Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Philippine Navy's Frigate Acquisition Program Finally Moves in 2016! New Technical Specification Released and Tender Soon

Finally, after more than a year of waiting, we finally get publicized confirmation that the Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) is moving ahead with finalizing the tender for the Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP) for the Philippine Navy (PN).

The DND has posted in its website a very important Supplemental Bid Bulletin (SBB) dated February 2, 2016, that is the basis for bidders for their submission of bids. It contained revisions to the original technical specifications included in the earlier 1st stage bidding held on December 4, 2013. The changes correspond to the outcome of planning and consultation for more than 2 years since the DND determined the 6 complying bidders eligible to continue on the later stages.

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering's FFX-2 design (above), and Hyundai Heavy Industries' HDF-3000 design (below) remains a favorite, but modifications might be needed.

But there is no confirmation if the tender would be a repeat of the 1st stage bidding in the past, or if this is for the 2nd stage bidding assuming the 1st stage done last 2013 was considered good. For discussion's sake, we presume that this is the 2nd stage, with the 6 proponents from 2013 still vying for the project.

For continuous information and deeper information, MaxDefense suggests that readers go through earlier blog entries related to this project, listed as follows:

1. An In-Depth Look at the Philippine Navy Frigate Program of 2013 - an initial analysis made by MaxDefense in the absence of technical specifications, and basing it on the capabilities found on the Maestrale-class frigates.

2. Philippine Navy Frigate Acquisition Project - An Analysis of the 1st-Stage Bidding Specifications - discusses the background of the project, the initial technical specifications released by the PN and DND, and an analysis of what can be expected based on these information.

3. Updates on Philippine Navy's Frigate Acquisition: 6 Bidders Qualified for the 2nd Bid Stage - discussed the pre- and post- bidding results of the 1st stage bidding done on December 2013, and an analysis of what the bidders could be offering.

4. A Frigate for $200 Million for the Philippine Navy? Why Not! - a discussion on why MaxDefense believes the budget allocated by the DND might provide the PN with a frigate-like ship in some way or another.

Most of the SBB contained revisions to the Technical Specifications (TS), and this new version actually is more specific to what the Philippine Navy needs, and replaced or updated several clauses. MaxDefense believes that most are improvements and are self-explanatory in nature for those who have some understanding to the project. But for discussion's sake, let's put MaxDefense's opinion in print with the blog entry.

Previous reports and discussions have confirmed that Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), one of the qualified bidders from South Korea, originally offered a derivative of their HDF-3000 design in which the Incheon-class frigate of the Republic of Korea Navy was derived.

Hyundai Heavy Industry (HHI) may need to tweak their HDF-3000 design (basis for Incheon-class frigate) to meet certain requirements of the Philippine Navy, including the use of CODAD configuration for the propulsion, and the need for space for a VLS system. 

Also, based on the website of Navantia, a qualified bidder from Spain, it appears that they have previously offered a derivative of their Avante 2200 Combatant design, which came from a design family for corvettes and offshore patrol vessels. It is still possible that Navantia will offer their larger LF-4000 Light Frigate design with some revisions to meet the PN requirement.

Navantia has offered the Avante 2200 Combatant design (above) to the Philippine Navy, but meeting the requirements based on the new SBB may also need some rework by Navantia. Another alternative but something that may be costly is the LF-4000 light frigate design (below).
Photos taken from Navantia's product brochures.

Garden Reach Shipbuilding & Engineering (GRSE) was also quoted in previous reports that they have offered a derivative design based on the Indian Navy's Kamorta-class large anti-submarine corvette which is closer to that of a light frigate designs.

The Kamorta-class large anti-submarine corvette of the Indian Navy, built by GRSE. A derivative of this design was said to be the one offered to the Philippine Navy.

Recently STX France also released a revised design for their New Generation Floreal Frigate (NGFF) design, which is has a basic specification that is very close to the PN Frigate's requirements.

STX France has refreshed their design for the New Generation Floreal Frigate (NGFF), which MaxDefense believes was offered by them to the Frigate Acqusition Project. 

The 2 other bidders, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) and STX of South Korea has not made any previous press release on what design they have offered to the DND-PN, but both are expected to be using derivatives from late designs.

DSME could be offering a design based on stealthier derivative of the DW-2500 frigate design (above) or a larger version of the corvette design (below) they offered to Malaysia last year. The DW-3000 FFX-2 design might also be possible but it chances of being offered is slim as it is a more expensive design that might not fit the budget.

Technical Specifications Re-Unwrapped:

Majority of the clauses remain exactly the same, or with only rewording made to further define and clarify what the DND meant. 

1. Increased Sea State for Operations:

Previously the TS specified that the ship must be capable of withstanding Sea State 6 (or with waves height maximum of 6 meters) based on the World Meteorological Organization's Sea State Code. It was now increased to withstanding up to Sea State 7 (or with wave height maximum of 9 meters). This improves the survivability of the ship in bad weather, as well as improving its seakeeping capability.

