• Pitz Defense Analysis' 'New' Website Extension

    An experimental, temporary-established website that also serves as an extension that focuses on concise, yet detailed defense news and updates separate from the comprehensive content of this main website.

  • Introducing the Philippine Navy's Miguel Malvar Frigates

    Once recognized as the HDC-3100 corvette, the badges of the Offshore Combat Force unveils the vessel's name, classification, and hull number designation of the Philippine Navy's newest warship in the fleet.

  • Philippine Air Force's J/TPS-P14ME Mobile Radar Platform

    This radar module is the latest among military-related deals that have taken place between Japan and the Philippines, as part of the larger J/FPS-3ME radar package.

  • Indonesia's ASW Aircraft Offer to the Philippine Navy

    As part of an improved relations between two neighboring ASEAN countries, Indonesia pitches its aircraft platform for the Philippine Miltary's maritime capability improvement.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Philippine Army's ACV-300 Infantry Fighting Vehicle

The Philippine Army, in recent history, upgrades its inventory of M-113s with new automated gun turrets and remote controlled weapons systems, along with developments that involve new Sabrah Tanks delivered in the country in its first batches as both platforms signify a lot of recent improvements within the service branch's armored vehicles.

The roster of newly upgraded and newly purchased military vehicles operated by the Army is now getting added by these existing infantry fighting vehicles, which recently received its new set of capability upgrades of its own.

Philippine Army, ACV-300, Upgrade, Infantry Fighting Vehicle, M-113, AIFV
Turkish FNSS's ACV-300 Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
Image Source.

The Philippine Army, along with the rest of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, continues to purchase brand new military hardware and upgrade existing ones as part of the ongoing implementation of the AFP Modernization Program, with the recent one coming as an upgrade of several of its own infantry fighting vehicles in service, now more capable and potent as it used to be.

Just recently, the Philippine Army's Armor "Pambato" Division presented thirteen (13) newly modernized vehicles, seven of which being the GKN Simba wheeled Infantry Fighting Vehicles now having its new engines, and the remaining units being the ACV-300 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (image seen above) with its new turrets carried out as part of an upgrade project coming alongside Elbit-armed M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers.

The Turkish defense company FNSS, the same company that produced these Infantry Fighting Vehicles to the Philippine Army, made the upgrades for the ACV-300s as part of the continuing bilateral defense cooperation between the Philippines and Turkey, as the latter has provide military hardware other than the ACV-300 Infantry Fighting Vehicles to the former such as the Philippine Air Force's T-129 'ATAK' Attack Helicopter, with the final batch of deliveries about to take place by the year 2024 or earlier.

Regarding the upgrades that the ACV-300 Infantry Fighting Vehicles received, the weapons turret installed onboard came as the Saber-40 and Saber-12.7 single-manned turrets, in which these are different in setup and operational management as opposed to Elbit's fully automated UT-25 unmanned turrets found onboard the M-113s upgraded by the Israeli firm.

With the news about the ACV-300 Infantry Fighting Vehicles released, let us cover the details surrounding the Turkish company that made these armored assets to the Philippine Army, along with the design of the platforms and eventually the single-manned turret upgrades these vehicles received from the said same Turkish defense firm.

FNSS, Turkey, Nurol Holding, BAE Systems, Turkish Armed Forces, Philippine Army
FNSS's PARS III, as displayed in Defense and Security Equipment International (DSEI) 2019.
Image Source.

The Turkish Defense Company FNSS, specifically known as FNSS Savunma Sistemleri A.Ş. (FNSS) as described in this website, is "a globally recognized joint venture land defence systems company owned by Nurol Holding (51%) and BAE Systems (49%)", basically a business venture pushed by the majority stakeholder in setting up a defense company in Turkey, while ensuring local production of military hardware and getting them sold in the Turkish Armed Forces and eventually, to several overseas customers.

The majority stakeholder, Nurol Holding, started in 1966 primarily as a construction and contracting works, and since then expanded to multiple business industries such as energy, mining, tourism, finance, and service sectors, as well as defense industry that is now embodied in FNSS's shape and form, with its primary specialty in designing and producing wheeled and tracked armored vehicles of different shapes and sizes, unmanned autonomous vehicles, gun turrets for those armored vehicles they produce, and sustainability solutions related to their products.

This is also the same company that jointly cooperated with Indonesia's PT Pindad in developing and eventually producing a Modern Medium-Weight Tank for Indonesian Armed Forces, known by many as the Kaplan MT or in Indonesian, the Harimau Hitam tank, whereby it competed to South Korean Defense firm Hanwha System's K-21 Medium Tank offer and the winning bid of Israeli Defense firm Elbit's Sabrah Light Tank offer, in which the joint Turkish-Indonesian firm lost to regarding their offer to the Philippine Army's Light Tank Acquisition Project.

