• Knowing the Philippine Army's BO-105 Helicopters

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

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

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

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

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

  • Navantia's Submarine Offer to the Philippine Navy

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

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

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

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

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

  • Know More About Us

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

Updates on the Philippine Navy's Submarine Acquisition Project

Here is a detailed and quick update about the Philippine Navy’s Submarine Acquisition Program as there are multiple events that occurred since the last information between the two primary candidates for this project, namely Naval Group’s Scorpene-class Submarines and DSME/Hanwha Ocean’s DSME-1400 PN submarine offer.

Philippine Navy Submarine Acquisition Project, Hanwha Ocean, Navantia, Naval Group, Scorpene, DSME-1400PN, S-80 Plus.
Competition is tough between participating shipbuilders, especially between France's Naval Group and South Korea's Hanwha Ocean.
Image Sources - One and Two.

Since its inception, the Philippine Navy aspires to have its own submarine fleet that the leadership has opted to form a new submarine unit and eventually having it organized with personnel assigned, as these people undertook training in other countries like with France's DCI Group. This comes alongside the offers coming from different interesting shipbuilders that have come to a point that their representative governments came in to show support.

Currently, the Submarine Acquisition Project comes with the delivery of at least two (2) units of submarines, alongside training support, basing facilities support, and even financial support that came through soft loan or credit line financing that are enticing for the decision makers within the Philippine Navy to consider. The number of submarines needed under this project gets reduced from the previous three (3) units planned under an earlier iteration of the Philippine Navy Sail Plan.

Competition is stiff under this Acquisition Project, as there are at least two primary shipbuilders that are actively pursuing this project, with a third one being a new entrant who also attempts to bag this project by offering their own submarine design and additional subsystems features, hoping that they entice the decision makers within the Philippine Navy through this offer. The design they offer is relatively new compared to the proven design of the two primary bidders of the project.

The Philippine Navy, along with other service branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, are now actively pursuing a full modernization path as the Philippine government now gears the entire organization that shifts from a Counterinsurgency oriented one into the one that aims and reaffirms the country’s territorial defense, as the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are currently being put under test by foreign powers as they claim parts of sea west of the country as theirs to have.

In this detailed update, the information about the recent developments on the Submarine Acquisition Project gets discussed further, especially with the recent packages and add-ons that the different shipbuilders have marketed under this project, along with the brief information about the submarine design offer made by the new entrant in this project.

Naval Group, Subic Bay, Philippine Navy, Agila Shipyard, Submarine Base
The French Shipbuilder Naval Group's Submarine offer also comes with a construction of a submarine base within the Philippine Navy's facility within Agila Shipyard in Subic Bay.
(c) Naval Group, via Image Source.

The French shipbuilding firm has become aggressive in their marketing strategy lately, as they opened a representative office in the country as part of their push for getting the contract under the submarine acquisition project. They have also provided multiple packages and add-ons to this project that are actually providing benefits in an essence that with French government support; they helped the Philippine Navy get its submarine force other than just securing the contract for the submarines.

Naval Group’s support plans should they be the one who gets the Submarine Acquisition Project comes with basing support for both submarines and surface fleets, whereby they may help the Philippine Navy improve its leased area within the Agila Shipyard complex in Subic Bay. The added facilities offered to the Philippine Navy submarine base comes with piers, maintenance yard, logistics depot, submarine force command-and-control facilities, and a submarine force training center.

The submarine basing comes alongside their offer of at least two (2) Scorpene-class submarines that are currently in-use by countries like Chile, Malaysia, Brazil, and India. In the Philippines’ case, the design configuration of its Scorpene may go more likely patterned to Brazilian Navy’s Riachuelo-class submarine, as it comes as the modernized reiteration of the French-designed submarine fitted with far modern subsystems as compared to other users like Chile and Malaysia.

Adding to the overall deal provided by Naval Group is the French support in terms of access to financial capital, as the credit line comes from the French Government through their Financing Ministry with a 100%, 20-year financing plan. This comes as a way not only for improving defense-related bilateral relations between the Philippines and France, but also a sign of an ever-increasing partnership between both countries that a similar set of opportunities for the Philippine Armed Forces may likely arise in the future.

Naval Group’s offer, overall, comes with sweeteners that may provide the decision makers within the Philippine Navy another chance to check and weigh the things that the French shipbuilder provide, as it can simply gets summarize as that the French are willing not only to provide the Philippine naval fleet a pair of submarines but also to provide the said naval service branch a foundation it needs to form a credible submarine force patterned after France, making it simpler to get additional Scorpene submarines for the fleet shall they take this path down the road.

Hanwha Ocean also provides a package that comes with their submarines.
Image from a Hanwha Ocean/DSME production.

Pitz Defense Analysis Update: Their offer got upgraded recently to Jangbogo-III PN submarine design. More details on the link highlighted on this portion right here.

While the offer made by France’s Naval Group is an enticing one, this does not mean that planners within the Philippine Navy will not check and consider the offer and sweeteners that have come with its competitor, whereby it actually comes with its own set of packages that are also worth considering, especially if the naval service branch opted this direction instead of the submarine force package provided by the said French shipbuilder.

