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The Procurement of BrahMos Cruise Missiles for the Philippine Armed Forces

As the modernization process leaps on with multiple projects sprouting one after the other, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in general, is experiencing a growth in its capabilities that supplementing military equipment increase the organization's overall effectiveness out of the efficiency that it provides, safeguarding the country's territorial integrity by providing minimum defense posture while aiding the organization personnel on their respective duties and responsibilities as required or mandated by law. Here is one military asset that is worth considering in terms that this weaponry has already been discussed several times across.

The missile's capabilities are essential for the Philippine defense
of its sovereign territory.
Image obtained via Wikimedia Commons.
Through the years spanning way back three years ago when this website was launched, the discussion regarding this Indian-Russian collaborated cruise missile development and eventually, its use within the Indian Armed Forces and its sale by the manufacturer got the attention of numerous defense communities which include the ones in the Philippines. 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines pursued its Shore-based missile system or SBMS where it may go utilized by the Philippine Army, only to be renamed later as the Land-based missile system wherein the procurement project's name still stands on the present date and is gaining traction after years of discussion about this project. 

While being part of the procurement list within the Revised AFP Modernization Program's Second Horizon for military assets acquisition, the funding and the materialization for the project to be realized will undertake extra measures for the Philippine Government's capacity to gather funds that will create a budget for the project. 

The same goes for the Horizon 2's Second Priority List of projects where it is different compared to the First Priority List where it will be funded through the government's General Appropriations Act (GAA) that is enacted annually, the one that embodies the Annual Procurement Plan (APP) of each agency with their own piecemeal of the annual budget. 

The funding of big-ticket projects will be done under Capital Outlay, definitely under the Muti-Year Obligations Authority (now called Multi-Year Contracting Authority due to the Department of Budget and Management's newly-introduced Cash-based budgeting for government transactions). 

See more: DBM Budget Modernization Program PPT File, Philippine Association for Government Budget Administration, Inc.

So, while the Shore-based missile system procurement program is being sidetracked by budget constraints (and realignments back then), the recent developments make this a nice discussion wherein there is the possibility as well as the potential of obtaining Brahmos Cruise Missle for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to have, in line with its desired minimum credible defense posture.

State-owned Brahmos Aerospace Limited, India. 
Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Fair Use.
Brahmos Aerospace Website: http://www.brahmos.com/

First of all, one may wonder about the origin of Brahmos' missile development which defines its functions that comes to the interest of numerous countries including the Philippines at the current date. All of which will not be possible without a joint consortium taking place between two companies, encompassing two countries.

For starters, there is the origin of the cruise missile's name. Brahmos is a combination that enjoins the names of two notable rivers from two notable countries: the Brahmaputra River in India and Moskva in Russia. The production of the missiles is handled by the company which also bears the name: Brahmos Aerospace Limited.

This means that the development of this missile is a joint endeavor between India and Russia in which it benefits the former with regards of having themselves armed with such a supersonic cruise missile that is capable to wreak havoc against its target that suffices the need in terms of minimum credible deterrence needed in the name of a country's national security.

The companies that involved in its development are Russia's NPO Mashinostroyeniya which in itself is a known Rocket design bureau in the country and India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) managed by the Indian Ministry of Defense wherein this partnership formed the company that produces these missiles and also bears that name.

Such a Joint Venture was a result of a bilateral undertaking between the Governments of the Republic of India and the Russian Federation in which it was put into effect in February 1998, more than two decades ago and the time when Russia was still seen as a friend under a different administration and before all of the sour relationships have come thereafter such as the recent implementation on the U.S. CAATSA sanctions against key Russian companies.

This undertaking helped India's Missile-producing Defense Industrial Complex to improve a lot wherein this military weaponry are an integral part of the country's overall defense efforts as the country has seen several threats with its neighbors Pakistan and China along India's northern borders as well as the defense of its coastline along the wide Indian Ocean where it stands as their own way of having a force deterrent along with a couple of assets that the Indian Armed Forces obtains currently.

Now, after benefiting from this joint venture, Brahmos Aerospace has started to market this cruise missile to the countries like the Philippines in which it comes with that promising capability that this weaponry possesses that may serve as a force worth reckoning with, effectively increasing the whole nation's overall minimum credible deterrence.

A Brahmos missile being launched from its land-based
launch platform.
Image Source.
The signing of agreements between the Indian's Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) which is an agency under the Indian Government's Ministry of Defense and the Russian missile-production company NPO NPO Mashinostroyeniya that formed the Brahmos Aerospace in 1998 also marked the start of the development of what they are marketing as the jointly-developed Indian-made Brahmos Supersonic cruise missile system which it will be marketed to countries such as the Philippines decades later.

