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Understanding the Specifications of the HHI's Philippine Navy OPV

This acquisition project serves as the third one awarded to the South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries, after the Frigate Acquisition Project of the First Horizon which is now called the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, and the Corvette Acquisition Project, in which its design cues have derived from the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, with its design name being the HDC-3100.

While the offer made by the South Korean shipbuilder is something we've discussed here in Pitz Defense Analysis, there are some variations made to the offer provided to the Philippine Navy that deserve its own discussion, which is the main purpose of this article.

HDP-2400, Philippine Navy, Offshore Patrol Vessel, HHI
Hyundai Heavy Industries' Offshore Patrol Vessel offer to the Philippine Navy, which is an enlarged variant of the HDP-1500, and with increased tonnage. Hyundai Heavy Industries via Image Source.

Before the change in administration took place on June 30, 2022, the Department of National Defense sealed a deal with the South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries for the construction of six (6) Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Philippine Navy when both parties signed the contract that may stipulate the obligations of both the buyer and the seller involved, from delivery dates to the milestone payment schemes.

The allotted budget for the contract or ABC has amounted to Php 30 Billion, which is equivalent to Php 5 Billion per Offshore Patrol Vessel constructed by the South Korean shipbuilder, with the design of the vessels may get derived from the HDP-1500 Offshore Patrol Vessel design of Hyundai Heavy Industries, although there are noticeable changes in the design such as having a stretched hull of around 94.4 meters (see image above).

The stretched hull counts as an improvement over the 81-metered design of the original HDP-1500 Offshore Patrol Vessel offer by Hyundai Heavy Industries, and even better than Austal's 81.7 metered offshore patrol vessel offer, whereby the 94.4 metered vessel may provide additional space for future upgrades at the discretion of the Philippine Navy, with the option of making it formidable by adding weapons subcomponents onboard.

Former Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana said in this report that his office during that time did not allow the Offshore Patrol Vessel Acquisition Project to get dragged on until the next administration, as the Philippine Peso being at the disadvantage against the U.S. Dollar in the exchange rate, whereby it is at US$1.00 - Php 55.00 at the time this article has written, while the Offshore Patrol Vessel deal pegged at US$1.00 - Php 52.00 exchange rate.

Aside from an improvement in the hull design of the Offshore Patrol Vessels, the contract also provides a license for the Philippine Navy to manufacture or build using the design provided for this acquisition project exclusive for the Philippine government to use, which is basically a transfer of technology that may help push the shipbuilding portion of the Self-Reliance Defense Posture or SRDP.

The license or what we call as transfer of technology may help catalyst the push for Self-Reliance Defense Posture, which itself may go as the primary highlight for the Third Horizon of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program, whereby in-production of military hardware, innovation, and multiple transfers of technology are the highlight under this initiative.

Given that there are revisions in the design of the Philippine Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels, along with the clarity of information that has provided in the specifications of what Hyundai Heavy may soon provide for the Offshore Combat Force and the Philippine fleet in its entirety, we will discuss in-depth about the revisions in the design specifications, and also the features plus subcomponents that may find in these warships.

HDP-2400, Infographic, Philippine Navy, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Pitz Defense Analysis
Similar to the first image, a CGI from Hyundai Heavy Industries, now filled with additional information about the OPV's subcomponents, specifications, and dimensions, with data got from other defense outlets.

Pitz Defense Analysis Note: The infographic content provided is not totally complete at the time this article published, as there may be changes taking place in the design or in the subcomponents of the new Offshore Patrol Vessels of the Philippine Navy, whereby the references include the subsystems found onboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, as this makes sense from the logistical and commonality point of view.

Given the infographic above, we can see that there is a significant improvement in the overall design of the Offshore Patrol Vessel design as offered by Hyundai Heavy Industries to the Philippine Navy, as its size are larger than several of the existing warships in the fleet such as the BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), a Pohang-class Corvette from South Korea, formerly known as the ROKS Chungju (PCC-762).

Having a 94-meter length and 14.3-meter beam dimension, the Offshore Patrol Vessels have sufficient spaces for future upgrades such as a weapons fit for anti-ship missiles and torpedo launchers, making it formidable enough and may get re-categorized as light corvettes, although these things will come at the discretion of the Philippine Navy as an end-user, whether these add-ins are necessary to the ship's capability.

Known subcomponents such as the 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid Main Gun, MBDA Simbad-RC Missile Launchers for Mistral short surface-to-air missiles, and ASELSAN SMASH 30mm Remote-Controlled Weapons System (RCWS) are also available onboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, whereby it made sense from logistical and commonality point of view, giving Philippine Navy personnel an advantage of streamlined maintenance for common spare parts, and on operational use that it does not require taking a learning curve in utilizing these weapons systems.

Also, the ships came with 2 units of long-range acoustic device or LRAD per vessel, whereby it can use as a sound-based weapon that can disable insurgents at sea like pirates from doing threatening things that put harm on the sea lanes, or as a warning for other vessels that approach a naval vessel to change course using its high-decibel sound it emits while avoiding the use of lethal force against any threatening vessel.

With 2,400tons, these Offshore Patrol Vessels may not count as the HDP-1500 design, which only has 1,500tons as originally offered by Hyundai Heavy Industries to the Philippine Navy, but these warships instead may now consider as the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessel design, as the enlarged hull and increased tonnage makes it distinct and different from the HDP-1500 design albeit that the HDP-2400 has clearly derived itself from the HDP-1500 design.

Now that we have an infographic overview of the subsystems found on-board the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels of the Philippine Navy, we will discuss several of these systems in-depth, including the ones that are available onboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigates that are not yet being tackled here in Pitz Defense Analysis website as additional information will provide an insight to the capabilities of these naval vessels.