The South Korean shipbuilding company’s offer also comes with a pair of submarines, although it comes with their own DSME-1400 PN submarine design that derives itself from South Korea’s own Chang Bogo (Jang Bogo)-class submarines. The latter comes as a mainstay submarine within the Republic of Korea (South Korean) Navy, as these vessels’ design also derives itself from the Type 109/1200 submarines of Germany’s ThyssenKrupp subsidiary Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft or HDW.

Like France’s Naval Group and their Scorpene Submarine offer, the one coming from Hanwha Ocean also comes with technical and logistics support, along with maintenance support and training. Also, their offer comes with a soft loan that comes from the Korean Export-Import Bank, a financial institution and credit agency that provides export loan and guarantees that enable the South Korean submarine deal to provide this financing, in a manner that it can compete with the 100% financing plan offered by the French Finance Ministry for this acquisition project.

Another country that operates the South Korean-made submarine is the neighboring country of Indonesia and their Nagapasa-class submarines, whereby the Indonesian Navy (TNI-Angkatan Laut) supposedly gets at least three submarines through a 2019 bid that predecessor DSME won, although the contract isn’t being implemented recently. To put it further, the Indonesians come dissatisfied with the submarines’ performance, while their defense ministry’s budget allocation has shrunk reportedly for the years to come.

With the problems involving the Indonesian submarine deal, there is a likely possibility that the pending submarines that Hanwha Ocean (DSME) have for the supposed delivery of the Nagapasa-class submarines may find its way to the Philippine Navy, should the South Korean shipbuilder won the acquisition project and secured the contract to deliver the submarines aside from the sweetened offers they made. 

Doing so will help Hanwha Ocean cement its foothold within the Philippine Defense market, aside from providing Integrated Combat Management System that its sister company Hanwha Systems provide to the Philippine Navy ships made by a fellow South Korean shipbuilder HD Hyundai Heavy Industries.

S-80 Plus, Isaac Peral-class, Philippine Navy, Submarine Acquisition Project.
Spanish shipbuilder Navantia presented the S-80 Isaac Peral-class submarine as its primary offer to the Philippine Navy.
Diagram courtesy of H.I. Sutton.

This update is not complete without discussing a new competitor on the Submarine Acquisition Project, especially the shipbuilder concerned is another European country that attempts to provide their submarines as an attempt to bag the contract on the pair of submarines with an integration of a submarine technology which they hoped that the Philippine Navy leadership may consider.

The said third competitor for the Submarine Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy is the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, and their S-80 Plus submarine service. This type of submarine is now slowly getting introduced into the Spanish Navy with the lead submarine named as the S-81 “Isaac Peral”, which itself defines the new fleet of submarines as the Isaac Peral-class submarines that the Spanish shipbuilder recently developed and improved.

With the vessel’s specifications being at 81.05 meters long, 11.68 meters in beam, a draught of 7.3 meters, and a displacement of 3,200 tons, the S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class submarines count as one of the largest non-nuclear submarines ever made in the world, and its development isn’t always smooth sailing as Navantia encountered problems with its design during the period. One of those design-related concerns is the fact that a minor decimal difference renders the submarine being far more overweight that it originally designs for, pushing back timelines on its introduction and the Spanish shipbuilder needing to rehash its design with the help of General Dynamics that the redesign comes with a larger hull, longer submarine design, and a pressure ring for strengthened hull during diving periods.

It took the shipbuilder several years of delay in getting the design rehashed and improved until the first diving test took place in the first half of 2023, a decade after the first article about the critical design flaws and shipbuilder delays first mentioned. As expected, the delays and the redesigns made by Navantia may render the submarines far more expensive than the proven designs of both Hanwha Ocean from South Korea and Naval Group from France, as their only marketing point in this acquisition project is the fact that its submarine offer comes with an AIP or an Air Independent Propulsion system, something that both the DSME-1400 PN and Scorpene submarines offer does not have.

Like Naval Group and Hanwha Ocean, Navantia also offered a package that involves support from the Spanish Government in terms of financial support, along with its own set of packages such as having Philippine Navy personnel undertake submarine training with the Spanish Navy. This includes a submarine base that is apparently set in Ormoc, Leyte which is far from the planned submarine yard by Naval Group in Subic Bay's Agila Shipyard. 

Scorpene-class submarines, Philippine Navy, Naval Group, France
Here is an image that provides detailed specifications of a Scorpene-class submarine in a diagram.
Image Source.

The Philippine Navy Submarine Acquisition Project has shown signs of intensified competition, especially between France’s Naval Group and South Korea’s Hanwha Ocean (DSME), as the increased budgetary requirements allotted for the project enables the said two shipbuilders to present their respective packages hoping that the leadership within the naval service branch will choose their offer and seal the deal once winning the bid.

Both aforementioned shipbuilders presented their proven designs that several navies across the world currently use, in a manner that the Philippine Navy has presented with multiple options for the future of the fleet with regards not only to its naval capabilities but also to the composition and structure of the submarine force it choose to get that defines the success or failure of this project.

This project also comes with a late entrant to the competition, as Spain’s primary shipbuilder Navantia attempts to secure a market in Southeast Asia through the Philippines by presenting the S-80 Plus submarine, known in the Spanish Navy as the Isaac Peral-class. After years of delay and critical design revisions that almost risked the status of their submarine program, recent progress took place regarding their design, and it now comes to their present marketing, hoping that the Philippine Navy will get and have it as the first export customer of its submarines.