The SBB also defined the operating environment of the ship's systems, and everything remained the same to not have degradation of ASuW, AAW, and EW capability at Sea State 5, Helicopter Operations at Sea State 4, and RHIB operations at Sea State 3. The only change was on the requirement for ASW stated to not degrade at Sea State 4.

2. Ship's Length and Displacement Defined, Performance Remains the Same:

The SBB provided a minimum figure for the ship's required length, now indicated to be at least 95-meters long. The previous TS only stated as per function of design as long as it meets the overall requirements. Breadth and depth remains to be dependent on the ship's overall design according to the shipbuilder

The displacement was also indicated now to be at least 2,000 tons

This is quite a surprise since MaxDefense believes that they should have specified a longer length and larger displacement for the frigate, at least equal or greater than 105-meters long and displaces at least 2,300 tons. Contemporary frigate designs are somewhere in this size, which allows the ship to accommodate more space for futureproofing requirements which will be discussed later on in this entry.

Performance-wise, the frigate will still have a 4,500 nautical mile minimum range @ 15 knots cruising speed. Maximum continuous speed is at 25 knots minimum but it should be at 85% Maximum Continuous Rating for 24 hours (page 3). This means that the ship could have a higher maximum speed than 25 knots for short-time sprints when needed.

3. Changes on the Environmental Conditions: 

The Ambient Operating Conditions for the ships were changed dramatically (page 4). Previously it corresponded to tropical operating conditions, but are now changed to allow the ship to operate in colder weather as well.

This could be an item that was corrected from before due to the ability of ships to normally operate in cold weather, although it could also support the additional statement in the ship's capability clause that it would be able to perform in joint maritime operations, probably with allied or friendly countries in regions outside the tropics.

4. Hull Form and Layout Defined, and Allocation of Space for VLS and TASS:

There were changes in the clause for hull form and layout, adding the emphasis for stealthiness and availability of spaces and power requirements for fitted for but not with (FFBNW) items (page 4, 6-7), particularly an 8-cell Vertical Launch System (VLS) for surface-to-air missile (SAM) and Towed Array Sonar System (TASS) (page 6-7). MaxDefense believes that the VLS space could be behind the main gun, while the TASS is normally at the stern after the helicopter landing deck.

In addition to space, the SBB also specified the need for the power supply to be sufficient enough to not only meet the current requirements of the ship, but also in anticipation of the addition of a VLS and TASS systems in the future (page 9). The dimensions are closer to the requirements to install the 8-cell Mk.41 VLS Self-Defense Module from Lockheed Martin rather than the SYLVER VLS from France.

The absence of these systems was anticipated due to the budget allocated. It could also provide details on the presence of TASS acquisition as part of Horizon 2 phase of the Philippine Navy's modernization program.

The dimensions provided in the SBB appears to be close to the dimensions of the standard 8-cell Mk.41 VLS, which can be used to launch the ESSM missile. 

5. Propulsion Layout Defined:

The SBB now specifically indicated that the preferred propulsion layout for the frigates is the Combined Diesel and Diesel (CODAD) configuration. This is a departure from the CODOG found in the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates sourced from the US. 

The decision might be based on previous reports on the consumption expenses of gas turbine fuel which normally are more expensive per gallon, and are consumed faster than diesels. But this also means that the frigates should have enough space for 4 diesel engines, which are normally larger in dimension that gas turbines. This configuration also supports the required maximum speed of only a minimum of 25 knots, which is lower than conventional frigate designs of around 28 knots and up.

Here is a simple diagram showing the basic idea of how a CODAD (above) and CODOG (below) works. The new frigate is prefered as a CODAD design, while the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigate uses the CODOG configuration.

6. Emphasis on Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Protection:

Not indicated in the old TS, the SBB now requires the ship to have the capability to work in an area contaminated with Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical agents. The ships should have NBC citadels or protected areas, wash-down and decontamination systems, and NBC protective equipment for crew (page 12).

Proponents are required to provide NBCprotected areas, decontamination systems, and protective gear for the warship's crew and enable the ship to fight in such conditions.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

7.  Tactical Data Link:

The shipbuilder must provide a tactical data link and appropriate radio for tactical communication, while also providing space and and readiness to accept Link 16 and Link 22, which appears to be installed separately by the Philippine Navy. 

The use of anti-air warfare Link 16 and maritime data Link 22 enables the ships to be interoperate with military units from the US or allies using similar systems. It also means that the Armed Forces of the Philippines would be standardizing its tactical data links to these systems.

Previously the old TS indicated that the AFP is still in the process of choosing the TDL it would be using, although there were already indications that Link 16 will be used by the FA-50PH and AW-109E aircraft of the Philippine Air Force. 

8. Gun Systems: 

8a. Primary 76mm Gun

The main gun was previously identified as a 76mm naval gun, but is now determined to have a 120 rounds/min capability (page 31). Our previous analysis indicated that it could be a battle between Oto Melara and Hyundai Wia, which both produces a 76mm naval gun system. But Hyundai Wia's model has a ROF of 100 rounds/min, well below the requirement. Oto Melara's 76/62 Super Rapid complies with the 120 rounds/min spec. Although not indicated, a stealth shield would probably be offered.

