Saturday, April 18, 2015

Other Acquisition Plans of the Philippine Air Force for its Medium Term "Flight Plan"

Earlier MaxDefense blogs discussed the Philippine Air Force (PAF) Air Defense Wing's "Flight Plan" for the medium term goals from now until 2022. But the "Flight Plan" actually encompasses the entire Air Force organization and not just the Air Defense component. Aside from improvements on the air defense capability of the PAF, there are also a lot more to cover all capabilities gaps to reach an acceptable capability status.

Support units of the PAF are also scheduled for acquisition of new assets, some of which have already arrived.




Ongoing Delivery of New and Additional Assets:

On March 30, 2015, the PAF accepted and commissioned its first of three new medium tactical transport aircraft, the Airbus-CASA C-295M aircraft which was acquired under the Medium-Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft project, and is expecting the delivery of the remaining two aircraft within this year. The aircraft will be assigned with the 220th Airlift Wing based in Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan, Cebu.


The 1st C-295 in PAF service, during the acceptance ceremonies last March 30, 2015.
Photo taken from GMA News website.


Despite being embroiled in accusations regarding contract breaches and corruption, the PAF also accepted and silently commissioned the first 7 units of a scheduled 21-unit buy of Refurbished UH-1 Helicopters in the form of ex-German military Dornier UH-1D Huey combat utility helicopters last February 2015. These additional helicopters are now with the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing. The supplier, a joint venture between Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters, was given a Partial Notice of Termination as of March 26, 2015, and was given 7 days (April 2, 2015) to justify the continuation of the contract with a new deadline within April 2015. According to MaxDefense sources, the remaining 14 helicopters are all fully assembled, and 6 of these helicopters have already undergone and passed the acceptance test by the PAF and are only awaiting for the PAF to accept them formally should the contract between RASI and the DND continues.

One of the accepted Dornier UH-1D Super Delta during the pre-acceptance tests.
Photo taken from Tim Maceren's FB page.




Assets Confirmed and Awaiting for Deliveries:

Still part of the Medium-Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft project, two more Airbus Military-CASA C-295M medium tactical transport aircraft are expected for delivery soon, and there were indications that the PAF might be able to receive both aircraft before the end of 2015. They will all be assigned to the 220th Airlift Wing.


The CASA C-295 & CN-235 assembly line in Spain. 2 more C-295M are expected to be delivered by Airbus Military-CASA to the PAF within 2015.
Photo taken from flightglobal.com.




Another airlift-capable aircraft that is in the pipeline is the acquisition of 2 Light-Lift Fixed Wing Aircraft (LLFWA) to complement and eventually replace the N-22B Nomads. Indonesia Aerospace-PTDI won the project with their NC-212i, and was expected to deliver the aircraft by March 2015. Unfortunately the project was awarded to IA/PTDI later than planned, so they are now expected to arrive at least by 3rd or 4th quarter of 2015.


The PAF is scheduled to get 2 PTDI NC212i light lift aircraft within 2015.



Aside from the C-295M and NC-212, the 220th Airlift Wing is also expected the delivery of two refurbished Lockheed C-130T Hercules heavy tactical transport aircraft by early to mid 2016. These are ex-US Marine Corps tanker aircraft but it is still unconfirmed if they will retain their air-to-air refueling capabilities. This would bring the total commissioned C-130 fleet of the PAF to 5 units.




The PAF's joint inspection team during the final check on USMC KC-130T no. 022 before accepting the offer of the US government to transfer the aircraft together with another one for refurbishing prior to delivery to the PAF.




Under the Attack Helicopter project, the 15th Strike Wing is scheduled to receive their first batch of a total of 8 AgustaWestland AW-109P armed helicopters by the 1st quarter of 2015, with the first 2 helicopters arriving on December 2014 and is undergoing pre-acceptance tests and checks as of this writing. It is expected that both helicopters will be officially accepted and commissioned by the PAF within this month. 


One of the PAF's AW-109P armed helicopter undergoing tests. Take note of the FN RMP Pod installed on the side weapons mount.
Photo taken from Wikimedia. 




Another helicopter acquisition program that is expected to bear fruit this year is the Combat Utility Helicopters, wherein the DND acquired 8 Bell 412EP from the Canadian Commercial Corporation under a government-to-government project. 6 brand new helicopters are expected to arrive on or before October 2015, and will be assigned with the 205th Tactical Helicopter WingDue to the need for more helicopters to transport VIPs this year as part of the Philippines' hosting of APEC Summit 2015, 3 of the helicopters will initially be configured as VIP transport helicopters for the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing. It is not yet confirmed though if these 3 helicopters will continue to serve as permanent VIP transport helicopters, or if they will be reconfigured to combat utility helicopters later on.


The PAF is expected to get their new Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters soon, which are said to be almost similar to the configuration of the CH-146 Griffon used by the Canadian Armed Forces.
Photo by Michael Durning, taken from Airliners.net.




Ongoing Projects for Implementation and Approval:

There are upcoming projects that are still being processed as of this writing, and some have even already started the bidding process although were among those affected by the delays in the implementation of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

The Close Air Support Aircraft acquisition project is the most anticipated project that has not yet gone past a successful bid submission schedule. This involves the acquisition of 6 brand new ground attack aircraft to complement and eventually replace the ageing Rockwell OV-10A/C/M Bronco being used by the 15th Strike Wing. Among the most anticipated participants in this project are Hawker Beechcraft with their AT-6 Texan II, and Embraer with their A-29 / EMB-314 Super Tucano. The project is currently on-hold, awaiting for the final approval of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.




The Close Air Support Aircraft project is still pending as of now, but it is anticipated that the competitors will be between the Hawker Beechcraft's AT-6 Texan II and Embraer's A-29 / EMB-314 Super Tucano.




The PAF has also started the bidding for its Long Range Patrol Aircraft (LRPA) project, which requires the acquisition of 2 new Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The first attempt to bid the project failed, and ultimately the project was affected by Malacanang's pending approval for the Revised AFP Modernization Program. Aside from the possibility of acquiring brand new assets, the DND is also looking at the offers made by the US government to transfer, either by grant or by sale, or refurbished Lockheed P-3C Orion aircraft, which is a long standing offer by the US but was not availed before due to the high acquisition, maintenance, and operating cost of the aircraft. It is expected tha the PAF's 
300th Air Intelligence & Security Group will be operating the said type of aircraft.