In the terms of developing and producing the missile, the share between the two parties that are part of this joint venture almost has a fair share over the ownership of the Brahmos Aerospace with the Indian DRDO holding 50.5% of the venture while the remainder will be held upon by its Russian missile-making partner. 

It was two years later from the joint venture's foundation of Brahmos Aerospace that a successful launch of this supersonic cruise missile platform took place in what has been June 12, the Philippine Independence Day of 2001 in which from thereon the Russians and the Indians that formed the joint venture sees the bright future over the applications that a missile system will bring for a certain country's efforts of having a decent deterrence against other capable forces which is what it is currently seen regarding its procurement for the Philippine Armed Forces.

The missile test that took place on September 5, 2010, has proved this platform's overall potential as a capable supersonic cruise missile that the Indians has employed wherein an advanced version of the Brahmos II successfully hit its target at supersonic speeds which helps affirm its overall image as marketed as a fully-capable supersonic cruise missile system where if considered by the Philippines may serve as an idealistic deterrent that goes alongside other military assets that the country's Armed Forces aspires to have that goes along with the desires of having a minimum credible defense posture that is currently building up with current territorial-related matters coming into the mind like the on-going disputes over the West Philippine Sea.

Currently, the Brahmos cruise missiles are in service within the Indian Armed Forces which includes the Army and the Navy with the Indian Air Force will soon having an air-launched version of the missile, satisfying a requirement within the Modernization process of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Such a requirement specifies that a country of origin or at least two countries have such platforms utilized and in active service which defines its reputation that comes in line with assurances needed that such a platform is something that will provide results for the Philippine military shall this be applied on any future military operations.

Hence, it is worth understanding that there are multiple variants of Brahmos that the Indian Armed Forces utilized within its inventory that ranges from land-based platforms to the recently-developed air-launched ones wherein it comes with different specifications and details that have come with different necessities, capabilities, and objectives.

An air-launched variant is currently being developed. The
Philippine Army is opting for a land-based variant that comes
in-line with its mandated tasks.
While the main discussion for this article will cover more on the land-based variant, let it be known that the Brahmos Aerospace is seeking and developing their military systems which will be applied to every branch of the Indian military wherein it may be launched from the ground or in the sea through their surface warships and submarines as well as through the air as they seek in in development recently as it is designed to be fired from a Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30MKI aircraft of the Indian Air Force.

This resulted in the Brahmos missile having multiple variants which obtains different platform integrations from across the military's branches while attaining the firepower that such a supersonic cruise missile obtains against a key military target on the purpose of getting a significant result that still gets in line in providing deterrence against forces that are seen as a threat especially in the case of the Indian Armed Forces and for any export countries that have seen interest for these platforms.

Land-based Weapon Complex System
Link: http://www.brahmos.com/content.php?id=16

The land-based weapons complex system is just one of the two surface-to-surface variants of the Brahmos family of missile systems with the other one being deployed onboard warships that can also pack a punch against its targets as such missiles are currently in service with the Indian Navy onboard its warships. All of those will be discussed later.

Also known as the surface-launched variant (that goes alongside ship-based ones), the land-based version of the Brahmos missile usually comes in four mobile launchers armed with this supersonic cruise missile that also comes with a mobile command post and support vehicles where it forms a single battery of military vehicles that have come with such sophisticated weaponry for deterrence.

Let it be known that each individual mobile launchers in a single battery for this weapons system are fitted with three missile tubes intended for the Brahmos missiles in which, in aggregation means that a battery of such systems composed of 12 Brahmos missile weapons fit all-in-all, having a capability for each mobile launchers to fire on target upon salvo on a single target, or against three targets in corresponding to the triple missile fit per launcher.
This is how the setup is for the Land-based Brahmos missile battery
that comes with 12 missile mounts all-in-all which divides to
four launchers, with three each in individual units. 
Obtained via Brahmos Aerospace Website.
With such a battery setup, it goes sufficient enough for it to wreak havoc against the enemy upon utilization where its firepower, along with the system capacity of effective command and control in a systemic form of warfare gets that overall effectiveness that comes along with that minimum credible defense posture needed for a country like the Philippines.

In connection to the Philippine Army, it is the best chance that such a platform like this one may get considered as it gets along with the land-based force mandate of this military branch where this serves as a primary platform that signifies the Army's shift from Internal Defense up to the Territorial Defense in the light of the current situation taking place in the waters west of the Philippines.

Ship-based Weapon Complex System
Link: http://www.brahmos.com/content.php?id=15

This is another surface-to-surface component of the Brahmos Missile specified here aside from the land-based ones which are installed in individual launchers that forms a single battery of such systems wherein the ship-based Brahmos missile fit, as its name suggests, means that these are meant to be fitted onboard capable combat warships where several Indian Navy warships were fitted by such a cruise missile.

