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  • Navantia's Submarine Offer to the Philippine Navy

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Navantia and their Submarine Offer to the Philippine Navy

The Philippine Navy is pursuing its submarine acquisition project in its full aspiration of having a capable naval force, whereby getting such platforms may help improve the naval service branch's minimum credible defense efforts that come alongside the overall aspirations of the Philippine Armed Forces. 

As the Philippine Navy submarine acquisition project usually comes with two competing shipbuilders that aim to secure the contract for this project, this topic will involve the third shipbuilder that recently joined the competition as they offer their indigenously designed platform as they aim to secure this segment of the country's national defense market for sophisticated military hardware.

Isaac Peral-class submarines, Navantia, S-80 Plus Submarine, Spanish shipbuilder, Philippine Navy, PN Submarine Acquisition Project
The Spanish shipbuilder offered their S-80 Plus Submarine to the Philippine Navy.
Image Source.

For the past few months, the Philippine Navy's Submarine Acquisition Project received multiple updates, of which we have it discussed on a separate article, although the highlight points out to the recent comprehensive packages that both France's Naval Group and South Korea's Hanwha Ocean has offered to the fleet, which at this point comes as a complete submarine acquisition package.

The former focuses much on providing a submarine base for the Philippine Navy on top of just providing a pair of Scorpene-class Submarines, comprehensive training for the aspiring submarine crew onboard, and a credit line financing arrangement with the French Government. The latter comes with their own set of offers that also provide their own credit line financing, training for personnel, and the delivery of a pair of DSME-1400PN submarines that are designed after the South Korean Chang Bogo-class.

On this report that involves a press briefing coming from the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, their offer for the Philippine Navy's submarine acquisition project involves at least a pair of S-80 Plus submarines or more known in Spain as the Isaac Peral-class Submarines, while they also come with similar packages that involve training with the Spanish Navy, a credit line financing that comes directly from the Spanish government, and their own set of plans involving a submarine base.

Unlike the usual Agila Shipyard enhancements for a submarine base that the likes of Naval Group marketed before the planners within the Philippine Navy, the version provided by Navantia presented an entirely different location for a submarine base, specifically pointing to the place of Ormoc, Leyte. The location comes far from the West Philippine Sea, although the area presents an idea that the submarines can travel in the southern parts of the country in a short time.

Also in the same report comes Navantia's another offer to the Philippine Navy, this time with their Close-In Weapons System pitch, as they offer the Rheinmetall Oerlikon Millenium  35mm CIWS guns that are intended for the two Jose Rizal-class Frigates that are currently serving actively in service within the Philippine fleet. This means that they are directly in competition with Turkish ASELSAN GOKDENIZ 35mm CIWS gun, a platform that may likely on its way onboard the upcoming HDC-3100 corvettes.

This means that a shipbuilder like Navantia is actively pushing for its entry into the Philippine Navy's naval defense market, whereby getting such access may provide them multiple opportunities within this ever-growing defense market in the long term as the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines embark on its largest pool of acquisition projects yet under the 3rd Horizon of the Revised AFP Modernization Program or R.A. 10349.

In this topic, we will delve deeper into the shipbuilder that provides the submarines under this project, the submarine involved and its design, the specifications and subcomponents it have as compared to the two other competing platforms under the submarine acquisition project, and some other historical background that comes relevant to this discussion matter.

Isaac Peral, Philippines, Spain, Submarine, Philippine Navy, Spanish Navy, S-80 Plus
Spain has an interesting history of submarine development, with the likes of Isaac Peral designing his country's first submarine, which was an electric-powered vessel.
Image Source.

As the Philippine Navy seeks to have its own set of submarines in the year 2023 that this article gets published, Navantia's mother country of Spain comes with its interesting history of putting submarine concepts into design development and testing, whereby these things took place while the Philippines was still an overseas possession of Spain. It also comes as an explanation that there was once a road in Manila that got named after this person, before it became known as the United Nations Avenue today.

