Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Israel Shipyard's Shaldag Mk. V Fast Patrol Boat Offered to the Philippine Navy

According to very credible sources involved in the project, the Philippine Navy recently released a Request for Information (RFI) for 6 Fast Attack Crafts to equip the Littoral Combat Force, Philippine Fleet. This is to fulfill a partial requirement under the Philippine Navy’s Capability Upgrade Program's Horizon 2 phase.

Despite bring a Horizon 2 project, it is now being front-loaded for early processing rather than wait until 2018 due to the prerogatives of new Philippine president, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in beefing up the capabilities to fight internal threats like insurgency, terrorism, and drug shipments as part of his overall security plan.

The Philippine Navy released a Request for Information to Israel Shipyards recently, and a formal offer was made in response. The requirement is for a fast attack craft larger than the MPAC and almost the same size as the Andrada-class patrol gunboats of the PN.
Photo taken from Israel Shipyards website.


In simplistic terms, the Philippine Navy describe Fast Attack Crafts as small, heavily armed boats, with sufficient sensor capability to detect targets from a distance, and can run at high speeds sufficient enough to catch up and intercept other fast craft threats.

Among the missions it is expected to do is to intercept terrorists and kidnappers moving along the porous borders of the Philippines with Malaysia and Indonesia, and terrorists moving along the scattered islands within the country to escape military assaults or conduct localized kidnappings, intercept smugglers especially those carrying weapons for terrorist or insurgent groups and illegal substances like drugs.

The fast attack crafts are also designed to conduct standard naval operations in support of territorial defense, including naval patrols, and surface combat against opposing naval surface threats if necessary.

Based on previous Capability Upgrade Program acquisition plans of the Philippine Navy, the requirement for fast attack crafts stemmed out from the need for Patrol Gunboats, which later on were adjusted to a fleet of Multi-Purpose Attack Crafts (MPAC) armed with missiles and guns.

This infographic showed the Philippine Navy's early indication to acquire fast attack craft with missiles within the Horizon 2 phase. This would later on evolve into MPACs armed with missiles as shown by the recently-awarded MPAC Acquisition Program Lots 1 & 2 which is part of the Horizon 1 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.
Photo taken from the Philippine Navy's website.

Shortcomings of the MPAC?:

MaxDefense was expecting early on, that when the Philippine Navy decided to use the MPAC as a littoral interdictor and patrol boat, it would encounter problems because the MPAC was not purpose built to be a coastal interdictor and patrol craft. The MPAC was designed as a fast insertion boat for special operation forces or marine troops, lightly armed for self defense and fire support of landing or retreating troops, and fast  and small enough to compensate for stealth.

MaxDefense found out that the Philippine Navy encountered some issues regarding the use of MPAC design for interdiction and patrol duties when problems came out on the latest MPAC acquisition project for the Mark 3 version. This variant is larger, heavier, and better armed than the previous MPACs (locally called the Mark 1 and Mark 2 variants).

It was probably found out that the current MPAC design is too small to accommodate enough space to mount heavier weapons, and to provide enough power to the automated and electronic weapons systems that are used to mount the guns and missiles. It is also possible that the current design is maxed-out to meet the standard requirements of the boat to reach the desired speed, endurance, and capability to meet the required operations at Sea State 5 without degradation of subsystem operations.

Lack of space also means that the MPAC will have less space for crew quarters and supplies, ammunition storage, fuel, and movement space. It also means that the boat is heavier and possibly will have a reduced speed compared to its lightly armed sister-ships, thus will need a more powerful engine that is also physically larger.

MaxDefense also received information that the Philippine Navy plans to use the armed MPACs to slip inside the well deck of the Tarlac-class landing platform dock or any future LPD and any other amphibious assault ships of the fleet. This means the MPAC must retain its size, reduce its mast height (or adjust accordingly), and maintain a certain weight limit for safe carriage on the well deck’s platform during transit.

These issues are probably considered by the Philippine Navy, resulting to the formulation of a need for larger, purpose built fast attack crafts for interdiction and coastal patrol duties, with a larger size and enough space, speed, and endurance than the MPAC.

As seen in this illustration, there is almost no space for a resting cabin for the crew without reducing the troop carrying capacity. The existence of an RCWS system on the MPAC Mk.3 already reduced the number of troops carried to just less than 10 by eating space on the troop compartment. 

The Current PROPOSAL:

So far, the Philippine Navy appears to have only made a Request for Information to Israel Shipyards, based in Haifa, Israel.