GOKDENIZ, ASELSAN, OPV, HDP-2400, Philippine Navy, Offshore Patrol Vessel
This is one product that the Turkish weapons company produces, aside from the GOKDENIZ 35mm CIWS.
(c) ASELSAN, via Image Source.

These 30mm Secondary Gun Systems are from a Turkish-based defense company ASELSAN, the same company that produces the 35mm GOKDENIZ Close-In Weapons System or CIWS that the Philippine Navy HDC-3100 Corvettes may now soon be having in the wide array of weapons subcomponents fitted in a ship, and also the one that has similar remotely controlled weapons system or RCWS fitted onboard the Jose Rizal Frigates.

The SMASH Remote-Controlled Weapons System comes with a 30mm Mk. 44 Bushmaster II Auto-cannon as its main firepower component, itself being a weapon that is widely adopted into multiple armies and navies across the world, coming with an impressive rate of 200 rounds per minute, whereby it is being used by several military platforms like the British Royal Navy's Type 23 Frigate through the DS30M Mark 2 Automated Small Caliber Gun.

Like any Mk.44 Bushmaster II weapon mounts, ASELSAN SMASH Remote-Controlled Weapons System benefits to the dual feed system that made the impressive 200 rounds per minute firing possible, while having a stabilized system that enables the controller to fire at a target that poses a threat on the ship without the worry on accuracy that is typically affected by waves of different sea states.

As ASELSAN advertise it in their brochure and we quote, "SMASH is a Remote Controlled Naval Gun System fitted with a 30 mm gun integrated on a stabilized pedestal with independent Electro-Optic Sight and surveillance mode (without aiming the gun)", they depicted that this gun system has a sophisticated feature that can monitor the warship's surroundings in its line of sight even without using the gun turret, making it less noticeable for any vessel in its line of sight that they are being monitored.

Regarding its service within the Philippine Navy, the personnel onboard BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) used its ASELSAN 30mm Remote-Controlled Weapons System in a gunnery exercise, alongside its 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid Main Gun and a 0.50mm machine gun mounts as it aimed its targets deployed by the Royal Canadian Navy Frigate HCMS Winnipeg (FFH-338) at-sea during RIMPAC 2022 exercise.

The gunnery exercises that the BRP Antonio Luna took part during RIMPAC 2022 exercise off the coast of the Hawaiian islands made it one of the best naval vessels as it landed third in the Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) Rodeo, showing the firing accuracy that the crew has while utilizing the ship's weapons system, including the Turkish ASELSAN SMASH 30mm Secondary Gun System.

BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151)'s award in the gunnery exercises and the experiences they have during the at-sea phase of RIMPAC 2022 may help its crew share important skill-sets that may help the people in the Philippine Navy to further hone the use of its key weapons systems onboard their naval vessels sufficiently, whereby accurate operations for the Turkish-developed Remote-Controlled Weapons Systems System are more effective in a skillful hand of a well-trained naval personnel.

MBDA, Mistral, SIMBAD-RC, VL-MICA, Philippine Navy, HDP-2400
Here's what to be the minimal anti-air defense systems of the Offshore Patrol Vessels. (c) MBDA Systems.

While the Jose Rizal-class Frigates got these short anti-air missile mounts as an augmentation measure for both its Fitted For But Not With (FFBNW) components, such as the Close-In Weapons System or CIWS and Vertical Launch System or VLS, the Offshore Patrol Vessels that the Philippine Navy may soon have, may render these platforms as a necessity for its own air defense measures.

It is an understandable thing, given that Offshore Patrol Vessels by design are not more combative, as compared to its Frigate and Corvette counterparts that have typically installed with sophisticated subsystems such as the ones just mentioned, designed to have a descent air defense system that aimed to protect a warship against any incoming airborne threats such as a missile or an incoming unmanned aerial system or aircraft.

The SIMBAD-RC missile launcher installed onboard the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels has designed with the Mistral MANPADS in mind, whereby it can get operated by one or two naval personnel, as it has the range of fire at around 6 kilometers whereas it has an altitude of fire at around 3 kilometers, fitting into its description as a SHORAD or short-range air defense platform.

Unlike the typical Mistral MANPADS or Man-Portable Air Defense Systems that typically came with a single Mistral missiles fit, the SIMBAD-RC missile launcher comes with two Mistral 'fire-and-forget' missiles as what this brochure from MBDA describes it, especially that its sophisticated high-technology tracking system comes as an infrared homing seeker that enables the missiles that are fully automated during flight.

The essentials of a homing seeker make it simple for the operator of the SIMBAD-RC missile launcher to use, as the learning curve is not steep for any assigned naval personnel in taking up a training in operating the VSHORAD or very short air defense system, and as what MBDA brochure describes it once again, that such systems do not require a fire control system similar on what is typically being paired on the 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid Main Gun.

The SIMBAD-RC missile launcher itself comes fully automatic, as it can get remotely controlled through a terminal, going similar to the ASELSAN SMASH 30mm Remote-Controlled Weapons Systems or RCWS, making all the weapons systems onboard an HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels automatically operated, minimizing exposure of naval personnel from gunfire.

A simple anti-air defense system as the SIMBAD-RC for Mistral missile system is fairly essential for an Offshore Patrol Vessel that lacks sufficient air defense system as the HDP-2400 design provided by the South Korean shipbuilder to the Philippine Navy, as these simple-to-use systems gives a sufficient cover against minute threats coming from the sky, as these warships has designed to patrol the country's waters.

LRAD, HDP-2400, Philippine Navy
Different models of LRAD Systems.  Image Source.

While the first two subsystems are a common thing within the Philippine Navy, especially that it is also available onboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigate, this one is an entirely unique system found onboard the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels, as this primarily serve as a non-lethal weapon system aimed at warding off other vessels that are within the perimeter of these warships.