This person refers to Isaac Peral y Caballero, a great sailor and inventor that contributed to the development of Spain's maritime capabilities. The submarine he invented (see image above) comes apparently with an electric-powered capability, of which this counts as an advanced technology getting employed during his time. His career within the Spanish Navy prompt him to develop a war machine that can compete against other nation's most advanced naval weaponry employed in the late 1800s.

Isaac Peral was born in the Spanish Mediterranean coastal city of Cartagena, which is also currently the area where Navantia's shipyard for submarine construction situated, and the area where Spain developed and produced their S-80 plus submarines that it seeks to offer to the Philippine Navy, with first units made for the Spanish Navy submarine division. Dedicated to Spain's great electric submarine inventor, they named their first submarine as the S-81 Isaac Peral.

His notable invention is the electric-powered Peral submarine, the technologically advanced war machine that comes revolutionary with its design and military application in the late 1800s, well before the mainstream use of U-boats in the first and second world wars. The specifications of the Peral submarine comes with 22 meters in overall hull length, three meters in beam/width, and a maximum speed coming from its 60 horse-powered electric-powered motors of around eight (8) knots.

While the submarine comes as an advanced platform of its time in the late 1800s, the concerns of the leadership within the Spanish Navy of that period regarding its performance, coupled to the ever-increasing difference of opinion between the authorities and Isaac Peral himself, resulted to the dismantling and discontinuation of the project. 

Since then, the invention made by Isaac Peral served as an inspiration for the Spanish Navy to keep on improving its submarine program, which comes to this point that they have produced the largest non-nuclear submarine developed on-date, and aims to export this type of submarine to other countries like the Philippine Navy as they keep on competing against other shipbuilders like Naval Group and Hanwha Ocean.

Isaac Peral's life ended in Berlin, as his health worsened by skin cancer that have started when a barber accidentally cut off a wart during his duty in the Philippine islands, which was still a Spanish overseas territory during that period. While he, as a person, went away from a long time ago, his legacy still lives on, with a Spanish submarine with a class named after him currently being offered to a Navy of what is now the independent Republic of the Philippines.

Navantia, Philippine Navy, S-81 Isaac Peral, Guaiqueri-class OPV, Avante 2200 warship
Navantia also produced the Avante 2200 OPV for the Venezuelan Navy. The same ship also marketed to the Philippine Navy for its Frigates, only to lose to South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries.
Image Source.

In terms of basic knowledge, Navantia is a Spanish state-owned shipbuilding entity, technically operating in a manner similar to Indonesia’s PT PAL Persero, with its primary customers being the Spanish Navy itself. Aside from the Spanish, it also delivered several naval vessels to countries like Venezuela and their Avante 2200 Offshore Patrol Vessel, and Australia with both of their Canberra-class Landing Helicopter Dock and the Hobart-class Aegis Destroyer.

The shipbuilder is 100% owned by the Spanish government’s primary holding company named SEPI, abbreviated as Sociedad Estatal de Participaciones Industriales or State Company of Industrial Participations as translated into English. SEPI operates more like a Sovereign Wealth Fund, managed by Spain’s Ministry of the Treasury with the purpose being a primary entity that oversees not only Spain's state-owned companies but also the investments made by this entity into other firms that generate income to the country.

Navantia has multiple shipyards across Spain, one of which includes the one that produces the S-81 Isaac Peral-class submarines in Cartagena, the place where the original Peral submarine visualized, developed, and produced a real functioning prototype. The other shipyard it has is with Ferrol in the province of Galicia, that is in Spain’s northwestern part. It is in the Navantia Ferrol Shipyard that the Alvaro de Bazan-class Aegis Frigates gets produced for Spanish Navy use. 

Navantia’s history traces back to 1717, when Spain received its first modern shipyard in the Real Arsenal de la Carraca by Quartermaster General José Patiño. The country’s modern shipyard expanded when it opened shop in Cartagena in 1731 and eventually into Ferrol in 1750. This comes earlier than Isaac Peral’s first invention of a modern electric-powered submarine in Cartagena that makes it not only as an iconic location to visit museums relating to the history of this submarine’s development but also Navantia’s current aims of getting the submarine it developed into production, eventually for the Spanish Navy to use it as its mainstay maritime asset while getting the Philippine Navy into considering their offer.

