• Knowing the Philippine Army's BO-105 Helicopters

    These donated helicopters operated by the Philippine Army's Aviation Regiment provides much needed field support, especially on medevac-related evacuation and other logistical concerns.

  • Updates on the PAF's C-130J-30 Super Hercules Aircraft

    The Philippine Air Force, for the first time, sets to have at least three (3) brand new cargo aircraft from Lockheed Martin, which is done through a commercial deal between the two entities.

  • Phil. Army's Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge Project

    This AVLB with a Merkava IV chassis serves as the first platform of such type for the Philippine Army to use, and may set as a reference for the service branch’s future armored vehicle plans and programs later on.

  • Navantia's Submarine Offer to the Philippine Navy

    The Spanish shipbuilder has offered its submarine offer for the Philippine Navy's submarine project. How will it fare compare to its competitors like France's Naval Group and South Korea's Hanwha Ocean?

  • Knowing the AW-109 Helicopter of both PAF and PN

    Both the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy possess this type of helicopter that basically define as a first step towards a more capable Armed Forces, implemented during the First Horizon of the AFP Modernization Program.

  • The Phil. Army's Interest on the FGM-148 Javelin ATGM

    The Philippine Army is improving its firepower capabilities, and it witnessed the performance brought by this anti-tank missile during the Balikatan 2023 Exercises. Now they are considering it for their systems.

  • Know More About Us

    Just kindly click this link to understand more about our resolve of providing knowledge and perspective in relation to the Philippine defense and other related topics or discussions.

The Prospects in Boeing's Push for AH-64 Apache Helicopters in the Philippine Air Force

As discussed recently in the previous entry that deals with the Harpoon missile offer as part of the Philippine Air Force's Multirole Fighter Jet Program, let it be known that Boeing marketed its one of the most sophisticated attack helicopters to date in which may mean a lot for the service branch if considered.

Although this is not part of the service branch's Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project wherein it is being participated by two prospective bidders, it is still worthy for this military platform to be discussed to give a broader idea regarding the feasibility that surrounds this offer made by Boeing to the Philippine Air Force.

This platform is being looked like one of the preferred candidates
for the Philippine Air Force Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project.
Image Source.
Reports have coming in from multiple key defense outlets such as Flight Global and the Defense News about the recent release from the Defense Cooperation Security Agency of the United States of America regarding the congress approval for a potential sale of AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters, along with the same prospects for the AH-64 Apache Helicopters for the Philippine Air Force's Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project.

The development of the report send interesting details to the current Modernization Plans taken by the Philippine Air Force wherein the current project involves primarily two main candidates which are either the Bell AH-1Z Viper from the United States and the Turkish Aerospace Industries T-129 ATAK Helicopter which in itself is a derivative of the Italian Leonardo A-129 Mangusta that is no longer in production.

Currently, the Philippine Air Force already obtains its own dedicated Attack Helicopters which is the first for the organization with its fleet usually consist of light attack variants such as the AW-109 and the MD-520 helicopters, in which such dedicated platform came in the form of the ex-Jordanian AH-1S Tzefa Helicopters that the said country also obtained it from Israel.

The current inventory of the Philippine Air Force renders the Bell AH-1Z Viper into the advantage, citing a better logistics chain on spare parts and operational use as its compatibility goes with the UH-1 Hueys and the AH-1S that the organization obtains. 

Despite these things, it is still worth noted that the potential deal for AH-64 Apache alongside the Viper makes this deal interesting in the sense that this military branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines also sees the capabilities of the AH-64 as something that the country needs on its defense.

This arises the potential idea of having these platforms in the Philippine Air Force wherein it will render it the first for the service branch to obtain them, ideally helping the country obtain its capability for Close Air Support or CAS operations especially that the country is still doing its counterinsurgency or COIN operations in Mindanao with the areas still plagued by radical terrorists still ravaging the way peace and security is being done on those places affected by it.

That being said, we will discuss the attack helicopter platform in detail as well as the deal that comes along with it as it goes from one of the two notices obtained from the Defense Cooperation Security Agency or DSCA as well as its usual information on the development of the platform as well as other relevant details that provides the whole picture of the main topic for this article.