In the end, the decision and the outcome on the direction of the Philippine Navy’s Submarine Acquisition Project lies to the ones who oversee the bidding, and also to the leaderships’ preferences for the specifications and packages that each shipbuilder that took part on this project has provided. So far, at the time this article gets published, the primary preferred shipbuilder as reported is with France’s Naval Group and with their Scorpene-class submarines plus the submarine facilities it provided under their presented package.

To surmise this up, the Philippine Navy Submarine Acquisition Project is getting more competitive than ever, as every shipbuilder that takes part in the biddings are doing their best in securing not only the contract for this project with the Philippine Navy but also getting a foothold with the country’s market for naval assets, as the support that a winning shipbuilder provides may help them get another opportunity in having another acquisition project presented to them. This comes as the Philippine military gets all the capability it needs in this time that up-arming the organization for external defense is much needed than ever.


Pitz Defense Analysis Note: We edited and updated the portion that involves the packages provided by the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia for the Philippine Navy, plus the financial support from the Spanish government. We originally published this article in a scheduled posting that comes with prior information that Navantia does not come with the packages and government support as mentioned.

(c) 2023 PDA.

Korea Aerospace Industries and the Philippine Air Force's Future Fighter Plans

The Philippine Air Force held an industrial fair recently, and different aerospace companies marketed their plans and vision of their respective products to the leadership and personnel of the air service branch who take part in the event.

The maker of the Philippine Air Force's FA-50PH Lead-In Fighter Trainers, of which some regard it as a Light Multirole Combat Fighter Aircraft, is now showcasing their plans of what will be their plans and programs for what will be an additional capability of the organization, as they provide their suggestions and ideas before the leadership and of course the marketing pitch that came with it.

FA-50PH, Philippine Air Force, Korea Aerospace Industries
Two (2) out of twelve (12) units of FA-50PH that the Philippine Air Force ordered under Horizon 1.
Image Source.

In June 2023, the Philippine Air Force held the year's Air Force symposium in Pasay City's Manila Marriott Hotel, whereby different aerospace contractors such as SAAB, Lockheed Martin, Embraer, and even Korea Aerospace Industries or KAI showcasing their respective military hardware. 

Both the first two aerospace companies mentioned showcased the JAS-39 Gripen C/D variant and F-16 Block 70/72 Viper as both are competing for the Multirole Fighter Jet Projects, while Embraer showcases the A29 Super Tucano and Korea Aerospace Industries with their FA50PH Lead-in Fighter Jets (LIFT) that the Philippine Air Force both have in its fleet of aircraft.

With the symposium comes the speech made by the Philippine Air Force Commanding General, saying and recognizing that air power is essential in providing a full-scope for its territorial defense planning and vision, as the organization sets to improve the country's Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone further, with the coordination between fighter aircraft for intercept, ground-based air defense systems, and air search radars, comes as an essential thing that ensures the security of the country's airspace.

And the highlight coming from this event, among others, is the speech made by the CEO of the Korea Aerospace Industries, showcasing the South Korean firm's deal of providing the Philippine Air Force the tools and avenues that it needs of improving its capability further, ranging from the upgrades for its existing squadron of FA-50PH aircraft down to an outright offer of the KF-21 Boramae as a prospect Horizon 3 Multirole Fighter. 

As they presented the deal, there comes the plausible outcome that a part of what they've pushed, if not its entirety, may get into consideration by the planners within the Philippine Air Force, whether it may be a request from the 5th Fighter Wing being the end-user of the deal, or as it may have approved on budget inclusion and eventually finding its way to the air service branch's Capital Outlay items.

Given the speech made by an official from one of the Philippine Air Force's key suppliers of military aircraft, especially with their plans and visions of having their products playing a role in the country's air defense plans and goals, we will deal with three main parts that may come from this discussion, namely the upgrades, the additional aircraft, and ultimately the future aircraft offer.

FA-50PH, Philippine Air Force, Block 20, Block 30, Block 50, Block 70, Korea Aerospace Industries
Korea Aerospace Industries presented their upgrade framework, going beyond their current Block 20 configuration.
Image Source.

Currently, Korea Aerospace Industries produces the Block 20 variant of the FA-50 Lead-in Fighter Trainer, of which the same variants may end up with both the Polish Air Force and the Royal Malaysian Air Force. This variant, on paper, is more capable than any variant of the FA-50 that has fielded by the South Korean aerospace firm included the Philippines, even though the FA-50PH comes with a different upgrade path of its own.

It is with fully knowledge that the Philippine Air Force FA-50PH comes with a different variant, of which it comes with Israeli technology integrated within the jets, making it more advanced than the FA-50s fielded during that time and before the FA-50 Block 20 came into fruition. This went into our discussion as early as 2019 and has become reiterated across other Philippine defense circles that has gives more bearing in this point.

While the FA-50PH comes with its advanced capabilities that edges that of other nation's other variants of the same aircraft at this period, Korea Aerospace Industries is still presenting its plethora of FA-50 Block upgrades, as the Block 50 variant comes as 'complete' in the presentation (in the image above), while the Block 60 variant comes as 'in-progress' and Block 70 being in the 'planning' stage.