Founded in 1988 as the FMC Nurol Savunma Sanayii A.Ş. or abbreviated as FNSS as it stands today, they started production of indigenously made armored vehicles intended to the Turkish Armed Forces, whereby the overall production started in the 1990s and since then continuously develop and produce their own products distinctly different from its licensed designs such as the ACV-300 Infantry Fighting Vehicles, showing that they improved overall as an outright Turkish defense company.

While their Kaplan MT/Harimau Hitam offer through an Indonesian joint venture failed to win the contract for the Philippine Army's Light Tank Acquisition Project, the Turkish defense firm has still successfully provide services to the military organization, especially in upgrading their own licensed products with modern turret technology that significantly improves its overall firepower capability as an Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

Philippine Army Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicles, PA, AIFV, FMC Corporation, M-113.
Philippine Army's AIFVs or Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicles. 
(c) Wikimedia Commons.

While the ACV-300 Infantry Fighting Vehicles of the Philippine Army originate from Turkey's FNSS, the design itself is not exactly indigenous to the Turkish and instead a clear derivative to the Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle or AIFV from the FMC Corporation, which is not surprising since it is their partnership with Nurol Holding in 1988 that the Turkish defense company FNSS has founded.

The Philippine Army actually has a handful of AIFVs in its inventory, with the first ones delivered in the 1975, totalling 51 units of that type and since then served the Philippine Army's Armor Division alongside other armored vehicles like the M-113s, GKN Simba, and FV101 Scorpion Light Tank, even before the licensed copies and eventual mass production of what will become the ACV-300s became a thing in Turkey, supplanting a portion of its armored vehicle needs.

Regarding the design of the Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle or AIFV, the FMC Corporation took the inspiration of producing these vehicles from another armored platform they made which is the M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier, whereby it is currently in-service among several armies across the world, including the Philippine Army wherein several of those platforms received firepower capability upgrades from Israel's Elbit Systems Ltd.

FMC Corporation developed on what should be the successor for the M-113 in the United States Army as they offered it for the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle or MICV-65 program as the FMC's prototype for XM701 MICV, although they still developed it further despite the United States not adopting the platform, until it became what is now known as the XM765 AIFV, coming with multiple variants, including the ones produced by Turkey's FNSS.

Now, even though the original developer and manufacturer of the armored vehicles now focuses more on food production and technologies development and are long gone from the field of defense, their armored personnel carrier and infantry fighting vehicle products still serve great purpose to the armed forces that still have them currently, as it used in several counterinsurgency operations through the years as for the Philippine Army's case.

Saber-25mm one-manned turret made by the FNSS. The Philippine Army have the 12.7mm and 40mm ones.
Image Source.

The primary upgrade introduced to the six (6) ACV-300s that the Philippine Army currently has in its inventory is the installation of FNSS's new Saber single-manned turrets, specifically the 40mm and 12.7mm version of those turrets, as these upgrades came with its own type of sophistication, as these are manned platforms as opposed to the Elbit-installed UT-25 Remote-Controlled Weapons System platforms onboard.

Although different variants of the Saber single-manned turret have mentioned here, the primary underlying systems structure stayed the same, especially the fire control system onboard that has automatic ballistic computing feature onboard along with a standard thermal imager with the specifications of 8-12 micrometers or 3-5 micrometers and a laser range finder of 8,000 meters (8 kilometers) range.

Development of the SABER turret weapon system started in 2013 through its private funding by FNSS, and since then the Turkish defense company with their expertise in weapons systems as incurred in 15 years of their experience, incorporated the latest technologies as mentioned especially with its sensory systems and its sophisticated fire control system, really enabling a single-manned turret platform to get its job done, aiding the gunner in aiming and eliminating a target in the mission.

As we specify in-detail the turrets that the Philippine Army receives for its ACV-300 upgrade, the main armament comes with a 40mm automatic grenade launcher and a 12.7mm machine gun, coming different from the Oerlikon KBA-B02 25mm turret installed onboard the Philippine Army's other Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicles (AIFV), in a similar configuration with the likes of the Dutch YPR-765 AIFV platforms.

Continuing to the specifications provided by FNSS in their website, the overall turret weight of a Saber one-manned turret comes at around 1,800kg following the combat weight with SABER-25 Configuration, while the Ring Gear Diameter of the turret comes at around 1,000mm, a Swing Radius of 2,600mm, and also the dimensions of the turrets at around 1.6meter width and 0.61m height, above mounting surface.