In a usual setup onboard combatant vessels, the warship's size, dimension, and design in correlation for its composition within its class ranging from destroyers down to frigates and corvettes dictate the number of Brahmos missiles that may be attached onboard a vessel as well as on the desire of the end-user such as a certain nation's navy with regards on the best approach on the missiles fit, whether it may be the Brahmos or some anti-ship or cruise missile developed by another supplier.

On the features provided by Brahmos Aerospace regarding this Brahmos missile system for warships, it is the usual thing to see that the launcher intended for these missiles and the corresponding fire control system needs to be in line or compatible with the subcomponents that the warship obtains such as its sensors and navigation systems which are interconnected by a Combat Management System or CMS, in which an Indian warship such as the Brahmos-armed INS Rajput does not have although it is fully-armed (the Rajput-class Destroyers are more of a modified version derived from the Cold War-era Soviet Kashin-class Destroyers

Currently, the ship-based Brahmos are in service in the Indian Navy's Rajput-class Destroyers like its lead ship INS Rajput and a ship of its class INS Ranvir wherein both platforms obtain 4 Brahmos missiles armed onboard these vessels as well as the newer Kolkota-class Destroyers which is designed to carry 16 of such supersonic cruise missiles.

There are no plans for a ship-derived Brahmos missile for the Philippine Armed Forces especially for its Navy in which the anti-ship missiles it currently obtains came along with the Korean-made Jose Rizal-class Frigates in the form of Hanwha SSM-700K C-Star missiles which is part of the deal.

Air-launched Weapon System
Link: http://www.brahmos.com/content.php?id=19
This exercise involves a Su-30MKI launching an air-launched variant
of the Brahmos Missile.
Image Source.
This is the latest developed version of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles which is designed to be fitted onboard the aircraft while attaining that capability required in targeting its target with packed firepower and performance while it is being launched from an aircraft platform such as a Multirole Fighter Aircraft.

Two missile tests were made for this variant wherein its launching platform came in the form of India's Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30MKI aircraft where it successfully hit its target that goes satisfiable with its performance as designed for an aircraft-bearing missile platform where it goes the potential in having these weapons asset introduced in active service within the Indian Air Force at a later date shall things get through satisfiable on their end.

Having such a test implies that it is still currently undertaking evaluation wherein it may take time for the Brahmos Aerospace to have it further improved with minor fixes to be made before it enters into the Indian Air Force's active service where it may take time with uncertainties to the timeline provided for these process to come through, although it still obtains that capability which they detailed as something packed with firepower that is capable to obliterate a capital warship.

Even with its potential as dedicated air-launched weaponry fitted onboard a combat fighter, the chances that such a platform may end up in military service within the Armed Forces of the Philippines such as the Philippine Air Force is slim, given that aside from its current testing phase by its manufacturer (which may go against procurement rules that require having an active, proven service within the host country's armed forces or on at least two users), there are other more-preferred platforms of sophisticated air-launched munitions that this service branch seeks that we may only drop hints as of the moment where a detailed discussion will be provided on a later date.

The point being, having such a missile is already sufficing its functions especially if operated by a land-based military such as the Philippine Army in this case wherein other branches like the Philippine Air Force may go to their own respective munitions which can be seen as satisfiable to their requirements and sees as something that can get their respective mandated duties and responsibilities done. 

So, to clarify things up from here, what the Armed Forces of the Philippines may be getting will come with Land-based platforms, with an undefined number of batteries provided that may get disclosed later on.

Submarine-launched version
Link: http://www.brahmos.com/content.php?id=20
India obtains several locally-built Scorpene-class Submarines in its inventory. 
Six years ago from this article's posting on March 20, 2013, a submarine-derived Brahmos missile was tested when its launching platform was submerged underwater wherein it turned out to be the most successful launched since the introduction of the first variants of the Brahmos cruise missiles within the Indian Armed Forces - both the land-based and ship-based ones.

This variant, which is intended for arming submarines further to teeth is something that one may consider a formidable force to reckon with wherein a submarine, with its function of being submerged underwater undetected whilst being fully armed with a supersonic cruise missile like the Brahmos gets along with the Indian Navy's deterrent that goes along with its surface warships that have come fitted with such a formidable munition.

Along the way, the developments made by Brahmos Aerospace for these different variants of Brahmos missile helps them improve their expertise and experience in creating these platforms especially for its home country which is India, wherein their ideas of export into countries like the Philippines goes along with that excellent idea of providing additional deterrence for the country's national defense against an external enemy or a potential one like China over the recent events such as the continuous hegemony over the West Philippine Sea.

Details about the supersonic cruise missile itself. Image Source.
The Brahmos missile provided in the details is designed after Russia's P-800 Oniks Anti-ship cruise Missile in which this jointly-developed munition is an improvement over the original Russian-made weaponry that sees as an ideal platform for Indian Armed Forces' requirements.