The Block 50 comes with Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod integration, in which this is actually available with the current upgrades that the Philippine Air Force comes with FA-50PH, as these jets come with IAI ELTA EL/M -2032 fire control radar that enables this feature. Also, this upgrade also enables the integration of GBU-12 Paveway II Laser-Guided Bombs that are intended for close air support operations and precision bombing procedures, just like what the FA-50PH jets did during the Marawi Siege, with this performance being the deciding factor for the Malaysians in getting this jet for their Light Combat Fighter (LCA) requirement.

On the other note, the 'in-progress' Block 60 variant of the FA-50 jets is being marketed by Korea Aerospace Industries as an upgrade that will further improve the capability of these jets, specifically regarding to the increased range that this type of aircraft will go as compared to the previous reiterations, while coming with air-to-air refueling probe as an additional feature. 

This capability is helpful in increasing air patrol times, especially with an archipelagic country as big as the Philippines and the airspace that comes with it.

Finally, the 'planned' Block 70 upgrade comes with an idea of making it a capable 'Light Multirole Fighter' platform, enabling a Hi-Low Mix of capable fighter aircraft that can shoot down intruding enemy aircraft that can go hand-in-hand with other platforms such as the more-capable F-16 Viper that the Philippine Air Force aims, through a different procurement arrangement (as the JAS-39 Gripen becomes the preferred platform under the current Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project).

The upgrades provided may benefit the Philippine Air Force in the long run, as having the upgrade framework as presented clearly signifies that FA-50 as a platform will continuously get support in the next couple of years, if not decades. Also, the presented upgrade path will benefit all users of the FA-50 aircraft as its enhanced capabilities will augment more capable Multirole Fighter Aircraft for air defense patrols.

FA-50, Philippine Air Force, Korea Aerospace Industries, KAI, PAF
Korea Aerospace Industries suggests that the Philippine Air Force come with at least three squadrons of FA-50s, totaling the number of units to at least 36 functioning aircraft.
Image Source.

The idea of procuring additional FA-50s for the Philippine Air Force is not necessarily a new thing, as there really is an idea for the organization to get at least one more squadron of these Lead-in Fighter Trainers on a budget separate from the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project. We even discussed it in an article published in August 2022 regarding the possibility of getting additional aircraft from Korea Aerospace Industries.

It is only in this manner that Korea Aerospace Industries offered an idea that the Philippine Air Force needs to secure at least two more squadrons of FA-50s instead of just one squadron of the aircraft as the leadership suggest into getting, as the organization maximizes the utility of its current FA-50PH, going to a certain point in time that there are only few aircraft of this type are fully operational in its fleet.

With several FA-50s being out of service, with reasons pointing to its usual maintenance schedule, severely hits the overall capability of the Philippine Air Force in doing its mandate relating to the usage of the FA-50PH. This only shows that only having a single squadron of Lead-in Fighter Trainer Aircraft with light combat capabilities is not sufficient for the organization to use, so much so that the idea of at least one or two more squadrons of this aircraft comes into the picture.

The rationale given by the Korea Aerospace Industries in suggesting that the Philippine Air Force may come with at least three squadrons of FA-50s comes as each of these squadrons, if deployed in one in three of any airbase that the air service branch has across the country, gives them at least full coverage of patrolling and responding into any areas within the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone, clearly showing its role as a Light Multirole Combat Aircraft. 

This, of course, does not dismiss the fact that the Philippine Air Force still desires to get the Multirole Fighter Jets as part of its Flight Plan initiative, now with the news that they have the chance of securing both the JAS-39 Gripen under the current Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, and used F-16 Falcons under the Excess Defense Articles or EDAs, upgradable to Block 70/72 Viper variant with the Philippine government shouldering the costs.

To simply put it, the Philippine Air Force may come with multiple squadrons of combined Lead-in Fighter Trainers that are doubled as Light Combat Aircrafts and the Multirole Fighters that the organization aims to have with at least 48 units of such aircraft, making it at least six squadrons of this combined force, of which four squadrons are for Multirole Fighter Jets and two squadrons (24 units) of FA-50s if the organization’s plan is to follow.

Having more aircraft will help not only to provide additional coverage into responding in every part of the country’s national airspace, but also to enable several existing units of the FA-50 to undertake some maintenance schedules without significantly compromising the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force in terms of the availability of aircraft that upholds its mandate. Regardless of whether it may be a single squadron or two, additional FA-50s for the Philippine Air Force is better than nothing at all.

FA-21, FA-21 Boramae, Philippine Air Force, Korea Aerospace Industries, KAI
Korea Aerospace Industries actually offered their KF-21 to the Philippine Air Force in their part of the presentation.
Image Source.

Another sales pitch that Korea Aerospace Industries made before the officials of the Philippine Air Force is the KF-21 Boramae 4.5 generation, semi-stealth fighter jet whereby they are marketing it as a cost-effective and fully sophisticated‌ air dominance aircraft solution, just like how they market the FA-50 as a cost-effective Light Combat Aircraft although the organization still count the jets as Lead-in Fighter Trainer jets.

Currently, at the time this article published, the KF-21 Boramae still undertakes multiple test flights and other necessary measures that the aircraft’s design still comes within the parameters set by Korea Aerospace Industries fit for a 4.5 generation fighter. There are now at least six prototypes of the fighter aircraft, four of which are single-seat variants, while the rest come with a dual-seat variant of the Boramae.