This comes handy in dealing with maritime crimes that are rampant in areas such as the ones in Sulu Sea, whereby it counts as a hotspot for kidnapping, ship hijacking, and any other forms of piracy that need to resolve by the country as this hampers the peace and security situation in the area, especially for commercial and fishing vessels that traverse the sea that borders the Philippines and Malaysia.

Talking about piracy, the Long Range Acoustic System or LRAD has credited for warning of pirates in an area off coast of Somalia, as a cruise ship used this nonlethal weapon system that emits a beam of sound that drove these harmful people away from the ship, averting what could be a highly risky situation that the ship, its crew, and the passengers onboard being hostage by Somali pirates.

An LRAD unit works by emitting a beam of sound, sound that is so loud that it is audible for long distances, fully appropriate for the Philippine Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels in communicating to other vessels that are lacking with radio equipment, or sending a warning on other vessels to veer course if it get close to the warships, aside from the mentioned deterrence against piracy and other maritime crimes using the LRAD's unbearable noise emitter.

With a weapon system like a LRAD, this may help the Philippine Navy HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels in conducting operations in such porous waters, as this gives them an additional weapon option, with this one not requiring the use any of its live munitions and weapons subsystems found onboard the ship, and instead use the same in more dire situations that may justify the use of such lethal weapons.

Also, this weapon system adds more to the capability of the Offshore Patrol Vessels in the sense that these ships can effectively patrol other areas of the Philippine archipelago that have little worrying threat from external forces, enabling more capable combatants like the Jose Rizal-class Frigates and the HDC-3100 Corvettes that the Philippine Navy also ordered from South Korea get deploy on areas with more concern such as the West Philippine Sea as China's aggression is always of constant threat in that area.

Simply put, it is welcoming that the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels that the Philippine Navy may get years from now comes with this feature, as this is helpful in areas aforementioned that its concern hampers the peace and security in the country's Sulu and Celebes Sea areas, while assuring that deterring these threats promote economic development that benefit the country in its entirety.

HDP-2400, BRP Teresa Magbanua, PCG, Philippine Coast Guard, PN, Philippine Navy
BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV-9701) is 3.4 meters longer than the HDP-2400 OPVs. (c) binmei.jp, via Reddit.

Comparing to the original HDP-1500 Neo design provided by Hyundai Heavy Industries as part of its Offshore Patrol Vessel portfolio, the HDP-2400 has presented as an improvement in terms of tonnage provided, as well as with its hull size, whereby the length increased by 13.4 meters, while the breadth has increased by at least 1.2 meters, making it larger to afford future upgrades.

In comparison, the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels are in any way larger than the Jacinto-class Patrol Vessels (JCPVs) of the Philippine Navy, whereby these former Peacock-class Patrol Vessels of the British Royal Navy have a length of around 62 meters and breadth of around 10 meters, whilst having a tonnage of only around 712 tons, showing how far the Philippine fleet has improved now with improved warship designs.

Aside from the Jacinto-class Patrol Vessels or JCPVs, the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels are also larger than the BRP Conrado Yap PS-39, a Pohang-class Corvette from South Korea that once served in the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) as ROKS Chungju (PCC-772), whereby it has a length of 88.3 meters, breadth of 10 meters, and a ship displacement of 1,200tons.

Let us take note that the South Koreans are offering an additional Pohang-class Corvette as a freebie under the Offshore Patrol Vessel Acquisition Project, aside from other provisions that include transfer of technology through the licensing of HDP-2400 design for the Philippine government to produce its vessels for domestic use, whereby these offers also helped Hyundai Heavy Industry in bagging the project of producing six Offshore Patrol Vessels to the Philippine Navy, beating competitors like Turkey's ASFAT OPV offer.

If there is something that can visualize about the size of the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels that the Philippine Navy gets in the next couple of years, that would roughly be the Teresa Magbanua-class Multirole Response Vessels or MRRVs that the Philippine Coast Guard currently has in service, a Kunigami-class designed vessel provided by Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co, Ltd through a Japanese ODA Loan.

Originally coming as a 94-meter Multirole Response Vessel for the Philippine Coast Guard, the Teresa Magbanua-class MRRVs came with a length of 96.6 meters and breadth of 11.5 meters, making it longer than the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels of the Philippine Navy but not that wide enough regarding its breadth, although both vessels are roughly similar in size within the 90-meter bracket despite having the minute differences mentioned.

Given that the Teresa Magbanua-class has considered as the largest vessel that the Philippine Coast Guard has to date, it is nice to see that the Philippine Navy may get more Offshore Patrol Vessels that are almost similar to its hull size, whereby both have the assets in making sure the country's Maritime Domain Awareness is getting more coverage, given the Philippine geography as an archipelagic nation.

HDC-3100, Hyundai Heavy Industries, ADAS 2022, Philippine Navy, Scale Model, Corvette Acquisition Project
A scale model of the HDC-3100 Corvette Design in ADAS 2022. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Philippine Navy's Offshore Patrol Vessel Acquisition Project is just one of the big-ticket projects of the said organization, wherein it comes along with the purpose of improving the capabilities of the Offshore Combat Force, as the whole naval service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is now shifting to modern naval vessels from the old, World War 2 era vessels that it decommissioned recently.

The HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessel design by Hyundai Heavy Industries may serve as another significant development regarding the capabilities of the Philippine Navy as compared to its condition in the early 2000s, whereby the most capable vessels during that time are the former Peacock-class, now Jacinto-class Patrol Vessels from British Royal Navy, with its 76mm Oto Melara Gun being the most sophisticated weaponry during that time.

Having these vessels is still important to the Philippine Navy, as these may provide a significant presence in other areas of the country's vast territorial waters, relieving more capable vessels that are more needed in areas such as the West Philippine Sea, giving an assurance that these waters are safe to traverse by commercial vessels, and for fishing vessels to catch fish as this serves as one among multiple lifelines of the country's food security.