Alongside the specifications provided above, its performance also comes with functions such as its operation where it follows the fire and forget principle, in the same manner as other missiles like the P-800 Oniks in which it was derived from and others such as the AGM-65 Maverick Missiles and AIM-9 air-to-air missiles that the Philippine Air Force obtains.

The missiles' performance may go with a maximum altitude of 15,000 meters (49,212.60 feet) at its cruising phase with a skimming terminal altitude at a minimum of 10 meters (32.81 feet) upon its final approach into its target with the speed of Mach 2.8 - 3.0 (3,457.44 kph - 3,704.40 kph) which gets into its reputation as a supersonic cruise missile that minimizes reaction time for its target to counter this incoming guided ordnance with installed countermeasures while getting that assurance that the target will be obliterated as a result of the missile's destructive kinetic impact inflicted.

Primarily designed as an anti-ship cruise missile just like the P-800 Oniks that it was derived upon, the Brahmos missiles' performance in terms of its speed and approach against its target is something that the warship's onboard air defense system may find difficult which is why this is seen as preferred weaponry for a country like the Philippines to have given that the enforcement of Chinese claims in the West Philippine Sea comes with the presence of the warships operated by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) as well as the Chinese Coast Guard.

The missile's speed can be attributed to its propulsion system where it comes with a two-stage propulsion system - first with a solid rocket booster that will propel the rocket on its initial position and acceleration followed by a ramjet which relies on liquid fuel wherein it relies on the missile's forward motion that enhances its speed further to its maximum supersonic levels which are up to Mach 3.

Its propulsion system setup comes as the main factor for the success of the Brahmos' missiles in attaining its reputation as a supersonic missile where it plays along with its guidance system which relies on both the United States' GPS constellation of satellites and its competitor the Russian GLONASS constellation of satellites in which obtaining both positioning guidance systems on piggybacking information goes with its essentials that ensure that a supersonic missile such as the Brahmos is getting on the right track leading to its intended target.

With its features, it is interesting to see with regards to the current development for the Philippine Army's desire in having these munitions which showcase the badly-needed capability in terms of providing the country's territorial defense especially in terms of protecting the waters that surround the whole nation with these missiles in augmentation to the capabilities provided by the Philippine Navy.

India's President Ram Nath Kovind and Philippine President Rodrigo
Roa Duterte during the former's visit to the country.
Image Source.
Recently, India's President Ram Nath Kovind visited the country for a five-day visit which symbolizes the 70-year strong relations between India and the Philippines which has started all the way back in 1949, wherein such bond between these two nations may get strengthened further as more agreements ranging from economics to cultures may come into effect.

The agreement includes the maritime security deal between two nations wherein it bolsters cooperation between the Indian Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard regarding matters that involve coordination and deeper monitoring of commercial vessels in which upon undertaking will help these involved agencies exchange information regarding the developments at sea.

Aside from the maritime security deal, India's role with the Philippine defense capability upgrade program was also emphasized, highlighting things that this country participated in the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program in several ways such as India's Garden Reach Shipbuilding and Engineering's bid for the Frigate Acquisition Program which they lose to South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries and of course, this discussion regarding the negotiations of the sale of Brahmos land-based supersonic cruise missiles to the Philippine Army.

Having this recent gestures of an improved relationship between India and the Philippines somewhat improves the guarantee on the sale of these land-based supersonic cruise missiles that the Philippine Army aspires to have given that it really matters much for the country's resolve of having deterrence in correlation to its maritime security and territorial integrity wherein having such a platform not only bolster the Philippine defense posture especially on securing its western seaboard but also serves as a boost for India's local defense industries.

Speaking of India's local defense industries such as the Brahmos Aerospace, if such a deal for the Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles pushes through, it will serve as their first export wherein a country like the Philippines will be its first recipient for such weaponry outside of India in which it will be a welcoming thing to see for the country's overall military capability.

Even though that Brahmos Aerospace is a joint consortium with Russia's NPO Mashinostroyeniya, it is still considered an Indian defense company and by that nature is not covered by the United States sanctions which are known as CAATSA or the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act which targets key Russian companies like Rosoboronexport wherein it also affects any potential country that seeks sale on some sophisticated Russian technology such as the S-400 Ground-to-air missile system.

With these pieces of information provided, it goes with the certainty that a deal may push through and the country like the Philippines may finally get the sophisticated supersonic cruise missiles it needs for minimum credible defense posture that goes along with the country's national interest and welfare for the citizen's safety.

There are four of these Brahmos missile launcher trucks in a single battery.
Image Source.
The Philippine Army currently obtains its own spree of procurement projects that significantly improve its capability in the process wherein it includes light tanks such as the K21-105 and ASCOD MMBT Light/Medium Tanks, wheeled ones such as the Pandur 2 8x8 Fire Support Vehicles, Self-propelled artillery pieces, and the highlight among their projects which is the Land-based missile systems (LBMS) project.

