The AIM-9L Sidewinder Purchase and Its Responsible Use

The Philippine Air Force is soon to have missiles where once again, they can shoot planes out of the sky. It may be the significant step there is since the re-introduction of the fighter jets, but there are more things to work out for credible airspace.

The FA-50PH isn't toothless anymore. Photo from Efrain Morota.
Since when the last F-5A/Bs were retired more than a decade ago, there go the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force to enforce airspace patrols which is a necessity to keep the skies safe from intruders. This was then resurrected from the dead when the FA-50PH Lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) jets from South Korea are delivered to the Philippine Air Force with the last batch of the said arrived months earlier.

Aside from the reports of these jets used into action ranging from Butig, Lanao del Sur to Marawi City as well as the reports of air to ground missiles like AGM-65s being delivered from the United States (see sample model at the photo above), here goes the report that many have been waiting for: The procurement of AIM-9L missile from Raytheon's extension company in Germany in the form of Diehl Defense.

This was reported by the government itself through its state media outlet Philippine News Agency dated September 6. There are no specific numbers as to how many rounds are procured which also brought due to security reasons, but this goes with the assurance that the Philippine Air Force will once again capable to defend the skies where it can shoot any intruders illegally entering the airspace. 

This is seen as a significant step for the efforts of modernizing the organization from an internal-based one to a territorial-based air force specialized in defending the skies with numerous defense systems and equipment that will get materialized as the years goes by as per Flight Plan program. Just so for us to know, there are many things to get materialized to start with.

AIM-9L I-1. From Wikimedia Commons
Developed in the 1950s, Raytheon together with U.S. Military through the U.S. Navy helped together to see the birth of the Sidewinder series at what is today Naval Weapons Center, China Lake California. 

The AIM-9L is younger than the 1960s-era AIM-9Bs that the old Philippine Air Force F-5A/Bs have used and seen in the first photo here from Efrain Noel Morota. This version of the sidewinder was developed in 1977 where it is designed to attack at all angles including head-on. At present, this is manufactured by Raytheon through its partner in Germany which is the Diehl Defense. Being a bit sophisticated from its earlier brother which is the B version, this is something that will greatly enhance the capabilities of the Air Force especially the FA-50PH in which, once fitted by these missiles, will be armed to the teeth. These missiles are infrared-based where it gets through its target with the help of its infrared signature especially from the engines of an aircraft.

This missile is simply the beginning of what is to come as the Philippine Air Force, just like the rest of the armed forces is getting enhanced as the result of the AFP Modernization Program. And with this, there is a long, long way to go for the armed forces to achieve their minimum credible defense posture.

See Flight Plan Details here.
This is the process or rules of engagement with regards to implementing PADIZ or Philippine
Air Defense Identification Zone. (See details above this photo
for more info)
As being said here, there are more things to be done where the procurement of systems ranging from radars and sensors to Multi-role fighters are getting materialized to enhance the capability of the Air Force to enhance PADIZ or the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone which will cover the whole nation in a status called Area Readiness 1 by the year 2028.

Just to take note, the emphasis isn't always about the military equipment alone nor to its capabilities it may bring that assures that the airspace is not breached and are safe. To explain the graph above, there are specific steps which are called the Rules of Engagement or ROE which may serve as a guide as to the assessment of the nature of the threat as well as the approach about the nature of how to handle the threat properly.

For starters or those who have little idea about ROE, it all starts when an intruding aircraft entering the identification zone is detected by a defense radar or sensors which it may exhibit any suspicious attributes which can be ranged from its signature, its communications, or its flight path like entering a restricted portion of the airspace. If the said aircraft wasn't that responsive as what the radar controllers have expected, it is the turn of patrol crafts and AWACS or airborne early warning and control systems to identify the aircraft whether it may be fix-wing or rotary, civilian or military, the origin of the nation, IFF or Identification: Friend or Foe and other information needed by the military for its reports. The identification by AWACS or patrol aircraft at several circumstances can be done by radar controllers from the ground which makes this step optional.

After this, it is now the turn of jet interceptors to scramble jets and intercept the aircraft in question. The timetable given to the pilots to intercept is at the shortest time possible where the fighter jets, whether it may be lead-in fighter trainers of multi-role fighters shall reach the target aircraft to check the aircraft at a closer view. At that point, if the aircraft is still not responded and continues to act suspiciously, then the last step of this process will be neutralizing the target. This can be done by either ground-based missile batteries or by intercepting fighter jets as a given command from ground control.