So far, all six prototypes of the KF-21 Boramae have successfully undertaken multiple flight tests and other parameter checks, and it is only a matter of time that Korea Aerospace Industries will start its production line for a first mass-produced copy of the KF-21 Boramae that comes accordingly to the basic requirements set and intended for the first two end-users of the aircraft, namely the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) and Indonesia’s TNI-AU.

With both South Korea and Indonesia being the priority end-users that will first receive the KF-21 Boramae, it may take the Philippines at least several years more until by the year 2027-2030 where such aircraft may get reconsidered once more by the Philippine Air Force leadership, which by the time may already have its basic multirole fighter jet and light combat aircraft requirements fully complied, unless otherwise there are changes or obstacles throughout the period that hampers this development. 

As the Philippine Air Force operates a squadron of FA-50s with a plan of acquiring at least a squadron more (or two squadrons as what Korea Aerospace Industries wants to happen), the presentation of the KF-21 Boramae comes as a highly expected move from the South Korean aerospace company. 

It comes as they further cement their establishment of access among multiple defense markets in the region’s different air forces, the Philippines included, which may bring them the advantage to present the aircraft which they market as being a cost-effective solution worth considering.

Speaking of the Philippine Air Force, the leadership has the KF-21 Boramae on their sights for quite some time now, as the aircraft’s potential, plus Korea Aerospace Industries’ good reputation of successfully delivering its FA-50s that the air service branch organization is enjoying right now, makes it viable that such aircraft may find its sights into getting the Philippine market, giving the country additional tools to defend its air defense identification zone.

While there is so much to talk more about the prototypes made by Korea Aerospace Industries with 'partly-inadequate' support from the Indonesian government regarding its ongoing development, the KF-21 Boramae aircraft for the Philippine Air Force deserves its discussion, in a separate entry other from the details specified in this article. 

To surmise it up, it is a promising prospect made by Korea Aerospace Industries regarding the development of a semi-stealth aircraft that countries like the Philippines may benefit, while it presented itself as a similarly cost effective platform that can conduct operations similar to far more expensive solutions such as Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

The Philippine Air Force's current fleet of FA-50s may get an upgrade as recently pitched by Korea Aerospace Industries.
Via Wikimedia Commons.

Korea Aerospace Industries’ presentation before the symposium held by the Philippine Air Force comes as their marketing pitch attempt as the air service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is gearing itself up in acquiring more military hardware as Horizon 3 is now focusing more into external defense posture that require the likes of the FA-50PH (see image above) for the operations.

This also comes of top of a top likelihood that the Philippine Air Force securing both the JAS-39 Gripen from SAAB through the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, and the F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 50s through a potential Excess Defense Articles that the United States government may provide to the Philippines, with the government shouldering its upgrades into the latest Block 70/72 Viper variant.

The South Korean aerospace and defense firm’s marketing of KF-21 comes not as a surprise, as they are gunning the export of the 4.5 generation fighter across the region aside from its immediate prospect customers of both South Korea and Indonesia. It remains to be seen regarding the plans provided by the Philippine Air Force, although there are reports that the leadership is considering it for its future fleet of combat aircraft.

As for the additional FA-50s, a squadron or two of the aircraft may help lessen the fatigue incurred by the current FA-50PH jets that the Philippine Air Force is operating, as its constant use immediately maximizes its rated flight hours before any engine retrofit and Service Life Extension Program takes place to extend its serviceable life. This proposal will lessen the stress inflicted on the airframes of the currently serviceable aircraft.

Overall, aside from the marketing it pushes to cement further its market share within the Philippine defense market for aircraft sales, Korea Aerospace Industries in overall aspect is supportive of the ongoing modernization efforts pushed by the Philippine Air Force along with the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines, as they envision their products serving defense duties of defending a country’s airspace as one way to increase its good reputation as an aircraft manufacturer.

(c) 2023 PDA.

The Philippine Army and the M142 HIMARS MLRS Acquisition Plan

The Philippine Army aspires to get its own advanced Multiple-Launched Rocket System for its own use, as having such a platform helps augment other artillery units that the organization has in its inventory, whereby a certain type of this system sought success in a conflict that took place in the Eastern part of Europe. 

This aspiration comes as just one of many things that the Armed Forces of the Philippines see into interest as it puts up its Horizon 3 acquisition lineup.

HIMARS, Philippine Army, United States Army, Balikatan 2023, Multiple-Launched Rocket System
A U.S. Army HIMARS unit, being guided by troops into the position as part of the Exercise Balikatan 2023.
Via Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS).

As the recent iterations of the Exercise Balikatan took place recently, so does the ever-increasing sight of the military hardwares deployed by participating United States troops as they take part in the exercise, whereby they showcase the firepower that they possess before an ally like the Philippines, whose capabilities are also increasing no thanks to the ongoing AFP Modernization Program as pushed by the top leadership within the Philippine Military.

Such daily occurrence of live-fire exercise of the U.S. military weaponry gives insight into the capabilities that are to the liking of the Philippine military top brass that are worth considering for the firepower that it needs to take as part of the government's push into external defense, whereby artillery units like a Multiple-Launched Rocket System or MLRS plays a role into this approach, in a manner that is likely equated to the BrahMos shore-based anti-ship missiles of the Philippine Marine Corps or the SPYDER Ground-Based Air Defense System of the Philippine Air Force.