ACV-300 Specifications, Philippine Army, FNSS
ACV-300 specifications, as stated the FNSS website. Kindly click the image to enlarge.
Image Source.

The ACV-300 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, true to its origins to the M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier as designed by the same defense manufacturer, always comes with the same weight of around 14 tons or 14,000 kilograms, while it has the capacity of carrying 11 total personnel onboard, with three being the very crew of the armored vehicle (gunner, driver, and commander), while the rest are troop passengers onboard.

The dimensions come as approximately near and equal with those for the M-113s, whereby the length of the ACV-300 Infantry Fighting Vehicle comes at around 5.56m as opposed to the M-113's shorter 5.3 meters, whilst the width of the ACV-300 comes narrower at around 2.90 meters comparing to the wider 3 meters of the M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers.

Regarding its performance on mobility, the ACV-300 Infantry Fighting Vehicle comes with a maximum road speed of 65 kilometers per hour and a maximum travel range of 490 kilometers, almost similar in speed with the M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier's 66 kilometers per hour, although the latter lacks the maximum travel range, only limited to around 483 kilometers maximum or 7 kilometers short.

Other features include a similar gradient of around 60% on both the ACV-300s and M-113 armored vehicles, and a similar side slope for both platforms at around 30%, although the weapons configuration of both platforms vary as the former now carries the one-manned turret systems that FNSS provided to the Philippine Army, while the latter comes with remote-controlled weapons systems and mortar carriers, as provided by Elbit Systems Ltd.

It is nice to take note that the near similarities of both the ACV-300 and M-113 platforms, especially given that it came from the same developer of the armored vehicles, give the Philippine Army the edge especially with regards to handling the logistics not only regarding with the spare parts and maintenance procedures, but also regarding to its overall operational use, especially now that the said armored vehicles comes with varying weapons configuration from different weapons suppliers.

Philippine Army, ACV-300 Upgrades, FNSS, Saber Turret
Philippine Army, as unveiled their newly upgraded armor assets. 
Image Source.

Philippine Army's Armor "Pambato" Division recently received these newly upgraded land assets, coming as the ACV-300 Infantry Fighting Vehicles that are armed by Saber turrets from FNSS, adding it up to the roster of recent military hardware upgrades and military asset acquisition projects made by the service branch since the AFP Modernization Program under R.A. 10349 has started.

The upgraded ACV-300 Infantry Fighting Vehicles that the Philippine Army has during the ceremony also comes with 7 units of GKN Simba APCs coming with new engines, although the organization has expressed plans in eventually replacing these platforms along with V-150 Cadillac Gage Commando Armored Personnel Carriers in the long run once the newer Brazilian-made IVECO VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 Armored Personnel Carriers.

This shows the constant bilateral cooperation between the Philippines and Turkey, as the latter recently provides the former with its military hardware like the T-129 ‘ATAK’ Attack Helicopter, whereas the former now has the chance to help the latter in dealing with the current calamity that took place in Southern Turkey when there was a 7.8 earthquake that happened during the month this article has written which is apparently the deadliest one to-date. (taps to the fallen).

The developments may not end here, as the Philippine Army may receive more military hardware for the years to come, especially with its desired plans to have more Medium Main Battle Tanks or MMBTs that may augment the current Sabrah ASCOD and Pandur-platformed tanks, as other nations have the desire to provide the Philippines such additional military hardware later on, with discussions about it taking place here soon.

To surmise this up, the Philippine Army has continuously improved its military hardware, especially the ones operated by the Armor “Pambato” Division, and it there is an expectation that more armored vehicles may enter service with these units years from now as the Horizon 3 of the Revised AFP Modernization Program is rolling, along with other developments that may surely give that significant firepower and numerical boost that the organization needs in achieving its modernization aim with more interesting topics coming on its way across defense circles later on.

(c) 2023 PDA.

Weighing the SAAB's JAS-39 Gripen Lease Option to the Philippine Air Force

The Philippine Air Force, through the Department of National Defense, is still about to decide which Muti-role Fighter Jet candidates and the aerospace companies took part may get the contract for what may consider the most expensive undertaking that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has taken to date.

And speaking of expensive, the problems surrounding the source of funds and budgetary allotments give rise to this financing scheme that an aerospace industry hope that the end-user may get enticed and consider the deal altogether.

JAS-39 Gripen Philippine Air Force
Swedish Air Force's JAS-39 Gripen, the country's mainstay fighter produced by SAAB, a Swedish company.
Image Source.