As with other government-owned shipbuilding entities, Navantia’s predecessor, presented by the three aforementioned shipyards, specializes primarily on the repair and construction of vessels, servicing the Spanish Navy and projecting Spanish influence to its overseas possessions that include the Captaincy General of the Philippines. Today, it still serves the Spanish Navy and exports its naval orders to other countries as it expands its market share in the global defense market as with other shipbuilding companies that want to win the Philippine Navy’s series of acquisition projects.

The Spanish shipbuilder isn’t a stranger regarding its participation in the acquisition projects under the Revised AFP Modernization Program with the Philippine Navy. At one point, it took part in the Frigate Acquisition Project before it got shortlisted between India’s Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers or GRSE and South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries, of which the latter won the bid and eventually delivered the Jose Rizal-class Frigates. Navantia’s offer was the 98-meter Avante 2200 Combatant.

With the record that Navantia has in producing warships of various types and exporting them into countries like Australia, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia, the Spanish shipbuilder build its export market further, hoping that it will eventually penetrate the Southeast Asia’s national defense market for military and naval assets, especially that countries like the Philippines increased its budget for the acquisition of submarines, on top of forming its own submarine force from scratch.

Isaac Peral, Isaac Peral-class submarine, S-80 Plus, Navantia, Philippine Navy, Submarine Acquisition Project, PN
S-81 Isaac Peral submarine of the Spanish Navy seen launched from Navantia’s Cartagena shipyard.
Image Source.

Like any other military hardware, the S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class submarine of Navantia undertook development phases, whereby the indigenously designed and produced submarine of Spain isn’t always came with smooth-sailing flow of getting the process step-by-step, as the phase of getting the submarine design altogether comes with miscalculations, delays, and cost overruns, even before getting it tested and eventually marketing it to other countries’ navies like the Philippines.

While its first test dive took place in March 2023, the initial plan for developing a new Spanish-made submarine actually traces back to 1989 under the Spanish Navy’s Project ALTAMAR, whereby Navantia’s predecessor Empresa Nacional Bazan, started studies from that period until its successful completion in 1991. It took the Spanish planners at least six (6) to seven (7) years for them in laying out clear objectives that may define the direction of the Spanish submarine development along the way.

Since the comprehensive program layout throughout 1997 and 1998, additional contracts secured signatures for four (4) more years until 2002, of which, by that time, Spain’s Empresa Nacional Bazan and its merger with Astilleros Españoles S.A. or (AESA) took place in 2000 to become IZAR, or Spanish for “hoist”. The approval for construction received a go-signal in 2003, followed by a construction award in 2004, which is the year IZAR’s military shipbuilding became what is now Navantia

From this point, it took almost two decades for Navantia to sort out the design development and revisions regarding the S-80 submarine design, pushing back launching deadlines and tests into 2023. Within this period, Navantia conducted a critical design review in 2007 that determined the submarine requirements that the Spanish Navy looks from the development of the first variant called as the S-80A Submarine, seeking submarine subsystems from different suppliers as this is a common practice across military shipbuilding.

Take note that when the S-80A comes in its early development, Navantia’s predecessor Empresa Nacional Bazan, then IZAR, has a partnership with Naval Group’s predecessor DCNS in developing and producing the Scorpene-class submarines, which is now the Naval Group’s offer to the Philippine Navy’s Submarine Acquisition Project. From this point, the significant process regarding the development of S-80 submarines by Navantia rendered it as a sign of the Spanish shipbuilder’s departure from this partnership with their French counterparts.

Going through 2010s, issues with the submarine design and the delays associated with it continued that there is a discovery of a critical design flaw regarding the submarines’ overall weight attributed to a single error in the input of a decimal point. This issue involving the submarine’s weight imbalance further delayed the project that the first vessel should enter Spanish Navy service by 2015, with a second one followed in 2016. 