The primary gun should have its own fire control radar with built-in electro-optical tracking system, integrated to the Combat Management System (CMS), and can track surface, air, and missile targets at a minimum of 30 knots, Mach 1, and Mach 3, respectively (page 33).

The Oto Melara 76/62 Super Rapid gun appears to be the only choice due to Hyundai WIA's gun not reaching the required rate of fire. Photo taken from Wikipedia.

8b. Secondary Guns:

For the secondary gun/s, it was previously indicated to be a minimum of 1 remote stabilized gun, but the SBB specified it to have a caliber between 30mm to 40mm (page 31). This is a departure from the use of 25mm remote stabilized gun in Philippine Navy ships, specifically the Mk.38 Mod.2 used in the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, and the MSI Seahawk guns mounted on the Jacinto-class corvettes. 

A separate electro-optical tracking system shall be provided for the secondary gun, and must be integrated as well to the CMS (page 33).

Korean shipbuilders can source theirs as Hyundai Wia manufactures a 40mm naval gun, while other options for them may include the newly developed Mk.38 Mod.3 naval gun produced by BAE Systems and Rafael using a 30mm gun from ATK, or the Mk.46 Mod.2 gun weapon system similar to those installed on the Freedom and Independence-class LCS that uses the Bushmaster II 30mm gun. Being a Mk.38 user, the Philippine Navy may prefer the Mk.38 Mod.3 design although the proponents are free to choose their designated system as long as they are within the specs.

Heavy machine gun requirements remain at a minimum of 4 units, probably manual operated (page 31).  The Philippine Navy normally use the Browning M2 50-caliber machine guns for its naval requirements.

The Philippine Navy might be interested in the Mk.38 Mod.3 30mm RCW gun built by BAE Systems and Rafael, but proponents might be given a free hand to choose what gun they would offer as long as it is within the technical specifications.

Korean proponents might take advantage to promote home-grown products like the Hyundai WIA 40mm naval gun, which appears to be the same gun being used on DSME's DW-2500 frigate scale model as secondary guns. Photo taken from Hyundai WIA's website.

8c. Provision for CIWS:

To avoid confusion, the SBB did not call the secondary gun system as a Close In Weapons System (CIWS), since it is now a designation for a system that will be installed in the future. The proponents are required to provide space and power requirements for a future CIWS (page 31). No mention if it would be a missile or gun based system.

MaxDefense sources previously confirmed that the Philippine Navy was trying to negotiate for the sale or transfer of refurbished Phalanx 20mm CIWS (above) from the US government. But MaxDefense hopes that the Philippine Navy consider the SeaRAM missile CIWS system (below) instead as it is more effective in defending the ship against modern and future anti-ship cruise missiles.

9. Missile & Torpedo Systems:

The DND previously announced a separating the acquisition of the weapons system from the hull, with a budget of Php 2.5 billion and Php 15.5 billion, respectively taken from the previous Php 18 billion ABC. It appears though that this is still in effect, although it is not clear if the Php 18 billion ABC was still divided for the ship and weapons, or if the DND decided to use the entire Php 18 billion for the ship, while a separate acquisition project for the ammunition (missiles and gun rounds) will be made.

Thus as indicated on theSBB, only the launchers will be provided by the proponents with the ship. This applies for the anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as the torpedoes.

Further support to this is the removal of the number of ammunitions required to be provided by the proponent (page 50).

Also, it was not specified that the missiles must be supplied by manufacturers have a Memorandum of Understand (MOU) on Logistics and Defense Industry Cooperation with the corresponding Implementing Arrangement, or has a Defense Cooperation Agreement or maintain diplomatic relations with the Philippines. MaxDefense believes that most missile manufacturers are based on countries with diplomatic ties with the Philippines, but only a few has an MOU or DCA including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Australia, Israel, Canada, India, South Korea, Japan, and China (yes, China is a defense partner of the Philippines).

Another added clause is that the missiles should be of a proven design, and not those that are still being developed.

9a. Anti-Ship Surface-to-Surface Missiles (SSM)

For the anti-ship missile system, the new TS improved the required minimum range to 150 kilometers (from 50 kilometers) and minimum cruise speed to mach 0.8 (previously defined as minimum subsonic speed). The missile must have sea-skimming capability, fire and forget, and has an active homing radar seeker and enhanced Electronic Counter Counter Measure (ECCM). The range now co confirms the type as a standard long range anti-ship missile system in the same category as the Boeing Harpoon Block II, the MBDA Exocet Block 3, LIG Nex1 SSM-700K Haeseong (C-Star), and the supersonic BrahMos missile.

The additional clauses immediately take out the possibility of having the Saab RBS-15 from Sweden (no MOU), the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile from Norway (no MOU), and the Gabriel V Advance Naval Attack Missile from Israel (which is still under development).