A source coming from a reputable European defense website highlighted the ongoing limbo surrounding the Multi-role Fighter Jet Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force, as the leadership is still about to choose between SAAB Aerospace's JAS-39 Gripen C/D variant and Lockheed Martin's F-16 Block 70/72 variant, each with their key marketing points that are enticing enough for the key decision makers to consider.

However, what makes this acquisition program taking so long to materialize points to the availability of funds, specifically the source intended to provide financial resources with the need to fund the project with a contract price of around Php 61 Billion Pesos, with current exchange rates and inflationary elements making these things more problematic for the movement of progress on this acquisition program.

This is not to mention that both Lockheed Martin and SAAB are pushing their key marketing points in pursuit of bagging the contract and eventually expanding their reach within the Philippine defense market, with the former surely having the support from the United States government, and the latter recently received export approval from the Swedish government that allowed them to sell jets to the Philippines.

Speaking of the latter, the same reputable European defense website we linked has also provided information related to SAAB monitoring the actions of their competitor for this project, whereby they presented this enticing financial arrangement, especially that they saw the pace of this project being at the standstill given the inadequate financial ability for it to push through.

This financial arrangement is more known as the lease option, whereby the lessor, being the owner of the goods, provides such goods to the lessee, in exchange for a monthly payment made by the latter for the value of the goods used, usually under a contract whereby there are specifications regarding the terms of payment, and the specified time for the lessee to pay the lessor until the completion of the terms.

JAS-39 Gripen Lease Philippines Czech Air Force
The Czech Air Force actually engages in leasing JAS-39 Gripen from Sweden, with the terms expire in 2027.
Image Source.

While the Philippine Air Force is really determined to buy a squadron of Multi-role Fighter Jets using its allotted budget to ensure that it has the full ownership of the jets in terms of operations and maintenance, the lease option presented by Swedish defense company SAAB Aerospace for this acquisition project is not new, as several air forces in Europe availed this scheme that provides less a burden for them from the budgetary point of view.

One notable example is the country of Czech Republic (or Czechia, for some readers), whereby they have leased JAS-39 Gripen from Sweden, of which these jets are currently in service since 2005 with the renewal of the lease took place in May 2014, approximately nine (9) years since this article published and the terms of the lease extended for thirteen (13) years until the year 2027.

The new agreement forged from that time between both parties includes hardware modification and software upgrades for the leased JAS-39 Gripen that Czech Air Force has in its inventory, which were apparently done by the lessor intended to improve the capabilities of the aircraft and meeting the requirements that the Czech Air Force has during that time.

Last year, the Czech government was considering a replacement for the leased JAS-39 Gripen they currently have until the term expires in 2027, although these leased aircraft still have the option of extension for at least two years until 2029, whereby it will be at the discretion of the government to do so, with the likelihood of an extension gets slim as the government is determined to secure a newer type of fighter aircraft like the F-35 Lightning II, especially given the current security situation in the Eastern Europe and the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Another example of a country that leased JAS-39 Gripen Fighter Jets from Sweden is the country of Hungary, which, like the Czech Republic, is a Central European country that is a member of both the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO, whereby Sweden leased their JAS-39 Gripen to Hungary, in which, like the Czech, also comes with 14 units (12 single-seater and 2  two-seater aircraft).

Just like the Czech Republic before them, the Hungarian Air Force benefited much from the lease as their JAS-39 Gripen in 2017 have upgraded with the MS20 variant, basically the same upgrade offer made by SAAB for the Philippine Air Force for the current Multirole Fighter Acquisition Project aside from the lease option scheme being pushed to decrease the financial burden on the side of the end-user.

Given the SAAB's offer for Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, it might not be surprising if their deal also comes with the same number of units, with 12 single-seater units offered (as it is with the number of units that are specify under the Acquisition Project), plus two double-seater units, totalling to 14 units all-in-all, with the lease option now on the table, enticing the Philippine Air Force to consider it.

Speaking of lease options, let's talk about its advantages and disadvantages.

JAS-39 Gripen Lease Philippines Hungarian Air Force
Hungarian Air Force JAS-39 Gripen Block C.
(c) Chris Lofting, Airliners.net, via Wikimedia Commons.

One primary advantage we can point out right away from this leasing option offer by SAAB regarding their marketing of the JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D to the Philippine Air Force is that it would lessen the financial burden surrounding the deal, on what should be difficult to pull on an outright purchase of the multi-role fighter jets that the leadership is currently pursuing, with the project itself being in the slow pace.

