats will be "Fitted for But Not With" (FFBNW) with the missile system.

The Rafael Spike NLOS MLS will be equipped to only four of the eight FAIC-Ms. This is probably due to budget constraints. Photo taken from Think Defence's website.

The Spike Non Line of Sight (NLOS) is an enhanced version and the largest and longest-ranged variant of the Rafael Spike missile family, with a 25 kilometer maximum effective range and a larger warhead than the standard Spike-ER used by the PN's MPAC Mk.3 and soon to arrive Mk.4. It is guided via a radio data link for command guidance, although it has fibre optic link up to 8 kilometers.

The Spike missile family, with the Spike NLOS (top most) being the largest and longest-ranged of the group, will be used as the missile component of the Fast Attack Interdiction Craft - Missile capable (FAIC-M).
Photo taken by MaxDefense community member Juliet XZRay during ADAS 2018.

While still unconfirmed, MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Navy may also use the Rafael Toplite Electro-Optical System (EOS), which will be installed to complement the Typhoon 30mm MGS as standard equipment. It is usual for Rafael to package it with the rest of their naval weapon system offerings especially those involving the Typhoon MGS.

The Rafael Toplight EOS is also used in patrol boats and naval ships for targeting and weapon support. Photo taken from Rafael's website.

Other Deal Inclusions:

What was not mentioned on reports is that the purchase of Shaldag Mk. V from Israel Shipyards included a Technology Transfer or License Build clause wherein the Philippine Navy shall be allowed by Israel Shipyards to license-build the Shaldag Mk. V on its own, or share the design to the PN.

To further support this, the requirement also calls for the construction of two (2) of the eight fast attack & interdiction crafts in the Philippines. Yes, local production 25% of the boats. But take note, this only involves the platforms/boats itself, not the weapon systems which would still be imported from Rafael in Israel.

And to make this happen, Israel Shipyards will also help the Philippine Navy to rehabilitate the Cavite Naval Yard (CNY), which will be the one to build the two locally-made FAIC-Ms.

The Philippine Navy's Cavite Naval Yard may not be huge enough to build larger ships, but it would start from at least being able to build smaller patrol boats or fast attack crafts like the Shaldag Mk. V. This would be beneficial to the PN in the long run to support the Self-Reliance Defense Posture (SRDP) program that the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines is trying to have, but also allow the Philippine Navy to assist other government agencies.

MaxDefene reported last year in our social media posts that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is among those interested in acquiring the Shaldag family of fast patrol boats. This was later confirmed by British defense media outlet Jane's when they reported that at the background of IMDEX Asia 2019 defense exhibition in Singapore, PCG has made known its interest in the Shaldag Mk.III, which is smaller than the Mk. V.

A local production capability for Shaldag family of fast boats could allow the PCG to specify the requirement for most if not all of its orders be constructed locally, which could give the CNY a good run for the money.

What's Next:

With the Philippine Navy FOIC himself putting much promotion on this project, it appears that the actual procurement phase would be happening very soon, and probably an award given by 3rd quarter of 2019. If this is the case, it is expected that the Notice to Proceed (NTP) and Opening of Letter of Credit (LOC) could happen before year end. 

Although we do not have figures yet, based on..
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The Department of National Defense (DND) has released the Invitation to Bid (ITB) for the Philippine Navy's planned procurement of two (2) brand new Landing Platform Docks (LPD) to boost its capabilities in sealift and amphibious operations.

MaxDefense already gave an overview on the project in our Database Resource Portal for the project, which can be accessed on the link below:

"Landing Docks Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy" - updates ongoing.

In this blog entry, we'll discuss on the ship's Technical Requirements as indicated in the project's Bid Documents.

We won't be discussing the technical requirements for the Landing Craft Utility and Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats, and will instead just focus on the Landing Platform Dock itself.

The PN's Tarlac-class LPD BRP Davao del Sur (LD-602) as it enters Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for RIMPAC 2018. The PN is tendering to acquire 2 more LPDs similar or even better and larger than the Tarlac-class. Photo taken from US Navy.