MaxDefense believes that the anti-ship missile requirement for the frigates will be fought between the MBDA Exocet MM40 Block 3 (above), the SSK-700K Haesung (middle), and the BrahMos missile (bottom), depending on the preference of the proponents. Credits to owners of the photos.

9b. Anti-aircraft Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM)

As with the SSM requirement, the additional clauses on source and use of proven design also affects the SAM requirement of the frigate.

Changes in the clauses from the old TS include the change from a single quad-launcher to two twin-launchers. This means there would be 2 trainable launchers instead of just 1. Range remains at 6 kilometers minimum, with an infra-red (IR) or semi-active homing seeker, with IR counter counter measures and/or ECCM capability.

MaxDefense believes that the DND is looking at the Mistral very short range air defense (VSHORAD) system from MBDA France using Simbad-RC launchers, or LIG Nex1's Chiron missile from South Korea, which also has a trainable remote weapons station for 2 or 4 missiles. STX France, Navantia, and Garden Reach may be in favor of using the Mistral-Simbad system, while HHI, DSME, and STX will probably be using the Chiron.

The MBDA Mistral in Simbad-RC launcher system (above) and LIG Nex1's Chiron missile system (below) are among those expected to be offered by proponents for the SAM requirement based on the specified requirements of the SBB.
Photos taken from MBDA & LIG Nex1's product brochures.

 9c. Ship-launched Lightweight Torpedoes

The ship must be installed with trainable triple-torpedo launchers on each side of the ship. The new TS does not need the proponent to supply the torpedo, but the launchers must be capable of launching specified torpedoes capable of operating from 10 to 600 meters deep, and a minimum range of 2,000 meters, with active, passive, or mixed homing guidance, and with torpedo counter countermeasures capability.

Source and being a proven design clauses as indicated for missiles is also applicable to torpedoes.

Interesting slip on the SBB was the specified storage requirement for Blue Shark air-launched torpedoes for the anti-submarine helicopter, which probably meant the Korean K745 Chung Sang Eo lightweight torpedo made by LIG Nex1. Up until the release of the SBB, it was still unclear if the DND has already chosen an air-launched torpedo tied to the Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition Project, so the appearance of the Blue Shark is something worth considering.

It is expected though that Korean proponents may prefer to use torpedo launchers that could use the Blue Shark torpedo. MaxDefense also expects that European proponents may be looking at the Eurotorp MU90/Impact torpedo.

Both torpedoes have the same size and there were even suggestions that the Blue Shark was developed based on the MU90/Impact. Both torpedoes are said to be capable of being launched from similar torpedo launchers so there would not be an issue of compatibility.

10. Sensors Systems 

10a. Navigation Radars

The SBB now requires 2 navigation radars with solid state receivers and a minimum of 200W peak power. One is X-band, the other is S-band. The radars should have digital pulse compression and doppler processing (page 15), allowing it to have a clearer picture even in the presence of strong clutter and poor weather.

MaxDefense sources confirmed at least 1 company, Kelvin Hughes, pushing for their Sharpeye Solid-State naval navigation radar for the new frigate, but also for the Jacinto-class patrol vessel's upgrade program and for the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates. Another interesting product that could be offered is the Thales Scout Mk. 2 naval tactical radar.

It could also be possible that the proponents will only include standard commercial marine navigation radars, probably those made by Furuno or Kelvin Hughes which are cheaper but lack features that are available on tactical naval navigation radars.

The requirement for navigational radars is close to the specifications of the Kelvin Hughes Sharpeye Solid State tactical navigation radar, although commercial models can also be considered if price is an issue.

10b. Air/Surface Search Radar:

The old TS required only a 2-dimensional (2D) air search radar for range and bearing with a minimum instrumented range design of 80 nautical miles plus a separate 2D surface search radar. The SBB revised this to a 3-dimensional (3D) air and surface search solid-state radar system, with an instrumented range of 100 nautical miles for air targets and 40 nautical miles for surface targets, a minimum detection range of 200 meters, and capable of tracking up to 750 air and surface tracks (page 34).

The improvement on the radar system is drastic as 3D air/surface is now standard on most contemporary warships in the region.

MaxDefense believes that European shipbuiders (STX France and Navantia) may use the Thales Smart-S Mk.2 3D or the BAE Systems Artisan 3D air/surface search radar for their offers, although Thales appears to be at the forefront on this since it is said to be cheaper, and Thales have been in close contact with the Philippine Navy for several years now in marketing the Smart-S Mk.2 system for the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates and even the Tarlac-class LPD. 

Korean shipbuilders (HHI, DSME, and STX) may opt to use the LIG Nex1 FFX 3D radar fitted in their Incheon-class frigates, or the Israeli EL/M-2238 STAR naval 3D radar from IAI-Elta. Garden Reach may also opt to use the EL/M-2238 radar as it has done for Indian Navy ships.