New maritime patrol aircraft like the Airbus-CASA C-295MPA (above) and used refurbished models like the Lockheed P-3C Orion from the US (below) are being considered by the PAF.



Future Acquisition Projects:

After acquiring 2 new Long Range Patrol Aircraft, the PAF is planning to acquire another 2 units by 2020. It would be possible that this would be the same model as the first 2 to be acquired by the PAF. The goal is for the PAF to have at least 4 units, depending on the financial and threat requirements of the PAF.


There is also a requirement to acquire four (4) units of Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) aircraft, scheduled in 2 batches of 2 units. The plan is to have 2 units by 2020, and another 2 units by 2022. The ECM aircraft is still a vague acquisition, and interpretation on this project may vary. MaxDefense believes that this is Special Mission aircraft that will be using a transport or business aircraft similar to the expected platform for the PAF's future AEWC aircraft. But others suggest that this could be a special fighter aircraft similar to the US Navy's EA-18G Growler or US Air Force's F-16CJ/DJ Falcon that can perform fighter support and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) more commonly known in US nomenclature as "Wild Weasel". 



The PAF's requirement for 4 Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) aircraft was not defined on the type of capabilities it will possess. It could either be a special mission fighter aircraft similar to the USN's EA-18G Growler (above), or a transport/business jet modified for such purpose like the Embraer R-99B (below).
Photo of EA-19G taken from Naval Air Warfare Center webiste, photo of R-99B taken from Wikipedia.


Other support aircraft that is worth waiting are the requirements for at least a single Air-to-Air Refueling Tanker by 2021. As the project is still expected to be implemented a few years from now, it is still unclear how much is the budget and what are the required specifications of this aircraft. The most probable solution is for the acquisition of either a new or used refurbished C-130 aircraft with Air Refueling Tanker equipment, although it could be as high as acquiring a commercial airliner fitted as a Tanker/Transport like the Airbus KC-30 / A330 multirole tanker/transport aircraft.



The PAF's tanker aircraft acquisition is also too early to tell, but it could only be either a commercial airliner modified to tanker/transport duties like the Airbus KC-30 /A330 MRTT, or will be using a less capable option like the KC-130J Super Hercules tanker/transport.
Both photos taken from Wikipedia.






A step up from the usual combat utility helicopters being operated by the PAF is a plan to acquire a minimum of 4 Medium or Heavy Lift Helicopters, planned to be acquired in 2 batches of 2 units each by 2019 and 2022, respectively. As previously indicated by several PAF officers, the organization prefer a helicopter design that has a rear ramp which was very instrumental on Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. Among those they are looking at are the Boeing CH-47F Chinook and the AgustaWestland AW-101.



Among those being considered for the PAF's upcoming Medium/Heavy Lift Helicopter project are the AgustaWestland AW-101 (above) and the Boeing CH-47F Chinook (below).
Photo of AW-101 taken from AgustaWestland website, photo of CH-47F taken from Australian Aviation website.




There are also several projects that the Philippine Air Force is planning to acquire that are not listed in the "Flight Plan" report, but are actually logical in nature.



There is an impending plan to acquire at least 2 VVIP-configured Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters and a new VIP fixed wing jet aircraft for the 250th PAW, although it is said to be funded separately from the Revised AFP Modernization Program. For the helicopters, the budget will be taken from the Department of Energy (DOE) with an ABC of Php 2.09 billion. The VVIP fixed wing aircraft will be acquired by the Office of the President and has an ABC of Php 3.69 billion. The VVIP aircraft budget will be enough to acquire either a standard Boeing 737-800, or probably even a Boeing Business Jets BBJ. This would represent an improvement as the currently the only VIP aircraft in PAF service is the old Fokker F-28 Fellowship aircraft which lacks in size, range, and modern safety features.

The PAF's 250th Presidential Airlift Wing will be operating VVIP aircraft that the Philippine Government will be acquiring. These will be acquired without using the AFP Modernization Program budget.
Photo of S-70i taken from Wikipedia. Photo of BBJ taken from AVBuyer website.





There are also plans to increase the number of additional orders for transport and utility aircraft that were already ordered by the PAF. These include the Medium-Lift Fixed Wing aircraft, the Light-Lift Fixed Wing aircraft, the Attack Helicopter, and the Combat Utility Helicopter. This will be subject to availability of more funds, and the overall performance evaluation of the aircraft acquired. 

If all aircraft acquired by the PAF are all performing well, expect the PAF to request for additional Airbus-CASA C-295 aircraft (probably the newer C-295W version), the Airbus-PTDI NC-212i, the AgustaWestland AW-109P, and the Bell 412EP. The increase in acquisition would allow the PAF to retire its older assets, namely the Fokker F-27 Friendship, the GAF N-22B Nomad, and the Bell UH-1H Iroquois.

There are also plans to acquire a long-term replacement for the Aermacchi AS-211 being used by the PAF, as a trainer that will bridge the gap between the SF-260FH primary trainer and the FA-50 LIFT. It is still unclear if the plan calls for a jet or propeller powered aircraft model. Another type of aircraft being considered are medium sized Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or "drones" that will be used for surveillance and observation. The PAF is looking for a model that has enough range and endurance to reach the country's territories and EEZ in the West Philippine Sea, including the Kalayaan Group of Islands. Previous offers made was by Elbit Systems for a maritime patrol version of their Hermes 900 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), although it remains to be seen if the AFP will accept the said offer.



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In general, the PAF's modernization program has been moving slowly but surely, boosted by the support provided by the Aquino Administration. To address the slow movement, MaxDefense believes that it only goes back to more funding and a faster procurement process. Add to that the instilling of a culture of project continuity within the PAF, the DND, and the whole Philippine government. 

