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Year-Ender for AFP Modernization Procurement Updates in 2018

Here is the list of milestones and procurements that is achieved during this year which is to carry on by the next year 2019. This defines the steps made by the Armed Forces as part of their efforts to have a credible deterrent force against all threats, foreign and domestic.

The following list here has provided on this page, sourced from the Concerned Philippines for AFP Modernization Facebook Group wherein they collated it from other Defense outlets like the Defense of the Republic of the Philippines and MaxDefense Philippines in which several of such projects have discussed here on Pitz Defense Analysis. Take note that several of these projects have discussed on this website.
One among multiple projects that was discussed in the year 2018 is the
ground-based air defense systems such as this RAFAEL SYPDER MR

Updated: Year ender AFP modernization acquisition updates in 2018

Philippine Air Force:

For Contract signing:
- 16 Blackhawk Combat Utility Helicopter, preferably S-70i from PZL Mielec, a Polish subsidiary of Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky. (Read the entire article here)
- 6 T129 ATAK attack Helicopter (Read the entire article here)
-3 ground-based air defense systems (SAMS), preferably SPYDER MR GBADs from Israel.

— 2 Cobra attack helicopters from Jordan (thru donation)
— 6 Super Tucano close air support aircraft from Brazil (Read the article here)
— 2 fixed wing Command and Control aircraft
— 2 radar systems from Israel (ELTA AD-STAR)
— 13 Hermes unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel
- AIM9 L/I air-to-air missiles - 2019
- Guided Advanced Tactical Rocket (GATR) to be supplied by Elbit Systems 
- SABIR ISR systems (IR & RADAR pods) for C-130T (delivered)

— Phase 1 of the Integrated Command, Control, Communications, and Cyber System will also get implemented which will connect the Presidential Situation Room, the AFP Command Center, Unified Command Operations Centers, the Air Force Command Center, the Air Force functional commands, the Wings and down to the Tactical Operations Groups.

— Two (2) C-130 cargo planes and 4 OV-10 attack aircraft from the US

— P721 million worth of engineering equipment for humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) and developmental work

- They ordered Full Motion Flight Simulators from Environmental Tectonics of the US

Philippine Army:

- RPG-7(Bulgaria), additional RPG-7V from Russia 
- 2 KLTV (for evaluation only)
- Rifle Grenades(83,200 units for ITB)
- Repair & maintenance of PA Special Forces airboats
- 50,000 units of 4caliberre ARMSCOR GD pistols
- Red dot optical sighting for PA M-113s .50 calibre machine guns

Philippine Navy:

- SPIKE-ER missiles for MPAC-MK III
- DPCF upgrades (for ITB; See more details on this article here.)
- PN naming of its two new frigate from South Korea: BRP Antonio Luna class, BRP Jose Rizal class
- AW159 wildcats ( for delivery in 2019)


- 215 light utility trucks 
- C4ISTAR Upgrades
- Directional UAV Jammers / Anti-Drone Systems 

Take note that several of the projects that were listed here will get discussed here in this page somewhere on the future time which we will provide additional details about these platforms in a way that we understand more about these products and their suppliers, the deal and other relevant matters.

Let these projects pave the way for a more fruitful 2019 for us, the citizens of the Republic of the Philippines and for the Armed Forces of the Philippines on their effort to improve their capabilities, which will help deliver their mandate effectively and efficiently.

#PDA #PitzDefAnalysis

Understanding In Detail the TAI T-129 'ATAK' Combat Attack Helicopter for PAF

With several agreements forged between the Philippine Government and their Turkish counterparts, it seems to be that the deal with regards to the Attack Helicopter Project is already sealed in a form of a Turkish-made ATAK T-129 Attack Helicopters. While the information is already made public by notable media outlets in line with this issue, let us understand in detail about this project that may define the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force at a future time.

The Philippine Air Force is set in to have this helicopter platform
as part of the ever-growing air fleet, an ever-enhancing modernization
Photo obtained from YouTube. 
The reports unravel recently across defense and mainstream media outlets that the Philippines is about to receive these Turkish-made TAI T-129 ATAK helicopters, which makes the country the second foreign nation to buy such kind of helicopter from Turkey after Pakistan.