Technical Requirements:

The ships are required to meet the following requirements:

* Safely operate to up to Sea State 6
* Being able to launch at least 2 Landing Craft Utilities (LCU) from the well deck, at least 2 RHIBs or MPAC Mk. III to and from the cradle, and AAVs to and from the well deck and side ramps.
* Accommodate at least two 10-helicopters in the helideck
* Helicopter hangar for at least 1 10-ton helicopter

Dimensions and Characterisrics:
* At least 120 meters long
* At least 21 meters breadth
* Displacement at least 7,200 tons (payload compliant)
* Ship operation up to Sea State 6
* Helicopter operation up to Sea State 4
* LCU, RHIB and MPAC operations up to Sea State 4
* AAV operations up to Sea State 4
* Complement of 138 officers and men including 16 females
* Non organic complement for 1 VVIP, 8 VIPs, and 33 officers and men
* Allow accommodation for a marine battalion of 500 men

The LPDs will be used as platforms to launch the Amphibious Assault Vehicles similar to the ones above. Photo taken from US Navy.p

* Cruising speed of at least 13 knots
* Maximum speed of at least 16 knots
* Maximum Range of at least 8,000 nautical miles without refuelling
* Ship circling diameter of not more than 5 ship lengths
* Operate at temperatures between - 10° to 45°C Air Temperature, -2.2° to 32°C Sea Temperature, and 10% to 100% Humidity

Equipment Support:
* 2 Collapsible Cradles for 2 MPAC Mk.3
* Storage for up to 24 rounds of Spike-ER missiles
* Well deck provisions for 2 LCUs
* Flight deck for 2 10-ton medium helicopters specifically AW139 and including AW159
* Flight deck with deck locking grid or landing grid helicopter securing system
* Hangar for a 10-ton helicopter specifically the AW139
* Storage for up to 48 Spike-NLOS missile rounds and 48 2.75" aerial rockets
* 7-meter, 40-ton capacity tank turntable to turn vehicles on its own radius
* Space to fit at least 8 AAVs

Ship Design
* Future space and munition storage for a 76mm gun, 30mm guns, CIWS, decoy launching systems, 
* Fitted for but not with Hull Mounted Sonar, Air/Surface Search 3D Radar, Electronic Warfare System, Combat Management System, Electro-Optical Tracking System, and Gyro Compass
* Powered by 2 Main Propulsion diesel engines
* Bow thruster and controllable pitch propellers
* 4 Service generators, allowing 3 to be fully capable to power the entire ship including all Fitted for But Not With items
* 2 Reverse Osmosis Plants for freshwater production
* Replenishment at Sea Capability using STANAG 1065 standards

Sensors and Weapons:
* X and S-band solid state Navigation Radars
* Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) Camera
* 8 nos. of .50 caliber machine guns with mounts

A .50 cal gun mount on a Tarlac-class LPD. Eight similar guns and mounts are required for the new LPDs.

Technology Transfer:
* Require proponents to tie-up with local shipbuilder to build one of the ships in the Philippines
* Grant PN the ownership of design or allow license production of the design.


Aside from the usual safe operation of the ship up to Sea State 6, the emphasis now i given on the ability to stow and operate the Multi-Purpose Attack Craft Mk.3 (MPAC Mk.3) variant. This is an added capability that was not present in the previous requirements for SSV Acquisition Project.

The use of the Tarlac-class LPD as a mothership for MPACs came up in 2016 when planning for the MPAC Mk.3 included changes in the specs to allow the boat to fit inside the well deck, and the mast height reduced to not hit the well deck's opening.

The decision to fit it into a collapsible cradle brings the requirement further by allowing the new LPDs to carry its own complementary MPACs. 

The new LPDs will be able to carry two MPAC Mk.3s and have storage for their Spike-ER missiles, and room for their crew. Photo taken from Wikipedia.

The requirement for a flight deck for two 10-ton helicopters, plus a hangar for a 10-ton helicopter are similar to those in the Tarlac-class.


While the Philippine Navy provided a minimum dimensions and displacement, it is expected that the new LPDs would be similar or even larger/longer than the Tarlac-class LPDs.

The added spaces for additional operation rooms, MPAC stowage, FFBNW spaces, increased storages, and requirement for more electrical power means increasing certain parts of the ship's length, which in return may also increase the overall displacement of the new LPDs.

Accomodations for Marines remain the same at 500 troops, although emphasis was also given for spaces to allow female Navy officers and personnel. 

A space for a VVIP, which is actually the President/Commander in Chief is similar to those required in the Tarlac-class before. But additional spaces for MPAC crew was also required for the new LPDs, something missing in the Tarlac-class.

Infographic above is for the Tarlac-class, which aready exceeded the basic dimension and displacement requirements of the new LPDs. MaxDefense expects the new LPDs to be larger or longer and heavier than the Tarlac-class. Credits to original owner of photo.