Apart from the equipment acquisition projects, the PAF's Flight Plan also discusses the importance of changes and improvement in the organization, training, research and development, human resource system, doctrine and knowledge system, bases and support systems, and values system. All this work hand-in-hand to further improve the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force towards a world-class organization tasked in defending the Philippine skies and supporting the Filipino people in any way possible.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Questions Answered on Erroneous Reports on the Acquisition of M113 APC from the US and Israel for the Philippine Army

A few weeks ago, News5 released a report by Erwin Tulfo regarding the alleged misuse of funds for the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) Modernization program, wherein budget allocated for the transportation of donated M113 armored personnel carriers from the United States was said to be diverted to acquire second-hand M113 APCs from Israel. This issue was immediately picked-up by Senators JV Ejercito and Chiz Escudero, who themselves are asking for an investigation of the matter.


An M113 fitted with Elbit's 25mm RWS. A similar configuration is being acquired by the Philippine Army with Elbit Systems Land & C4I.


MaxDefense has kept quiet on this issue for some time, even if it was apparent that there are errors and inconsistencies in the report made by Mr. Tulfo. MaxDefense was clear on its stand that the project to acquire 28 refurbished upgraded M113s from Israel and 114 surplus M113A2 from the US are 2 distinct and different projects, with 2 separate project schedules, and 2 separate funding.



The Issue - Mr. Tulfo's Report:
According to the reports made by Mr. Tulfo, the Department of National Defense (DND) diverted funds donated by the United States government to ship 100+ units of surplus M113 APCs from the US mainland to the Philippines. The funds, said to be worth Php 800+ million, was instead used to acquire used M113s from Israel, which were sourced from Belgium, and refurbished and installed with remote weapons systems by Elbit Systems Land & C4I. The M113s are said to be 3rd hand, wherein Belgium bought the vehicles from the US, then was sold to Israel, and are now sold to the Philippines.

The point of concern is why did the DND forego the delivery of 100+ free M113s from the US to buy "28 3rd-hand, vintage, World War II era refurbished M113s" from Israel that are older than those coming from the US, when it was apparent that free is better than paid, and 100+ is better than 28. 

MaxDefense sees many discrepancies on this report, at almost the same level as the report made by Manila Times recently regarding the Dornier UH-1D helicopters.


An M113A1-B ARV formerly used by the Belgian Land Compnent, currently in use by the Indonesian Army and was supplied by Sabiex S.A. of Belgium, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems Land & C4I of Israel.
Photo taken from arc.web.id.



MaxDefense Replies:

MaxDefense separates the issues between the 2 distinct M113 projects for easy comprehension. 


A. US Government Excess Defense Article Grant of 114 M113A2 to the Philippines:

In 2012, the US government awarded a grant to the Philippine DND involving the transfer of 114 surplus M113A2 vehicles for the Philippine Army. Being a grant, the Philippine government is not expected to pay anything for the vehicles themselves. In laymen's term: donation.




1. Is it true that the US government donated money to ship the donated M113 to the Philippines?

No. The US government only provided the M113A2 units to the Philippine government as part of the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) grant, and it is up to the Philippine government to shoulder the shipping costs of bringing them from the stockyard in the US mainland to the Philippine Army facilities in the Philippines. 

The US government normally do not provide donated money, but are actually in the form of US Military Assistance which the Philippine government annually receives. 

To reinforce this answer, Mr. Tulfo reclarified in his later reports that the fund for the shipping was actually from the Philippine government, coming from the AFP Modernization Program. To be exact, the fund actually came from Republic Act 7898, which is the AFP Modernization Act of 1995. 




2. Is the true that there is a Php 800+ million pesos budget intended for shipping of surplus M113 from the US mainland?

No. As early as 2010, the Philippine Army already requested for a budget to acquire tracked armored personnel carriers. A budget of Php882 million was allocated to acquire 14 brand new basic tracked armored personnel carriers, funded under the budget allocated covered by RA 7898 or the AFP Modernization Act.

But the plan was eventually scrapped as the Philippine Army believed that 14 new tracked APCs would not be enough to fill-up the planned Table of Organization and Equipment (TOE) of the Philippine Army's Mechanized Infantry Division (MID). The planned TOE involves several hundreds of additional tracked armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles to be placed under the command of the PA's MID.

From 2012 to 2013, the Philippine government tried to seal a deal with the Italian Ministry of Defense, wherein the DND decided to use the budget from the cancelled acquisition of 14 new APCs in favor shipping and refurbishing 100+ units of used VCC-1 armored vehicles (reported as M113) and 25 units of used FH-70 155mm towed howitzers, all formerly from the Italian Army. This was known in the DND and AFP as the "Italian Package", which includes the Maestrale-class frigates, naval helicopters, light combat aircraft, and other retired Italian military equipment. 

With talks between the Italian and Philippine defense officials failed and the acquisition of the "Italian Package" cancelled in 2013, the DND and Army decided to use the Php 882 million budget to acquire refurbished but heavily upgraded M113s in a government-to-government deal under the supervision of the US Department of Defense.


The Philippine Army almost got hold of 100 VCC-1 Camilino tracked APCs, which are actually Italian version, Italian license copy of the American M113 APC.
Photo taken from Armyrecognition.com.



3. What are the physical condition of the M113A2 APCs from the US?

The M113A2 are formerly US Army armored personnel carriers. They are newer derivatives of the M113A1 being used by the Philippine Army, and were built starting 1979 up to 1986. The US Army heavily used these armored vehicles in deployment around the world, and were eventually replaced by the newer and more capable M2 Bradley AIFV starting in the late 1980s. Retired M113A2 vehicles are currently stored in desert open storage facilities in the US mainland, and are being sold or granted to friendly countries by the US government.

114 units were allocated by the US government to the Philippines, divided into 2 batches (100 and 14). According to MaxDefense sources, officials from the Philippine Army and DND were given a chance to choose the vehicles a few years ago in a total sample of more than 700 vehicles. Only 96 vehicles are still in working condition, but will require servicing, repair, and refurbishing in one way or another, and are not ready to use vehicles. The 18 other vehicles will need major spare parts and servicing before the PA can commission them, or they may just make them spare parts hulk for the rest of the fleet. 