The Thales Smart-S Mk.2 (above), the LIG Nex1 FFX Radar (middle) and the IAI-Elta EL/M-2238 STAR 3D radar (below) are among those expected to be offered by the proponent bidders to fulfill the 3D Air/Surface Search Radar requirement based on the new SBB.

10c. SONAR System:

The SBB now indicate that it should operate in Medium Frequency during active mode, and Low Frequency during passive mode. It should also be capable of operating in coastal or littoral waters. An addition is on the Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) system that can be used in ASW to identify the impact of temperature on sonar propagation and acoustic range prediction. 

Among those required by the DND to provide space and power requirement for future is for a Towed Array Sonar, which would be acquired separately.This was not present in the previous TS.

11. Electronic Warfare:

Not much changes were made on the requirements for Electronic Support Measures (ESM), and the Decoy Launching System requirements remains the same, with a minimum of 6 tubes per each side of the ship, with at least 3 decoys for missiles and 3 for torpedoes (page 36).

12. Combat Management System:

An addendum found on the SBB for this item is that the CMS should be a proven design that is being used by at least 1 frigate of the manufacturer's country of origin, or at least by 1 frigate each from 2 other foreign countries. Prototypes or still in-development CMS will not be accepted by for the project (pages 36-37)

Thales' TACTICOS appears to be at the forefront of CMS products globally, and might be the choice of Navantia and STX France, as well as by Garden Reach, STX, DSME and HHI if their indigenous CMS systems are not accepted.

13. Helicopter Support:

The SBB now includes a dimension for the landing deck, at least 21.8m long  x 13.5m wide, and should be able to support a 12-ton helicopter class. It is also now required to have a deck landing grid with a diameter of at least 2.75 meters, and withstand tensions of at least 12 metric tons. This allows for helicopter launching or landing to be possible even in poor weather.

 The flight deck is also required to have a rail-less traversing system for securing the helicopter from the hangar to the flight deck (pages 37-38).

The hangar is now specified too to be able to house a 10-ton class helicopter, with a free space of 15.6 meters long x 7.24 meters wide x 5.7 meters high (pages 38-39).

It is also apparent that the specified requirements for the helicopter support equipment is very specific now, and has clarified a lot of items that were not indicated before in the old TS. An aviation shop requirement was also included now, which would be adjacent to the hangar (page 47).

The deck landing grid (above) and the harpoon from the helicopter that grips with the deck landing grid to secure the helicopter (below). Top photo taken from DCNS website.

The diagram taken from the SBB shows the minimum hangar dimensions, and lashing of the ASW helicopter. The helicopter used in the diagram is actually the AgustaWestland AW-159 Wildcat, which is now undergoing post-qualification inspections before a Notice of Award is provided.

14. Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boat and Operation Support:

The RHIB is now identified as a 7-meter long class, with accommodations for a minimum of 10 people, can run at least 30 knots, and have mounting for a 50-caliber machine gun.

15. Design Ownership Advantage:

Among the most interesting part of the SBB is the presence of a clause that allows builder to either grant the ownership of the frigate's design to the Philippine Navy, or grant a license to the Philippine Navy to manufacture/build the design.

This means that this would allow the Philippine Navy to use the same design again to build for the projected additional frigates without having to pay for additional costs of using the same again with the proponent. This could even allow for local manufacture of succeeding ships, similar to what the Indonesians got for acquiring the Makassar-class LPD from Daesun Shipbuilding of South Korea.

Separate Acquisition of Ammunition:

The absence of the ammunition requirements in the SBB as opposed to the previous TS means that they would be acquired in a different program and timeline, as they require shorter period of time to produce and deliver and will be supplied by different manufacturers. But nonetheless, they should be ready before the ship is launched to avoid a disaster similar to what the Philippine Air Force's FA-50PH fleet experienced. Once the ships are ready, it is only a matter of time before the live ammunitions are required for training, familiarity, and readiness to any unwanted or unexpected situations.

Since the proponents will be the one doing the offer for specific guns and launchers, the acquisition of ammunition may not need undergo tender process, except for the primary, secondary, and machine gun ammunition. If the PN is already decided in acquiring the Blue Shark torpedo for the ASW helicopters, it could also mean they might have already been decided in using the Blue Shark for the frigates too.

What Do We Expect:

With the DND already scheduled the tentative bid submission and opening schedule to February 16, 2016, even after delays it is already certain the project is underway and will be awarded soon, probably within the 1st quarter of the year. MaxDefense sees the deadline as too close to the SBB releasing, so expect changes in the bid submission schedule.

With the information on the frigate project being too tight, everything can still happen under the sun especially on the designs being offered by the proponents. Of course MaxDefense hopes that that the PN get the best within its budget, but expect strong political and commercial efforts exerted by foreign governments and companies to happen. This project is just the beginning, and if we follow the revised Horizon plans of the PN to be followed, we are expecting 5 more new guided-missile frigates to be awarded within the next few years.