The information first disclosed by another defense page where they provided the details about the essential candidate in which the Philippine Air Force Technical Working Group (PAF-TWG) prefers for the Attack Helicopter Project where apparently this was pre-emptively done to prevent another fiasco which took place in another military arm under the Armed Forces. Days later, the Department of National Defense through a media interview made to Secretary Delfin Lorenzana affirms it further where the PAF-TWG opts for the Turkish Aerospace Industries T-129 ATAK for the Attack Helicopter Project and the Lockheed Martin - Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk Helicopters which was discussed before in this webpage. These two big-ticket projects define the rotary aircraft modernization projects of the organization which seeks to complement and eventually, to replace the units that are presently operational in the inventory. This deal is being said to be forged where both parties involved - the Philippine side and the Turkish side get closer to tie it up, arising obligations for a contract to pay, deliver, and eventually to use the platform for its intended operations.

This development sets precedent not only in terms of the improvements being made for the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force but also in terms of improving the relations between two countries in a way that it paves the way of improving the trade as well as transactions in terms of purchasing military and defense articles.

The logo of Turkish Aerospace Industries.
Website: https://www.tai.com.tr/en/

As basically indicated on the "about us" portion of the company, Turkish Aerospace Industries or Türk Havacılık ve Uzay Sanayii A.Ş (Abbreviation: TAI) was founded on June 28, 1973, a creation of the Turkish Government under the Ministry of Industry and Technology to reduce foreign dependency on their own local defense industry.

So, its creation is basically similar to the aims made by South Korea so as why their version such Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) was founded in which it eventually has its way selling products such as the FA-50 Lead-in fighter trainer to the Philippine Air Force and presently offers the KUH-1 Surion Combat Utility Helicopters in that category. 

TAI on this manner like KAI aims to export military materiel such as the T-129 ATAK Helicopters to both Pakistan and the Philippines in the aims to enhance the local industry in terms of expertise, manpower, and of course, business investments that in the process provides jobs to the locals in the area.

At present, they produce an array of military and defense-related weaponry which defines the capabilities that the Turkish Air Force presently obtains. Notable among those things are the Peace Onyx I [link] and II [link] programs which supplant their own fleet with license-built F-16 C/Ds, and the TAI Hürkuş turboprop aircraft for basic training purposes under fix-wing aircraft. 

For helicopters, they produce the T-70 or the locally, license-produced Black Hawk Helicopter for the Turkish Air Force. It is worthy to take note that the Philippines have chosen such types of helicopters for the Philippine Air Force under the Combat Utility Helicopter program which is a separate project. 

However, the Philippine side will be getting the S-70i Variant directly from Lockheed Martin - Sikorsky, the international version that is being built in Poland by PZL Mielec. Aside from these utility helicopters, they produce the T-129 ATAK Helicopters that are presently being offered to Pakistan and the Philippines as export material. 

Well, the production capabilities of TAI isn't limited to fix-wing and rotary aircraft like the ones mentioned above. The company also produces Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs intended for surveillance operations like the ANKA which is an advanced Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) class Unmanned Aerial System and Satellites like the GÖKTÜRK reconnaissance and imagery satellite series (GÖKTÜRK 1 and 2) and the TÜRKSAT 6a communications satellite intended for improving connectivity across Turkey.

This goes to show that TAI is a bit mature in its industry aiming at manufacturing military aerospace material primarily to supplant the air force of its own country. Now, the company is setting its aims outside, pursuing the goal of exporting their products along with their expertise with it to provide necessary capabilities to its customers while reaping the investment benefit that in turn boost the local defense industry.

This is a derivative of the Leonardo A-129 Mangusta Attack Helicopter.
Photo obtained from Flickr.
The Turkish Aerospace Industries T-129 ATAK (Attack) Helicopter is derived from the Leonardo A-129 Mangusta Attack Helicopter which are the ones currently in service on nations like Italy. 

The base design came from the Italians where AgustaWestland back then provided the Tech Transfer to the Turkish for them to develop it further until it is known as the T-129 Attack Helicopter of the present day. 

Such a variant is in service within the Turkish Air Force where this is an improvement of its worth as part of the requirement that they seek for an attack helicopter. The T-129 ATAK is pointed out on the TAI website and it is quoted as follows:
The “T129 ATAK" Multirole Combat Helicopter has been optimized for specific hot&high performance requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces. A tandem-seat, twin-engine, NATO-interoperable attack helicopter optimized for the attack, armed reconnaissance, precision strike, and deep strike missions, at day and night all environments and regardless of weather conditions.