These are the step-by-step procedures that a pilot shall make when engaging with a potential adversary in flight so that there will be no miscalculations possible will take place. Moreover, this is to emphasize coordinated, restrained, and highly-disciplined use of force for the pilots to follow to advert any shoot-out from the sky which eventually becomes the fire-starter for a larger, unanticipated conflict that destroys lives.

See more: U.S. Military Operations: Law, Policy and Practice by Geoffrey S. Com,  Rachel VanLandingham, and Shane Reeves.

Rules of Engagement in action: Take note of the Royal Air Force jet
escorting the Russian Tu-95 "Bear" plane. Source from British MOD.
One notable and the most common example is the intercept made by notable air forces like in the photo shown wherein a British Royal Air Force intercepted and escorted the Russian Air Force (Военно-воздушные cилы России) and its Tupolev Tu-95 "Bear" Strategic Bomber.

To understand further the fundamentals of how Rules of Engagement Works even in the most critical situations, let us quote the commentary made in Defense-RP by one of its members:

Here's a quick and dirty guide to the other sets.

In peacetime, if you happen to be flying with a live weapon (rare for most air forces), the ROE is Weapons Tight.

Weapons Hold is usually the ROE when entering a potentially hostile zone, but a formal declaration of war does not exist. 

The dilemma with Weapons Hold is you cannot let The Other Guy get a solution or firing position on you. That includes entering a certain(sic) weapons range while he has an advantageous or aggressive position. That requires a VERY COOL HEAD and years of experience in interpreting another aircraft's movements and translating that into intentions. The PAF today in terms of pilot knowledge has plenty of cool but has to start learning ACM again to get the latter.

That's why when most Air Forces meet each other in open skies, the tendency is NOT to point weapons or noses at each other.

The PAF has shown professionalism over time, the Sidewinders will give them comfort that they can defend themselves and if necessary, undertake lawful orders to shoot down threats as needed. Beyond that, more training, more training, and more training. 

In our understanding about this matter, the main point of establishing Rules of Engagement for an aircraft is a necessity in order not to worsen national relations as well as not to provoke an overall conflict which by nature is unfavorable devastation on all sides where properties and lives are destroyed by simply making a mistake or creating a huge misunderstanding upon the actions made by pilots in a pursuit. In this, parameters like the rules of engagement on all fronts - land, sea, and air are being made to lessen disastrous results. Read this to see what we really mean.

Simply speaking, a certain pilot flying an aircraft fully armed with guns and missiles such as the Sidewinder shalt observe weapons hold so as not to provoke the intercepted aircraft while not letting himself get caught within the firing position of the other aircraft. In other words, the pilot at best shall defend himself and the plane he flies while doing his mandate of protecting the skies by applying his skills responsibly against other aircraft in the best nonprovocative manner possible. It is at best to determine the intentions of the intercepted aircraft wherein it exhibits professionalism and skills required which are incurred through the years of training.

Connecting the dots, it may get the justification as to why the government is opted for Lead-in fighter trainers first rather than going direct to procure multi-role fighters as well as gathering experience that it corresponds to which it was not put in practice throughout the years since the retirement of F-5s. Add to that the Philippine Air Force's plan to join numerous international air training exercises like Pitch Black, Cobra Gold, and Red Flag in 2020, 2018, and 2022 respectively where, air forces participated and meet each other in the sky which, aside from inter-operability benefits, it is also helpful for the pilots who participated to train with foreign counterparts which may include several intercept matters that for sure, rules of engagement are being exhibited therein that enhances the professionalism, the skills, and the procedures are taken in experience which is needed by the pilot that can be gone handy later on.


The development of the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force as part of the AFP Modernization program still resumes with new military equipment now getting into the inventory that enhances the mandate to secure the nation like the AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles that are soon to get fitted in the FA-50PH jets, getting it armed to the teeth.

But to take it to note, military equipment procurement also comes with training and familiarization of the platforms given. In the case of the Philippine Air Force now with the FA-50s can attack against any intruders, it is worthy to take note and understand the importance of ROEs or "Rules of Engagement" each personnel observes from the pilots to the radar controllers wherein these set of procedures decreases the risk of starting a war as well as to control provocations where the approaches are within the rules and are under control.

To summarize it up, it is worthy to enhance both the equipment and the skills so as these things are helpful as the whole organization is taking its route for a better, world-class, minimum credible armed forces with professionalism in approach as well as in skills. Simply speaking, it all goes with this simple quote: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.

No comments:

Post a Comment




Total Pageviews To-Date

Webpage Visitors

Free counters!