MaxDefense also expects that once the awarding is made, we can have a clear picture of what to expect if the Philippine Navy proceeds with their plan to upgrade the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, and the upcoming Pohang-class corvette (which probably would be getting either Korean or French systems). This is due to the concept of commonality in its systems, especially that the PN is new to modern naval systems and would not want to complicate things by having more than 1 type for each module.

The awarding of the frigate will benefit the Philippine Navy's other ships, including the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates (above), and the upcoming Pohang-class corvette (below), if upgrade programs are to proceed later on.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Great 2015 for the Armed Forces of the Philippines - Year Ender Report for 2015

As the year 2015 ended with the usual high spirits for everyone, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) did have much something better, in the form of more equipment that will help them do their duties to their advantage.

2015 was a very good year for the AFP, most notably with the arrival of new assets and improvement of facilities, as well as awarding of new projects that are expected to be in service in a few years time.

The AFP's 80th Founding Anniversary celebrations last December was highlighted by a showcase of new assets acquired, with most emphasis being given to the Philippine Air Force. With a depleted fleet, the PAF gained several brand new assets that are new to them.

The darling of all deliveries for 2015: the Philippine Air Force's first 2 FA-50PH lead-in fighter trainers / light combat aircraft from South Korea.

The Philippine Air Force - 2015's a Very Good Year:

Out of 11 projects of the PAF under the RA 10349 Revised AFP Modernization Program Horizon 1 phase for 2013-2017, 2 proceeded a few years ago and were partially delivered in 2015: the F/SAA/LIFT Acquisition Project awarded to Korea Aerospace Industries' FA-50PH Fighting Eagle lead-in fighter-trainer, and the Combat Utility Helicopter Acquisition Project awarded to Canadian Commercial Corporation for Bell Helicopter Textron's B412EP helicopters.

Out of 12 FA-50PH, 2 were delivered and accepted by the PAF in December, while the PAF also has taken hold of the entire order of 8 Bell 412EP helicopters a few months earlier. 

The PAF received its first 2 FA-50PH lead-in fighter trainers on December 2015, and were among those displayed during the AFP's 80th Anniversary parade.

The PAF has also received several projects that are part of the original RA 7898 AFP Modernization Program, wherein more are still in process or are to be awarded soon. Among those that made headway is the Medium Lift Fixed-Wing Aircraft Acquisition Project awarded to Airbus Military-CASA for their C-295M medium tactical transport aircraft, and the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project awarded to AgustaWestland for their AW-109E Power helicopters.

Out of the 3 C-295M ordered by the PAF, 2 were already accepted by the PAF as of December 2015, while the last one was delivered and is undergoing local acceptance tests in the country. The PAF expects the 3rd C-295M to be accepted very soon. 

Also, all 8 AgustaWestland AW-109E Power armed helicopters were delivered in 2015 and were accepted by the PAF. All are being used to build-up experience and flight hours for the pilots of the 15th Strike Wing.

Some of the AW-109E Power armed helicopters as part of the aerial display during the 80th AFP Founding Anniversary Parade last December 2015 at Clark Air Base, Pampanga.
Photo taken from the collection of Col. Francis Neri's FB page.

The PAF also has several refurbished Dornier-Bell UH-1D Huey helicopters accepted earlier, and although one was lost due to weather conditions, all remaining aircraft are reportedly performing very well especially during support of combat and relief operations.

All new assets are being extensively used by the PAF to build-up the flying hours of its pilots and provide ample experience for the support teams and the entire organization in general.

Although moving in beyond 2015, several PAF projects also gained headway in the year, with the most relevant being that of the Light Lift Fixed-Wing Aircraft Acquisition Project awarded to PT Dirgantara Indonesia for their NC-212i light tactical transport aircraft. As of December 2015, the 2 NC-212i ordered by the PAF are in the advanced stages and will be ready for delivery in early 2016. One was even reported to have completed flight tests in Indonesia by PTDI test pilots.

The 2 C-130T Hercules heavy tactical transport aircraft being acquired by the PAF from the US Government has also made headway, with refurbishing works in full swing as per MaxDefense's sources, and will be ready for delivery in the early half of 2016. 

MaxDefense source has also confirmed that the awarding of the contract for the supply of 3 Air Defense and Surveillance Radar Systems will be proceeding by mid-January 2016, with the award expected to go to IAI-Elta Systems Ltd. of Israel for their ELM-2288 AD-STAR long range air defense radar system.

The Philippine Navy - Gaining Momentum in 2015 for Good News Beyond:

Although not as obvious as those made by the Philippine Air Force, the Philippine Navy has reasons to be in good spirit to end the year 2015. Although their modernization projects have not reached delivery status, there were many gains that were made that is as important as every other good news.

The PN received 2 ex-Royal Australian Navy Balikpapan-class heavy landing crafts from the Australian Government, and were immediately put to good use in support of the PN's duties to the country. 3 more units are being prepared, with the tender for their delivery, parts, and other related items already posted on PhilGEPS within the year.