The T129 ATAK incorporates asymmetric weapon loading capability and enables the use of all weapons effectively according to mission requirements. For close combat support missions, a 20mm turreted gun with a capacity of 500 rounds and 70mm Classic Rockets with a capacity of 76 rockets have been integrated; whereas for multipurpose missions, 16 x CIRIT® 70mm Laser Guided Air-to-Ground Missiles, 8 x UMTAS® Long Range Anti-Tank Missiles and 8 x  STINGER® Air-to-Air Missiles are integrated, as well as the state of the art EW systems and EO systems.

The T129 ATAK cockpit provides situational awareness through good visibility arcs and integrated mission and communication systems. Aselflir-300T targeting sight system increases image quality and range performance with real-time image processing and multiple target tracking with a thermal camera, laser rangefinder, designator, and spot tracker. AVCI®-Helmet Mounted Display System provides integrated display capabilities to crew for the extended mission.

Within the scope of the Turkish ATAK Program, a total of 91 (59 + 32 optional) T129 ATAK Helicopters will be delivered to Turkish Land Forces and 9 T129 ATAK Helicopters will be delivered to the Ministry of Interior.

To provide additional details (as derived from their website), let us post the specifications here:

It is worthy to take note that such an attack helicopter is capable to carry a 20mm turreted gun (M-197 triple-barrel Gatling gun), rockets, and anti-tank missiles. It is also worthy to take note that it is capable to shut down air units as needed given that it can be armed with air-to-air missiles such as AIM-9 and AIM-92. These things, weapons attachments to the T-129 make it a formidable combat machine that the Philippine Air Force sees on an attack helicopter, a firm departure from the usual lightly-armed ones such as the AW-109 Power and MD-520 attack helicopters which are both are currently in service. 

Once available, its functionality means a lot for the organization wherein this welcoming development increases the firepower needed in battle such as pounding key enemy positions given that the country still faces the threat against the terrorists as well as the communist bandits.

The Philippine Air Force at present only obtains light attack
helicopters such as this MD-520 helicopter.
Courtesy to DRP-Mother Forum.
The Philippine Air Force recently released a list with regards to the projects that are aligned for the year 2019 which notably includes the S-70i Black Hawks and T-129 "ATAK" Attack Helicopters. The number of units specified in the article calls for the purchase of six (6) T-129s under an ABC or Approved Budget for Contract of Php 13.8 Billion.

There are still no firm contract price nor finalized details where there may still be changes that will take place on this deal as long as there is no contract signed that arises the obligation. 

To take note, this deal obtains the chance that it may be funded through credit by Turk Eximbank where it may influence the number of units purchased or the way transactions will be made. 

The deal is said to undertake a Government-to-Government (G2G) approach, which expects that an agreement and eventually, a contract will be signed by the next year 2019. The deal term shortens the waiting time given that the procurement process is usually done through bidding as prescribed under R.A. 9184 or the Procurement Law. 

Just to take note that an interesting development that links to this deal is the recently signed memorandum of agreement between the Philippines through the Department of National Defense and Turkey through the Presidency of Defense Industries where it will not only help push the T-129 ATAK helicopter deal but also may provide help to push other Turkish-produced defense material that may provide the Armed Forces of the Philippines the tools needed to improve its capabilities as a whole.

So, this makes the year 2019 an interesting year for Philippine Air Force procurement, especially with these deals that really improve the organization as a whole that it helps further perform this military branch's intended mandate where being the part of a larger Armed Forces of the Philippines, subjects to protect the country and its interest against enemies.

The photoshop image of what the T-129 ATAK may look like in the Philippine military roundel. Courtesy and credits to its owner.
The statement made by former Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force and with the affirmation of the Department of National Defense on the assessments made by PAF-TWG closes in on determining the Turkish Aerospace Industries ATAK T-129 attack helicopter as a preferred platform for the 15th Strike Wing.

So, this provides the benefit in every degree in which it goes advantageously first to the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force, second for the growth of Turkish Defense Industries as they are seeking for market share on their defense products, and lastly for the relations for both countries especially in terms to defense-related matters such as signing an agreement which hastens the steps in doing a transaction like in this case for the attack helicopter project. 

With all parties willing to provide support over this project, it is worth a real thing that PAF is set to have a fully-dedicated helicopter later on, in a form of TAI T-129 ATAK. 

All that it needs now is to iron out the deal and eventually, having the contract signed which arises the obligations both for payment, delivery, and eventually, putting them into action such as flushing key enemy positions vital for the victory of the government troops situated on the ground.

All that remains to be seen is to see these brand new units in the country, proudly carrying the Philippine military roundel on its airframe and flown by its pilots, reporting for duty that is needed to protect the fatherland. While this project just like other platforms defines the milestones of the year 2019, the period is still long until these things will set into reality. 