See related: The Idea of having AGM-84 Harpoon Missiles to the Philippine Air Force (dated January 14, 2020)
Boeing, AH-64 Apache, Attack Helicopter, Production Line.
The production line of the Boeing AH-64 Apache on its
plant in the United States.
Image Source.
On the previous discussion related to AGM-84 Harpoon Missiles, we discussed in detail the history of the manufacturer behind the AH-64 Apache and its notable position as one of the key defense-industrial complexes of the United States as they producing defense material that is being awarded for them by the US Government as well as on other nations through Foreign Military Sales just as what DSCA presented on its notice.

Before the DSCA notice on the prospective foreign military sales of both the Bell AH-1Z and Boeing AH-64 Apache, let it be noted that in December of 2019, the representatives of the said defense industry visited the Philippines and marketed this helicopter platform before the Philippine Government, implying that it is helpful for the country's defense especially with its ongoing spat with China in the West Philippine Sea.

At that time also came with the report of the Philippine Department of National Defense's deal regarding the AGM-84 Harpoon Missiles wherein it goes along with the still-pending Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Program of the Philippine Air Force wherein one of the candidates, the Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper Block 70/72 is still pending the same approval to the United States Congress as the ones for the AH-1Z Viper and AH-64 Apache.

The prospective marketing and deals from that date up to the present shows Boeing's push to gather a significant portion of the Philippine military and defense market in terms of its selling point on military hardware such as the AGM-84 Harpoon Missiles and AH-64 Apache Helicopters, in a matter that they help provide the after-support of the materials provided and have a nice prospect to be that preferred supplier along the way.

Hence, the recent notice provided by DSCA also gives Boeing, along with Bell Helicopters, the boost needed in getting that portion of the Philippine defense market with its prospective product offers under the United States Foreign Military Sales terms in a manner that both platforms, the AH-1Z Viper and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters have the needed boost that the Philippine Air Force needed in its close air support capabilities.

AH-64 Apache, Philippine Air Force, Boeing
The AH-64 Apache as depicted on the Boeing Website with
its corresponding archive link here.

Knowing the development of a rotary aircraft such as the AH-64 Apache Helicopter is part of understanding more about the creation and design of this weaponry as the concept of its inception defines the capabilities of this asset which goes useful to countries like the United States in a manner that is extensively promoted by its manufacturer, Boeing, to countries like the Philippines for its purchase and now confirmed through DSCA notices.

The first prototype of the AH-64 Apache made in 1975 as the YAH-64 where it competed against the Bell YAH-63 for the United States Army's Advanced Attack Helicopter competition at that time in which it resulted in the AH-64's win, paving its way to becoming a mainstay advanced attack helicopter platform of the United States Army and eventually for other nation's military force as well.

Based on this document entitled "Critical Technology Events in the Development of the Apache Helicopter" written by Richard Chait, John Lyons, and Duncan Long of the Center for Technology and National Security Policy at the National Defense University (of which the said document can be downloaded on the link here), the importance of having an advanced attack helicopter such as an Apache is important due to the experiences provided during the Vietnam War.

The technological usage of military technology during the Vietnam war can be considered as revolutionary as it is the first known conflict with the widespread use of rotary-winged aircraft such as helicopters wherein the known Bell UH-1 Huey served in combat as a primary mainstay transport along with its attack helicopter variant which is the Bell AH-1 Cobra, of which both of these rotary platforms are currently in service with the Philippine Air Force with the latter recently obtained from Jordan as discussed in previous articles on this website.

It is in this combat in Vietnam that the realization has made that the AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter goes insufficient as far as weapons load is concerned given that its engine output is insufficient to carry the required fuel and ammunition in combat, as well as highlighting its vulnerability to the fight where it prompts the Army in considering an advanced attack helicopter such as the AH-64 Apache to get the job done especially with the consideration of more sophisticated threats like an enemy air defense system which is more threatening than what Vietnam has to offer that time.

The AH-64 Apache was approved for mass production where the operation will be done in Boeing (then McDonnell Douglas) plant in Mesa, Arizona, of which it still continues to the present day with the prospects that this similar plant will be providing the platform for the Philippine Air Force shall it be chosen as the preferred attack helicopter platform for the 15th Strike Wing.