With the size of the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessel design regarding its hull and tonnage, it has the huge potential for future upgrades, as the space may get any weapons subcomponent that the Philippine Navy has the fullest discretion to install onboard these vessels, ranging from anti-ship missile cannisters for the likes of SSM-700K C-Star Antiship missile, or torpedo launchers for the K-745 Blue Shark Torpedoes, both of which are available onboard other navy ships like the Jose Rizal-class Frigates.

Also, with the licensing agreements that allow the Philippines to build such ships within the country for local use, the South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries help provide a push for the country's Self-Reliance Defense Posture or SRDP, wherein it comes with the sense or revival under the Marcos administration, with improving the local defense industrial complex being one of their primary aims for the defense establishment.

With these developments coming on-hand, it is interesting to see how the Philippine Navy may look like for the next six (6) to eight (8) years from now, given that it may get filled with modern naval hardware as compared to its composition years ago, as the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines is doing in its whole effort to modernize its military hardware and capabilities into the modern age.

Now with Horizon 3 coming on its way, starting in the year 2023, it comes with the hopes and aspirations that the Philippine Navy may not stop into just gaining six units of Offshore Patrol Vessels, and instead adding more units into a sufficient number that are part of the country's effort into having a Minimum Credible Defense Posture, providing necessary deterrence for the country's defense against both internal and external threats that may put harm to the whole nation's sovereignty and national interest.

(c) 2022 PDA.

Additional FA-50PH For the Philippine Air Force?

The Philippine Air Force already possesses a squadron of these sophisticated air assets, which has proven a lot of its performance since it entered service just half a decade ago. Now, there are plans to buy at least another squadron of such aircraft, which some believes to be an alternative to the one of the big ticket acquisition projects of this said service branch.

Two of the twelve (12) FA-50PH that the Philippine Air Force currently has.
Image Source.

The Philippine Air Force is modernizing its squadrons of aircraft under the Flight Plan that it pushes until 2028, in-line with the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program, which has three Horizons for its different branches to accomplish. At the time this article published, the modernization effort is now under Horizon 2, which spans from 2018 to 2022.

Currently, under this horizon, the Philippine Air Force is pushing for at least a squadron of Multirole Fighter Jet under the acquisition program that bears the same name, aiming on having a capability that is a step higher than the Lead-In Fighter Trainers that the FA-50PH of the air branch is currently has in its squadrons of different aircraft. The project's ABC or Allotted Budget for the Contract is at 61.2 Billion Philippine Pesos.

The Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project is currently competing between Lockheed Martin's F-16 Block 70/72 and SAAB's JAS-39 Block C/D, which are both capable fighters aiming to be the backbone of the Philippine Air Force's air interdiction wing as part of its PADIZ implementation. Each has its own sets of problems presented that the Philippine Air Force sees it as an obstacle for the project itself.

For the Lockheed Martin's F-16 Block 70/72 offer, the major problem presented is with the package provided by the United States Government, through a release for the approval of sale in DSCA or the Defense Security Cooperation Agency website. The amount specified for the package pertaining to the F-16s is at US$2.43 Billion or 121.5 Billion Philippine Pesos. 

As for the SAAB's JAS-39 Gripen C/D variant, there is the recent news coming from Sweden that talks about the issues surrounding the sale of the aircraft to the country, pointing more to the Philippines' Human Rights Concerns that there are some groups of people within the Swedish Government that are ill-informed, although there are confirmations that the Philippines is pushing for a deal with the Swedish for these Multirole Fighter Jets.

With these concerns in consideration, we cannot dismiss the possibility that there might be chances that the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project may derail if things will not go to plan, although the chances that the said project will push through is now getting more likely as the government is working to complete and seal the deal within the year 2022 between two competing aerospace companies. 

Given the possibility, it is nice to present an additional to the Multirole Fighter Jet Program as the government is keen on pushing it through, with an idea of adding more FA-50PH that the Philippine Air Force already has in its fleet of aircraft being in the pipeline in achieving a High-Low mix of aircraft serving the Air Force's 5th Fighter Wing for implementing the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone or PADIZ.

Three FA-50PHs are in formation as they conduct a flyby for the country's 124th Independence Day Anniversary. (Joey O. Razon, Philippine News Agency)

Back to this article from the Philippine News Agency website, there were no specified details on how many units of the FA-50PH that the Philippine Air Force desires to add on its inventory of Lead-In Fighter Trainers or LIFT aircraft, although the original proposal for Surface Attack Aircraft/Lead-In Fighter Trainer aircraft under the original AFP Modernization Project (R.A. 7898) came with an idea of having at least 24 units for such type of aircraft in inventory.

Take note that for the Philippine Air Force, a single squadron of jets equates to have at least 12 units of aircraft in order to satisfy this requirement, so the original proposal under the Republic Act 7898 of the 1995 Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program should have at least two squadrons of such aircraft in its inventory, which in this case, is the FA-50PH that the air force currently has, with a single squadron currently in active service.

This means that following the said plans and proposals, the Philippine Air Force may need at least an additional 12 units of FA-50PH from South Korea's prime aerospace company 'Korea Aerospace Industries' or KAI in order to satisfy this requirement, which goes back to the article mentioned that PAF chief Lt. Gen. Connor Anthony Canlas Sr. said in his interview with the media on Monday about the proposal.

Other than that, the article mentioned Korea Aerospace Industries' plans to upgrade the capability of the FA-50s it currently produces, especially to increase its fuel capacity that increases its range especially on long-range operations and loitering time patrolling the airspace, while doing the same thing to its weapons carrying capacity, which makes it more formidable than it was when the Philippine Air Force first bought it from the South Korean aerospace company.