That is, shall all of the conditions will be met and the process is smooth sailing. It is with the hopes and dreams that this project among others be successful in a way that the end-user is satisfied with the outcome of this project in a sense that the funding allotted to it is worth at the expense.

Knowing the Details About the S70i Black Hawk Combat Utility Helicopter

The Philippine Air Force chooses this asset for its Combat Utility Helicopter Project intended to augment both the UH-1 helicopter and the Bell 412 helicopters that are still in service up to the present day. This is a welcoming development in terms of airlifting capabilities of the organization, given that these assets provide a significant leap in terms of capacity wherein the number of troops, munition, or even relief goods defines the attainment of objectives in a battlefield or in other areas of concern.

From Bell 412s, then to KUH-1 Surions and now to this. It remains to be
seen if this pushes through.
Source: YouTube - AiirSource.com channel
The recent current events to how the Black Hawk Helicopter was chosen as the main platform for the Combat Utility Helicopter project points to this article that is related to the issue involving Turkish Atak T129 Helicopters which is also the best bet of the Philippine Air Force in the Attack Helicopter Category.

This was announced by no other than Defense Secretary Mr. Delfin Lorenzana in which it was in line with the recommendations given by the Air Force's Technical Working Group. It is worthy to take note that the Government rejected the Bell 412s when the Canadian side opted to review the deal, citing potential human rights concerns that may inflict through the use of these helicopters as far as their point of view is concerned. If this is to push through, it may be a nice blessing in disguise given that these helicopters may provide significant capabilities that the Philippine Air Force obtain with the UH-1s and previously delivered Bell 412s at present. Originally offered at ten units, the supplier provides the sweet liner of the deal by increasing the offer from ten units up to 16 units (in the same number as Bell 412s), while retaining the proposed contract price which at the process, decreases the prices per unit for the rotary platform. This gain definitely helps the organization perform its mandate better in a way that it is done efficiently and effectively where troops, equipment, and support goods will be delivered in a greater capacity, enhancing the logistics chain of the Armed Forces to the new heights.

Hence, it is worthy to understand more about this deal especially with the platform chosen by the Technical Working Group for the Combat Utility Helicopter project, given that this platform provides a big leap for the Philippine Air Force which is worth commendable in terms for protecting the nation.

Sikorsky is a Helicopter supplier, a division under Lockheed Martin,
A company that produces fixed-wing aircraft. 
Photo source.
The S-70 Blackhawk Helicopters are being produced by Sikorsky which is one of the manufacturers of helicopters in the United States, alongside Bell Textron which produces UH-1 Huey Helicopters and Bell 412 Helicopters that both the Philippine Air Force presently obtains.

Sikorsky was bought by Lockheed Martin in November 2015, adding helicopter production on its own portfolio of producing fix-wing aircraft such as the notable F-16 wherein its production rights were bought from General Dynamics way back two decades ago when Lockheed and Martin Marietta merged together as a company.

This company was started by a Russian emigre Igor Sikorsky way back 1920s where he invents the machine that will revolutionize air travel. His aspiration for aviation started in Imperial Russia where he invented, built, and flew some of his works before his immigration to the United States to escape the ravaging country as the result of the Russian Civil War (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the USSR will come into inception years later). 

His company started with the production of biplanes such as the Sikorsky S-29A aircraft up until the production of what it will be the first mass-produced helicopter of the time which is the Sikorsky R-4 "Hoverfly" dual-seat helicopter. Derived from the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 design, it became the primary design of a practical helicopter that still in use at present, using the familiar main and tail rotor designs

Since the R-4, Sikorsky focuses more on helicopter production, which provides several variants that help both the civilian and military organizations in the United States, as well as overseas, perform better in a way that airlifting gets more revolutionized based on the original design that Igor invented. 

To connect to the discussion matter about the deal with regards to the Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky's offer to the Philippine Air Force such as the Blackhawk helicopters, they purchased a then Polish state manufacturing company PZL Mielec way back year 2007 which now, being a Sikorsky subsidiary, primarily produces the S-70i which is an export variant of the renowned UH-60/S-70 Blackhawk helicopter. 

The Polish factory is the largest Lockheed Martin production plant outside the United States. This is not to confuse with PZL Swidnik which is a subsidiary of Leonardo Helicopters, also situated in Poland (the one that produces PZL Sokol Helicopters, with the latest statistic of 3 accidents for the Philippine Air Force since its commission).