This missile systems project is seen as one of the promising procurement-related developments there is within the Armed Forces of the Philippines' desire to having a better military composition with better tools, additional skillful personnel, better facilities, and thoroughly-crafted doctrine which is designed to cope up with the current spectrum of security measures meant to fend off internal and external threats that keep on evolving on the current date.

With regards to the recent development regarding the visit of India's President to the Philippines while forging more on stronger ties which already lasted 70 years is something that puts traction for the procurement of Brahmos Supersonic Cruise Missiles that the Philippine Army is seeking as the land-based service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is now gearing itself up in obtaining a capability that is worth sufficient for territorial defense which comes in line to their mandate of defending the whole nation and its sovereignty.

Shall the negotiations and deals firmly forged between the Philippine Armed Forces and the Brahmos Aerospace, it will be a benefit for the country's defense posture and India's defense industry in which both will see the gains on their respective necessities especially for the former's buildup of defense needed to deter the upcoming threat looming in the high seas especially to the west of the country and the latter gaining a customer that will sustain their market of selling their product with effectiveness and satisfaction in mind.

All that it takes now is to wait and see regarding the developments of this missile project wherein there may be progress that will push the deal further or to retract it a bit regarding the circumstances that may come up in the upcoming months. Nevertheless, with vibrant relationships and the ongoing process for the project in place, there will be certainties that give that potential where such a platform may end up within the Army's array of weaponry in which, along with other weapons purchase along with the Armed Forces, gets the minimum credible defense posture that the nation aspires as well as to the attainment of the Army's Transformation Roadmap timeline to have a world-class armed force by the year 2028.

(c) 2019 PDA, title edited 2022.

The Hanwha K21-105 Medium Tank Option for the Philippine Army

The South Koreans through the years forged a deal with the Philippine government especially the Department of National Defense through the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regarding the sale of military technology that may help boost the overall capability and effectiveness of the AFP in conducting its mandated duties and responsibilities that involves protecting the nation from both domestic and foreign threats.

And with that comes the latest pitch from one of its Defense Industries which was also the supplier for some of the notable projects that have undertaken such as the Naval Shield ICMS fitted onboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigates for the Philippine Navy and the Amphibious Assault Vehicle procurement project in which this company supplanted the Marine Corps' need of obtaining 8 AAVs for its functions such as amphibious assault operations.

This is South Korea's bet for the Philippine Army's Light Tank
Acquisition Project.
Image Source.
The Philippine Army is still in the process of choosing its own assets as part of its procurement that seeks both tracked and wheeled tanks under the Light Tank Acquisition Project of the service branch that seeks more firepower that is needed to conduct its duty as the result of the recent urban combat that took place in the ravaged city of Marawi.

It is worth notable that we discussed last time about the ASCOD 2 MMBT wherein its advantages over other competitors such as this one over technicalities and subcomponents were provided detail-by-detail as well as its development and usage among its users as it satisfied the requirements taken for active users as required for the procurement of military hardware for the Philippine Armed Forces.

Also along with the ASCOD 2 MMBT discussed, we provided some brief details regarding another competitor which is also being pushed for the Light Tank Acquisition Project which is the Turkish-Indonesian Kaplan/Harimau Hitam MT which in itself is still in the development stage which that caused its ineligibility over the prerequisites that the Armed Forces of the Philippines seek in its Modernization-related procurement projects that require at least one user from the country of origin or two export countries actively operating such type of tank based from a proven design.

While these two aforementioned candidates are somewhat known and currently being discussed across the online defense communities in the Philippines, let there be known that there is also another candidate for the Light Tank Acquisition Project which came from South Korea and is produced by a company that already has a record in transacting defense-related material with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in which several of these assets are already in service within the organization wherein it starts to prove its own worth.

This light tank option is worth discussing as the other candidates provide the details about the matrix of the competition regarding this project. Moreover, it gives us the idea regarding its technicalities and other details, given if this asset is chosen as the preferred platform for the Philippine Army instead of the two aforementioned candidates with ASCOD MMBT being the preferred one. 

This K21-105mm was exhibited by its developer which is
Doosan DST in partnership with Belgian CMI Defense.
Image Source.
Before proceeding to the details about the making of this Made in Korea light/medium tank, let us provide you some important details regarding Hanwha Systems through this link about a vital warship subcomponent which is the Naval Shield ICMS for the Jose Rizal-class Frigates here -

Knowing the Hanwha Naval Shield Integrated Combat Management System, PDA
(dated November 10, 2017)

While the discussion of the Hanwha has provided in another article on this website, it is worth taking note that before the present production and sale of the K21-105 under the current company notable today in many deals with the Department of National Defense ranging from KAAV-7A1s to the Naval Shield ICMS, that responsibility was once taken by another company in the form of Doosan Heavy Industry's once Defense subsidiary, Doosan DST.