Requested performance remains similar to what was asked in the Tarlac-class years ago, including maximum speed of at least 16 knots and cruising speed of at least 13 knots. MaxDefense was hoping for a higher maximum speed rating given the experience in operating with foreign fleets whose ships run faster than that.

But experience in deployment to Russia has now given the PN an idea on the operating environments that the LPDs will be operating at times. This includes operations in colder temperatures. But no mention was made on heating and cooling systems.

The PN should have learned by now to provide additional air conditioning and probably hearing provisions or ducting to many areas of the ship. There were several facepalm moments on the Tarlac-class wherein the deck structures were cut open to make way for window-type air conditioners. These may not be even considered in the ship's power requirements.

Equipment Support:

Flight deck, hangar, and well deck requirements appear to be similar to those in the Tarlac-class although additional requirements were added including a helicopter traversing system, downlink receivers for data transfer from helicopters, and other safety features that may not be available in the Tarlac-class.

The emphasis on use of AgustaWestland AW139 as basis for the 10-ton medium helicopter is a departure from the Tarlac-class wherein the Sikorsky Black Hawk was used as basis.

The AgustaWestland AW139M, which MaxDefense believes could be the next Presidential Helicopter of the PAF, or the selected utility helicopter of the PN. Photo taken from Wikipedia.

Back in 2012-2013, it was planned that the Philippine Air Force will be acquiring a small fleet of Black Hawk helicopters to be the PAF's latest Presidential VVIP helicopters. Now you have an idea what may be happening in the background.

The turntable capacity was increased, as the specs for the Tarlac-class only called for a 25-ton capacity. This could be in anticipation of the Philippine Army's upcoming fleet of Light Tanks which may have a maximum weight nearing 40 tons.

Capacity of vehicle turntable was increased from 25 tons on the Tarlac-class to 40 tons on the new LPDs. Photo taken from US Navy.

The storage for Spike NLOS, Spike-ER, and 2.75" aerial rockets only shows that the ships are planned to be used as bases also for the AgustaWestland AW109E Power armed helicopters (which use the 2.75" aerial rockets), the AW159 Wildcat (which uses the Spike NLOS) and the MPAC Mk.3 (which has the Spike-ER).

The PN's AW159 Wildcat naval helicopters are to be armed with the Spike NLOS missile. The new LPDs may act as temporary bases for these helicopters in the future as the LPDs are required to have safe storage for Spike NLOS missiles. Credits to original source of photo.

MaxDefense believes that the Tarlac-class do not have storages enough for several loads of missiles or rockets, and the new LPDs would correct that by having enough storage for several loads.

The collapsible cradle for the MPAC appears to be separate from the cradle for the RHIBs. So it would allow the LPD to carry RHIBs AND MPACs at the same time.

The Tarlac-class' cradble for RHIB, which is also steong enough to allow use to stow a small Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP). Photo from DRP forum.

Ship Design:

Like the Tarlac-class, the new LPDs will have two Main Propulsion diesel engines driving the ship, with two shafts with controllable pitch propellers, a bow thruster for easy docking, and 4 service diesel generators.

The diesel engines may need to be larger and have more output than those in the Tarlac-class due to the expected larger design of the ship and heavier weight. 

Due to the increased loading requirement for the ship, the generators are expected to be larger than those in the Tarlac-class, thus meaning the need for more space.

A lot of Fitted for but not with (FFBNW) items again in these new LPDs. Aside from the previous FFBNW allocations in the Tarlac-class like the space and power for a forward-installed 76mm Super Rapid naval gun, the new LPDs require power and space requirements for more than one 30mm secondary naval gun, a Close-in Weapon System (CIWS), and decoy launchers.

Unknown to many, the Tarlac-class LPDs were actually FFBNW 25/30mm RCWS gun mounts (above) as well as for a forward-mounted 76mm Super Rapid-type gun. The same is required on the new LPDs. Credits to owners of the photos.

More FFBNW items on the sensors and command systems. Among those specified were for a Combat Management System (CMS), a 3D Air/Surface Search Radar, a Hull Mounted Sonar, Electronic Warfare Systems, and Electro-Optical Fire Control Systems. These items would require the ship to have spaces for a larger Command and Control and Combat Information Center Rooms than those found in Tarlac-class.