This is in fact the primary aim of presenting a lease option deal, as this option provides the end-user such as the Philippine Air Force the time to lobbying up the budget it requires for the outright purchase of the fighter jets on a later date, albeit in a much affordable manner as compared to the current procurement pace that requires securing the availability of funds, on an expanded time period of ten to thirteen years lease period like Czechia and Hungary as opposed to the Multi-Year Contracting Authority or MYCA, with the remaining balance paid on the final batch delivery of the jets in three to five years time.

Further detailing the budgeting that comes with a lease option, the finance unit within the Defense Department can manage and monitor the release of the budget for the payment of the lease option, as the terms specified in the contract may come with a fixed price for the payment, chargable against the rent expense of the department's budget or those of the Philippine Air Force's annual budget under any crafted General Appropriations Act in the later years, subject to usual Accounting Rules and Regulations (or any guidelines written in the Government Accounting Manual formulated by the Commission of Audit 2015).

Another advantage that may come with this arrangement is that the lessor like SAAB may be the one who looks for the maintenance and upgrades of the JAS-39 Gripen of the Philippine Air Force, in the same manner and benefit that countries who leased such jets like Czech Republic and Hungary do, with the latter upgraded theirs to the MS20 Block 20 upgrade.

One cannot help but see the operational situation involving the Philippine Air Force's FA-50PH Lead-In Fighter Trainers made by Korea Aerospace Industries, whereby there were only five (5) out of twelve (12) aircraft that are operational, as the others were apparently lack spare parts to operate, something that may not happen on a lease option shall this deal with the JAS-39 Gripen push through since SAAB and Sweden's FMV defense materiel administration calls the shots in terms of maintenance support.

JAS-39 Gripen E Philippines Brazil Air Force
Brazil Air Force's Gripen E, the latest variant of the SAAB JAS-39 Gripen Family.
Image Source.

While the lease option has its advantages, the offer made by SAAB, like anything else, also has its own disadvantages that the likes of the Philippine Air Force need to take some note, especially in weighing in the feasibility of this arrangement before deciding of getting all-in for choosing the JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D for the air branch's Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project.

First to take note is the treatment of the JAS-39 Gripen on the government books, especially in the compliance of the 2015 Government Accounting Manual or GAM, whereby it treats as an expense rather than an asset, especially that this lease option siphons a portion of the Philippine Air Force's Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses or MOOE portion of its annual budget, particularly that specific item under Rent Expenses.

Since it is not on the government's accounting books as an asset, the JAS-39 Gripen C/D on the Philippine Air Force under lease are owned by SAAB with the support of the Swedish FMV Defense Materiel Administration, with provisions allotted to the lessee in terms of flight hours allowable for the jets to operate (with the measurements being the number of flight hours allotted per year), as these are the terms agreed by both sides on a lease contract, and the Philippine Air Force being a lessee, needs to comply the terms and conditions in that agreed lease.

Aside from the points provided above, another disadvantage to consider for a lease option is the political implications that may come from this deal, especially in the long run if the current landscape changes once again throughout the process of the lease, especially given that the Swedes wait for the former Duterte administration to leave office before giving a green light, approving the sale of the JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D to the Philippines.

Currently, this political implications for a lease option is not much of the concern, given the excellent relationship between Sweden and the Philippines, with the Swede ambassador recently visited the Department of National Defense, discussing the idea in relation to the sale of the JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D to the Philippine Air Force, depicting it as a sign of an ever-growing bilateral relations between the two countries.

Finally, another disadvantage that this lease option presented is this may limit the option for the Philippine Air Force in the future regarding any of its planned procurement of additional Multi-role Fighter Jets, as this may lock them in to the future purchase of JAS-39 Gripen E variant like the ones Brazil have (see image above) from the logistics point of view, whereby the idea of outright buying new fighter jets is back into the picture.

Since the production line of SAAB prefers JAS-39 Gripen Block E over the said variant that the Philippine Air Force is about to receive, this may limit them to only just the 14 offered units of the Multi-role Fighter Jets, relying fully to any upgrades that it may received from the date this article gets published to the year 2030, like what the SAAB recently announce in continuing the maintenance of Swedish Air Force JAS-39 Gripen Jets until that date.

JAS-39 Gripen Philippine Air Force Sunrise Pitz Defense Wallpaper
The iconic JAS-39 Gripen flying in the sunrise, with its silhouette seen against the gleaming sun in the background.

After we weight on all the pointed advantages and disadvantages pointed above, we may say that upon checking every point taken about the lease option of the JAS-39 Gripen C/D for the Philippine Air Force, that such an arrangement may bring more benefit for the air military branch, especially to manage its budgetary requirements and maintaining it, although the leadership still has the discretion to buy the jets outright, or choose the Lockheed Martin's F-16s since it came with enticing deals of its own.