The deal will further help Sikorsky embed itself deeper into the Philippine military aerospace market, getting a portion of the share from a dominant Bell Textron and Leonardo supply chain in which their helicopters comprise the portion of the Philippine Air Force helicopter inventory. 

From knowing the supplier and its overseas subsidiary, let us discuss in details about the product that this company offers as well as the technical attributes and other factors which may have led to this decision made by the Philippine Air Force Technical Working Group alongside the decision they made for ATAK T-129 of Turkish Aerospace Industries for the Attack Helicopter category where these are a big boost in terms of improving the capability of mobilization and logistics as well as for the performance of troop deployment, close air support, and transport mechanisms.

The latest variant of the Blackhawk series, the export-oriented
S-70i variant of PZL Mielec Poland, a Sikorsky subsidiary.
The development of Blackhawk helicopters traced back to the 70s, where Sikorsky and other aspiring suppliers at that time competed for the U.S. Army's Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft Systems Program or simply abbreviated as UTTAS which calls for a replacement for its primarily-consisted UH-1 series at that time.

Since its development, Sikorsky produces several variants of these Blackhawks catered for both civilian and military clients, inside and outside the Continental United States. This includes actually the Philippine military wherein they acquire around one or two of these platforms for the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing of the Philippine Air Force and later, converted to Search and Rescue purposes. 

The one that is presently on the procurement process in which Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky offers may come in a way of Polish-made S-70i or "International Version". This PZL Mielec production is the export-purpose, military-based Blackhawks which is still being produced up to the present day. 

The version produced is different from the ones that are being operated by the United States in all of its branches where they operate respective variants of the Blackhawk for their own use. Such helicopter obtains both a larger airframe and engine than its Bell 412 peers where, aside from being capable to carry more numbers than the ones in PAF service, it is expected to be more expensive to operate given that its powerful engine connotes greater fuel intake. 

Just to take note, Sikorsky's project competitor Korean Aerospace Industries or KAI which is the one who produced a squadron of FA-50PH for the Philippine Air Force and the one who offers KUH-1 Surion Helicopters under the project acknowledges the act of Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky to the Combat Utility Helicopter Project as "Price Dumping", making it ideal for the Philippine Air Force - Technical Working Group and seconded by the Department of National Defense to prefer the Blackhawk as the product appropriate to the project.

Originally, the offer only includes 10 Blackhawks which in the same number as what KAI offered for their Surions but Sikorsky's offer was increased to 16 which makes it as enticing as ever despite that the more cost-effective Bell 412s are in place given that is also being offered at that same number of units. With a competitor acknowledges it and they are seemingly unable to counter the offer, the deal in itself is enticing enough that it is simply that irresistible.

The specifications may get as similar to the UH-60 at a certain degree such as the design in the airframe, but this variant may go as basic as possible with additional capability upgrades and add-ons may come in later. For more details about the specifications, performance, and other technical details, we may refer to this pdf file here.

So, with the offer that the manufacturer has on a helicopter that is more powerful and more capable to carry loads than the ones present in the inventory, this is an opportunity that is simply cannot be ignored nor disregard. Now, let us provide the topic for the existing S-70 Blackhawk helicopter in the Philippine Air Force fleet of aircraft.

Before the S-70i Blackhawk offer, the Air Force already obtains
such helicopters, once with 250th PAW carrying Presidential Detail.
Credits to its intended owner.
Before this announcement was made by both the Philippine Air Force Technical Working Group and the Department of National Defense through Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the organization already obtains its own Sikorsky Blackhawk in a form of S-70A variant.

According to this webpage of the Presidential Museum and Library on Presidential Planes, the Armed Forces of the Philippines obtained this chopper way back March 1984 under the United States Foreign Military Sale where in turn used by the Air Force for its Presidential Purposes. 

The said sets of the helicopter were used from Marcos administration until the previous Aquino III administration where the present administration decided to transfer these platforms to the 505th Search and Rescue Group

Apparently, with regards to the purchase of these helicopters, the Philippine Air Force originally obtain two units of S-70A Blackhawks for Presidential Purposes until it was lowered to one given that the other pair crashed and was written off in 1992. This puts for the organization to operate only a single unit of S-70A ever since, not until the new S-70i Black Hawk deal under the Combat Utility Helicopter Project gets a go signal to proceed and having its contract signed and sealed which it helps improve this single unit in terms of operations in line with search and rescue service. 

The background history of operating Blackhawks from the 250th Airlift Wing to the 505th Search and Rescue Group of the Philippine Air Force provides the reference for its personnel in flying this asset wherein additional units of it may get simpler given that there is already a similar platform in place to somewhat familiarize its technical mechanics that will make it fly.