Israel Shipyards, with the assistance of the Israel Ministry of Defense, proposed their SHALDAG MK. V fast patrol boat to the Philippine Navy. The Mk. V, which is currently the Shaldag family’s largest variant, is almost the same size as the Philippine Navy’s own Andrada-class patrol gunboats, but is faster and is proven to carry more weapons than the PN’s almost 30-year old US-designed boats.

Israel Shipyards offered the SHALDAG Mk. V to the Philippine Navy recently, as a proposal for its fast attack craft requirements. 6 units were quoted with the RFI.
Photo taken from Israel Shipyards website. 

More on the boat’s dimensions and technical information can be found on the link provided HERE: 

The proposed Philippine Navy variant of the Shaldag Mk. V is expected to be armed with a stabilized remote weapons station for a 25mm gun, and small surface-to-surface missiles which MaxDefense expects to be the Spike family due to the PN’s recent order of Spike-ER missiles for the MPAC Mk. 3. Other future small anti-ship missiles could also be considered in the future. Manually-operated machine guns are also expected.

The Shaldag Mk. V can be armed with a 25mm remote weapons system like the Typhoon, and is expected to be armed with the Spike-ER lightweight surface-to-surface missiles similar to those ordered for the MPAC Mk. 3 lately.

It is also expected to be fitted with a navigation & surface search radar, and an electro-optical fire control system, probably similar to those already in use in existing Philippine Navy ships. Space for a rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) is also available, and is expected considering the PN’s existing patrol boat fit.

Included in the offer from Israel Shipyard are an Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) for the boats for a specific number of years, and a Transfer of Technology (ToT) clause which allows the Philippine Navy’s own Naval Yard to construct their own fast attack crafts based on Israel Shipyard’s own technology, including additional units the Shaldag Mk. V. MaxDefense believes that it is possible that some of the boats included in the 6 units could be built by the Philippine Navy in their Naval Yard in Cavite.

Possibility of Additional Units:

Aside from the 6 units quoted from the Request for Information, it is expected that the Philippine Navy will probably acquire more boats of the same class in the future, to beef up its requirements, and temporarily or permanently replace existing older Philippine Navy assets. This is considering that the Philippine Navy is planning to acquire at least 30 fast attack crafts and patrol boats within the current administration’s term under Horizon 2 phase, and possibly another 30 units as part of Horizon 3 phase, based on their latest acquisition plans.

This latest infographic from the Philippine Navy as of April 2016 shows that they intend to acquire 63 MPACs with missiles within a 15 year period covering Horizons 1 to 3. Horizon 1 already covered 3 MPACs, so 60 more are expected. This was before the PN decided to change their plans and instead  acquire a mixed fleet of MPACs and larger fast attack crafts.
Photo shared by Cods Salacup M on the MaxDefense FB pages last June 2016.

Considering the price difference between the MPAC and the Shaldag Mk. V, MaxDefense expects that other avenues will be considered by the Philippine Navy, including mixing both types into a "high-low", or a "high-mid-low" mix, with MPACs expected to bear the higher percentage of the expected 30-boat acquisition as the “low” tier of the force mixture, while the Shaldags could be considered the “high” level.

The Transfer of Technology clause on the proposal also means that the Philippine Navy is expected to build more of the type in the future, and this does not make sense if the PN does not make maximize the use of this deal inclusion. 

Future Proposals Expected:

Aside from Israel Shipyards, MaxDefense believes that another Israeli shipbuilder, IAI-Ramta, would probably make a move to submit their own proposals with their Super Dvora series of fast patrol boats to the Philippine Navy. Although MaxDefense sources confirmed that the Shaldag is currently the favourite of the officers within the Littoral Combat Force to meet their requirements. The Super Dvora is considered smaller than the Shaldag Mk. V and could slot in somewhere between the middle of the two types, although Israel Shipyards also have smaller Shaldag designs, like their Mk. III and Mk. IV series, that could be counter offered should IAI-Ramta do offer their products.

It is also expected that countries with existing Defense Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines will submit their formal offers to the Philippine Navy as well, like those from the US, Korea, Indonesia, Australia, and others, although there is no indication yet that such was already made except for the one submitted by Israel Shipyards as of this posting.

It is possible that other offers would be made by other shipyards, like the Mk. VI patrol boat used by the US Navy and made by SAFE Boats International. But that remains to be seen.


MaxDefense reminds its readers that this is just an offer made by a single shipyard based on an RFI, and does not correspond to any purchase.