The new LPDs are required to have space and power requirements for a 3D Air/Surface Search Radar which is a FFBNW item.

Sensors and Weapons:

As expected with a low budget, the ship will only be equipped with an X-band and S-band Navigation Radar as standard, and eight (8) .50 caliber 12.7mm heavy machine guns on manually operated mounts.a

The navigation radar allows the ship to navigate and have a standard capability to identify surface contacts. MaxDefense hopes that a military-type model will be used similar to those found in other new ships of the PN.

Solid-state X & S band navigation radars can be used as secondary surface search and helicopter approach radars too. It would be best if the PN can get a similar system already in service or are for introduction with ships under construction like the Kelvin Hughes Sharpeye (above) which is in service with two Del Pilar-class patrol vessel, and are to be used on the two Jose Rizal-class frigates. Photo taken from Kelvin Hughes website.

The machine guns will be distributed with 4 on port and 4 on starboard sides. It appears that there are no plans to upgrade them to remote-controlled weapon stations (RCWS).

8 manually-operated .50 caliber 12.7mm machine guns for defensive requirements could be ineffective and needs to be reinforced by larger caliber guns like 30mm RCWS. Photo from US Navy.

Many of the FFBNW sensors and weapons were discussed in the Ship Design part above. MaxDefense's concern is if the PN would have sufficient funding to fund the acquisition of these items in the near future. One could only see the bare-ness of the Tarlac-class, which up to now has not been given the FFBNW items it was designed with due to lack of funds.

Technology Transfer:

The tricky part, as proponents are asked to partner with a local shipbuilder to allow the construction of one of the LPDs in the Philippines.

As far as MaxDefense knows, some of the proponents with interest in the project has been doing this since last year. For example, Damen is in partnership with Filipino company Propmech Corp., while also looking for a larger shipbuilder to partner with.

The PN also requires the winning proponent to hand-over the ship's designs to then, or allow the PN to license produce the design on their own accord.

This requirement has become standard in the PN, as the Frigates being built by Hyundai Heavy Industries also have the same requirement.

With the Philippine Navy trying to get hold of the being a part owner of the Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC) Shipyard in Subic, the PN may use its options to build similar ships, or redesign these ships according to their future requirements. Similar to how Indonesia's PT PAL got hold of the Makassar-class design from South Korea's Daesun Shipbuilding that became the PN's Tarlac-class and the Indonesian Navy's Banjarmasin-class and  Semarang-class.

PT PAL was able to secure the technology transfer for the Makassar-class LPD which allowed them to develop and build the Tarlac-class. A similar move is eyed by the PN. Photo taken from MaxDefense source from Indonesia.


Overall, it is obvious that the Philippine Navy has learned alot from experience in owning and operating the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks, and has improved the composition of the Technical Specs compared to the SSV acquisition project in 2013.

This will allow the PN to have a better LPD than the Tarlac-class, incorporating the PN's past experiences and ideas to make the ships even perform better.

The tender process is just beginning so MaxDefense expects more updates coning soon. It is also highly possible for the technical requirements will still change or revised depending on the feedback of proponents in the pre-bid conference that is expected to happen soon.

It would also be interesting to see who will be the interested proponents considering the PN now has credibility that this project will happen, unlike before when the tender for the SSV acquisition was not taken seriously by shipbuilders.

Project Summary:

Landing Docks Acquisition Project

Note: Edited as of 18 June 2019:

* End User: Philippine Navy (Sealift Amphibious Force)

* Quantity: 2 units

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 phase Priority Projects of RAFPMP

* Project ABC: Php5,560,000,000.00

* Acquisition Mode: Public Bidding

* Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund, to be paid via Multi-Year Obligation Authority (MYOA)

* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: TBA

* Product for Delivery: 
    - 2 units Strategic Sealift Vessel (SSV)
    - 4 units Landing Craft Utility (LCU, 2 units for each SSV)
    - 4 units Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB, 2 units for each SSV)
    - Integrated Logistics Support Package

* Contract Price: TBA

* First post by MaxDefense: 25..
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Recently, Israeli business media outlet Globes reported that the Israeli defense company Elbit Systems Ltd. Is nearing a US$180 million deal with the Philippine Army to supply various types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and that a deal would be signed in the coming weeks.

Also mentioned that the UAVs to be supplied are Elbit’s Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 large UAVs, and Skylark 1 and Skylark 3 tactical UAVs.