At present, this lone S-70A is with the 505th Search and Rescue Group.
Courtesy to Pinoy Aviators Facebook Page.
The Philippine Air Force is on the path of obtaining these S-70i Sikorsky helicopters from Poland. This was further confirmed by Polish Media Rzeczpospolita where their report emphasizes its benefits for local workers in PZL Mielic, in the same way, the Philippines benefit for these helicopters.

This interesting development is for the defense community to keep tabs along with the ATAK T129 Attack Helicopters of Turkish Defense Industries or TAI and the Multirole Fighter Program wherein both Lockheed Martin and SAAB is fighting a close fight together with their products the F-16V Block 70/72 and the JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D. At this period where the Second Horizon of the Revised AFP Modernization Program is in effect, the series of projects of the Philippine Air Force is somewhat interesting given that these platforms, to each their own, will help provide the necessary capabilities for the organization to improve further in a way that their mandate will be performed and deliver especially in combat where Close Air Support and Air Mobility Supply Chain are a necessity that pushes a certain war effort or mission to the point that it puts the government and its forces to the advantage.

Hence, with the announcement in place with regards to the Combat Utility Helicopter Project and having this helicopter platform as its reference, all that it remains to be seen is the issuance of Notice to Proceed followed by the signing of the contract that makes the delivery binding. Time will come, once these things are in place, there will be a moment to see these new Blackhawk helicopters from Poland, proudly showing the Philippine Air Force roundel which boosts the morale of the military personnel.

Pitz Defense Analysis Note: For providing comparisons and in-depth details with regards to S-70i Blackhawks and Bell 412s, it will be discussed on a separate entry in which its scope covers more on the Combat Utility Helicopter Project in its entirety. Please keep tabs with this website once this entry gets available. Thank you.


Inquirer.net's Frances Mangosing on her Twitter account posted an update regarding the delivery dates of the S-70i Black Hawk helicopters from Poland.

From here, the prospective dates for the delivery of the Black Hawks ranges from 3Q 2020 for the first eight (8) batches of the helicopters purchased while the remainder will be delivered by 2021. However, there is a possibility that earlier deliveries may take place so as depending on the production line movements in PZL Mielec in Poland where the Philippine Air Force may obtain them at an earlier date from then. 

From here, it confirmed that the Sikorsky bagged the contract and they are the ones who will supply the Combat Utility Helicopters for the Philippine Air Force use. Hence, this is a welcoming development of its own wherein a year or two from now, we can witness these units as a big plus on the capabilities of the Air Force when it comes to the deployment of the troops and equipment to the areas when things are badly needed the most.

The Spotted Chinese Tracking Ship and the PH-CN Pragmatic Relations

Since the tribunal decision in 2016 where the present government decided to set-aside for goodwill, pragmatic and "Charmy" relationships with China, the frequency of this naval ship visit becomes rampant as it defines the current, closer ties which cause sentiment to several citizens of this country given the conflicting issues between the two. This is in the light of the intensified issues that are taking place over the contested territories that both sides claim for their respective sovereign integrity.

A Yuan Wang-class Tracking Ship spotted in Davao's Sasa Wharf
Just recently, A Chinese Naval Tracking Ship was spotted in Sasa Wharf (see above photo) clearly seen among passengers onboard a RoRo vessel especially the ones that have vacation-related itineraries in the nearby island of Samal (which in itself obtains a number of breath-taking and worth-taking spots).

This is the newest among the ships visiting such particular port since the change of stance in dealing against China last 2016 when the new administration seats in and the hallmark of the arbitral tribunal deciding against Chinese claims on the contested swathe of water which is also claimed by the Philippines. 

Let us take note that recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Manila for a two-day state visit which was seen by the administration and supporters alike as a productive visit intended to fuel the investment on the local economy in terms of infrastructure projects and joint cooperation through the number of agreements signed by both parties. 

While things are as appealing and as hopeful as it can be for the country's growth and development, the sense of sentiment and disappointment also comes out among several citizens where arguments range from the country being a sell-off before the Chinese to a view that is seen as treasonous which is a no-no for national sovereignty. Furthermore, let us take note that recently, a news crew of GMA 7 was shooed by Chinese Coast Guard in the vicinity of Panatag Shoal which is still considered within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ.

So, let us simply discuss the details about the ship that has docked in Davao as well as additional information that comes correlated with a couple of events that perpetrated in the country in relation to the disputed, contested waters with China.