From this glimpse of history, it can be said that the lacking performance of the AH-1 Cobra in terms of fuel and ammunition drove the development of a more-capable advanced attack helicopter which resulted in the making of a more formidable gunship serving the United States Army in the form of the AH-64 Apache, although it is noted that several users, such as the Philippine Air Force and the United States Marine Corps still operates the AH-1 Cobra in various types as of this article's date of publishing.

AH-64 Apache Dimensions.
Here are the primary dimensions of the AH-64 Attack Helicopter
based on Boeing's website
 as referenced here.
For the metric measurement version of the dimensions provided regarding the AH-64 Apache Advanced Attack Helicopter as shown in the table above, the details will go as follows (also, a variation of the specifications will be indicated as it was provided from a post of another defense page). -

- Rotor Diameter: 14.63 meters
- Length: 14.68 meters
- Height: 4.65 meters
- Flight Ceiling: 6.4 kilometers
- Range: 418.43 kilometers
- Top speed: 309 kilometers per hour (kph) or 166.84 knots

Link to the image reference here.
Its capability simply is lesser than those of the AH-1 Cobra Helicopters like the Tzefa variants that the Philippine Air Force currently obtains in its inventory in terms of its range (particularly at a standard range), speed, and service ceiling, giving the AH-1 the edge shall it be considered by the service branch which also has an edge in terms of logistics as mentioned involving Jordanian AH-1s and UH-1 Hueys obtained in inventory.

However, it is also worth notable that being an advanced attack helicopter, the AH-64 Apache obtains an edge on its capacity in carrying weapons component and sophisticated systems as indicated with its weight as compared from being empty up to its maximum loaded output which carries multiple munitions ranging from AGM-114 Hellfire II Air to Ground Missiles to FIM-92H Stinger Air-to-Air Missiles (both of which will be discussed separately).

The capacity of the AH-64 Apache Advanced Attack Helicopter in carrying more munitions onboard may provide that additional boost for the Philippine Air Force's close air support capabilities as the sophistication and increased firepower output helps effectively carrying out its operations against the country's insurgents.

Such capability and firepower that the AH-64 Apache obtains come as more expensive than the capability that an AH-1Z Viper provides, on an estimated approximate package price provided by DSCA at around US$ 1.5 Billion, or at around 75,855,000,000.00 as of May 3, 2020, on a rate of US$1.00 = Php 50.57 which may be reduced upon the negotiations taken on which packages will be included for a prospective purchase.

It is worth considering the factors in decision making such as the sources of spare parts which is a fundamental thing in maintaining and operating these platforms in a manner that there are several countries across the globe aside from the United States Army that currently utilizes the AH-64 Apache Helicopters on their respective duties and responsibilities in defending the nation.

Republic of China, Taiwanese Air Force, AH-64E Apache, Attack Helicopters, East Asia Region.
Image: The AH-64E Apache Helicopter of the Taiwanese
(Republic of China) Air Force.
Image Source.
Currently, as of the time this article was published, there are 17 operators of this attack helicopter, of which there are three in the East Asia Region (Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan [as depicted in the image above]) and two in Southeast Asia Region of which the Philippines is situated (Indonesia and Singapore).

Logistically wise, the proximity of the country from the five aforementioned users in the Asia-Pacific region means immediate accessibility for spare parts and supplies for these helicopters to be continuously operational and responsive for its design in line with the duties and responsibilities given in a military as well as for the interoperability among the users as to learn new skill sets and techniques about the best use of this platform.

Among the users, the latest country to obtain the AH-64 Apache Advanced Attack Helicopters as of posting date is Morocco, of which the prospective sale of the deal involved comes at around US$ 4.25 Billion (Php 214,922,500,000.00 as of May 3 exchange rate of Php 50.57 = US$ 1.00), procuring at least 36 units or 6 times as many as what the Philippine Air Force seeks on the aircraft along with the AH-1Z Viper option calling with the similar number.

The number of operators using this type of helicopter comes from the number of variants of the AH-64 Apache produced since its development in the mid-1970s as part of the United States Advanced Attack Helicopter Program with the original prototype coming in the form of the YAH-64, of which the variant provided for the Philippine Air Force coming from the DSCA notices will be in the form of the AH-64E "Apache Guardian" Attack Helicopter platform that in itself is the improvement over the AH-64D "Apache Longbow".