The said upgrade refers to the FA-50 Block 20 program started by Korea Aerospace Industries, which aims to improve capabilities of the aircraft, especially from the ones just mentioned regarding its carrying capacity, in what they aim to have fighter jet solution that is less expensive and seen as an alternative to multirole fighter jets like the F-16 Block 70 and JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D. See related article here.

The upgrade pushed by Korea Aerospace Industries makes sense, especially that the number of users of the T-50 Golden Eagle family has increased through time, with fellow countries in Southeast Asia like Indonesia and Thailand use them as fighter trainer aircraft for pilots in these said countries, given that they have the Multirole Fighter aircraft such as F-16 Falcon.

This consideration may become more relevant as more countries may get onboard the purchase of the Korean-made aircraft that has the same DNA as the Lockheed Martin F-16 Multirole Fighter and the South Korea's indigenous KF-21 Boramae 4.5th Generation Fighter Jet, which has started its first flight tests recently in a South Korean Air Force base in the southern city of Sacheon, in cooperation with South Korea's DAPA.

Poland is one country that recently signed a deal for FA-50s from South Korea's Korean Aerospace Industries or KAI. Image Source.

The FA-50 Light Combat Fighter Trainer jets of the Korean Aerospace Industries recently came with an interesting twist, especially regarding its customers that are currently having them in their respective inventories or in obtaining such type of jets, whereby they recently struck a deal with an Eastern European country and also a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO, the first one since the jet's inception.

The country we are referring to is the Eastern European country of Poland, in which its inventory currently has F-16 Falcon, aside from others such as the F-35 Lightning II Fighter Jets that the country ordered and its legendary Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29 Fighter jets that the Polish Air Force has the intention of replacing on, as these aircraft are increasingly difficult to maintain as spare parts became scarce.

Poland's contract process South Korea comes alongside the additional acquisition of at nearly a thousand (1,000) units of K2 Main Battle Tanks, whereby 180 units of it will produce in South Korea while the rest, at around 800 units, will get produced in Polish weapons factories at the second phase of the deal starting 2026, effectively giving the Polish Armed Forces the largest acquisition deal to date regarding armored units.

This deal does not cease here, as Poland also has an acquisition deal involving K9 Thunder Self-Propelled Howitzer by Hanwha Defense, in which 648 pieces of such military hardware have ordered by the aforementioned Eastern European country, benefiting both Poland and South Korea in the process as the former now fielding more weapons than ever and the latter getting significant gains at the sales point of view.

Effectively, additional sales for the FA-50 fighter trainer jets help increase the source of spare parts needed in maintenance that ensures that such platforms are operational, especially in the likes of the Philippine Air Force that currently has at least 12 of such FA-50 LIFTs in its inventory, as well as the prospects of getting an improved variant of the jets (Blocks 10 and 20) like what the Polish FA-50s may get along the way.

Speaking of the FA-50PL, the Block 10 comes with the British IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) Mark XIIA Mod 5/S, whilst the Block 20 comes with an AESA or airborne electronically scanned array radar, Sniper targeting pod, and Link 16 Datalink that makes it more of a capable fighter than the ones that the Philippine Air Force currently fielding, making the idea of adding more FA-50s a viable option on its own.

This makes sense as the leadership within the Philippine Air Force expressed its interest in having at least 24 FA-50 Lead-in Fighter Trainer Jets in its inventory, whilst keeping an assertion on finalizing the decision for the acquisition of Multirole Fighter Jets, which is an entirely separate acquisition project of the Philippine Air Force that is now competing between F-16 Block 70/72 and JAS-39 Gripen C/D jets.

South Korean FA-50s dropping unguided munitions. Image Source.

One thing that the chief of the Philippine Air Force said in this interview in relation to the plans of adding more advanced variants of FA-50PH in their inventory, especially for its sub-units like the 5th Fighter Wing to use, is that these South Korean-made lead-in fighter trainer jets have an "almost multi-role" capability, whereby it can conduct air-to-ground operations, as well as it can conduct air-to-air operations.

While it has the capability that may mimic the Multirole Fighter Jets, the Philippine Air Force is seeking advanced dedicated multirole fighters like the F-16 Block 70/72 and the JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D of Lockheed Martin and SAAB, respectively, clearly showing that these light combat jets have intended for pilots to train and familiarize a system that may get introduced later on, through a separate acquisition project.

This comes similarly with Poland, wherein they opt to buy FA-50s for its air force, as the FA-50s they purchased from South Korea has similarities with the F-16 Fighting Falcons that the Polish Air Force already has in its inventory, and the upcoming F-35 Lightning II Fighter Jets the Polish Armed Forces purchased from Lockheed Martin, as the first units ordered may get delivered on the first batches by the year 2024.

Speaking of the capabilities that the Philippine Air Force FA-50PH Lead-In Fighter Trainers possess, these said light fighter trainer jets have used in an actual conflict such as the 2018 Marawi siege, whereby it has coined by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Gen. Carlito Galvez as a 'game-changer' when the exchange of gunfire between the government forces and the radical group took place, providing that highly needed close air support to the troops on the ground.

Aside from utilizing the FA-50s in an actual conflict such as the 2018 Marawi siege, the Philippine Air Force also used them in conducting bilateral exercises with the United States Air Force, such as the Bilateral Air Contingent Exchange-Philippines (BACE-P), whereby these lead-in fighter trainers, along with the pilots onboard are going head-on with the modern F-16s that their U.S. counterparts brought along.

Add to this is the desire of the current Marcos administration to keep on pushing and pursuing the Modernization of the Philippine Armed Forces under the Republic Act 10349 that has started by his two predecessors, especially that he expressed his support on equipping the Philippine Air Force with the "state-of-the-art" fighter jets, of which the FA-50PHs counts as under this category alongside Multirole Fighter Jets awaiting award to the preferable bidder.