All 114 M113A2 do not include the machine guns and armored cupolas, which the Philippine Army will need to acquire separately.


The M113A2s being inspected by Philippine Army officers in the US Army open storage in the mainland United States. Look at the condition of these armored vehicles.
Photo taken from the Mechanized Infantry Division-Philippine Army website.


It will definitely cost the Philippine Army a significant amount of money and time to prepare these vehicles, although the DND received Php141 million from the US government as part of US Military Assistance to the Philippines, specifically allocated for the refurbishing of the said vehicles. But even so, it appears that the amount is not enough to repair and arm all 114 vehicles, and the Philippine Army must shoulder the balance should it decide to commission all vehicles. Estimates made by MaxDefense's source said the amount is only good to fully upgrade and equip around 25 units.





4. If the money for the shipping of M113A2 from the US is different from the money to pay for the upgraded M113s, where is the shipping money?

This is the tricky part. Originally the DND opened a bidding for the shipping of 114 M113 armored vehicles from Sierra Army Depot in Herlong, California to the Philippines. Budget allocated for this is from the cancelled project to re-engine and upgrade 18 FV101 Scorpion vehicles of the Philippine Army worth around Php 200 million. The bidding failed, and no shipping company was awarded a contract. Further delays required the DND to return the money to the Department of Budget Management (DBM). But when the DND again requested for the DBM to release the budget, it did not materialize due to technical concerns on the release of Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO), and was later on affected by the government's decision to scrap the SARO system in 2013.

Instead, the DND and Philippine Army decided to use part of the US Military Financing Assistance fund worth Php 141 million initially allocated for the repair, refurbishing and rearming of the 114 M113A2, with the approval of the US government. This Php 141,008,183.06 budget was actually among those included in the Revised AFP Modernization Program under RA 10349. But as Typhoon Yolanda / Haiyan struck in late 2013, the DND again requested the US government to allow them to use the budget for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, which was approved. 

Since the budget was already used-up, the DND then requested for a new budget allocation for the shipping from the national government, and is still being processed by the Department of Budget Management. So far, the requested amount has not yet been released. 

But the budget release is currently the worry of the Philippine Army and DND, because another MaxDefense source confirmed that the US government already sent a communication early this year asking for a commitment from the Philippine government to ship out the armored vehicles from the Sierra Army Depot in California. If the Philippines failed to take the vehicles out as per the agreed commitment, the US government will offer these vehicles to other interested foreign governments. It was also confirmed by MaxDefense sources that there are already other military inspectors from foreign countries interested on the specific vehicles previously selected by the Philippine Army inspection teams.



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B. Acquisition of 28 refurbished & upgraded M113 from Elbit Systems Land & C4I:

5. Who are involved in the deal to acquire the refurbished & upgraded M113A2+ from Elbit Systems Land & C4I?

All acquisitions involving US-made or US license-built military equipment will require the involvement of the US Department of Defense (DoD). The M113, in all its form and licensed copies, is among those that need the US DoD's approval before any sale or transfer happens. This is true not only for the Philippines, but for any government or entity that acquires US military equipment.

When the DND and PA decided to acquire refurbished and upgraded M113 vehicles, it was initially coordinated with the US DoD which gave approval of the planned acquisition. It was actually the US Army's Infrastructure Modernization (IMOD) office that recommended to award such contract to Elbit Systems Land & C4I, with the approval of the Israeli Ministry of Defense and its Defense Export & Defense Cooperation (SIBAT) office


6. Are the M113s sold by Israel are 3rd hand, World War II vintage vehicles?

A strong No. Elbit Systems Land & C4I of Israel is supplying the armored vehicles for the Philippine Army in a government-to-government contract entered by the DND last year. The M113s to be used are former Belgian Land Component (Belgian Army) M113A1-B vehicles.

The M113A1-B is the Belgian version of the M113 armored vehicles, with the "B" denoting "Belgium". They were made in Belgium by the Belgian Mechanical Fabrication (BMF) Company. Although designated as an "A1", they are actually very much more similar to the US M113A2 version than the older M113A1. Modifications made by the Belgians include using the same suspension as the US M113A2, and nuclear-biological chemical (NBC) protection, among others. They were built from 1982 to 1988, which means that these vehicles are actually newer than the US-made M113A2. And since World War II ended in 1945, or 37 years after the first M113A1-B rolled out of BMF's factory, these are incorrectly and outrageously termed as vintage World War II era vehicles!



The FMC M113 first appeared in 1960, or 15 years after World War II. The Philippines was among the first users of the type, receiving them in the late 1960s. But the versions being acquired by the Philippines now are newer versions produced between 1979-1986.



7. So if they are not vintage, is it true that the vehicles are dilapidated and "bulok"?

No. After the Belgian Land Component reduced its TOE size and replaced older vehicles, the M113A1-B were among those retired from service. The specific M113A1-B units to be sold to the Philippines passed through the Belgian defense company Sabiex International S.A., a subsidiary of Elbit Systems Land & C4I. 

Elbit Systems through Sabiex now has the retired Belgian M113A1-B for the PA and are now doing the refurbishing works in Belgium. But it does not mean the M113A1-B were bought by the State of Israel, as they were acquired by a Belgian company (Sabiex) to be sold to other interested governments or entities. No other military used these vehicles after the Belgians. If 28 of these vehicles are transferred to the Philippine Army, it may seem that they are already the 3rd hand owner, with the Belgian Land Component as the 1st owner, Sabiex S.A./Elbit Systems as the 2nd owner, and the Philippine Army as the 3rd. But since Sabiex/Elbit does not use the vehicles for military operations, Sabiex and Elbit are similar to sales agents, retailers or consignees in commercial terminologies. So officially, the Philippine Army is the 2nd owner.

Aside from being newer than the US-sourced M113A2, the Belgian M113A1-B are actually far better in terms of condition and usage. A MaxDefense source confirmed that the M113A1-B units chosen by the Joint Visual Inspection team from the DND and Philippine Army are actually very much new, with only more than 1,000 kilometers mileage! 