Speaking of the number of variants, there are also 17 types of the AH-64 Apache wherein it ranges from the improvements incorporated along with Boeing's development of these helicopters in production (AH-64A/B/C/D/E/F) as well as licensed production copies of the attack helicopter such as the ones built by AgustaWestland in the United Kingdom (WAH-64 Apache).

AH-1Z Viper, Philippine Air Force
The Philippine Air Force Attack Helicopter Project has other candidates
to compete with, such as the AH-1Z Viper (image above) along with
the Turkish Aerospace T-129 ATAK Helicopter. 
The Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force before the recent release of the notices made by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency or DSCA sticks to the two known candidates as discussed numerous times at this website, naming the Bell AH-1Z Viper (as shown on the image above) and the Turkish Aerospace Industries T-129 ATAK Helicopter.

These two candidates are primarily advantageous in the current offers to the Philippine Air Force as opposed to the AH-64E Apaches in terms of pricing, although things may change from there as negotiations on lowering the package may come on its way in a manner that it will get an even benefit between the supplier in terms of profit and for the end-user like the Philippine Air Force for its affordability within the allotted budget.

In the case of Bell and its AH-1Z Viper offer, its preference becomes notable as the company obtains a significant contribution for the Philippine Air Force's assets as they provided the UH-1 Hueys which is considered the mainstay of the service branch, the Bell 412 Combat Utility Helicopters, and the recently-added AH-1S Tzefa variant attack helicopters obtained from Jordan.

Despite those things, it is worth noting that the inclusion of the AH-64E Apache Helicopters in the list of options for the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project serves as additional consideration for the Philippine Air Force regarding the munitions that are included on the package provided on the DSCA notice as well as those for the AH-1Z Viper in a manner that the contents help leverage the decision making that considers the price, the logistics, the effectiveness and the capability these platforms bring to this military branch of the Philippine Armed Forces.

Take note that one of the candidates of the acquisition project, the T-129 ATAK Helicopter of the Turkish Aerospace Industries which in itself is a licensed copy of the Italian Leonardo A-129 Mangusta Attack Helicopter, faces a problem regarding its engine fit as it still requires export permission that is currently blocked by the United States in which it faces the risk of being fall out from the deal for the decision-makers to prefer another platform such as the AH-1Z Viper or the AH-64E Apache.

It is worth seeing the process along the way regarding the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force as the inclusion of the AH-64E Apache Advanced Attack Helicopter comes as an additional option to consider especially if things don't go smoothly in negotiating on other candidates for the procurement program.

The AH-64E, shall it be considered, may mean a lot for the Philippine Air Force in terms of capabilities as this helicopter platform comes with sophisticated subcomponents that are useful for its operations especially in terms of combat where close air support is needed, although things are not surprising on other candidates of the project as well given that it also obtains an advantage for the end-user to consider.

The United States Army AH-64D Apache Longbow. Obtained
via Wikimedia Commons [link here].
The Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force is currently under materialization phase although it is not surprising that the current pandemic as of this post writing attributes its delay in the same manner as other prospective procurement projects of the Armed Forces of the Philippines with its currently-running Revised AFP Modernization Program or R.A. 10349.

The number of candidates for the procurement project has now increased to three with the inclusion of the AH-64E Apache Helicopter as promoted by its manufacturer Boeing Defense along with two other platforms showcased here such as the Bell AH-1Z Viper which is the latest variant of the AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter Family and the Turkish Aerospace Industries' licensed copy of the A-129 Mangusta which is the T-129 ATAK Helicopter.

The package as provided by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency or DSCA on the prospective potential sale of the AH-64E Apache Guardian Advanced Attack Helicopter comes with sophisticated subcomponents and munitions where it provides a lot for the Philippine Air Force's capability especially in the firepower it provides in close air support operations, although it may get reduced upon thorough negotiations that may come with the deal.

Currently, the Bell AH-1Z Viper stands a chance for the acquisition project since it has commonality between other units in service with the Philippine Air Force aforementioned wherein the platforms produced by this company already served the military branch with the sense that it obtains a significant market share and also the reputation that comes with it in a manner that choosing such platform benefits logistical chains for MRO or Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul operations in the long run.