Hence, the possibility of the plans for acquiring additional FA-50PH for the Philippine Air Force is not that far, with newer variants providing additional capabilities for this branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to do, albeit not enough for it to be considered as an alternative of the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, whereby this program is still ongoing at the time this article's publishing.

FA-50PH of the Philippine Air Force taking off from an airbase. (c) PAF, via Image Source.

The Philippine Air Force, along with other service branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, such as the Philippine Army and the Philippine Navy, are working and pursuing in all of their effort to push the desire of further Modernizing the capabilities of each mentioned, ranging from reorganizing their respective their sub-units to the acquisition of large ticket military assets like the FA-50PH Lead-in Fighter Trainer.

Speaking of the FA-50PH of the Philippine Air Force, it marked as the jet that helped the organization returning to the jet age, after a decade that the last of the F-5 A/B has decommissioned from service in 2005, whereby it served the 5th Fighter Wing for 40 years, when it was first entered service in 1965 and has served as the primary platform for the Blue Diamond aerobatic team.

Currently, the Philippine Air Force has at least 12 units of FA-50PH, whereby it comprises as a single squadron by this service branch, with their current desire to add at least 12 more units, or another squadron of FA-50PH that came as an advanced variant that the Korean Aerospace Industries or KAI currently markets to different countries, with Poland, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, being its latest customer.

Apparently, with Poland, one reason they opt the South Korean made FA-50s for replenishing their inventory of fighter aircraft after decommissioning their MiG-29s is the increasing waiting orders for the F-16 Viper Block 70/72 Multirole Fighter Jet that could have been to increase the number of the existing F-16s Poland currently have, a concern also shared by the planners within the Philippine Air Force when they talk about the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, itself an entirely different project than the one about additional FA-50s.

Despite the long queues, Lockheed Martin and the United States government are still pitching their F-16 Block 70/72 offer to the Philippine Air Force, as it competes with the JAS-39 Gripen C/D Multirole Fighter Jet from Swedish Aerospace Manufacturer SAAB, whereby there is an argument that both the F-16 Fighter Jets and the FA-50s that the Philippine Air Force currently has shared commonalities on its ecosystem.

And to take note, the Philippine Air Force are both pursuing for a Multirole Fighter Jet and additional FA-50s on its inventory, with each having 12 units or what is to be equivalent to a single squadron within the air service branch, whereby the former may serve as a dedicated platform that secure the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone or PADIZ, while the latter primarily serve as a training platform, doubling as a light combat aircraft, a force multiplier to the Multirole Fighter Jet.

In the end, it would be at the discretion of the leadership within the Philippine Air Force, together with those within the Department of National Defense, whether the acquisition plan to purchase more FA-50PH may push through, as the government may get to prepare to what the Third Horizon may bring by year 2023, with itself coming with larger big ticket projects intended for the improvement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its overall capabilities until the year 2028.

(c) 2022 PDA.

The Philippine Navy's Landing Docks Acquisition Project

Since the start of implementing the Revised AFP Modernization Program or the Republic Act 10349 way back in 2013, the Philippine Navy were in the works of improving its fleet of warships, ranging from obtaining additional Frigates, Corvettes, and even Offshore Patrol Vessels sought to replace its old World War 2 vessels, most of which already retired at the time of this article's writeup.

One of those implemented is the Strategic Sealift Vessel or the SSV program, sought to buy 2 Landing Platform Docks to the Philippine Navy, whereby they successfully provided the deal that produced such naval vessels of what is now known as the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks.

The Philippine Navy will have two more of such type of naval vessels, under an entirely different acquisition project known as the "Landing Docks Acquisition Project".

BRP Tarlac, Philippine Navy, PT PAL Persero, Landing Platform Dock
The new design of the PT PAL's prospective Landing Platform Dock, with a sleeker design.
It closely resembles the Philippine Navy's Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks.
(c) PT PAL Persero Indonesia, YouTube.

Six years ago, in 2016, the year when the Pitz Defense Analysis website was still in its infancy, the Philippine Navy's newest Landing Platform Dock BRP Tarlac LD-601 has christened and launched as a newest vessel of the Philippine fleet in Indonesia's PT PAL drydock, wherein it took place January of that year, with the projected delivery of the Landing Platform Dock to the country will take place five months from the said event.

Just as projected, the newest Landing Platform Dock in the Philippine Navy, as well as the largest Philippine Navy-owned vessel to date, arrived in Manila's Pier 13 in May 2016, exactly a year before BRP Tarlac's sister ship, BRP Davao del Sur, arrived in the country whereby it marked the completion of the Philippine Navy's Strategic Sealift Vessel Acquisition Project, aiming to buy at least two Landing Platform Docks for the fleet.

Since then, both of the aforementioned landing platform docks that form the Tarlac-class are currently serving the Philippine Navy in their full capacity, serving in delivery of goods and personnel both in times of war and natural calamities, such as transporting military personnel from the conflict in the 2017 Marawi Siege or the delivery of relief goods to the victims affected by the devastation of Typhoon Odette in Siargao island.

Years later, up to the date this article has published, the Philippine Navy has once again provided the contract to have another two Landing Platform Docks in its fleet to the Indonesian shipbuilder, with its design being reminiscent of the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks, which in return derived from the South Korean Makassar-class Landing Platform Docks in the Indonesian Navy, supplied by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering or DSME.

With the current Landing Docks Acquisition Project awarded to the Indonesian shipbuilder PT PAL Persero, this will mark the second contract being awarded to a shipbuilder from a neighboring country in the Southeast Asia Region for the production and delivery of two Landing Platform Docks, adding it up to at least four (4) of such warships that the Philippine Navy will have, all of which made by from this company.