The larger view of Sasa Wharf, with the Chinese ship, docked on
the left side of the image.
The Chinese ship spotted in Sasa Wharf just recently refers to the Yuan Wang-class tracking vessel (远望 in Chinese) which means "Long View". According to this entry from GlobalSecurity, Such a vessel is intended for roles ranging from tracking Intercontinental and submarine-launched Ballistic Missiles down to satellite communication and data-related roles.

So as to its docking up in Davao City, it is done to the usual docking procedures which other ships also observe. The ship shown above is the Yuan Wang 3 tracking ship in which its area of assignment is in the Pacific Ocean. This is not the first time for the ship to dock in the Sasa Wharf, where the ship at several points in time already did the same prior to this latest spotting. 

One dates back July this year where it also finds itself docked in the area. Another, such as this one pertaining to the sister ship Yuan Wang 7, also docked in the area last August for re-provisioning and refueling prior to deployment on its intended assignment. There is another one for the Yuan Wang 7 last September. This makes their deployment in the area much as routinary where various Chinese crew may have an idea so as to the whereabouts of the City given that they may have the time visiting it. 

Moreover, this kind of norm goes as usual to the locals given that the ship is simply docked there in a way US Navy ships docked in Subic Bay which makes one wonder about this wonderful display of playing soft power in this country that is considered strategic regardless to what point of view or whether one sticks to the Chinese side or the US and its Allies side.

These Chinese ships are in Davao, where they made the City as a stopping point for their ships as lengthy voyage requires provisioning and fuel for the crew and the ship itself to operate according to their respective duties and responsibilities as intended. While such moves are seen as benign to this standpoint, just being a Chinese ship makes it uneasy for some of the citizens with the contested waters simply being a justification for it.

Presidents Xi Jinping and Rodrigo Duterte Forged a deal - which actually seems
like China abides by Philippine jurisdiction.
Photo from
South China Morning Post [Link to the Article Here]

Pitz Defense Analysis Note: The following note is simply a point of view created with regards to the relations between two Far Eastern Nations. Inputs are provided by the author with respect to the facts raised.

While the forged deals are being seen with the utmost suspicion that it may get to the disadvantage of the country and its national interests, there is the other side of the coin that definitely speaking provides the insight of what it seems to be idealistic to the interest of the Philippines as a nation.

In a statement made by Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio just recently that one of the deals between the Philippines and China which is about the joint exploration of the waters in the West Philippine Sea obtains provisions in the Memorandum of Agreement of the deal that may be seen as compliance or recognition to the Sovereign Rights of the Philippines over the overwhelmingly-disputed waters where some of which is under control of China through its Armed Forces. 

While such point sees as a nice breakthrough for both sides for an agreement, it is worthy to understand that there is a bit of bleakness on this point of view given that China still controls several of the features like Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea as well as having those Artificial islands that still poses the threat not only to the Philippines but as well to other claimants in the area such as Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia.

To understand further the points with regards to the diplomatic play in the area, it is worthy to understand the two sides of the coin. On one side, there is the Philippines, antagonizing China wholeheartedly which was done by the previous administration in a way that it triggers a couple of disadvantageous position to the country starting with Panatag Shoal down to the Artificial Islands in which they solidify the claim to these features situated in the West Philippine Sea - in which this is while waiting to the decision that the arbitral tribunal will make to the contested features of the sea. On the other side comes the present stance of the country -- the decision in favor to the Philippines being set aside (while being used as an ace card later on), forging a better tie with a nation that is perceived as an adversary like China and engage in economic trade that most likely benefiting both sides and forging deals that seems advantageous and compliant to the national interest and sovereign rights flowing through the adage of keeping friends like the traditional ally such as the United States close and adversaries closer. 

To take some note, this economic trade with China as perceived shows suspicion especially in the way debt or liability is being dealt with other nations in which the present administration sees to have consideration in it. In addition, the implying influence made by South Korea, Japan, and the ASEAN also plays the role for this kind of geopolitical approach, reflecting the growth and development of the services prevailing in the society in various ways ranging from meetings to donations of service and equipment as well as the number of naval visits and forging agreements which is to each its own.

Given the impression, there is the perception of openness as well as a pervasive plan to improve the country and its defense given that the Horizon 2 projects being on its way. While it may get commendable to have these respective projects approved and up for the taking, this will not satisfy nor prosper the minds of several citizens that have already shown discontent or disappointment to what the administration is doing like the "appeasement" that's being done to the enemy. Hence, their actions need a clear understanding so as any misinterpretations will be prevented. 