As for the T-129 ATAK Helicopter of the Turkish Aerospace Industries meanwhile, it is worth mentioning that a notice of award has already issued for the supplier while the contract is pending due to the highlighted concern over the helicopter's engine fit, citing potential delays on what is to be considered the most cost-effective option among the three candidates.

With the concerns and dilemmas that the Turkish Aerospace Industries faced with its T-129 ATAK Helicopter powerplants, it is worth be seen regarding the outcome of its issue in regards to the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force as it gives consideration for both the Bell AH-1Z Viper and Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian for its package, affordability, and capability as delays wreak havoc on the project timeline.

Let it be noted that this procurement project is for the Philippine Air Force to increase its dedicated attack helicopter fleet which augmented its existing light attack helicopters like the AW-109 Power as well as the operational MD-520 helicopters where it may get replaced eventually. These plans are to have better-equipped Armed Forces of the Philippines to carry out their sworn duties and responsibilities before the nation, for a minimum credible defense posture by the year 2028.

The Idea of Having Dedicated Hospital Ships in the Philippine Navy

Through the years, the Philippine Navy aspires of having a dedicated hospital ship along with their plans of acquiring multirole vessels or MRVs which was fruited into what is now considered the two current Landing Platform Docks that comprise the fleet's current setup.

Given the country's vulnerability from natural disasters coming into harm on any of its 7,000 plus islands that the whole nation is composed of, these platforms are something that is needed to address all of the concerns involving logistics and interim basic health platforms, of which this will be discussed in detail on the rest of this article writeup.

The KRI Semarang, a Semarang (Tarlac-designed)-class Landing
Platform Dock was designed to be a hospital ship in service
within the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL).
Image Source.
On the image seen above, we can see the KRI Semarang which is an active Indonesian Navy vessel that is designed as a Landing Platform Dock specialized more like a hospital ship with the Red Cross sign indicated on the vessel itself as it shows similarity in design with the original Makassar-class Landing Platform Docks serving in that same navy with the detailed ones deriving from the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks of the Philippine Navy.

Let it be noted that both the KRI Semarang and the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks are produced by the same shipbuilding industry which is named the PT PAL (stands for Pernatanan Angkatan Laut) which in itself is a state-owned shipbuilding company that usually supplies vessels for the Indonesian Navy, more known to its language as the Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Laut or abbreviated as TNI-AL.

This being said, gives an idea regarding the viability for the country in terms of having hospital ships such as the ones that Indonesia obtains wherein it goes helpful in dealing with the battle wounded especially that both the Philippines and Indonesia shares common similarity with regards to their respective geographic setup.

Add to that the vulnerability that the Republic of the Philippines is against natural calamities as it is usually being bombarded by series of Typhoons passing to the country year by year as it wreaks damage to properties as well as inflicting casualties and wounded to the affected citizenry, along with other calamities that also taking place in the country such as earthquakes that may render similar outcome against affected people in areas hit by these naturally-inflicted phenomena.

Now, as the time of this writing, comes another public health situation which is something that is being addressed and mitigated in a sense that it also interconnects with the idea of it being part of national defense in a sense that each individual's health safety is important especially in the light of a pandemic.

It is with a public health crisis that an idea of having hospital ships in a navy fleet is seeing its utmost potential as it may not only help wounded personnel get treated and eventually being returned back into action but also providing additional support in areas that additional medical attention with regards to facilities that may go accommodate a lot of sick people.

On this topic, we will discuss the details regarding the idea that surrounds hospital ships, as well dwelling on the perspectives on its operations serving several nations' navies that obtain such kind of vessels as well as on its application in the localized, Philippine setting as on its use which is worth determining across varying degrees and in areas that may find such platforms needed.

As part of curbing the coronavirus threat, the Philippines' 2GO Shipping
Lines provided its vessels for offshore quarantine use.
Image Source.
With the pandemic now filling more hospital beds especially in the case of counted persons under monitoring (abbreviated as PUM) or asymptomatic people who came home from outside the country with some coming from areas that the disease was widespread, ideas of using private Roll-on Roll-off (RORO) vessels as quarantine vessels came into mind.

That is the case for the country's 2GO Group wherein they, along with the Department of Transportation or DOTr converted two of its large passenger ships into such vessels in which it will be designed to accommodate these people from overseas which increases the capacity in terms of treating patients as well as doing their part in terms of containing the virus from the rest of the citizenry for it to be extinguished.