MaxDefense will provide more information once they become available, especially if the Philippine Navy decides to move closer to an actual acquisition deal rather than just consider an proposal.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Re-Offering the SBMS for Use Against Internal Security Threats as a Precision Land Attack Weapon

The new administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, through his new Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, confirmed that the modernization efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be continued despite earlier statements made by the new president regarding the government’s focus on the fight against internal security challenges, including insurgency and crime, instead of territorial defense. But also, the new defense secretary clarified that territorial defense won’t be given less priority as is actually among the priorities of the new administration.

Despite the confusion, the common denominator is that programs of the AFP Modernization Program’s Horizon 2 phase, which was originally slated to start by 2018 but might be advanced forward to 2017, will continue with minor tweaks on the acquisition plans depending on the urgency of needs from the AFP’s requirements.

Thus, the AFP is compelled to make adjustments to its procurement plans to justify their use for internal security challenges, while still making sure its relevance as an asset for territorial defense. Among those that MaxDefense believes the AFP can use effectively both for internal and external threats was the previously shelved Shore Based Missile System (SBMS), which is among those approved for acquisition under the Revised AFP Modernization Program Horizon 1 Phase.

The original SBMS as offered to the Philippine Army. It could be seen here that the system can also be used against ground troops. So it means it could also be used against Abu Sayyaf Group terrorists and other internal security threats as a better alternative to artillery and air strikes.
Photo from IMI.

The Shore Based Missile System: A Background:

MaxDefense previously discussed the Shore Based Missile System project, which was the most expensive project in the Philippine Army’s request under the Horizon 1 phase. It has an Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) worth Php 6.5 billion, and is to be procured by direct negotiation under a government-to-government (G2G) procurement deal with Israel and Israel Military Industries (IMI).

The original offer made by IMI involves the acquisition of a small battalion, with 2 batteries composed of 2 platoons per battery of mobile guided rocket / missile system that could be fired against threats from the sea, including ships, landing crafts, and even fixed positions on sea features. It also involves the acquisition of a battery of short-range air defense system that will defend the SBMS against aerial threats.

Each platoon will have its truck-mounted launchers and ammunition reload carrier/loader, radar, and platoon fire direction centre, while the battery has its own command post, FDC, support equipment, forward observation equipment, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for surveillance and target acquisition.

The system is centred on IMI’s Lynx MLRS modular launch system, which is configured to fire different rocket and missile systems. To be able to hit small moving targets at sea, IMI has offered their 306mm EXTRA guided rocket which has a published range of 150 kilometres, and can carry several types of warheads up to 120 kilograms.

EXTRA is guided to its target by a GPS-augmented inertial navigation system developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI). According to inside sources, the rocket adjusts its trajectory as the target’s position changes while in flight. This results to a circular error probable (CEP) of only 10 meters, although MaxDefense was informed that actual CEP is lower than published.

The project was already in the advanced stages when it was cancelled by then PhilippineArmy chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri for reasons explained in our previous blog entry. Instead, he proposed to use the Php 6.5 billion budget to frontload the acquisition of sniper rifles, force protection equipment, and other items for the Philippine Army that are originally scheduled for acquisition on the Horizon 2 phase. This proposal was ultimately not approved for implementation even until now. While the general said he didn’t cancel the project and just moved it to a later date, the project is still not implemented as of this writing.

Chile operates the IMI Lynx under a different name as it was said to be manufactured locally. The Lynx is the foremost launcher used for IMI's offer for the Shore Based Missile System (SBMS) project of the Philippine Army.

The SBMS was discussed previously in a MaxDefense blog, with the link below:

The IMI 303mm EXTRA guided rocket. This has a published range of 150 kilometers, and can hit naval targets as it could adjust its flight trajectory while in flight.
Photo from IMI's website.

The SBMS's Relevance in the AFP Modernization Program's Horizon 1 & 2 Phases:

The Philippine Army still has a requirement for the Shore Based Missile System (SBMS) under their Capability Upgrade Program's Horizon 2 phase which runs from 2018 to 2022. Based on this, they are looking to acquire at least 3 batteries of Shore Based Missile System, in addition to the initial requirements posted under the Horizon 1 phase which involved the acquisition of 2 batteries.

This CUP program still appears to be subject to changes depending on leadership, planning, requirement, and operational changes and needs. So it is still possible to revise the requirement depending on the situation.

This year until next year is still covered by the Horizon 1 phase, so technically we can only push for whatever is still left in this phase for implementation immediately.