BRP Batac and BRP Ivatan in Cavite a few months ago.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Among the major acquisitions, the soonest we can see will be the Strategic Sealift Vessel acquisition project, which involves two (2) ships based on Indonesia's Makassar-class landing platform dock (LPD). As of December, the ship is already 80% complete based on PT PAL's reports, and that the ship will be launched by January 2016. SSV-1 is still unnamed and MaxDefense will update its readers on this as progress continues.

SSV-1 completing its mast installation as of November 27, 2015.
Photo taken from PT PAL.

Also moving forward are the Frigate and ASW Helicopter projects. It was confirmed that the DND is scheduled to conduct post-bid qualification inspections with the sole compliant bidder AgustaWestland for its offer to sell their new AW-159 Wildcat ASW helicopter to the Philippine Navy. This project was delayed as it was tied to the Frigate acquisition project, and its move forward signals that the Frigate acquisition project has definitely cleared several aspects and might be ready for the 2nd stage bidding by early 2016.

SSV-2, the second ship of the class, will also proceed keel laying once SSV-1 is launched. Several blocks of its structure were already built and are ready for joining.

AgustaWestland's AW-159 Wildcat helicopter is scheduled to undergo Post Bid Qualifications inspections early in 2016, somewhere around January.

Not reported in public media was an advancement of 1 project under the RA 10349 RAFPMP, wherein Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd. of Israel awarded the MPAC Lot 2 Project a few days before the year ended. Very reliable MaxDefense source did not provide complete details of the deal, but it was understood that Rafael offered the Spike short range surface-to-surface missile in either Extended Range (ER) or the Non Line of Sight (NLOS) version, and the Mini Typhoon 12.7mm RCWS mount for the 3 MPACs being tendered separately as part of Lot 1. Delivery is expected to depend on the delivery of the 3 MPACs.

Another news that was not covered publicly was the impending departure of several officers and crew of the PN for South Korea to train and pick-up a Pohang-class corvette previous operated by the Republic of Korea Navy. MaxDefense sources confirmed that the group will depart for South Korea by early 2016. 

ROKS Mokpo (PCC-759) was identified by PhilGEPS to be the PN's new asset.

It was later identified by PhilGEPS that the ship being provided by the Koreans is the former ROKS Mokpo (PCC-759), a Batch II Pohang-class corvette. MaxDefense believes that the ship won't have its Exocet missile system due to age and other issues.

Reported first at MaxDefense was the arrival of the Landing Craft Utility provided by the South Korean government to the Philippine Navy. The craft, formerly Mulgae-class LCU-78 of the Republic of Korea Navy, is now undergoing repair and refurbishing works with a local shipbuilder, and tender announcements have been made recently for the supply of the ship's communications and electrical system parts. 

The former LCU-78 before repair and refurbishing was made. This was taken on June 2015 at Naval Base Cavite by a MaxDefense community member.

The visit of US President Barack Obama also highlighted further good news for the PN, with the commitment to hand-over the Hamitlon-class cutter USCGC Boutwell and oceanographic ship M/V Melville. Both ships are expected to be with the PN within 2016. The Boutwell will become the 3rd ship of its class with the Philippine Navy, the 2 others being the former USCGC Hamilton and USCGC Dallas which now serves as the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, respectively.

Although bidding schedules has been made, the project to upgrade the fire control and weapons systems of the Jacinto-class corvettes has hit some delays, although a bidding is scheduled to proceed for the Phase 3A of the project by mid-January 2016, while Phase 3B will be undergoing a negotiated bid process. MaxDefense has been vocal before on the separation of both projects since both have phases has identical scope of works. 

Other headway for the Philippine Navy involves its land force, the Philippine Marine Corps, wherein a joint acquisition with the Philippine Army for 12 units of 155mm Towed Howitzers were awarded in June 2015 to Elbit Systems Land & C4I of Israel, with a delivery of 1 year from then. 

Also, the PMC received parts of their share of the Remington R4A3 carbines to replace ageing M16A1 rifles in their inventory. More are expected to be provided to the PMC in 2016, including more Remington R3A3 rifles, the delivery of CAS 40mm Automatic Grenade Launchers from Singapore, and other related weaponry and equipment.

After some bidding issues, the DND has also started to proceed with the awarding of the Marine Forces Imagery and Targeting Support System (MITSS) to the previously considered lowest compliant bidder, Triton Communications. This is after Elbit Systems of Israel contested Triton's offer to the DND BAC as non-compliant as a total system to the requirement that the product should be in use by the manufacturer country's armed forces or two other foreign armed forces. More of this issue will definitely be announced by the DND by early 2016.

The awarding for 8 amphibious assault vehicles is also expected very soon, which involves the acquisition of KAAV version of the US-designed AAV-7A1 from South Korea's Hanwha Techwin (formerly known as Samsung Techwin). Sources has confirmed that this is among those scheduled for awarding by January 2016.

Hanwha Techwin of South Korea is awaiting for the awarding of the AAV Acquisition Project for the Philippine Navy, and is expecting such to happen in January 2016.