Given the ship's size and capacity, one gives an idea regarding the potential of having such a vessel of that scale in the Philippine Navy wherein it has got a topic from the heyday of the service branch's Strategic Sealift Vessel or SSV program as similarity shows along the way with regards to the originally-RORO based SSV program and the then-Landing Platform Dock based Multirole Vessel or MRV program.

With the built of such ships, Landing Platform Docks like those in Indonesia with its South-Korean designed Makassar-class LPDs and the Philippines with its large naval ships (Tarlac-class) derived from it is designed and constructed in similar commercial standards as the ships operated by the country's shipping lines like 2GO where it is something that goes correlated to the current functions of the aforementioned shipping line's two Roll-on Roll-off vessels as quarantine platforms to the dedicated Hospital Ships like what Indonesia currently obtains.

It is here that the idea of prospective dedicated hospital ships or an additional multipurpose landing platform dock is seen as worth considering given that it may help provide that needed capability for the Philippine Navy not only with regards to treating the wounded offshore and providing medical care in areas that lack facilities for the health of the people but also with regards of giving that additional capacity especially in times such as a worse calamity that hit a country.

Moreover, it also gives some insight in terms of having reserve capacity through tapping civilian vessels coming from shipping lines like 2GO as it may go handy in these dire times as well as in other areas of concern where it is needed as it augments and complements large platforms that the Philippine Navy obtains where various roles from sealift operations to these medical platforms doing the job at hand.

Hence, with the pandemic-related situation at the mind as well as future natural calamities and conflicts getting along as a consideration, here goes the idea of having large vessels like the current Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks of the Philippine Navy as well as it being augmented of large, similar ships with several of those being dedicated as offshore hospital platforms that takes care of the wounded and the sick in areas needed.

KRI Dr. Soeharso, KRI Tanjung Tapele, TNI-AL.
Indonesia's first Landing Platform Dock which is now a Hospital Ship,
KRI Dr. Soeharso. 
Image Source.
One may ask: How come we are discussing the Indonesian Navy (Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Tentara Laut)'s hospital ships where the main topic covers the idea of having such said vessels in the Philippine Navy? The answer lies in the mere fact that aside from being close neighbors with each other, both of these nations share the same geographical setup being an archipelago as they share many island groups with their respective inhabitants.

And in the case of Indonesia, they obtain a significant number of hospital ships in their Naval fleet which in a sense may provide the idea to the Philippines on obtaining similar vessels as the country is prone to Typhoons with occasional occurrence of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions as well as having a double in terms of carrying capacity that involves wounded personnel along with the usual capabilities of conducting amphibious operations given that its design functions at double as a landing platform dock.

Most of these Indonesian Navy Landing Platform Docks, as well as Hospital Ships, were either produced in South Korea such as in the case of the KRI Dr. Soeharso Hospital Ship and the Makassar-class Landing Platform Docks and in Indonesia through its shipbuilder PT PAL Persero who built the Banjarmasin-class and Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks wherein the design cues were derived from the South Korean shipbuilding companies that built such ships to the Indonesian Navy fleet like the Dae Sun Shipbuilding and Engineering Co.

Currently, the Indonesian Navy obtains six Landing Platform Docks with two specialized on its function as a Hospital Ship like as mentioned, giving an idea to the extent of the country's naval logistics capabilities exhibited with these ships along with other types of vessels in their services such as their Teluk Bintuni-class Landing Ship Tank Vessels and the Telik Gilimanuk-class Landing Ship Medium which comes at numbers on their current fleet composition.

The numbers that the Indonesians have in terms of their logistics fleet, especially on their Landing Platform Docks with several of those specialized into Hospital Ships, are larger than the numbers that the Philippine Navy currently has in service, something which gives it an idea to add more platforms for logistics as well as for offshore medical purposes.

Read more: The Necessity of Having Military Cargo Platforms for Logistics and HADR Operations - January 26, 2020.

So, with the Indonesians having such kind of platform in their nation that also consists of islands like the Philippines gives the leverage on the rationale that surrounds this idea in a sense that with the vulnerable geographic position that the country sits in, obtaining such platforms may support the efforts of an area affected by natural calamities to get immediate help which is followed by a long process of recovery.