This is true for countries like Hungary and the Czech Republic, with their leases with SAAB gave them successful results, as they received upgrades on their multi-role jet platforms and other perks from this arrangement together with Swedish FMV Defense Materiel Administration, in exchange to their periodic payments for the lease, as this is economically more manageable than buying the jets with its face value, plus the constant maintenance it needed in-house by the mechanics of the end-user subject to the availability of funds for the procurement of spare parts.

While this bring benefit for the Philippine Air Force at the financial point of view, the plans of purchasing a Multi-role fighter jet outright may get its likely chance as the budgetary capacity gets greater, in an essence that such move, if materialize, provides time for the leadership along with the people in the Department of National Defense, to push for a higher financial requirement to buy another squadron of fighter jets, either it may be a Gripen E variant from the logistics point of view, or whether the F-16 Block 70/72 gets offered for an additional squadron separate from the JAS-39 Gripen, whatever it may be.

Despite the advantage that a lease option might bring for the Philippine Air Force, shall they consider this offer from SAAB after the Swedish government approves its sale to the country, all the decision making whether this option may get considered lies on the hand of the leadership within the Air Force and the Defense Department, as they have other considerations on the table that may determine the outcome of this big-ticket acquisition project that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has to-date.

Summing this up, the lease option of SAAB provides another option for the makers of the Multi-role Fighter Jet Acquisition Project to consider, as the offer made by the competitor actually comes with an extra number of jets plus training, especially that the production line of Lockheed Martin comes with order backlogs of 128 units for countries like Bahrain, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Taiwan, Morocco, and Jordan.

With Horizon 3 now at hand, perhaps it is finally the time now for the Philippine Air Force to choose the best candidate for the Multi-role Fighter Jet Acquisition Project and have the funding secured for this project to roll from production to delivery, complete with Philippine insignia.

(c) 2023 PDA.

Benefits of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) to the Philippine Military

The ironclad alliance between the Philippines and the United States is something that is seen strong through the years, even with the changes of administration as the last one was being antagonistic to the alliance even though this was not mean outright cancellation of well-established treaties and agreements forged years, if not decades prior.

Now, one agreement is seeing an expansion as both countries are about to add more places in the country that may get part of this existing bases arrangement between the Philippines and the United States, with the possibility of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) being the beneficiary of the goodies that an ally provides in exchange to this deal.

EDCA, Philippine Air Force, F-16, Multirole Fighter Jet, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement
A United States Air Force F-16 Multirole Fighter Jet took off from the runway of Basa Air Base in Pampanga. (c) Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

The United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has recently visited the Philippines after his visit in South Korea, as he has the aim to fast-track the implementation of adding more areas in the country as part of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA, an agreement forged by both the Philippines and the United States in 2014.

This comes as China's hegemony is challenging the international rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region as the communist country really desires to secure and invade Taiwan that is considered by the Chinese Communist Party as a renegade province that needs reunification under the red banner, and the Philippines really plays a significant role for deterrence as the country's geography defined a chain of features known as the first island chain that stretches northward to Japan.

While being in the country, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin expects to meet with the country's key government officials, especially with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Secretary of National Defense Carlito Galvez Jr., and Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines General Andres Centino, as they are all aiming to bolster the existing alliances that both countries have for each other, now with the Philippines giving its share to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty by allowing more EDCA sites to open and cater troops not only with the United States, but possibly with other countries such as Japan.

The locations for these additional EDCA military sites come not as a surprise, given that these are strategically near the areas of concern that both the Philippine and United States security forces see as critical areas on a potential clash and conflict with China, with these areas being in the northernmost part of Luzon facing the island of Taiwan and the Bashi Channel that separates the two countries, and the other being in Palawan, near the highly contested Kalayaan Island Group known internationally as the Spratly Island Group.

As the trend of letting more troops from the United States military deployed to the key EDCA sites gets increased as more areas for access are getting added, one cannot dismiss the goods and benefits that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will get from this development, not to mention any potential offer of military hardware under Excess Defense Articles that may bring boost to the AFP's overall capabilities, especially that the Horizon 3 of the Revised AFP Modernization Program is still currently rolling.

MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile, Balikatan 2022, Philippine Army, United States Army, 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty
A Patriot Missile Mobile Launcher equipped with PAC-3 Canisters disembarked from the Landing Craft Air Cushion as part of the amphibious activities involving air defense system assets as part of the US-Philippine Joint Exercise Balikatan 2022(c) Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA, as what we see here, is just the continuation of enhanced military cooperation between the Philippine government with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and their counterparts in the United States government and their military, as traced back in the 1950s specifically when the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty has signed between both parties.