The Duterte Presidency - Change Towards Internal Security Challenges:

With Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte becoming the new President of the Republic of the Philippines, he already mentioned that priority of his administration will beto resolve the internal security challenges, including the defeat of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) during his term. While his idea might be based on his experience as a mayor in Mindanao, or possibly due to either lack of information, lack of comprehensive understanding or briefing of the security challenges of the Philippines, or because of wrong information fed by people around him (see MaxDefense’s recent post on the Facebook page wall), the AFP is being limited in its acquisitions. But even so, it needs to push the limits to procure the necessary equipment it needs, whatever the call for attention is by the current administration.

It is still too early to say if the president is serious in his previous statements that external or territorial defense requirements will be given a backseat until he settles the internal security issues, but the AFP won’t be taking this easily and must act swiftly, smartly, and decisively.

Why Focus of SBMS?

MaxDefense chose to discuss the SBMS again because this project is among those already approved by the government for implementation, and was already previously allocated with funding based on the ABC previously requested by the DND and AFP, at Php 6.5 billion. 

With Horizon 1 already in its final years, the AFP should implement this project and not put the entire effort to waste. It's still not too late. Discontinuing the project will require the Army to return the budget back to the Department of Budget Management and it would be difficult to request for funding again next time. The AFP should also avoid the project from being overtaken by those included in the Horizon 2 phase that are still subject for funding and approval. MaxDefense believes that the SBMS, even in its current guise, is still relevant to the challenges that Pres. Duterte wanted to focus with, which will be discussed later on.

The CIDS is the basis of IMI's offer to the SBMS project of the Philippine Army, although IMI's offer did not include fixed launchers. The CIDS is already in service with the Vietnamese armed forces.
Photo from IMI's website.

Re-Offering and Re-Branding the SBMS and Meet New Requirements:

To answer the calls for equipment that are relevant and highly effective in ensuring the defeat of internal threats, MaxDefense believes that the SBMS, is still relevant for use not only against threats from the sea but also land targets.

To make it palatable to the current administration, MaxDefense proposes the re-branding of the project, moving away from the Shore Based Missile System name which focuses on territorial defense against naval threats. The name could be anything, as long as it sounds focused on internal security operations. MaxDefense proposes the name “Land Based Missile System (LBMS)” to describe the new system, for the sake of this discussion.

MaxDefense proposes that Israel’s SIBAT and IMI retain the system to be offered under the rebranded project. Everything will be the same: it still consists of the Lynx truck-mounted launcher system, and will still include the necessary support and logistics components like reloader, command posts, fire direction centre and radar systems, forward observation equipment, umanned aerial vehicles, and communications systems.

Ammunition will remain, using the 303mm EXTRA guided rocket optimized for use against ships or hard structures, while also considering the use of smaller guided rockets like IMI’s Accular, which is available in both 122mm and 160mm calibers for use against smaller and softer targets like formations, landing crafts, and soft structures. They could also open the option for the Philippine Army to acquire small cruise missiles that are compatible with the Lynx launching system, like the Delilah GL which not only has a longer range at 250 kilometres (published range) than the EXTRA, but can also pack a larger warhead, and has smarter capabilities like the ability to loiter for before homing to its target. This ability of loitering allows the missile to act as a surveillance system, or to allow the user to shift to a different target based on the data provided by the missile’s camera.

Also, allowing the Delilah to be incorporated to the system will allow the missile system to be true a “missile system”, which employs not only guided rockets, but actual land-attack cruise missiles.

The Delilah GL cruise missile can be an option for the Philippine Army to acquire later on as the Lynx can also launch them as an alternative to EXTRA, Accular, LAR-160 and Grad.
The Lynx can be seen here with a mix of Accular guided rocket launch pod (left) and Delilah GL cruise missile launch pod (right) mixed together.

The SBMS – Also an Accurate Land Attack Weapon:

Being a system that can be used to accurately hit naval and sea-based targets like moving ships and fixed structures on rocks or shoals, the SBMS (or LBMS) can also be used to hit land targets, be it fixed or mobile. This has been overlooked by many, even in the AFP, considering that there is not much difference on how the system works against land and sea targets.

Naval targets are actually more difficult to hit compared to land targets due to their nature of moving practically anywhere while in open sea, ability to detect incoming aerial threats and availability of hard and soft kill systems especially for surface combatants, and difficulty to provide target coordinates as there are only a few options to know where the ships are. Only aircraft, UAVs with surveillance and targeting capability, and long range search radars could provide information to set the munition’s course.

Meanwhile, ground targets are normally slow-moving or stationary, normally does not have detection and kill capabilities, and can be targeted by hidden forward observers close to the target, which can provide more accurate data to feed the launchers. MaxDefense also got clarification from Rafael Advance Systems that EXTRA and Accular does not need radar feed to provide target and guide the munition, as UAVs or forward observers would be good enough. If the system can effectively hit naval targets, no doubt it could do better against ground targets.