USS Benewah, RPS Hospital ng Tulungan
The Philippine Navy, on its history, obtained a hospital ship named
RPS Hospital ng Tulungan which was a former USS Benewah, a barracks
ship of the Philippine Navy built after the Second World War.
Image Source.
The plans on having such assets are not surprising, given that the Philippine Navy also obtained a hospital ship in the 1970s which bears the name "RPS Hospital ng Tulungan" which is essentially the former U.S. Navy Barracks ship named as the USS Benewah (APB-35), a 100-meter long vessel wherein it served in action on both Korean and Vietnam wars.

Currently, the Philippine Navy is sticking to its plans of procuring two more Landing Platform Docks under the procurement program named the Landing Docks Acquisition Project wherein it will supplement the first two large Tarlac-class vessels in the fleet, complying with the requirement of having at least four (4) Strategic Sealift Vessels or Landing Platform Docks actively serving the military branch by the year 2028, a goal set in the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines with its current Modernization Program.

More unto that, the government recently also repurpose the presidential yacht into a medical ship which is in itself shows an indication of a need for such a vessel during a crisis, although there are some notes worth considering that an offshore vessel such as a medical ship may also render as that very catalyst for a disease or a pandemic like the COVID-19 to spread on the people onboard which may get discussed as this article gets along.

Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks like the BRP Tarlac LD-601 and BRP Davao del Sur LD-602 obtain a dedicated hospital facility as part of its configuration as a primary platform utilized by the Navy for Search and Rescue operations, giving an idea to its multirole capabilities as intended from the original Multirole Vessel or MRV program up to the revised Strategic Sealift Vessel project which produced the Tarlac-class vessels in a manner that it is meant to be utilized on deploying troops and equipment during wartime while catering the wounded and supplying relief goods to those in need during natural calamities that have prevalent in the country.

It will not be that surprising either in the case of the Landing Docks Acquisition Project wherein it shares attributes with the Tarlac-class vessels, rendering these platforms as a primary benchmark for the Philippine Navy to embark on the project with similarities or improvements being implied on these prospective platforms over existing ones with the capability of having configured as a hospital ship or obtaining such facilities onboard as part of its Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response capabilities.

Just to take some notes on the prospect planning for the service branch's plans for having a Hospital Ship on its fleet, an article from Jakarta Post which was posted July 15, 2017, provided insight regarding the purchase of at least three more Strategic Sealift Vessels with two apparently being materialized at present under the Landing Docks Project and another one dedicated for a hospital ship as discussed here which totals the number of Landing Platform Docks projected in the fleet to around five (5) units.

That renders four multirole landing platform docks doing both amphibious operations and support for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response or HADR with one vessel dedicated apparently for a medical ship whose primary purpose is on the capacity of getting wounded personnel in combat immediate medical attention along with the role as a complementary platform for HADR as land-based hospitals may render as either overcapacity or damaged during a calamity.

USNS Comfort, New York City, Statue of Liberty, 9/11
An image of the USNS Comfort deployed in New York during the 9/11
attacks. Almost a decade later, the same ship will be deployed in

the area as part of coping up against the pandemic.

(c) US Navy Photo by 1st Class Preston Keres, via Navy Live website.
While having hospital ships in a fleet is seen as an ideal thing in terms of getting wounded military frontline personnel taking care of and for humanitarian assistance/disaster response kind of deployment, it is not always the case in a manner that the disadvantages of having them are also worth discussing, getting on weighing the pros and cons for obtaining these platforms in a situation.

The risk that faces the threat of treating infected individuals on board a hospital ship is on how contagious the platform has become to the extent that it also spreads to other individuals such as the crews onboard just like in the case of a cruise ship named the Diamond Princess that infected many passengers onboard in Japan or in the case of ever-capable Aircraft Carriers such as the French Flagship Charles de Gaulle and the United States Navy's USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Carl Vinson with their own share of crew infections.'

Having these infections onboard a luxurious vessel or even the most powerful asset that a nation's navy utilizes shows a lot about the formidability of this medical threat in a sense that it hampers defense operations in a manner that the same may apply on any other vessel such as a hospital ship and its crew that may render its duty in coping up against the coronavirus pandemic.