The Elbit Systems Skylark 3 fixed wing tactical mini UAV, among those offered to the Philippine Army.
Photo taken from Elbit Systems' website.

The Philippine Army’s Proposed Unmanned Aerial Systems Acquisitions:

The Philippine Army has always included the need acquire Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) as part of its proposed acquisitions under the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP). In all instances that such proposal were submitted or presented by the Philippine Army to the higher ups, the PA UAS Project was always packaged as an integral part of the Philippine Army C4ISTAR System Project, and included in as part of several lots intended to provide the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) part of the network.

The Philippine Army categorized the Unmanned Aerial Systems of different sizes into Tiers or Levels, which are divided into the following:

Tier I / Level 1 Multirotor UAS: uses mini vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) multirotor mini unmanned aerial vehicles. These could be issued to company or battalion level units and would be acquired by the plentiful. It would have a range of more than 5 kilometres and endurance of at least 30 minutes.

Tier I / Level 1 Fixed Wing UAS: Tactical Mini UAS, which could be using vertical take-off and landing multirotor or hand-launched winged mini unmanned aerial vehicles. These could be issued to brigade level units. It would have a range of up to 30-40 kilometres and an endurance of more than 1 hour.

Tier II / Level 2 Fixed Wing UAS: Tactical Small UAS, using catapult-launched winged unmanned aerial vehicles. These are large enough to be supported by vehicle-mounted systems and would be used by division level units. It could have a range of around 100 kilometres and endurance of up to 6 hours. These UAVs also have a sizeable payload of cameras, infrared targeting systems and a variety of sensors, and would be great platforms for use for targeting for artillery or air strikes.

Tier III / Level 3: Large Tactical Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAS: these types utilizes large fixed wing long distance UAVs that fly for hundreds of kilometres and are most likely operated by specialized surveillance or aviation units. They are also capable of carrying a significant load of sensors and cameras, and are to be utilized to stay aloft for a long period of time over a theatre of operation, or for surveillance over large areas.

As early as 2015, the Philippine Army was already preparing the program to acquire multi-tier Unmanned Aerial Systems, and has actually identified its requirements early on, with minor changes only made over the years. A program to acquire three tiers of UAS was proposed to be allocated a budget of less than Php4 billion.

The Proponents and their Product Offerings:

From the start, it already appears that the plan was to designate the project for procurement under a Government-to-Government (G2G) mode with the Israeli government. This can be seen on the options the Philippine Army chose from during the project’s evaluation phase.

Three (3) Israeli companies competed for the selection process. Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd., Elbit Systems Ltd., and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) MALAT Division.

For Level 1, Aeronautics offered the Orbiter 2, Elbit with the Skylark 1-LEX, and IAI MALAT with the Bird Eye 400.

For Level 2, Aeronautics submitted the Orbiter 3, Elbit with the Skylark 3, and IAI MALAT with the Bird Eye 650D.

For Level 3, Aeronautics pushed for the Aerostar TUAV, Elbit with the Hermes 450, and IAI MALAT with the Searcher Mk. III.

Above is the selection made by the Philippine Army's TWG for the UAS Acquisition Project. Three Israeli proponents offering 3 types of UAS during the initial pre-selection phase of the project. A forth category was added later on.
Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense by a source from the DND.

Surprisingly, in earlier evaluations by the Philippine Army’s Technical Working Group on the UAS Acquisition, IAI MALAT’s offerings were rated with the highest scores for all Levels of UAVs, with Elbit Systems’ offerings scoring a far second.

Despite the results, all companies continued to pursue the project, with some even demonstrating their products to Philippine government officials.

In fact, MaxDefense got exclusive coverage on the demonstration by Aeronautics Defense Systems on their Orbiter 3 light tactical UAV at Clark Airport on April 2017, just a few months before the Battle of Marawi happened. Aside from Philippine Army officials, other government agencies were also present to see the demonstration.

MaxDefense covered the demonstration made by Aeronautics Defense Systems in Clark on April 2017, a few months before the Battle of Marawi.

Experiences from 2017 Battle of Marawi:

In early 2017 just before the Marawi City attacks, Pres. Duterte was updated in a Command Conference by the Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, wherein the proposed Philippine Army Unmanned Aerial Systems Acquisition Project was gone up to Php8.115 billion for 3 lots of different level/tier of UAS. Back then, the PA’s Technical Working Group (TWG) already prepared the pertinent documents while the DND is to release the Acquisition Decision Memorandun (ADM) and getting approval for the project from the president so the project would be funded by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Then Marawi City terrorist attacks happened. 