The talks on what has become the formulation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement started on August 2013 (almost a decade from the time this article has published), when the officials of that time discussed the possibility of increasing the rotation of U.S. troops across what will be the first five military bases for the United States to gain access on, while tackling the matters related to maritime security and domain awareness.

From that time, we need to take note that just a year prior, the Philippines and China has embroiled in a standoff over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which ended up being under de facto control of the Chinese Coast Guard and since then threatened Philippine fisherfolk from accessing the maritime area that was once considered their fishing ground and a way of livelihood although recent reports suggest of an increasing number of local fisherfolk returning to that area with the Philippine Coast Guard monitoring the area.

Before the addition of new EDCA sites under this deal, there are at least five existing and pre-determined sites of such arrangement in the country, namely the Basa Air Base in Pampanga, wherein most of the Philippine Air Force's Fighter jets are situated; Puerto Princesa's Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, whereby it is the one being the closest one to the Kalayaan Group of Islands; Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, the country’s largest military camp and a frequent location of Philippine-US military exercises, the Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City.

Take note that this basing arrangement differs from the ones during the Cold War era, as the current Philippine Constitution prohibits the United States from setting up any new bases of their own in the country, resulting to the formulation of this agreement that may allow troops from the United States Armed Forces to access key Philippine military facilities through the full implementation of EDCA.

This agreement has signed on April 28, 2014 by U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg and then-Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin under the Aquino administration, whereby it does not require any legislative approval in the Senate of both countries as this is more of an executive agreement as agreed on both sides and less of a formal treaty like the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty that requires this kind of approval.

The recent statement related to the addition of four (4) more sites is just a follow-up as both sides willing to fast-track the agreement up to its full implementation, with the United States military gaining more access to areas that are strategically near to either the West Philippine Sea to the West or Taiwan to the North, while presenting the deals they presented for the Philippine military to benefit, ranging from building additional facilities to providing military help through Excess Defense Articles or EDAs.

C-130T, Philippine Air Force, Cargo Aircraft
One of the Philippine Air Force's many C-130s, with this one formerly served the United States Marine Corps.
Image Source.

Aside from the primary highlight of both countries being more than willing to fast-track the full implementation of Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA, it is also worth noting that the United States will help strengthen the Philippine military and boost interoperability between both countries that form an alliance, possibly augmenting the projects slated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the Horizon 3 of its Modernization Program.

This is definitely the case regarding military capability that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) currently have, with the United States troops deployed to key EDCA sites addressing any shortcomings in the short term, while slowly providing the AFP the tools and resources it needs to modernize its array of military assets in the long run, at least as far as the current modernization phase is concerned, and as analysed by the people in the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Given the information provided, especially with the U.S. Defense Secretary saying to the President that helping the AFP modernize its capabilities is one area for bilateral cooperation between the Philippines and the United States, it will not be surprising if the announcements for U.S. military hardware slated for Excess Defense Articles for the Philippines may come up in the upcoming years, if not months from the time this article has written.

One possibility is for Lockheed Martin, with the backing of the United States government, to add more goodies (possibly additional EDA units and spares support) from their offer for the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, which is still pending a final decision from the Philippine Air Force in choosing between the U.S. made F-16 Block 70/72 variant, competing against Swedish Aerospace company SAAB's JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D, with their recent iteration of the offer now includes an idea for a lease option that surely eases Philippine Air Force's financial burden shall it gets chosen.

Another possibility is for the Philippine Air Force's rehashed Heavy Lift Helicopter Acquisition Project, in which the Philippine government has looking for an alternative with the CH-47 Chinook Heavy-Lift Helicopters after 'scrapping' the deal with the Russian Sovtechnoexport over the Mi-171 Mil helicopters, with the chances for the terms may get further sweetened by having more units offered, depending on how negotiations go as it is within everyone's knowledge that the Chinooks at its unit price is more expensive than the Russian helicopters it replace in a deal.

Also, there is also a possibility that the Philippine Army or the Philippine Marine Corps receiving more armored vehicles in huge numbers like what it did in 2015, augmenting existing ones in its inventory such as the M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier, with several of the units armed by Elbit's UT-25 Remote-Controlled Weapons System (RCWS), or an offer for additional MRAP or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, as it the Philippine Army aims to have those units under the Light Tactical Vehicle Acquisition Project.