Considered as an artillery asset, the SBMS/LBMS can pound soft targets like insurgents hiding in the thick jungles, and hard fixed targets like encampments, pillboxes and defensive positions. It also means that the system can be used against more powerful land threats like enemy armoured, artillery, and infantry formations that successfully landed on the country’s shores.

Compared to conventional gun and rocket artillery, the guided rocket systems reduces the chances of collateral damage as it will be homing on the target accurately with pinpoint accuracy, and will be able to do so most of the time.  It also reduces the need for huge quantities of munition being launched at a certain coordinate since it only need one or few to hit a target. In the Philippine setting, this is important, as civilians and infrastructure are normally close to where terrorist groups hide or operate, and use of inaccurate artillery like 155mm or 105mm howitzers are dangerous and highly destructive without ensuring all destruction received by the intended target.

As an alternative to the larger EXTRA guided rocket, the PA could use the smaller, cheper Accular guided rocket which is effective enough for ground targets up to 40 kilometers from the launch unit.
Photo taken from IMI.

These are some of the projectile types that Lynx can launch, with the Delilah GL being a missile, the EXTRA and Accular are guided rockets, while the TCS, LAR-160 and GRAD and unguided field artillery rockets.
Photo taken from IMI website.

The SBMS/LBMS Launcher as a Multiple Launch Rocket System:

Aside from being a component of the SBMS/LBMS, the IMI's Lynx launching system can also be utilized by the Philippine Army for its Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) requirement, which is among those planned for acquisition under the Horizon 2 and 3 phases of the Philippine Army Capability Upgrade Program. For Horizon 2, the Army intends to acquire 3 batteries, with each battery probably consisting of around 6 mobile launchers.

As an MLRS, the Lynx can utilize standard 122mm GRAD with high explosive warhead, or the larger 160mm IMI LAR-160 Mk. IV artillery rockets, which can carry submunitions. A single standard Lynx truck-mounted launching system can carry two launch pod containers, with each container being to hold 20 122mm GRAD or 13 LAR-160 rockets. Larger 220mm Uragan unguided rockets can also be used by Lynx with only minimum adjustments needed, and up to 4 can be carried by a single launch pod container.

This capability is in addition to the use of guided rockets like EXTRA and Accular, and the Delilah GL cruise missile. Since each truck-mounted launcher can carry 2 launch pod container, the user has the option to mix and match the different rocket systems as necessary.

Azerbaijan operates the IMI Lynx as a MLRS platform, and it can be seen on the photo above that it carries the IMI EXTRA 303mm guided rockets (left), the LAR-160 160mm unguided rockets (middle) and the Soviet-era GRAD 122mm unguided rockets (right).
Photo taken from

Other Purposes of the System:

Another important acquisition that is included in this project is the presence of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in the equation. These UAVs are small, silent, and are designed to operate for up to 7 hours, and has enough range to reach more than the maximum range of the EXTRA guided rocket and loiter for target acquisition and post attack surveillance.

This means that not only are they useful for the SBMS/LBMS, but could also be used for surveillance missions on areas where suspected rebels are hiding or operating. Even without the need to launch the rockets/missiles, the UAV can provide information to ground commanders. It would allow for an unrelenting and continuous flow of information that will allow the AFP to operate continuous with relentless day and night operations that will surely tire the enemy into submission. 

Surveillance and targeting UAVs could provide accurate information day and night, and will provide the targeting information for the launching system. 

Approval Under the Duterte Administration?

MaxDefense believes that the Philippine Army's leadership is actually open to the product since a few years ago, and a proposal to return it back to the priority acquisition under the still unfinished Horizon 1 phase is expected to be accepted gladly for implementation.  

Being a weapon system that can be used both for internal and external security threats, MaxDefense believes that this project will have no problem getting re-approval for implementation, as long as it meets the same Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) as previously provided to avoid further complicating the project with delays to approve funding and adjustments.

MaxDefense sources confirmed that the system can be delivered quickly once a contract, letter of credit, and notice to proceed is provided to the supplier, Israel Military Industries. Additional orders under Horizon 2 will also be easy as the Israeli Ministry of Defense has been very active in pursuing the export of their homegrown defense products to the Philippines. So far they have been the fastest to react to the new challenges and changes in the government, and is expected to make headway in other expected projects too.

But its up to the people above the AFP, the ones that say if a project is good to go or not, if this project will proceed this time or not.Ultimately its still up to the people of the AFP and DND to justify the need for their projects before the agencies involved.