This event saw several units of the AFP in action, and the AFP was forced to adapt by issuing emergency acquisitions of commercially-available quadrotor UAVs for surveillance in urban operations, while being supported by RQ-20 Puma mini tactical UAVs and larger tactical MQ-1C Grey Eagle MALE UAVs of the US military and AP-3C Orion surveillance aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to provide a bigger picture to the joint task force operating in the area.

A DJI Mavic quadcopter UAV operated during the Battle of Marawi in 2017.
Photo taken from GMA News.

The Philippine Army requested for UAVs to be acquired as part of the proposed Emergency Acquisitions, but the national government junked all proposed acquisitions when the Battle of Marawi ended in October 2017.

A US military RQ-20 Puma tactical light UAV during the Battle of Marawi.
Aside from UAVs, manned surveillance aircraft were used in the Battle of Marawi. This is a Lockheed AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force taken during the siege.
Photo from GMA News' Raffy Tima.

After the Marawi crisis, many of the Philippine Army’s ground units involved were equipped with dozens of commercially spec DJI Phantom 4 and Mavic UAVs purchased hastily during the crisis off-the-shelf from commercial UAV dealers in Manila. These Chinese-made UAVs were designed for photography and hobby use, but were effective in extending the eyes of small ground units especially on hard to see and hard to reach areas. The only disadvantage was that they were designed to fly only for a few minutes, and operation of these UAVs have to be quick and precise.

It appears that the experiences by the Philippine Army in the Marawi City crisis made them re-open the planned UAS acquisitions, changing a lot of the plans to instead give emphasis on acquiring military-spec rotary VTOL UAVs that are effective in close quarter or urban operations, have longer endurance and better sensors than commercial off-the-shelf UAVs, and will be operated by ground units as small as platoon or company level.

Plans for Level 2 and Level 3 UAS remained the same.

With mini VTOL multirotor UAVs being cheaper than mini fixed-wing hand-launched UAVs, the PA was able to reduce its budget for the Unmanned Aerial Systems Acquisition Project.
Another evaluation was made by the Philippine Army Technical Working Group on the UAS Project, with the same candidates as before from Aeronautics Defense Systems, Elbit Systems, and IAI MALAT. 

But for the Level 1 Mutirotor UAS, only Elbit Systems was able to offer with their Thor Multirotor UAS.

This is probably the reason why Elbit Systems was able to get the project, as the DND decided to go with Elbit Systems’ offer for all UAS Levels.

Also, the Philippine Army reduced the Approved Budget of Contract (ABC) for the project from Php8,115,000,000.00 to just Php5,400,000,000.00, due to reasons still being determined by MaxDefense.

The Philippine Army Unmanned Aerial Systems Acquisition Project:

Due to OPSEC reasons, MaxDefense won’t specifically mention the exact quantity of UAVs involved in the acquisition.

The Department of National Defense (DND) released a Notice of Award to Elbit Systems Ltd. to supply and deliver the Levels 1 to 3 Unmanned Aerial Systems to the Philippine Army under a deal worth Php5,339,625,000.00 last May 2019, while the Contract Signing for the project was done in Manila only this week.

To support this, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released a Special Appropriation Release Order (SARO) last 23 May 2019, with reference no. SARO-BMB-D-19-0003824 dated 22 May 2019 worth Php5,399,625,000.00 - the same amount as the submitted offer by Elbit Systems Ltd to the DND.

Contrary to belief of many, the SARO that was released last May 2019 regarding Unmanned Aerial Systems Acquisition Project was not related to a similarly named project of the Philippine Air Force that was signed last year, but rather a new one for the Philippine Army.
Photo taken from DBM SARO sheet.

1. Elbit Systems THOR Mutirotor VTOL Mini UAS – the most plentiful in terms of number of UAVs ordered by the Philippine Army. The Thor is a quad-copter-type UAV, one of the newest products in Elbit Systems’ line of UAVs, and is ideal for low altitude observation and taking footage.

The Thor is ideal in operations on urban areas, as it can fly around corners and hide within the urban terrain, and is operable even on non-line of sight conditions. It is also very portable due to its size, and can be transported by 1 man in a portable hard backpack as shown on the photo below.

Several hundred units were ordered by the Philippine Army.

The Elbit Systems THOR multirotor mini UAV. Photo taken from Elbit Systems' website.