Take note that the following possibilities above are hypothetical, although there are primary basis that render these offers plausible based on logic together with historical basis and information, as the final decision for Excess Defense Articles and other sweeteners lies to the discretion of how willing the United States transfer military hardware, factoring the budgetary requirements of the different acquisition projects pushed by the Philippine Armed Forces.

Subic Bay, United States Navy, Cold War, Philippines
The current iteration of U.S. deployment under EDCA is different from the Subic Bay-style established basing deployment arrangement during the Cold War.
Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Aside from the potential offerings that may get from this deal through the Excess Defense Articles at their discretion, another area of cooperation that can bring additional points for implementing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement is through the rehabilitation and construction of existing and new facilities, respectively, as well as interoperability initiatives such as the revived joint naval patrols by both countries in the West Philippine Sea.

Apparently, the United States government has just allotted Php 3.7 Billion (or US$66.5 Million) for the materialization of getting EDCA facilities constructed in these three EDCA sites, namely the Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Ramon Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, and Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro, wherein these facilities may provide additional structural benefits for the Philippine troops in the long term, while U.S. troops use these facilities as part of the agreement enabling access to Philippine military bases.

Facilities mentioned here involve training and warehousing structures, as well as others that may involve proper accommodation for the troops deployed in the EDCA-designated Philippine military bases, and also the ones involving the shelter for key Philippine military assets, whether it may be an air asset from the Philippine Air Force, or an area that safe keep and maintaining the armored vehicles of the Philippine Army.

Another area of cooperation worth mentioning is the revival of the US-Philippine joint maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea, as it is clearly understandable that China’s trend for its hegemonic moves in the contested area rose significantly, as gray line tactics like the use of maritime militia deprive a typical ordinary Filipino fisherfolk to access traditional fishing grounds that are legally part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for them to benefit, under sovereign right to extract maritime resources.

The joint maritime patrols count as a win-win for both the Philippines and the United States, as both sides share mutual national interest in securing the West Philippine Sea, as the former focuses more on protecting its maritime domain and sovereign benefits of utilizing maritime resources in its EEZ for the economic development of its citizenry and the country, while the latter sees the area as a vital trade route that any disruptions in the area may also mean disruption to the global supply chain of essential commodities.

These things count as a welcoming sign for an increased cooperation between the United States and the Philippines being longtime allies, while it comes as no surprise that China overwhelmingly reacts to this issue, using its propaganda rhetoric that the United States government sought the disruption of order in the region, although there is a clear indicator of a ‌Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea gives the country a favor not only to strengthen a relationship with its allies but also the desire of modernizing its Armed Forces capabilities intended for external defense.

Philippine Coast Guard, U.S. Coast Guard, Joint Bilateral Maritime Patrols, West Philippine Sea.
Both the Philippine and U.S. Coast Guard ships jointly took part in a maritime exercise that took place in Zambales, facing the West Philippine Sea.
Image Source.

The joint reiteration by the Philippine and United States government to add four (4) more EDCA locations count as a significant development between two nations, as this will help not only in securing and defending parts of the country from Chinese aggression, but also providing support to Taiwan in an event of a Chinese invasion on an island nation that counts as a renegade island, in a posture that adds security in the first island chain.

While U.S. support for additional defense mechanism shows a guarantee as they deploy more troops and military hardware in the key EDCA locations, this does not mean that the Philippine Armed Forces may go complacent and relying too much on both the U.S. Security Umbrella and the benefits that may come from it like additional Excess Defense Articles providing military hardware to the Philippine military. 

Instead, the AFP Modernization Program needs to continue as it usually does, especially now that the R.A. 10349 comes at the third and final horizon phase of the whole program, providing enough financial requirements and political will for the Philippine government to provide its own fair share as territorial defense comes at the responsibility of the citizenry, with allied support on basing, troop support, military hardware, and interoperability training and exercises being just an extra addition to the broad scheme of things.

Fair enough, implementing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA comes with a win-win benefit for both sides, specifically now that the Philippines can provide its contribution to the alliance since the Mutual Defense Treaty has signed in 1951, with joint training opportunities and providing support in Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief being key points as the country always suffer from natural calamities like Typhoons, monsoon rains, and even earthquakes.

Ending this up, the Philippines and the United States see the benefit in implementing this bilateral defense agreement that sought security and stability in the region, despite what the pro-China crowd cries that this development only brings chaos and that the Philippines may end up as a battlefield or a springboard for a China counterattack, although it is really clear that any potential conflict imposed by the mainland Chinese against Taiwan or the West Philippine Sea may still affect the Philippines ‌regardless of whether it is neutral or has support from likely minded allies like the United States.

(c) 2023 PDA.




Total Pageviews To-Date

Webpage Visitors

Free counters!