From a speech that took place during the 125th Anniversary Ceremony of the Philippine Army's Artillery Regiment and as reported by Naval News, General Romeo Brawner highlighted the leadership's interest of getting both the HIMARS Multiple-Launched Rocket Systems or MLRS (as depicted on an image above), and India's BrahMos shore-based anti-ship missiles that their Philippine Marine Corps compatriots also have, as these military assets fall under the MLRS and Land-based Missile Systems acquisition projects, respectively.

It also highlights the Army's desire for having its own batteries of ground-based air defense systems, as having such platforms will help the Philippine Army defending its units from aerial threats without relying too much on the Philippine Air Force Ground-Based Air Defense Systems that may probably get deployed somewhere else much more important like a critical government or service infrastructure that serve the people. Also, it has acknowledged the current developments of the Army Artillery Regiment, specifically their 12 units of ATMOS 2000 Self-Propelled Howitzer platforms from Israel.

The report overall provides a full picture of what the Philippine Army envisions itself amidst an ever-changing threat against the national sovereignty and the Philippine society that heavily relies on it, as the government's attention to national security now reflects into legislation, with proposals include amendments on the procurement provision of the current Revised AFP Modernization Program, and the Self Reliance Defense Posture-oriented Philippine Defense Industry Development Act.

The legislation comes alongside the country's shift of focus from internal security to external defense, as the government successfully manages its successes in dealing with matters relating with the former, enabling the leadership within the Armed Forces of the Philippines to shift their focus into the latter, which is now more-concerning as country as aggressive as China exerts its show of risky maneuvers like the recent resupply mission on the BRP Sierra Madre within the West Philippine Sea.

With the looming threat in the country's external defense issues gets growing each day, it is just appropriate to all the branches within the Armed Forces of the Philippines trying to get hands on whatever sophisticated military hardware the defense industrial market offers, as these tools came as an essential necessity for the country to secure its national sovereignty, while cooperating with like-minded allies and partners like Japan, Australia, and the United States.

Lockheed Martin, Missiles, American Defense Company, HIMARS, Philippine Army
One of its core businesses that focuses more on missile defense and tactical systems.
Image Source.

When the discussion made here most of the time talks about a US-based defense industry like Lockheed Martin, what comes on the mind first is about the aircraft it produces and usually being fully marketed to a country like the Philippines. This usually includes C-130 of multiple variants and the recent C-130J-30 variant that the Philippine Air Force aims to get, the S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters that this said same military branch gets, and the F-16 Multirole Fighter jets.

But the business line of Lockheed Martin as a company goes beyond just producing military aircraft intended for different air forces from across the globe, subjecting to the export approval imposed by the United States government, but also they also produce multiple variants of missile defense and rocket systems for any interesting armed forces to buy and use. Like the military aircraft sold, these assets also come to this same export approval imposed by the United States government through DSCA arms sale approvals.

It is with this business line that Lockheed Martin produces a wide variety of products to use, such as the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System or ATCMS, a conventional surface-to-surface weapons system that is capable to eliminate targets like radar sites, logistics sites, command-and-control complexes, and helicopter forward operating bases. The said weapon system played a significant role during the Operation Desert Storm in 1991, used in violence against Iraqi military positions.

One thing to highlight in the wide array of products that Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control division is their involvement in the SPIKE-NLOS missile development, as they teamed with an Israeli Defense Firm, Rafael Advanced Systems, Ltd. to make the concept regarding the missile's design a reality. Case in note, the Philippine Navy possesses such type of munition as it comes as a package suite for both the Leonardo AW-159 Antisubmarine Helicopters and the Nestor Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts-Missile vessels, itself a derivative of the Shaldag Mk. V fast attack craft.

Another thing to highlight in the product line of the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Division is their involvement in the development and production of the world-renowned Javelin anti-tank missile system that the United States forces showcased and live-fired with Philippine troops during the conduct of Exercise Balikatan 2023 that took place earlier in April 2023. The Philippine Army is actually considering into having such type of systems in its inventory, seeing its success in the ongoing Ukrainian conflict.

Of course, things will not be complete without the main topic of this discussion, which is in relation to the development of the HIMARS or the high-mobility artillery rocket system, as what it stands for, as this is one of many products that the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Division has invested time and resources regarding its development, making it one of many successful military systems in-use today.

As one of the renowned United States-based military and defense industry is the one behind this successful military system that is widely employed within the United States Armed Forces and other militaries across the globe such as Poland, Romania, and Ukraine, its success can get more understandable as we will take deeper down into its development history.

HIMARS, Philippine Army, United States Marine Corps, Palawan, Puerto Princesa City
Two units of HIMARS Multiple-Launched Rocket System in position after being unloaded in an airbase in Palawan. 
Retrieved via Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

Like any other inventions and weapons system functions, a military equipment will not be as a successful one as it is today without understanding further the rationale or the purpose on why such a weapons system like the HIMARS gets developed and became one of the mainstay artillery platforms of the United States Armed Forces of today, and is in inventories of varying armed forces of different countries that has mentioned.

The HIMARS system we know today started in a development in 1996 by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, in which multiple tests and trials have made to perfect the design according to the specifications set by the United States Armed Forces during the period under the advanced concept technology demonstration (ACTD) program. While the development took place in the 1990s, its concept actually traces back a decade prior, by the leadership within the United States Army.