2. Elbit Systems Skylark 1 – LEX Fixed Wing Mini UAS – the system uses a small fixed-wing mini UAV that is good for covert aerial intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions in support of in theatre operations. 

It allows units to get high-resolution real-time surveillance videos in both day and night operations. Its effective range of operating within 40 kilometers of Line of Sight with the operator, plus its ability to use secured and encrypted communications allows it to be used on low to medium threat environment with ease.

Several dozen units were ordered by the Philippine Army.

The Elbit Systems' Skylark 1-LEX mini fixed wing tactical UAV. Credits to original sources of photos.

 3. Elbit Systems Skylark 3 Fixed-Wing Light UAS – first unveiled by Elbit Systems in 2016, it was intended to support brigade or division level units, it has an operating range of up to 100 kilometers from the operator, and an endurance of up to 6 hours flying time. It is capable of carrying up to 10 kilograms of payload, usually electro-optical infrared cameras, sensors, and surveillance equipment.

It is also highly capable in providing target detection and classification, which allows units to properly identify enemy units while also allowing the use of data for artillery and airstrike coordination.

Due to its size, it is required to be transported using light land vehicles, and launched by a pneumatic launcher, similar to the Insitu ScanEagle UAVs operated by the Philippine Air Force and the MAG Super Swiper II UAVs of the Philippine Marine Corps.

Several units were ordered by the Philippine Army.

The Elbit Systems Skylark 3 light tactical UAV. Credits to original sources of photos.

4. Elbit Systems Hermes 450 Tactical Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAS – this UAV is one of the most successful large UAVs in the market, and has been used in combat missions especially in the Middle East.

The Hermes 450 allows a wide variety of payloads while being able to operate over larger areas over long period of time. Aside from surveillance, the Hermes 450 allows other capabilities including target acquisition, use of synthetic aperture radar for remote sensing and imaging, intelliegence gathering including Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Communication Intelligence (COMINT) and Signal Intelligence (SIGINT), Hyper-Spectral imaging, and other requirements.

Another advantage of the Hermes 450 is that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) also ordered it as part of their own Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Acquisition Project, which means commonality and inter-operability between the two branch services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The Elbit Systems Hermes 450, which was already ordered by the Philippine Air Force as part of their own Unmanned Aerial Systems Acquisition Project. Top photo is an actual Hermes 450 bound for the PAF during its testing last year, while bottom photo was taken from submitted offer to AFP. Both photos exclusively shared to MaxDefense by sources from the Philippine Air Force and AFP.

This new UAS acquisition is increasing the number of UAVs in service with the entire AFP. It would be remembered that the Philippine Air Force received the Insitu ScanEagle 2 UAS from the US government several months ago, with the Pentagon announcing another 8 units coming soon. The Philippine Marines also received the MAG Super Swiper 2 light tactical UAVs in 2017. The ScanEagle 2 and Super Swiper 2 UAVs are the same category as the Skylark 3 UAV ordered by the Philippine Army,

The Philippine Marines also has a few RQ-11 Raven tactical hand-launched mini UAVs that are similar to the Skylark 1-LEX ordered by the Philippine Army. 

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be getting Anti-Drone Directional Jammers from Singapore, as the tender process for the AFP's Shoulder-Fired Direction Jammer Acquisition Project was completed after a successful public bidding.

The project is part of of the Horizon 2 phase of Revised AFP Modernization Program covering the years 2019 to 2023. 

The Orion Anti-Drone system is among those offered for the AFP's Shoulder-Fired Directional Jammer requirement.  Photo taken from TRD Consulting's website.


The AFP included the requirement to acquire Shoulder-Fired Directional Jammers as part of the Horizon 2 phase of the RAFPMP after the experiences it gained during the Marawi City crisis in 2017. 

Back then, the ISIS-inspired Maute Group terrorists used commercial off-the-shelf quadcopter drones to survey the battlefield, while also gathering intelligence on location of government forces that are after them.

This prompted the AFP to begin the acquisition of a limited number of anti-drone jammers that could help forces take down enemy drones, or even protect installations from drones.

A portion of the Invitation to Bid (ITB) for the project.

In this instance, the AFP required the acquisition of 9 sets of directional jammers, enough to equip 9 teams of specialized personnel whose mission is to hunt or defend against enemy drones. The equipment as per the project's Schedule of Requirements FOR EACH SET are as follows:

A. Shoulder Fired Directional Jammers:
* 2 nos. of Jammer Modules (rifle and manpack)
* 4 nos. of Jammer Module Batteries

A sample of a rifle-type jammer and module.