How is that possible? It appears that the vehicles chosen by the DND and PA were used by the Belgians only for military and royal parades, displays, and training exercises within Belgium, and were not used in NATO deployments across Europe. They were also among the last units retired by the Belgians before being replaced with the MOWAG Piranha IIIC 8x8 armored vehicle. The Belgians never used the chosen units in any minor or major armed conflict, military operation, or peacekeeping mission. Add to that the fact that the refurbishing includes zero-timing the vehicles. So in effect, these vehicles are practically new! 


A Belgium Land Component M113A1-B.


Aside from that, as part of the deal between the DND and Elbit Systems, Sabiex will refurbish these M113A1-B vehicles to M113A2+ standards, undergoing a complete refurbishing and overhaul of the body and engine, new Allison TX1001A transmission system, a new fuel system, hydraulic steering system, and an improved suspension.





The M113A1-B will undergo a refurbishing and upgrade to M113A2+ standard by Sabiex S.A., as shown on the photos above.
Photo taken from Sabiex's website.


After refurbishing to M113A2+ standards, the vehicles will be fitted with the advanced remote weapons systems (RWS) made by Elbit Systems, and 76mm gun turrets from decommissioned Philippine Army FV101 Scorpion combat recon vehicles, converting these APCs into armored fighting vehicles. They won't be just bringing in soldiers to the combat zone like what standard M113s do, but because of the advanced weapons systems, they will be with the soldiers in combat in a similar way that other modern IFVs are used by foreign armies.

Once in service, the 28 upgraded M113s are actually the most modern armored vehicles in the Philippine military, being the only one equipped with these advanced features.




Elbit Systems will provide the Remote Weapons Systems for the M113A2+, 4 are 25mm chain guns and 6 are 12.7mm machine guns.
Photo taken from Elbit Systems website.



8. The Philippine Army will provide 76mm turrets from decommissioned FV101 Scorpions?

Yes. That is part of the deal. The Philippine Army has several British-made FV101 Scorpion "light tanks" that are out of action for some time due to lack of spare parts. After several failed attempts to repair and re-engine these Scorpions, the Army decided to retire them for good. Instead of leaving them in the army's storeyards, it was decided that the L23A1 turrets, with its 76mm low pressure gun, are still worth using. As part of the plan, 14 of these turrets will be removed from the Scorpion vehicles.


Unfortunately, the Philippine Army's fleet of Scorpion CRVTs are declining fast. And with the turrets still working, the Army decided to transplant them to the M113A2+.




9. The M113A2+ are in Belgium. The RWS, FCS, and other components are in Israel. The 76mm Turrets are in the Philippines. So how will they be put together?

The 76mm gun turrets from the Scorpions will be repaired and refurbished locally by the Philippine Army with assistance from Sabiex personnel, using components provided by Elbit Systems. Once upgraded, Elbit Systems will check and accept these turrets and then integrate them with their new Fire Control System, as the RWS and FCS from Israel will be shipped to the Philippines separately from the M113A2+ from Belgium. 

Once the vehicles, weapons systems, and other components are here, they will be integrated by Elbit Systems in the Philippines, under supervision by the Philippine Army. Elbit Systems being the contractor of the project will make sure that the entire system will be in accordance to the standards required by the client (DND/Army), and will be in charge of warranties, integrated logistics support, and product support.

There might be questions on why the Philippine Army will do the repair and refurbishing of the L23A1 turrets when Elbit Systems is already part of the project, but it appears that this decision to have the Army do the work with only assistance from Sabiex/Elbit was made even before the contract was signed. Aside from these, the contract between the DND and Elbit Systems includes the provision of 4 free armored recovery vehicles by Elbit Systems. 




10. What, free Armored Recovery Vehicles?

Yes. The contract between the DND and Elbit Systems actually cover only 24 vehicles. These are the 4 units to be installed with 25mm RWS gun system, 6 with 12.7mm RWS gun systems, and 14 with the refurbished 76mm gun turrets from the Scorpions. As part of the deal, Elbit will give 4 refurbished M113A2+ in armored recovery vehicle configuration. This was even reported previously by the media.


Photo taken from Sabiex's website.




11. So is 100+ free M113A2 better than 28 refurbished M113s from Belgium-Israel?

Neither. The Philippine Army both needs quantity and quality. Its TOE requires hundreds of tracked armored vehicles in its inventory, and even if the 114 M113A2 from the US and 28 M113A2+ from Israel comes, the PA will still need more. While 114 M113A2 seems better than 28 M113A2+, many fail to consider that the 28 M113A2+ to be delivered by Elbit Systems are fully refurbished, almost new, technologically superior, and heavily armed variants as compared to those from the US grant. If you put the 28 M113A2+ to combat against the 114 M113A2, MaxDefense believes the upgraded units will definitely hold its own even if they are less in numbers.

In the end, the Philippine Army needs both projects to be implemented and delivered. And the PA will need to request more funding to acquire more armored vehicles, which inlcude the future plan to have Main Battle Tanks in its arsenal.





12. Is there anything wrong with buying second hand, refurbished military equipment?

No. Our lawmakers, decision makers, and the public must understand that the military's modernization program requires tens of billions of dollars to fully implement and transform it to first class, modern armed forces. Tens of billions of dollars that the government does not provide, and instead only a few million dollars are made available every year. If we insist on buying new equipment everytime, until when can the AFP realize its required number of equipment then? 

In its current plans, the Philippine Army may require up to 700 tracked armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles to fill its TOE. Currently it only has less than 150. Add the 114 surplus M113A2 from the US and 28 M113A2+ from Belgium/Israel and we now have less than 300 units. So the Army is still lacking 400 units! Another example: the Philippine Air Force requires around 100 serviceable combat utility helicopters at any given time. So it means they need at least 135 helicopters, considering maintenance and servicing for other units. Currently they have 40 units combined for working and non-working aircraft. They are buying 8 new Bell 412EP, so that brings 48 units. If the PAF bought more new Bell 412EP instead of refurbished Dornier-Bell UH-1D, the budget allocated by the government cannot even buy 3 new helicopters! So when the can the PAF get their 135 helicopters?