Doosan DST (Defense and Systems Technology) was founded in 1973 wherein it helps its home country of South Korea in the effort in providing a stepping stone in improving their local defense industry which may help propel the growth of this sector in the country for the years to come, producing its own array of defense weaponry to its home country that may come handy in case of full-scale combat with its renegade neighbor which at one point attempted to reunite the country in the 1950s under communist rule in combat better known as the Korean War.

Four and a half centuries later, Hanwha Systems acquire the majority shares of Doosan's Defense subsidiary like the company's acquisition of Samsung Techwin from another South Korean company of the same name that produces consumer tech that is known today such as in the production of smartphones, cementing the company's foothold to the South Korean defense industry in which they able to bag deals with the Defense Department later on.

Aside from the K21 family of vehicles (including the K21-105 medium tank), Doosan DST's product line also includes KMLRS which is also known as the K-239 Chunmoo that may replace the K-136 Kooryong MLRS in the South Korean Armed Forces inventory (with several may find its way to the Armed Forces of the Philippines), The K-VLS which stands to Korean Vertical Launching System where it is intended for combat warships such as Corvettes and Frigates to have (chances are the Philippine Navy may have them since Hyundai Heavy Industries are fond of South Korean-made navy subcomponents), and 30mm Hybrid Biho which is an anti-air defense system.

The K21-105 Medium Tank is based on this
Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle which is the K-21. 
Courtesy to Wikimedia Commons.
The K21-105's development has an interesting story that comes parallel to another candidate for the Philippine Army's Light Tank Acquisition Project - tracked light tank category wherein both of these assets have originated from a variant that is purposed as protected and armed troop carrier capable of being deployed in combat.

This parallelism points to the K21-105's base design which is the K21 Infantry Fighting Vehicle which is seen similarly in the Spanish-Austrian ASCOD Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle where it serves as Pizarro in the Spanish Armed Forces and Ulan in the Austrian series while having a light tank version which is the ASCOD 2 MMBT. More details about this platform were provided in our previous article posted here.

Meant to replace the Korean Infantry Fighting Vehicle or KIFV which is a Korean derivative of the U.S. YPR-765 or more known as the Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle that derives itself from M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier that the Philippine Army obtains in huge number, the development for the K-21 Infantry Fighting Vehicle started in the year 1999 as the whole world at that time were about to witness the dawn of the 21st century.

It took a decade for this platform to be tested, evaluated, conducted under assessment and other quality-related measurements provided to determine and understand the enhancements being made on this platform, discovering some flaws that needed to be patched and other things which may help the developers improve this product to satisfy its respective end-user such as the South Korean Armed Forces which is the primary customer of then-Doosan DST and now Hanwha Systems for these products of such an Infantry-Fighting Vehicle.

The idea for a K21-105 Medium Tank came in 2013 when the Belgian-South Korean partnership built a prototype of the original K-21 IFV platform which is fitted with an XC-8 gun turret which was developed by CMI Defense - Cockerill in which such a weapons mount may come with either a 105mm gun or a larger 120mm gun, a thing that goes similar with Leonardo HITFACT's weapons fit onboard the ASCOD 2 MMBT.

Currently, the K-21 Infantry Fighting Vehicle is in active service within the South Korean Army and there are still no export users that are utilizing such type of platform for their own use, which is something that may worth considering that the Philippines is seen as their first export market for these light tanks (or medium tanks varying on categorization) in which they are competing with other candidates such as the Turkish-Indonesian KAPLAN (Harimau Hitam) Medium Tank and GDELS (Austrian-Spanish) ASCOD 2 MMBT for tracked light tank portion of the larger acquisition project that also comes with Tank Destroyer/Fire Support Vehicles.

With their desire of getting an export market for these units, let us discuss things regarding its specifications wherein there is one subcomponent that does similarly go with the Harimau Hitam's weapons fit which is currently not being preferred within the service branch as it involves a certain country's restrictive arms sales which have covered at some point in this blog website.

THE IN-DETAIL SPECIFICATIONS of the K-21 platform before the K21-105 development.

With several variants at hand ranging from the original Infantry Fighting Vehicle design of the K-21 down to the recent K21-105 Medium Tank iteration, it is nice to delve further down to the details regarding this platform to give us an idea regarding its capability as well as to give insights about its subcomponents that influences a factor in the Philippine Army's decision in choosing a tracked light tank.

K-21 Infantry Fighting Vehicle
Here are the vehicle's specifications. Image Source.
As of 2016 (which was two years ago before this article published), there are at least 400 K-21 Infantry Fighting Vehicles in service within the Republic of Korean Army wherein it will be not much of a surprise if the such number of units may continue to rack up as orders for the production of such units in line to the requirements within the home country's Armed Forces.