The Philippine Army - Not to be Left Behind:

While the focus on territorial defense duties means focusing on the air force and naval forces due to the archipelagic nature of the country, there are actually lesser projects given to the Philippine Army as part of the Revised AFP Modernization Program. But that does not stop them from modernizing some of their assets to perform better than ever.

The most obvious improvements are in the armoured capability of the PA, as there were several deliveries of used but still capable armoured vehicles for the Mechanized Infantry Division. Two contracts cover the delivery of M113 series tracked armoured vehicles, with Elbit Systems Land & C4I of Israel covering the supply of 28 refurbished and modernized M113A2+ vehicles, and another with the US government Excess Defense Article program for 114 used M113A2 vehicles.

Out of the 28, Elbit Systems has delivered 6 M113A2+ with the 12.7mm remote control weapons stations (RCWS) armoured personnel carriers, and 4 M113A2+ armoured recovery vehicles. MaxDefense also believes that at least 2 more M113A2+ allocated for the installation of a 76mm gun turret is already in the country. Elbit is scheduled to deliver the rest of the units within 2016.

Elbit Systems delivered 6 M113A2+ APC with 12.7mm RCWS, and 4 M113A2+ ARV, which were all present in the 80th AFP Founding Anniversary parade last December 2015.
Photos taken from the collection of Col. Francis Neri's FB page (above) and from a MaxDefense community member (below).

Meanwhile, the Philippine Army was able to receive 77 of the 114 M113A2 vehicles from the US mainland, and is expecting to receive the rest in another batch by early 2016. These M113s are in working condition, and arrived without weapons systems. The Philippine government paid for arming them with 12.7mm M2 machine guns and putting them in good working order. Most of the 77 vehicles were also part of the 80th AFP Founding Anniversary Parade last December 2015, and composed the bulk of the armoured formation.

M113A2 tracked armored personnel carriers on parade last December 2015.
Photo taken from the collection of Col. Francis Neri's FB page.

Other projects that have started moving without being covered by the media are the handheld and vehicle-installed radio systems, which were awarded to Harris Corporation of the US. Some of these vehicle-installed radios are seen during the demonstration of the RCWS-equipped M113A2+ vehicles late last year. 

As discussed earlier, the joint acquisition of 155mm towed howitzers and ammunition with the Philippine Marine Corps has also began moving, with awarding to Elbit Systems of Israel made midyear.

The project to acquire 60 Field Ambulances has also started to move, in favor of KIA Motors of South Korea for KM-451 light trucks, similar to those already in service with the Philippine Army. This enables commonality from the current fleet of vehicles operated by the AFP, as well as maximizing the local depot capability established by the PA with technical assistance from KIA. 

This is also in addition to the 717 KM-450 trucks ordered by the AFP for its Service Support units. 327 units were delivered by KIA in December 2015, 219 units of it going to support units under the Philippine Army.

The Night Fighting System has also moved beyond bidding preparation and a winning bidder is expected to be announced by January 2016. 4,464 sets of night vision monoculars, infrared aiming device and laser zeroing device for calibration are included in the project worth more than a billion pesos.

2015 was AFP Modernization Year:

2015 in general was a very good year for the AFP Modernization, as deliveries and commissioning of equipment was made at a pace never before seen in more than 40 years. With projects expected to be awarded in early 2016 to meet the government's deadline before the election spending ban, we will be seeing project awards to be made before Pres. Aquino steps down. This will definitely fuel further deliveries of materiel in 2016 and 2017. 

The transition to Horizon 2 phase will also be starting to show by 2016, as DND and AFP defense planners are expected to come up with proposals for their highlighted projects as submitted to Congress and Malacanang mid last year. There could still be minor changes on their acquisition plans, depending on the financial commitment backing by the next administration, although it is expected that the DND and AFP will be pushing hard for the new government to allocate more for defense.


January 25, 2016:

The 1st Strategic Sealift Vessel of the Philippine Navy, codenamed SSV-1, was launched last January 18, 2016 as the BRP Tarlac (LD-601). Among those present during the launch were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command, Vice Adm. Ceasar Taccad.

BRP Tarlac during its launching ceremonies last January 18, 2016.

The ship was considered as 85% complete during its launch, and will be undergoing further completion of interior systems that does not need the ship to be in dry dock. 

The ship is expected to be delivered to the Philippines by May 2016, after completing its sea tests and all works.

The landing platform dock will arrive without its full compliment of weapons systems, which were listed on the project's technical specifications to include a 76mm main gun, two 25 to 30mm close in weapons systems, and several 50-caliber machine guns.

Its full sensor compliment will also not be installed yet, and only basic navigation surface search radars were in place during its launch. All these systems will be provided for by the Philippine Navy and will be installed in the Philippines at a later date.

Also during the launching of BRP Tarlac was the keel laying ceremonies for the 2nd ship of the class, codenamed SSV-2. It will have a hull number of LD-602, although naming will only be made next year.

The photo above shows the full length of the ship, taken days before the actual launching as it completes final touces on its external finishes.