Refurbishing of old military equipment is a normal trend around the world that has becoming more prevalent with the defense cuts faced by even the richest countries. Service Life Extension Programs (SLEP) is a refurbishing and upgrading program that involves overhauling the entire equipment, replacing damaged or old parts with new ones, restoring the body and other non-moving parts, and installing upgrades to improve the vehicle's performance. This is what was done to the 28 M113A1-B from Belgium to become the M113A2+ the Philippine Army specified. 


Singapore refurbished their M113 fleet by installing new technology and replaced old parts. It also included the installation of a RWS system as shown above.
Photo taken from tanknutdave's website.



Aside from the Philippines, the latest country to have bought refurbished M113A1-B from Belgium and supplied by Sabiex is the Indonesian Army. Some of the M113s were even delivered in time for the 69th Anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) last year.


Indonesia's Belgian-made M113A1-B supplied by Sabiex S.A. The first batch shown above were delivered on time to be included in the 69th Anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces. On the left is the ARV variant, which the PA will receive 4. The vehicle on the right is the standard APC variant.
Photo taken from fallenpx's Flicr account.




Even the richest countries with defense budgets several times higher than the Philippine military gets acquire second hand and refurbished equipment depending on the urgency, schedule, and budget flow they are facing. Several examples: Singapore bought 100+ used Leopard 2A4 tanks from Germany, and with refurbishing, they are now the most modern and most capable main battle tanks in Southeast Asia. Indonesia with a military modernization budget of US$15 billion in 5 years (the PH is less  than US$2 billion in the same timeline), also recently acquired 100+ refurbished Leopard 2A4 tanks and 50 refurbished Marder IFVs from Germany, and upgraded most of them to become as capable as Singapore's Leopard 2SG. They also recently acquired 24 mothballed F-16C/D from the and upgraded them to become one of their top fighters in their Air Force. Japan bought used refurbished C-130H Hercules transport aircraft from the US recently, which they used in the recently concluded Cope North Exercises. Australia bought second hand refurbished M1A1 Abrams tanks from the US. Thailand's entire tank fleet, with exception to their new tanks from Ukraine, are actually used surplus US Army stocks. Taiwan is a regular buyer of refurbished naval ships from the US, with recent procurements include the Kidd-class destroyers and Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates. Chile is the best example of a capable military using refurbished equipment, with used missile frigates from UK and the Netherlands, used fighters (F-16AM/BM) from the Netherlands, and used tanks and armored vehicles from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the US (Leopard 2, Leopard 1, Marder, YPR-765, M113), they are now one of the most capable armed forces in South America! Even America, with all its power and money, recently bought used AV-8B Harrier jets retired by the British Royal Air Force and Royal Navy! So what the Philippines did is nothing wrong, but just being practical and realistic.



The most modern main battle tanks in Southeast Asia, the Singaporean Leopard 2SG (above) and the Indonesian Leopard 2 Revolution (below), are nothing more but decades old, second hand, refurbished Leopard 2A4 tanks from Germany. And yet they are more capable than the most modern and newest main battle tanks from China.



13. Finally, what do our lawmakers and government need to do to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines?

If our lawmakers really desire that our soldiers get the best equipment available, all they need to do is increase the annual defense procurement budget. Recently, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Pio Catapang stressed the need to increase the annual military modernization budget to at least 1% of the annual national government budget. That request is a very modest one, but still the government is having problems granting that practical request. If the government is really serious to improve the country's armed forces, then provide what they need.

Another important matter is that the procurement process for defense equipment must be changed immediately. Not only does tendering enable certain entities of learning a lot of details on the military's requirements, but it also stops the military from getting the best product they require due to the process of having the cheapest product win. It also delays important projects, which is a very crucial factor especially that the country is facing a lot of internal and external threats, as well as environmental ones.



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There might be a possibility of corruption and illegal activities brought up by Mr. Erwin Tulfo with regards to his report on the acquisition of M113s. But the way the report was made showed lack of understanding on the product being demonized. It appears now to be no different from the false accusations made by another reporter regarding the capabilities and history of the Dornier-Bell UH-1D.

Like what MaxDefense pointed out in its previous blog on the Dornier-Bell UH-1D, reporters should not make baseless statements and reports against the equipment involved just to create a foundation for their accusations. There's no need to do that! And the worst part is, they are feeding the general public wrong information when it is the media's responsibility to look for the truth! If the truth is what they are searching for, then they must start from a strong foundation of truth as well.

There is nothing wrong with the calls for investigations because it is for the benefit of the Filipino people to know the truth. But if certain individuals, media, or organizations accuse DND and AFP officials of corruption, all they have to do is go directly to the issue, show evidence that there are indeed irregularities on the deals. No need to blow out the issue by making made-up stories and erroneously tainting the product's image with untrue or incorrect information, which can be debunked by people who knows their military equipment very well or even by simple research.


MaxDefense will be closely monitoring this projects and will be posting updates later on should more information arrive.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Philippine Air Force's Medium Term "Flight Plan" for an effective Air Defense Capability

Recently the Philippine Star released a news report regarding the planned acquisition of 24 fighter aircraft in the near future for the Philippine Air Force (PAF). The report's headline claims that the aircraft will be coming from South Korea, although the content of the report reveals that it is still unclear from which country the aircraft will be acquired. To clear this report, it would also be best to discuss the nature of the plan being followed by the Philippine Air Force for their acquisition of more fighters. This is also related to other projects being embarked by the Department of National Defense (DND) and the PAF.





The PAF is scheduled to acquire MRFs, like the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon / Viper (above) and the Saab JAS-39 Gripen (below) as previously indicated by the DND and PAF as part of its mid-term modernization goals.
Photo of F-16 taken from Wikimedia, and of the JAS-39 from taringa.net



24 Fighters from South Korea?:
The report claims that their source came from a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a renowned defense and security think tank. Upon closer inspection, it appears that the news report came from SIPRI's Trends in International Arms Transfer 2014, by Pieter D. Wezeman and Siemon T. Wezeman. The exact source is located on page 6 of the said report. The SIPRI report also did not indicated the additional fighter aircraft's source, so we can say that the Philstar's headline was incorrect or unintentionally misleading. But the content of the report is well within the PAF plans, and would be discussed further within this blog entry.