One scenario involving the crew of a hospital ship being infected is the USNS Mercy (TAH-19) in which several of the personnel assigned onboard were discovered positive for the coronavirus, something that is worth noted regarding the measures on dealing infected onboard especially on the ventilation systems as a vessel lacking such airflow may render its susceptibility in infecting more people onboard - rendering the commanding officer to have the hospital personnel onboard to disembark the vessel as part of their measure to contain any further prospective infections on the medical ship.

These things only show how contagious a ship will be for putting infected patients onboard wherein without any measures will place may render it as a multiplier of cases as that measure makes things a bit more harmful than the benefit that the vessels are to be benefited in the first place especially in the case of hospital ships.

The BRP Tarlac itself, being multipurpose in nature
may also serve as a hospital ship with its medical
facilities onboard the ship.
One idea regarding the alternatives for a hospital ship is in line with the additional two vessels under the Landing Docks Acquisition Project, as well as the first two vessels under the original SSV program wherein these ships are both configured on their original multirole operations, applicable for both combat and HADR situations.

In the case of the current pandemic, multiple nations deployed their respective vessels of different classes such as the Mistral Landing Helicopter Docks of France for its overseas departments, the UK with its Auxillary Ship Argus to the Caribbean, and the Netherlands with its Karel Doorman Landing Platform Dock to its domain.

That only shows that multirole vessels of any sort such as the aforementioned platforms above may also get hand in hand for operation overseas, wherein large vessels like Landing Platform Docks may also serve wounded troops on board in case of combat in a manner that medical facilities are provided and will cater personnel with care as it is essential to preserve manpower needed to fight another day.

From there, it is seen that said platforms that are not dedicatedly designed as a hospital ship in the first place may also render such functions in a sense that it gives the full sense of being a multirole vessel, dismissing an idea for a dedicated hospital ship altogether. 

Nevertheless, having hospital ships are something that comes with increased bed capacity and additional medical facilities that may help augment the capacities that multirole Landing Platform Docks like the Tarlac-class obtained and designed for.

It is in this knowledge and idea that hospital ships may have come along with the idea of adding more logistics platform like the Landing Platform Docks in a manner that both may go hand in hand together on terms that involve deploying a large number of troops in the battleground while gathering wounded personnel on the way, as well as getting similar things in terms of natural calamities and humanitarian assistance.

BRP Davao del Sur, Landing Platform Dock, Philippine Navy, PT Pal Indonesia.
BRP Davao del Sur on a drydock during its construction in
PT PAL facility is situated in Surabaya, Indonesia.
The plans for having hospital ships have already existed in the Philippine Navy since the 1970s with the RPS Hospital ng Tulungan, and it is definitely not surprising if this maritime component of the Armed Forces of the Philippines reconsiders it in the time that it also procures additional Landing Platform Docks in its fleet.

Obtaining such dedicated assets may define a lot for the morale of the troops in combat as it gives them the assurance that there will be an offshore hospital ship standing by for the troops in the frontline in case they ended up terribly wounding, preferably saving more lives with its accessibility while retaining the manpower needed for these troops to fight another day.

Indonesia with its several hospital ships serving its fleet may serve as a nice preference for the Philippine Navy to have in terms of obtaining such assets where its function further augment the capacity of any prospective ships in the fleet in catering wounded people in combat and also being a mainstay platform in areas affected by natural calamities such as earthquakes and typhoons that the country is vulnerable of.

However, it is worth noting that additional multirole vessels such as two more units of Landing Platform Docks on its current project may obtain that capability as these vessels usually come with a medical facility onboard that doubles the vessel's role in a way that reduces the relevance of having a dedicated vessel like a hospital ship.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen as to the plans of the service branch on these dedicated platforms as to whether it will push through or not as it goes along with the procurement of additional Landing Platform Docks in the fleet, wherein plans call for 5 units of such large vessels in the fleet with one dedicated as a hospital ship.

It is on these plans that the Philippine Navy may see whether it gets materialized or not, as obtaining such assets may go as important as its other vessels serving in the fleet like the primary combat vessels of the Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessels and Jose Rizal-class Missile Frigates, in a manner that all of these plans may define a more capable organization along with other branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.




Total Pageviews To-Date

Webpage Visitors

Free counters!