In parallel to the Spanish approach of replacing their old M-113s with the newer ASCOD variant which is named the Pizarro, the South Koreans see this as a Modernization process within their Armed Forces as the K-21s are replacing its KIFV where they only not improve their older platforms with newer ones with incorporated technology installed, but also continuing the boost needed for the South Korean Defense Industries to have so as they produce their manufactured defense technologies in the aspiration that it may get exported later on.

Having these platforms in the South Korean Army service serves as complementary to other Armored Vehicles that they employ such as the Indigenously-produced K-1 Main Battle Tank by Hyundai Rotem (sister company of the Hyundai Heavy Industries who developed and produced the Jose Rizal-class Frigates for the Philippine Navy) which are in current service within the Republic of Korea Armed Forces with its design patterned after the United States - General Dynamics-developed M-1 Abrams Main Battle Tank.

Their efforts of modernizing their Infantry Fighting Vehicle fleet dwarfed the efforts of the Philippine Army's process of fitting its M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers with upgraded gun mounts obtained from Israel, although both do satisfy the respective country's military requirements with regards to obtaining these platforms especially with the Philippine Army's case of having it augmented with a light tank in which the K21-105 is a candidate for the acquisition.

K-21 Tank Prototype with XC-8 Turret
This vehicle was a prototype and a prelude to
the present K21-105 medium tank.
Image Source.
Showcased in Abu Dhabi's 2013 IDEX or International Defense Exhibition, The Doosan DST-CMI Defense joint partnership showcased this prototype that is known as the K-21 XC-8 fitted armored vehicle which may go considered as the predecessor to the recently-pitched K21-105 Medium Tank.

As we can see in the detailed specifications, it is known that details are lacking especially the information about machine guns, elevation, and ammunition load, although the first two details were provided later to the K21-105 Medium Tank given that this is more of a prototype in nature and may go less in terms of putting it into production and eventually sell it either within the Republic of Korea Armed Forces or for export use.

The partnership distribution on the development of this prototype comes with Doosan DST providing the chassis platform or the armored vehicle portion of the whole unit whilst CMI Defense provided its Cockerill XC-8 gun mount that may go configured into either 105mm main gun or a larger 120mm main gun which goes correlation to Leonardo's 105/120mm gun mount option over the ASCOD MMBT.

It retains its weight at 25 tons whilst there is a slight change over its dimensions where it signifies that these are the only changes along with the gun mount wherein its armor composition may go with different materials used such as fiberglass/aluminum composite, although there are no other details that my go supplant it up given that, it was only a prototype when it was provided. 
Nevertheless, this weapons setup provides that inspiration to the joint partnership to develop a medium tank based on this platform which is the K21-105 Medium Tank which is seen as a competitor for the Kaplan MT and ASCOD MMBT for the Philippine Army's tracked light tank category of the larger Light Tank Acquisition Project that also calls for the procurement of wheeled tanks or also can be called as either a Tank Destroyer or a Fire Support Vehicle.

The specifications provided for the Light/Medium Tank
which is a variant of the K-21.
Image Source.
As compared to the first light prototype of the K-21 IFV fitted with an XC-8 gun turret, the K21-105 Light/Medium Tank comes with CT-CV 105HP two-man turret which is essentially a high-pressure 105mm gun fitted onboard the armored vehicle which is what the Philippine Army seeks in their requirements especially the ones about its gun mount.

Surprisingly for this gun mount, the Excalibur Army/General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS) Pandur II 8x8 may also be fitted by such a gun mount such as the CT-CV 105HP gun turret from CMI Defense as an option aside from the discussed Leonardo HITFACT gun that also comes with the similar 105mm gun mount for choosing which the supplier may do the weapons setup offer that may do the enticing to prospective customers such as the Philippine Army.

The armor dimensions of the K21-105 are slightly longer than the K-21 IFV it derived upon while retaining its width as well as it obtains the same weight of around 25 tons in which it is lighter than its competitor for the tracked light tank project which is the ASCOD MMBT (check the specs portion of this article for you to see), yet having a lesser power-generating engine as it obtains a 750hp diesel engine onboard the vehicle compared to ASCOD MMBT's 850hp MTU V8 199 T21 diesel engine, where one may see the correlation of the power output to the weight such an armored vehicle obtains wherein it factors out the maneuverability of such a vehicle in combat as respect to its armor and other factors that have contributed to its weight.

Given that this was made by Hanwha System which is the manufacturer of Naval Shield ICMS for the Philippine Navy's Jose Rizal-class Frigates and the Korean-made Amphibious Assault Vehicles (KAAV-7) to the Philippine Marine Corps, it seems to be that with the experience that the company has in transactions with the Philippine Armed Forces that this may go easy with regards on having this as a procurement option for the Philippine Army to have.