This comes as Indonesia already has its own capable military-industrial complex, such as building its own naval assets under license like the Martadinata-class Frigates, whereby its design has derived from the SIGMA 10514 of Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding from the Netherlands, or the Nagapasa-class submarines of the Indonesian Navy, wherein like the Makassar-class, has derived from a design supplied by DSME known as the improved Chang Bogo-class submarines (DSME-1400).

In this topic, we will discuss in-depth this acquisition project and a similar acquisition project that came before it, especially with the construction of both BRP Tarlac and BRP Davao del Sur and its service within the Philippine Navy included in this article, as well as the history of the Indonesian shipbuilder that produces these landing platform docks and the development that came with the design of the ships that came to be what it is today.

PT PAL Indonesia, Philippine Navy, Landing Docks
PT PAL's main headquarters in Surabaya, East Java in Indonesia. 
By Consigliere Ivan from Bontang, Indonesia - PT PAL Jan 2018, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75609590

Based on the company profile that PT PAL has provided on its website in this link provided (archived), it started in 1939 when the Dutch colonial government that has its domain over the Indonesia during those times has inaugurated a shipyard named as Marine Establishment, wherein the Indonesian shipbuilder described it as the mark that PT PAL as a shipbuilder established.

During the Second World War, it is a well-known information that Indonesia, along with other countries in Southeast Asia, was under the control and occupation of the forces from the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces, whereby during this period, they took over the Dutch-inaugurated Marine Establishment and change the shipbuilder's name from such to Kaigun SE 2124.

Upon the Independence achieved by the Indonesians when they first declare it on August 17, 1945, up to its recognition by the Dutch government four years later in 1949, they nationalized Marine Establishment as a shipbuilder into what is now PAL, abbreviated as Penataran Angkatan Laut or "Navy shipyard" as translated from Bahasa Indonesia, with its aim focused on maintaining Indonesian naval vessels.

PT PAL, in its current iteration as a Limited Liability Company or Perseroan Terbatas (PT), has put into effect on April 15, 1980, based on Government Regulation Number 4 of 1980, in which its role as Indonesia's key shipbuilder gets more significant when the Indonesian government issued the Law No. 16 of 2012 that gives improvement to the country's own military defense industry, enabling it to produce more warships and civilian vessels to its customers based on their requirements, as well as making it possible for them to export warships to countries like the Philippines.

Basically, PT PAL Indonesia Persero was once a public company owned by the government until it became a state-owned limited liability company, under the umbrella of the Indonesian state-owned companies such as the PT Len Industries that focuses on developing sophisticated technologies, PT Dirgantara Indonesia that focuses more on producing aerospace products such as the NC-212i that the Philippine Air Force has, and PT Pindad which at one point marketed their Harimau Hitam and APS-3 Panser Anoa to the Philippine Army.

The warships that PT PAL as the primary shipbuilder in Indonesia produce ranges from small fast missile boats such as the KCR-60 (abbreviated Kapal Cepat Rudal) or more known as the Sampari-class fast attack crafts within the Indonesian Navy, to large Landing Platform Docks that derived from the Makassar-class Landing Platform Docks such as the Banjarmasin-class and the Philippine Navy's very own Tarlac-class that can proudly said as PT PAL and Indonesian naval industry's first warship export.

Given that the Philippines is the first country that PT PAL exports its Landing Platform Dock product aside from being the primary supplier of warships for the Indonesian Navy, it comes with an understandable logic, especially at the logistical standpoint, that the awarding of the new Landing Docks Acquisition Project will go to this Indonesian shipbuilder, especially given that the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks they delivered earlier came with a good reputation as it serves the Philippine Navy.

BRP Tarlac, LD-601, Philippine Navy, Landing Platform Dock, PT PAL Indonesia
BRP Tarlac (LD-601) moored off the coast of Sangley Point In Cavite.
By Lawrence Ruiz (Epi Fabonan III) - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77729113.

Before the recent iteration of a Philippine Navy Landing Platform Dock has visualized and materialized, there were plans laid by the Department of National Defense that seek to gain such large vessels that will benefit the country in both security-related and disaster-related matters, whereby the logistical chain of goods travelling across the archipelago is fully attainable.

This visualization started at the ending years of the Arroyo administration way back 2009, when the Multi-Role Vessel Acquisition Project has put into plans, with the primary vessel being the South Korean-designed Makassar-class Landing Platform Dock, the same ones that the Indonesians built in their PT PAL shipyard and the one that the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks have derived from.

The first discussions between the Philippine Navy and PT PAL for the sale of Landing Platform Dock started way back May 16, 2011, whereby this discussion has still counted as part of the Multi-Role Vessel Acquisition Project rather than the later-revised Strategic Sealift Vessel Acquisition Project, with the Indonesian shipbuilder hoping during that time that they can supply at least three units, basing an indigenous Indonesian design.

Compared it to the outcome of the Strategic Sealift Vessel Acquisition Project, what PT PAL supplied to the Philippine Navy was not that far off, as the Indonesian shipbuilder has provided the end-user at least two Landing Platform Docks, with the design considered as indigenously made in Indonesia, although elements from the original South Korean-designed Makassar-class Landing Platform Docks has given influence on the design of what would be the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks as it comes almost at the similar size, configuration on the helipads and hangar, down to the well deck of the warship.

Speaking of the Strategic Sealift Vessel Acquisition Project, the Invitation to Bid for the procurement of two Strategic Sealift Vessels (or Landing Platform Docks) has released by the Department of National Defense way back June 2013, with the pre-bid conference took place just a month later, on July 2nd, whereby the Approved Budget for the Contract or ABC has amounted to Php 4 Billion, just a Billion Peso less than the original Php 5 Billion acquisition plan under the original Multirole Vessel Acquisition Project.