The Air Defense Strategic Plan: 
The Philippine Air Force has been pushing very hard to accomplish its goal to transition its forces to territorial defense after being tied-up to internal security operations for decades. A few years ago, the PAF released its Air Defense Strategic Plan, with the medium-term vision of having a "Credible Air Defense Force by 2022". With the Revised AFP Modernization Program scheduled for implementation from 2013 to 2028, the PAF has created a program that would be done in stages, with the major breakthrough goals having set by years 2022 for the medium-term and 2028 for the long-term. This is called the PAF Flight Plan 2028.



Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone and Area Readiness:
In 1953, the Philippine government established the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone (PADIZ). It was meant to delineate the area in which the identification, location, and control of civilian aircraft is required in the interests of Philippine national security. This is different from the Manila Flight Information Region (FIR) due to the security and defense nature of PADIZ.

Currently the PADIZ covers the following areas:


Photo snipped from PAF Flight Plan 2028 presentation


PADIZ only covers entire Luzon region, parts of Visayas, and only islands north of Palawan. Major areas in the Visayas like the islands of Cebu, Negros, Leyte, Bohol, and the entire Mindanao region are not included in the current PADIZ.

With regards to regional scope, the PADIZ is bordered by Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone (TADIZ), and is just below the Japan Air Defense Identification Zone (JADIZ).


Photo snipped from PAF Flight Plan 2028 presentation.


The PAF has also set a guideline based on Area Readiness (AR), in which there are 4 ARs representing the coverage of its air defense capability:

AR4: from 0% to 50% of Philippine territory;
AR3: from 51% to 74% of Philippine territory, which actually covers the entire PADIZ plus the West Philippine Sea;
AR2: from 75% to 84% of Philippine territory, this means including areas in the Philippines that are not covered by the PADIZ;
AR1: from 85% to 100% of Philippine territory.


Based on the current thrusts by the Air Defense Wing, its breakthrough goals for 2022 is to have the capability to detect, identify, intercept and neutralize intrusions in the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone (PADIZ) and the West Philippine Sea (WPS) from Area Readiness 4 to Area Readiness 3. The breakthrough goals for 2028 differs on the reach of its coverage, wherein the plan is to attain the same goals from Area Readiness 3 to Area Readiness 1. MaxDefense will only be discussing the current plans for the Medium Term 2022.



Organization Structure Changes:
There will be changes in the existing organizational structure handling the air defense within the PAF. Currently this is entrusted to the Air Defense Wing. It currently has the 5th Tactical Fighter Group with its single remaining flying squadron, the 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron with its limited number of AS-211 Warrior armed jet trainers. The plan to improve the air defense system includes the reactivation of the Air Defense Command and the 5th Fighter Wing, an upgrade from the current Air Defense Wing and 5th Fighter Group.

The 5th Fighter Wing will also need to gradually reactivate its original fighter squadrons as more fighter assets becomes available, including the 6th Tactical Fighter "Cobras" Squadron, and the 8th Tactical Fighter "Vampires" Squadron.

The 580th Aircraft Control and Warning Group will be upgraded and reactivated as the 580th Aircraft Control and Warning Wing and continue to operate all ground based air defense radars and will be part of the Air Defense Command as it used to do. Air Defense Alert Centers would be gradually reestablished across the country, starting on the area covered by the existing PADIZ and WPS area, 

The Air Defense Strategic Plan also calls for activation of additional groups that will handle new capabilities to be introduced the PAF. This includes the 780th Ground Base Air Defense Group (in which the group's logo was posted in MaxDefense @ Facebook last February 24, 2015); and a still unnamed new group which will control Airborne Early Warning & Control and Electronic Countermeasures Aircraft assets. Other units will also be formed specifically to cater for peculiar support for the Air Defense units.



Facilities Improvement and Expansion:
The PAF will be improving its facilities in its current bases, starting with the Air Defense Command's headquarters at Basa Air Base, wherein its runway, taxiways, its hangars and aerodrome facilities, and the Hypobaric Chamber facility. Ground based air defense (GBAD) units will also start to have their own facilities on strategic air bases. Security will also be tightened with the basing of high-value assets, and perimeter defense facilities would be improved. The same will be made once the Subic International Airport is handed-over to the Philippine Air Force is made, as well as on other airbases like in Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, and in Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga. 



The Crow Valley Gunnery Range Complex will be rehabilitated for live fire training use.
Photo taken from Wikimedia.


Other air force bases and facilities will also undergo upgraded and improved according to the master plan provided, aside from those that will be used for air defense units. This includes the Mactan Air Base, Lumbia Air Base, Fernando Air Base, all air stations and the Crow Valley Gunnery Range.


Photo snipped from the PAF Flight Plan 2028 presentation.


The Philippine Air Defense Control Center (PADCC) should also be modernized, together with the modernization of existing and establishment of new Air Defense Alert Centers (ADAC) in Basa Air Base, Laoag City in Ilocos Norte, Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Zamboanga City, and in Davao City. 

Air Defense Direction Centers will be re-established as well, and Air Defense Radar systems will be upgraded in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte, Lubang Island in Occidental Mindoro, and in Mt. Salakot in Palawan as part of the medium-term phase, while more Radar Sites will be established on the long-term phase, with sites eyed on Panganiban, Camarines Norte, Balut Island in Davao Occidental, in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, and in Anini-y, Antique.


Photo snipped from PAF Flight Plan 2028 presentation.


Acquisition of New Radar Systems:
With the improvement of the air defense system of the country includes the acquisition of new air defense and surveillance radar systems to replace existing ageing units, and also providing new radar to additional sites in the near future. 