However, there are factors with regards to its consideration wherein one of the partners is belonging to a country whose jurisdiction comes with the rationale of implementing restrictive arms exports against a country whenever they see fit, making this option less favorable than it seems to be. Take note that it is the similar problem that the Turkish-Indonesian partnership faces in offering their product for the Philippine Army which in itself competing with ASCOD MMBT and on the topic of this discussion which is the Hanwha K21-105 Medium Tank.

This is one of CMI Defense's Products which is the Cockerill 3105 MPF.
Image Source.
Before proceeding, we may suggest this article we wrote in April of 2018 entitled "Military Hardware Sales vs. Imposed and Planned Arms Restrictions wherein it discussed some significant details that correlate to this topic which provided some overview over the Belgian arms restrictions especially the ones implemented by the local Walloon Regional Government.

To understand this further, it is worthy to have an idea with regards to the specific base of operations that the CMI Defense is situated in the Belgian city of Liege which is situated in the province of Wallonia - a portion of Belgium that primarily consists of French-speaking population that composes the south of the country as opposed to the Northern Part which is known as the Flemish Region or Flanders that is consisting of Dutch-speaking communities.

While such arms restrictions are limited to one Belgian province, it means that it does not cover the rest of the country nor covered by their national government concerning this matter. However, this poses the problem about the offer made by Hanwha through this K21-105 Medium Tank as well as the Turkish-Indonesian partnership over the Harimau Hitam (Kaplan MT) tank wherein as discussed across the community, both are equipped with CMI/Cockerill-made gun turrets that are covered by such an arms restriction.

Nevertheless, if Hanwha wants to take the deal for this project, it may go at best on their part to take the risk of getting another variant of the gun turret fitted on the prospective product they push in the project which goes different from their usual Cockerill-based built shall they want to pursue it up whilst getting the chance of getting the possibility in bagging the project.

On that note, such weapons fit may go to the rationale that there may be revisions made on their product in a manner that it differentiates itself from the usual fit whilst getting an idea of putting different sets of gun mounts on a similar platform which comes reminiscent to the Israeli's expertise especially on Elbit's reputation of helping the Philippine Army fitting its M-113 with sophisticated remote-controlled weapons systems. 

This is doable although at the discretion of the supplier to make their offer much enticing given the external factors that have influenced their perspective requirements for such light or medium tank.


The K21-105 Medium Tank candidate of the Philippine Army's tracked light tank component of its Light Tank Acquisition Project is something that the people in Hanwha hopes to push as part of their overall marketing plans in getting a larger chunk over the country's market for military hardware as they already have provided the Philippine Navy and its Marine Corps sub-branch with their necessities ranging from warship subcomponents to Amphibious Assault Vehicles provided and now utilized in full active service.

Nevertheless, the risk of disqualification for this light/medium tank in this category is possible given its weapons composition originating from a country that is currently in an active position in terms of implementing strict arms exports especially against the Philippines wherein a Belgian province fully imposes an arms embargo for the so-called Human Rights issues which hampers the deal that the South Korean Defense company provides for this deal.

From that, it seems that the ball is now preferring to the General Dynamics European Land Systems' ASCOD 2 MMBT wherein it is the only candidate that comes with a different weapons fit in a form of Leonardo's HITFACT gun that may come in both 105mm and 120mm compositions that render this tank at a less advantageous position. However, while it is known that the ASCOD MMBT is in itself a preferred candidate that satisfies the necessities of the Philippine Army on its project, the executive administration is showing pressure to reconsider the other candidates such as the K21-105 Light/Medium Tank and the Kaplan/Harimau Hitam MT for this project.

From here, it will be interesting to see with regards to the extent of the materialization of this acquisition project as well as the idea so as whether the Technical Working Group of the Philippine Army sticks to the ASCOD MMBT bet which has satisfied its requirements or on other candidates such as the offer provided by Hanwha where there may be still chances shall there be ways provided that may overcome the problem regarding the Belgian-made Cockerill-produced gun turrets.

This only shows the ideal interest of the Philippine Army's one of its acquisition projects with several more having its own interesting story that talks of its capability that it will deliver upon the consideration of having this array of platforms included to this land-based military branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on the premise that it satisfies the requirements they seek on the platform in line to the established doctrines and organization before the procurement option.

These in which are in line with the Philippine Army's Transformation Roadmap 2028 that aspires to have a World-class Armed Forces by that year which it comes with hopes, dreams, and aspirations that the country is already obtaining an Armed Forces that is capable to employ minimum credible defense posture that serves as a deterrent against any adversary that has the intention to put harm on the country's sovereignty and safety of its citizenry wherein such an action against the whole nation will be coming at a heavy loss that is so costly that it gets unbearable to consider.




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