The concept that what is now became the HIMARS system being employed in the United States Armed Forces started in the 1980s, as the army needs a lightweight multiple-launch rocket system or MLRS for its needs. Even before the first successful HIMARS test took place in 1996, a mockup design of the HIMARS first fabricated in 1991 by utilizing a 5-ton Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles truck chassis, a design framework still in use today.

After the successful test, four prototypes were designed and presented before the United States Army unit, specifically the XVIII Airborne Corps’ 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Field Artillery Brigade of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It is also in this same year, in 1998, that one of the prototype launchers successfully fires its munitions while showing its full flexibility and feasibility by getting itself fitted inside a C-130 military transporter, showing its advantage of being a fully portable rocket artillery platform.

Since the successful tests that have made on the newly developed HIMARS Multiple-Launch Rocket System during that period, Lockheed Martin has awarded by the United States Army to start a ‘Low-Rate Initial Production’ of this new artillery system in 2003, whereby the said military service branch bought at least 89 launcher units for this system, while the United States Marine Corps bought at least four (4) launcher units where they began integrating it into their training exercises two years later.

It was with its introduction to the United States Armed Forces that the HIMARS Multiple-Launch Rocket System that we know today becomes a mainstay platform for its troops, having the capability of delivering such immense firepower that is now showcasing its worth in the battlegrounds that currently taking place in the Eastern parts of Europe, especially in Ukraine.

As this type of multiple-launch rocket system serving actively in a long time within the United States Armed Forces since its inception in the 1990s, it is better to highlight the operational actions that the HIMARS launchers participated recently, especially in discussing it deeper in detail like its recent live fire launches in the Philippines during bilateral exercises that prompt the Philippine Army into considering it for their own use.

HIMARS, Philippine Army, United States Army, Balikatan Exercises 2023
A HIMARS Launcher with its munition took off during a live fire exercise during Exercise Balikatan 2023.
Image taken by Sergeant Samuel Fletcher of the United States Marine Corps.

The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS as it is called, always comes with ways that will showcase its firepower capabilities, as it is in its design to saturate enemy targets with continuous bombardments of rocket artillery, while attaining its flexibility and mobility that stands to its abbreviation. The system’s show of immense firepower capabilities comes in at least two (2) instances that are about to be discussed in this article, with one being a bilateral exercise, while the other being an actual combat.

The first one comes with the multiple bilateral exercises that the United States Armed Forces have with their counterparts within the Armed Forces of the Philippines, such as the annually conducted Balikatan Exercises (see image above) and the recently conducted Marine Aviation Support Activity Exercises or MASA 23, whereby the former showcases its capability of mobility by getting it onboard a military such as a C-130 Cargo Aircraft that the Philippine Air Force currently have in its inventory and has plans to get more.

To take some notes, the HIMARS Launchers deployed by the United States Military in the 2023 Balikatan Exercise took part in the Sinking Exercises, in which it also involves the Philippine Army’s ATMOS 2000 Self-Propelled Howitzer Guns, a Jose Rizal-class Frigate, and both aircraft from the Philippine Air Force and and the United States Marine Corps, as they sank a decommissioned World War 2-era vessel. The said vessel, once known as the BRP Pangasinan, was a Miguel Malvar-class Patrol Corvette that once served in the United States Navy as the PCE-891 Patrol Craft.

It is through the first-ever Sinking Exercises that both the United States Military, and counterparts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines conducted, that the former used its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers as a platform for anti-ship operations. This comes as there are other platforms that are far more effective in sinking a target enemy warship outright, such as the BrahMos coastal missile systems sought by both the Philippine Army and the Philippine Marine Corps (the latter actually bought them), and the SSM-700K C-Star anti-ship missiles found aboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigates and soon, the HDC-3100 Corvettes.

While the HIMARS Launchers are less effective in targeting and sinking ships during the conduct of the Balikatan Exercises, its capabilities came into its full function when used by defenders in the conflict that currently taking place in the Eastern part of Europe in the area that borders Russia, whereby the launchers and the munitions that came with it provided significant gains to the Ukrainian defenders in targeting enemy positions as part of its ongoing war effort and the defense of their country.

Being a game changing platform amidst the ongoing conflict that takes place in Eastern Europe, plus the presentation of its firepower before the Philippine government and military officials during the Exercise Balikatan 2023, gives that push that convinces the leadership to consider the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) for its use, although this setup may also come alongside other rocket artillery options that the Philippine Army considers like the K239 Chunmoo and Elbit PULS (Lynx) systems.

As the leadership within the Philippine Army considering and possibly even pushing the acquisition of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System or HIMARS for its own use as part of the government’s push for investing into external defense, let us discuss the specifications that came with this rocket system that the United States Armed Forces uses, comparing to other assets that this service branch once opted for like the K-136 Kooryong Multiple-Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

HIMARS, United States Marine Corps, Philippine Army
A HIMARS Launcher disembark from a C-130J Military Cargo Aircraft, showcasing its capability of getting in an aircraft for deployment. 
Image Source.

As the Philippine Army opts to have more modern Multiple-Launch Rocket System or MLRS into its own hands aside from having both its towed artillery and the ATMOS 2000 Self-Propelled Howitzer platforms that it currently possess, the understanding of HIMARS’ specifications also comes as the mentioned service branch considered other platforms like the K-136 Kooryong MLRS from South Korea before getting to this point of considering the HIMARS as a preferred platform.