B. Vehicular Platform:
* 2 nos. 145cc Sports Motorcycle

C. Soldier Protection System:
* 2 pairs Ballistic Plate Level IV
* 2 nos. Plate Carrier
* 2 nos. FAST Ballistic Helmets, Level IIIA Protection
* 2 pairs Elbow Pads
* 2 pairs Knee Pads

D. Initial Integrated Logistics Support
* 2 sets of Jammer Tool Sets / Basic Repair Sets

E. Manuals:
* 2 nos. Operator's Manual
* 2 nos. Parts Catalog

F. Training
* Operators Maintenance Training

The Jammers will have the capability to jam GPS (US standard), GLONASS (Russian standard), Galileo L1 (European Union standard), and BeiDou B1 systems (Chinese standard) of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), and has the modes to either drive out or force land drones. 

Currently, the Presidential Security Group (PSG) which has AFP officers and personnel as its members, also operate rifle-type anti-drone directional jammers, although this new acquisition by the AFP is a more effective variant.

The Presidential Security Group (PSG) first showed this rifle-type directional jammer to the public in early 2018. The model appears to be a Chinese-made Hikvision UAV-D04JA jammer, which has been with the PSG for sometime. Photo shared exclusively to MaxDefense by one of our community member.

Bidding Outcome:
The project was approved by the DND via an Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) dated 01 August 2018 to be procured Direct Contracting mode. But this mode of procurement was changed on 05 November 2018 to Public Bidding.

The project underwent four attempts before the tender became successful. The bid submission deadline and opening dates of the bidding attempts were on 25 October 2018, 29 November 2018, 15 January 2019, and 26 February 2019.

For the 4th attempt, only two bidders submitted their bids:

* Joint Venture of Southcoast Marketing Inc (Filipino company), and TRD Consulting Pte Ltd (Singapore);
* Joint Venture of Safer PH Innovations Inc. (Filipino) and NT Service UAB.

Of the two, only the Joint Venture of Southcoast Marketing Inc and TRD Consulting Pte Ltd was declared legible and the Single Calculated Bidder (SCB) with a bid amount of Php32,446,507.50.

According to a MaxDefense source from the AFP, the directional jammer offered by the winning bidder was the Singaporean-made Orion 7 MP rifle-type directional jammer.

The Joint Venture underwent and passed the Post Qualification Inspection, and was given the Notice of Award (NOA) from the DND on 10 May 2019. While there is no publicly available document, MaxDefense believes that a contract should have been signed before we wrote this blog entry.

For those who may have not noticed, TRD Consulting Pte Ltd has been actively marketing their Orion series of anti-drone jammers, and was also present during the ADAS 2018 defense exhibition in Manila last September 2018. Even the official media partner of ADAS 2018, Shephard Media did an exclusive on the Orion anti-drone system.

The Orion anti-drone system was actually demonstrated and discussed during last year's ADAS 2018 defense exhibition in Manila, with TRD Consulting Pte Ltd also present in the said exhibition. Photo taken from TRD Consulting's FB page.

Being a small project that is probably already manufactured, the winning proponent is required to deliver within 120 days (4 months) from receiving the Notice to Proceed (NTP). So far no word has reached MaxDefense if the joint venture already got their NTP from the DND.

It remains to be seen now how the AFP will manage this project, and how good will the JV of Southcoast Marketing and TRD Consulting Ltd. be in terms of cost, performance, robustness, reliability and compatibility with our AFP's existing electronics systems.

It also remains to be seen which unit of the AFP will be receiving these jammers and their respective equipment. Based on the need for motorcycles, it means the troops handling these jammers may need to move quickly and without too much issue on logistics.


Shoulder-Fired Directional Jammer Acquisition Project

* End User: Armed Forces of the Philippines (no specific unit mentioned yet)

Quantity: 9 sets (with 18 jammers)

* Modernization Phase:
 Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:

Acquisition Mode: Public Bidding

* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: JV of Southcoast Marketing Inc. and TRD Consulting Pte Ltd.

Product for Delivery: Orion family of Rifle-type Directional Jammers
* Contract Price: Php32,446,507.50

* First post by MaxDefense: 03 October 2018

The Orion series of anti-drone equipment is also being marketed lately to Thailand.

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