The contract for the two Landing Platform Docks has awarded to PT PAL Indonesia (Persero) in 2014 with the signing took place in July 2014, whereby the delivery dates for both the warships has slated by at least two and three years upon the signing of the contract, in the year 2016 and 2017 for both BRP Tarlac (LD-601) and its sistership BRP Davao del Sur (LD-602) respectively, in which PT PAL Indonesia successfully delivered these vessels, the largest ones currently serving the Philippine Navy, to date.

The acquisition marked a significant milestone for PT PAL Indonesia, as this served as the very first export of a naval warship made by an Indonesian state-owned company to another country's naval fleet to use, as this further bolster the capability of the Indonesian shipbuilding industry, as well as the Indonesian military-industrial complex in its entirety, with the added confidence of making attempts on exporting their naval products to other countries such as the United Arab Emirates.

Stern of the new Strategic Sealift Vessel Design of PT PAL, with several specifications provided.
(c) PT PAL Indonesia Persero, YouTube Channel.

Earlier in the year 2022, the Department of National Defense reiterated its interest in gaining two more Landing Platform Docks, despite the number of delays on the Landing Dock Acquisition Project since 2019 because of the disqualification of the lowest bidder, the restart of bidding process that took place after it, and the global pandemic that happened all throughout the years 2020 and 2021.

This took the defense department and the end user, the Philippine Navy, at least three years since the year this said acquisition project has started, whereby the notice of award for two additional Landing Platform Docks has just awarded recently to PT PAL Indonesia (Persero) at the contract price of Php 5.56 Billion, or at least Php 2.78 Billion per unit of a Landing Platform Dock that is an improved design of the Tarlac-class LPDs.

The said notice of award has issued on June 5, 2022, showing that the Indonesian shipbuilder has won the contract for the Landing Dock Acquisition Project, which is understandable from the logistical and logical point of view, especially given that the Philippine Navy sees the commonality on the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks and the one under this project as both have originated from the said shipbuilder.

PT PAL Indonesia won over other prospective bidders that have taken part in this acquisition project, such as Samkang M&T from South Korea, POSCO International, which is still from South Korea, and GOA Shipyard Limited from India, whereby they provided their own prospective bid offers for the project, but did not take through and take the bid, especially given PT PAL's record in providing the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks previously to the Philippine Navy.

Just like the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks, the new Landing Docks will still feature a dimension of around 123-meter length, 21.8 meter beam, and a 5 meter draft, although it comes with 1 unit Landing Craft Unit per Landing Platform Dock instead of two per Landing Platform Dock which can found on the Tarlac-class, and several FFBNW items (Fitted for, but not with) that may add later on a separate procurement process.

Speaking of Fitted for, but not with items or FFBNW, the Philippine Navy provided in-detail the subsystems that they have planned on installing onboard the new Landing Platform Docks, such as the 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid Gun 120 rpm that are also found onboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigates and soon to be the new HDC-3100 Corvettes and Offshore Patrol Vessels.

Other subcomponents that counts as FFBNW are the 30mm ASELSAN SMASH RCWS (Remote-Controlled Weapons System), either the Oerlikon Millenium Gun from Rheinmetall or the GOKDENIZ Gun 35mm CIWS (Close-in Weapons System), Leonardo NA-25X Fire Control System, and Terma C-Guard Decoy Launching System, several of which are also available onboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigates or may form a part of the HDC-3100 Corvette subcomponents.

Tarlac-class, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, Philippine Navy, Landing Docks Acquisition
The Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks comprise the largest vessels that the Philippine Navy operates to-date. (c) David Grindley, Flickr.

The Philippine Navy, nearing the end of the Duterte administration on June 30, 2022, has signed multiple acquisition projects related to the AFP Modernization Program, most of which are from the Philippine Navy, whereby among those projects that has awarded to their prospective bidders during this period include the Landing Dock Acquisition Project.

The notice of award provided to the Indonesian shipbuilder PT PAL Persero simply adds up the number of Landing Platform Docks that the Philippine Navy may soon have, from two vessels to four vessels, all of which have made by the said shipbuilder and the design being a derivative of what the Indonesian Navy or the Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Laut has, the Makassar-class Landing Platform Docks.

This marks as the second successful instance for the Indonesian shipbuilder to export warships to a foreign country, whereby it is at the same time a neighboring country in Southeast Asia and also a co-member of the Association of Southeast Asia Countries or ASEAN, as the deal further cements the foreign relations of both Indonesia and the Philippines regarding defense cooperation.

In this recent export prospect made by PT PAL Indonesia (Persero), it is interesting for the shipbuilder to further bolster its military industrial capability, in which it serves as one of the reference points for the Philippines shall it pursue its own Self-Reliance Defense Posture, particularly that the Revised AFP Modernization Program under the Republic Act 10349 is now nearing the Horizon 3 phase, starting from 2023 up to the year 2028.

Along the way, PT PAL Indonesia has gained itself a nice reputation wherein, along with other shipbuilders that provide the naval vessels to the Philippine Navy, such as the South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries or HHI, supplied the fleet new warships that sets definition to the efforts of different administrations from 2013 up to present in arming up and improve the Philippine Armed Forces, particularly the Navy.

Eventually, both the Indonesian shipbuilder and the Philippine Navy benefit in every way in this endeavor, as the former set sights to a wider global defense market, hoping to secure deals with other countries such as the United Arab Emirates, whereby they bagged a contract for its own Landing Platform Docks, while the latter is now about to get four Landing Platform Docks, improving logistical chains in the archipelagic nation.

To surmise this article, the development unfolded in the Philippine Navy's purchase of two additional Landing Platform Docks from the same shipbuilder may open further for future cooperations, especially with the plans like having a dedicated Hospital Ship may set fruition along the way, improving the capabilities of the Navy fleet in transporting goods and equipment in areas concerned, both in wartime and in peacetime.

(c) 2022 PDA.




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