Speaking of comparing the K-136 Kooryong and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), it is clear from here that the latter comes with more modern subcomponents onboard and better firepower capabilities compared to the former, as the HIMARS came from development into its first production in the early 2000s as compared to the South Korean MLRS platform that have served their military since the 1980s and may eventually get replaced by far more modern platforms like the K239 Chunmoo.

Regarding its specifications in-detail, the HIMARS Launcher truck alone weighs at around 10,886 kilograms or 10.88 tons, with its maximum road speed of around 85 kilometers per hour as its engine comes with either a Caterpillar 3115 ATAAC 6.6-liter diesel engine or a Caterpillar C7 engine coupled to a 7-speed automatic Allison 3700SP transmission. The said launcher truck comes usually as a FMTV or a family of Medium Tactical Vehicles, itself being a 6x6 wheeled army truck that served as one of the mainstay cargo vehicles of the United States Military.

The launcher comes with two configurations. First is the usual six (6) canisters that comes on a typical HIMARS Multiple-Launch Rocket System configuration with its munition coming with a rocket weight of 307 kilograms, its warhead being at 120 kilograms, and its caliber being at 227mm with an overall munition weight in six canisters coming at around 2,562 kilograms or 2.56 tons that adds to the weight of the launcher truck if fully loaded. 

The second configuration is that the HIMARS Launchers have the capacity of carrying at least a single MGM-140 ATACMS warhead, as this munition comes with an extra firepower option for a HIMARS user to consider and with the ATACMS missile can get launched in only two launcher options available, with the other platform being the M270 MLRS of the United States Armed Forces.

With the different firing option also comes varying firing ranges that the HIMARS has in offering a potential end-user like the Philippine Army, as the conventional six (6) rockets that came with the launcher has the capacity of 45 kilometers for the ER-MLRS rocket (also used by the M270 MLRS as its primary munition), 70-75 kilometers for a guided rocket system known as the GMLRS produced by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Control, and the 300 kilometer range that comes with the MGM-140 ATACMS system.

Its firepower capability, plus its additional feature of getting delivered by a cargo aircraft like the C-130s that the Philippine Air Force currently has in its fleet and has plans in the future, makes the HIMARS a suitable option that the leadership within the Philippine Army to consider, whilst having an expensive price tag that limits the number of batteries that the organization may get while considering other options such as South Korea’s better option to the K-136 Kooryong it offers, which is the K-239 Chunmoo MLRS.

K239 Chunmoo, Elbit Lynx PULS, Philippine Army, HIMARS
The Philippine Army also checks on other types of MLRS, such as South Korea’s K239 Chunmoo MLRS for its rocket artillery options.
Image Source.

As the government gears itself into external defense, it is at no doubt that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including the troops in the Philippine Army, are gearing themselves up into this new primary mission provided to the entire military as counterinsurgency threats have gone down and more military hardware under the current Revised AFP Modernization Program are getting considered as tensions in the Indo-Pacific region brews up.

And with this gearing up also involves increasing involvement of the United States Armed Forces and their presence becoming more common with bilateral exercises and additional sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, whereby they are now showcasing their best of military weaponry that the Philippine Armed Forces may consider, with the Philippine Army getting its eyes on the likes of the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System or better known as HIMARS.

Both the FGM-148 Javelin and the HIMARS are products of Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control Division, a part of Lockheed Martin company itself that specializes more on missiles and rocket technology that bears fruitful results, especially that both of the systems are actively in-use by Ukrainian defenders. This may count as another pitch of the U.S. based defense industry for the Philippine Armed Forces to consider, coming alongside C-130J Hercules Aircraft, F-16 Multirole Fighter Jets, and the S-70i Sikorsky Blackhawk Helicopters that the Philippine Air Force received.

Its reputable performance both within the United States Armed Forces and outside that actively uses the platform makes it viable for the Philippine Army to consider it alongside India’s BrahMos missile system, whereby this rocket artillery system comes as more modern and more sophisticated than the previously considered K-136 Kooryong Multiple-Launch Rocket System from South Korea, as there is an information that these assets may no longer pursued in favor of the likes of HIMARS and similarly modern MLRS solutions like the Elbit Lynx PULS and the K239 Chunmoo (image above).

The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System or HIMARS comes with two options that the end-user may choose to get such capability, one of which being a capability of carrying and launching a single MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System or the ATACMS Ground-to-ground missile munition, sufficient to destroy a ground target at a range of 300 kilometers that the likes of the BrahMos missiles that the Philippine Army also considers is capable of. 

With the BrahMos missiles also being sought by the leadership, the HIMARS systems that the service branch may get will be the conventional one, with six rocket canisters filled with either a GMLRS or a ER-MLRS munitions solution that are both products of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Division and may come as a package alongside the HIMARS Launchers provided, its truck design being a mainstay cargo vehicle within the United States Military..

To sum it up, the Philippine Army’s plan of having HIMARS in its inventory comes as a big boost in its firepower capability shall the plan pushes through, especially that the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines is now gearing itself up to uphold territorial defense and such systems now come as an essential part of that effort of making sure that the country has the minimum credible deterrence it needs. 

(c) 2023 PDA.




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