The DND and PAF has chosen the Israeli-made IAI-Elta Systems ELM-2288 AD-STAR Air Defense & Air Traffic Control Radar over the US-made Lockheed Martin AN/TPS-77 Long Range Surveillance Radar for the first 3 units to be installed in Ilocos Norte, Lubang Island and Palawan. The contract is worth around Php 2.68 billion, although Elta gave a sweetener to their proposal by providing a free radar system with an 80-kilometer range as a gap filler to be used for the upcoming APEC Summit this November 2015. Although there is no confirmation yet, MaxDefense believes the free gap filler radar provided by IAI-Elta is the EL/M-2106 NG 3D tactical air defense radar. Although this appears to be a deal sweetener, MaxDefense believes that this move was also a marketing strategy by Elta since the PAF is also expected to acquire gap filler radar systems that can be used for short range anti-aircraft missile systems, and if the PAF is satisfied with the performance, they would probably acquire more in the future.


The Elta ELM-2288 AD-STAR air defense and air traffic control radar system.


Radar systems to be acquired for the other planned radar sites are not yet finalized so it may still be possible for the PAF to either continue ordering the Elta-made system, or switch to the US-made systems. MaxDefense sources confirmed that the AN/TPS-77 was actually more expensive although the performance is a little better than the ELM-2288.



Acquisition of More Fighter Aircraft:
Ahh...the juiciest part of the plans. Everybody's waiting for this part.

With the PAF already proceeded with the acquisition of 12 KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle surface attack aircraft/lead-in fighter trainer (SAA/LIFT) as a start, this would now form the groundwork of having the capabilities to sustain fighter aircraft assets. But the DND even in its previous press releases agreed that 12 FA-50 fighter-trainers are not enough to defend the country.

According to the PAF's Flight Plan 2028, the PAF plans to acquire additional fighter aircraft aside from the 12 FA-50s it earlier acquired, and it mentions at least 24 more aircraft. This comprises 12 more SAA/LIFT aircraft, and 12 Multirole Fighters (MRF). The timeframe scheduled by the PAF is to receive the additional SAA/LIFT by 2020, and acquire its first 4 MRF by 2021 and receive the balance units by 2022. 


The Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen NG is among the favorite MRF according to PAF pilots.


This schedule is still fluid, and may be subject to changes depending on the political and economic climate of the country, PAF's capability to absorb new knowledge and skills as an organization, and the performance of the FA-50 aircraft. There are lobbying being made to advance the acquisition of the MRF by at least 3 years to 2018, and reduce the number of SAA/LIFT aircraft acquisition of 12 more to a lesser number in favor of increasing the MRF acquisition to at least 18 units. 


The PAF may need to acquire more SAA/LIFT aircraft after the first 12 units it ordered, possibly choosing again the KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle.


No specific models were named for the SAA/LIFT and MRF acquisitions, but it is expected that the PAF will definitely make a follow-on order of the KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle. So far, the names coming out of PAF sources regarding MRF are the Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen NG, the F-16V Viper, and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, although the PAF is said to be open on offers coming from other friendly countries like South Korea, Japan, and France.


Acquisition of Support Aircraft and Equipment:
Aside from fighter aircraft and fighter trainers, the PAF has indicated its plans to acquire several other platforms, some of which were already started for tender, or has been announced by the DND as an upcoming project.

For the Air Defense Command, there are plans to acquire at least 2 Airborne Early Warning & Control Aircraft (AEW&C) by year 2020, and 4 Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) aircraft starting 2020. 



The PAF also intends to acquire at least 2 AEW&C aircraft by 2020.


The acquisition of Air Defense & Surveillance Radar Systems (ADSRS) has already begun, with the first 2 IAI-Elta ELM-2288 AD-STAR radars expected to arrive in 2016, and another 1 by 2017. The PAF also plans to acquire 3 more undetermined type of ADSRS from 2018 to 2020 to cover the remaining areas discussed earlier. 

3 Ground Based Air Defense Systems (GBADS) are also scheduled for acquisition by 2016, while another 3 GBADS will be acquired by 2020.


The acquisition of Ground Based Air Defense System is among the most closely-guarded projects of the DND and PAF, and although not much releases are made to the media does not mean the project is not moving. The Israeli-made Spyder system is among those being considered for this project.



Trainings and International Exercises:
The new equipment would be nothing else but displays if the ones operating them are not abreast on the technology and capabilities these equipment can do. 

The PAF is trying to reach is schedule to be a participant in several international military exercises, which includes Cobra Gold annual exercises hosted by Thailand, Exercises Pitch Black hosted by Australia biennially, and Red Flag exercises hosted by the United States.



The PAF intends to join the Cobra Gold and Exercise Pitch Black in the near future, as well as the prestigious Red Flag exercises in the US.


According to the PAF's Flight Plan, the PAF should already be a regular participant in Cobra Gold by 2018, in Pitch Black by 2020, and in Red Flag by 2022. Currently, the AFP is an observer in Cobra Gold, and has been a minor participant in the recently concluded Cope North 2015 in Guam.



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In general, the PAF has already identified the road it plans to take, but it would not be possible if the executive and legislative bodies of the government still fail to provide the necessary support for this initiative. It is already a very conservative effort made by the PAF, and failure of the government to provide the budget and support will meant the PAF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as a whole will be going nowhere.

MaxDefense will be abreast with the developments on this effort by the PAF, and separate blog entries will be tackling the other modernization efforts of the PAF on its Tactical and Support Wings, and Air Force Wide Support Units. Meanwhile, the focus for this year would be the delivery of the gap-filler radar system from Israel, and at least the first 2 units of the KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle SAA/LIFT aircraft which will temporarily be used to fill the country's limited air defense capability.



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UPDATES:
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March 24, 2015:
This might be the fastest update ever made on MaxDefense blogs.

Just a few hours after this blog entry was released, the DND confirmed that the Philippine Air Force will be starting the rehabilitation of Gozar Air Station in Lubang Island, Occidental Mindoro, to accomodate a new radar system scheduled to arriving soon. 

Gozar Air Station was formerly equipped with an air defense radar system but the air station fell to disrepair after its radar system became obsolete and decommissioned.

More of this update on the link provided HERE.

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March 27, 2015:
Aside from the Gozar Air Station in Lubang Island, the DND has started preparation for the rehabilitation of Salakot Air Station in Palawan, and Paredes Air Station in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte. Both air stations were previously operating air defense radars, and are scheduled to receive their new radars from Israel by next year. 

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and other officials visited the both the Salakot and Gozar Air Stations recently.