The situation of keeping a good relationship with a bully while fighting on the country's vested interest is a delicate measure that the government keeps on, where the perception of providing provocative moves means conflict. That is not necessarily the case, where a simple presence of a vessel in an area simply show that the country is standing on its claims, in a way that the intentions aren't for a full-scale conflict. A simple kind of deterrence it is while keeping tensions at bay. 

A war nor appeasement is the ideal key for the resolution of this situation but rather, by sending a strong and clear message to show the stance as well as getting in the negotiations table with the leverage such as the arbitral tribunal decision in place. This is to get the upper hand on the situation in line to the national interest of the country while giving importance of diplomacy in a way that tensions are kept at bay.

A Chinese Coast Guard Vessel spotted which are the ones patrolling
the Scarborough or Panatag Shoal. 
Photo Courtesy of the Philippine Star.

The situation in Panatag Shoal isn't changed since the last time the Chinese deployed their Coast Guard vessels in the area. They keep on shooing away fishermen whose living relies on that very fishing ground that China claims as part of what they call "integral territory". The latest incident in the area involves a Philippine media crew gathering some scoop for a documentary.

Just recently, the media crew for GMA's show Reporter's Notebook visited the area and see the situation up close where they encounter a Chinese Coast Guard Vessel that is in pursuit to their position. From there, the crew of the Chinese Vessel hesitates for an interview given that the Philippine Media Crew didn't obtain permission from China to hold such activity, especially on this part of the sea which they considered as theirs.

To see this feels like a realistic devastation on the part of the country that some other powerful nation which is China, implement its control over a feature that is the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal where it is within the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines. 

While there is the fact that the country is weak when facing the Chinese which obtains the firepower to project their force in the region, this does not mean that things will simply stand down and admit that it is finally theirs where it is equated to the country is on the losing end despite being awarded by the arbitral tribunal that makes the Chinese Claim for the most of South China Sea null and void. 

Nevertheless, despite these bit disappointing things, countries such as the United States as well as its allies like Japan and the United Kingdom conducted their respective their own respective Freedom of Navigation patrols as well as a couple of naval exercise in the contested area as a sign of discontent and protest against the Chinese incursions in a way that they defy the provocative moves that the Chinese made in which may harm not only the claims of other claimants in the area, but also the maritime trade route itself given that the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea serves as such where a number of goods and commodities pass the area that helps economies sustain and progress for the better.

So, the Philippines, despite the discontent from some of the citizens over the pragmatic relations with a country which have the conflict of interest issues over contested claims still obtains indirect support from forces like the United States and other allies in a way that countering Chinese influence in the region is something for them to have. 
That is, provided that China at the present date is modernizing its Armed Forces to the full - From its Army down to its Navy, Air Force as well as its Coast Guard that pose a threat to the primary U.S. Dominance in the Asia-Pacific Theatre of operations. 

With these series of situations and the order of positions that each country's governments obtain at present, time may only tell with regards to any changes of stance wherein the local Philippine context, may define with regards to the results of the foreign policy that it employs at present as well as what it will be to the defense of the country whether the Armed Forces' Modernization Goals may attain or not. Such things remain to be seen, on a certain time later on.

The ship somewhat symbolizes the renewed relations between
the Philippines and China, which leaves a bad taste in
the events pertaining to the disputed sea issues.
The deployment of these ships that tracks ICBMs and SLBMs by China makes it at par with other countries that obtain such technology such as the United States and Russia. Such docking of such ship like the Yuan Wang-class tracking vessels somewhat gives the impression, the unofficial symbol of warming-up relations of both countries in the light of high tensions over the contested sea just off the coast of Palawan.

With a number of events unraveled with regards to the relations of two nations especially in line with the very essence of sovereignty and national defense, it might be nice to contemplate and understand it down to the depth wherein parameters are measured and considered so as the dedication of both sides to abide by the agreements as well as the potential risk and rewards on every move between both parties in a way that it is done both militarily, economically, diplomatically and in some cases, politically. The country can still stand for its national interest while keeping pragmatic relationships on hand.

To end this article, let us take this note for everyone to understand: It is nice and appropriate that as one nation, let us unite together with the government to push its goals for the development of each and everyone. Moreover, it is nicer to point out improvements or vent out sentiments about the necessity to improve the country provided that suggestions or criticisms are constructive in nature. In these things will find the nation grow, progress and integral to its very sovereignty.




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