It prompted Navantia to seek help from General Dynamics to get the design rehashed by increasing the submarine’s size, which makes it the largest non-nuclear submarine produced to-date. Since then, there has been progress regarding the ongoing tests of the S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class submarines, especially with the ones that took place in the early 2020s. The launch of the first submarine, S-81 Isaac Peral, took place in 2021 and since then has progressed, with the latest one being its March 2023 sea trials.

S-80 Plus, Isaac Peral-class submarine, Navantia, Philippine Navy, Submarine Acquisition Project, PN, AIP, Air Independent Propulsion, Tomahawk Missile
The S-80 Plus submarine came with an Air Independent Propulsion System as a feature.
Image Source.

Understanding the capabilities of the S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class submarine that Navantia offers to the Philippine Navy will never go complete without understanding the details of its subsystems and subcomponents that define the design rationale and requirements that Navantia and the Spanish Navy (Armada Española) comes in mind. Take note that the Spanish shipbuilder fully markets the advantages that the submarine they offer has as opposed to the competitors of the submarine acquisition project of the Philippine Navy.

The first featured capability that Navantia showcased with its S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class Submarines to the Philippine Navy is that it came with an Air Independent Propulsion system or AIP, a much-needed feature for diesel-powered submarines that enable it to recharge its batteries while spending its time underwater. This increases the Spanish-made submarine’s overall endurance under the sea that lessens its need for surfacing, as opposed to its competitors in the project.

In context, the submarine offers made by France’s Naval Group and South Korea’s Hanwha Ocean regarding their Scorpene-class (Riachuelo variant) and DSME-1400PN, respectively, does not come with such feature, making their submarine offer less capable than Spain’s Navantia, although the contract price associated with their offers came less than the Spanish offer. This comes as all shipbuilders taking part have the support of their governments providing credit facility shall the Philippines choose their offer.

Another capability that the Spanish-made submarines possessed is that it can launch Tomahawk cruise missiles and the Harpoon anti-ship missiles from its torpedo tubes, enabling it to project power and deterrence for the Philippine Navy far beyond its usual role of sinking OPFOR warships without getting detected by their anti-submarine systems in place. France and South Korean submarines offered limited munition options to torpedoes and anti-ship missiles and could not launch Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The capabilities of the Spanish-made submarines offered make it a highly competitive one for the Philippine Navy officials and the key decision makers in the Department of National Defense to consider, as it further advance the submarine force of the Philippine Navy with its integrated subcomponents and design ability that enable it to be a more formidable threat far beyond than just the Philippine Navy having the submarines for operation.

Aside from the submarines offered, Navantia also offered packages as a way of competing with both Naval Group and Hanwha Ocean, whereby they also have their own respective packages for the Philippine Navy to weigh and consider. One of those offered is the credit financing for the submarines wherein the Spanish government may provide at least 100% of the contract as a way of support for its state-owned shipbuilder’s marketing pitch as it seeks to expand its reach into Southeast Asia through the Philippines.

While having such improved capabilities, its competitors have an edge on having the reliability and experience in producing, operating, and maintaining the submarine offers, whereby Naval Group’s Scorpene submarines are serving the navies of Chile, Brazil, India, and Malaysia, while DSME-1400PN derived itself from South Korean Navy’s Chang Bogo-class submarines. Navantia’s S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class submarines, in this case, still need a lot of time to prove its reliability as it comes closer to entering Spanish Navy service.

Isaac Peral-class submarines, Philippine Navy, Navantia, Spain, S-80 Plus Submarines, Submarine Acquisition Project
Here are the detailed specifications and other information regarding the S-80 Plus submarine.
Diagram Courtesy of H.I. Sutton.

This portion will tackle more on the dimensional specifications of the S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class submarines, whereby the designs incorporated by Navantia define the capabilities it possesses, while providing a cross comparison of the submarine’s design and propulsion to the other two competitors’ offer for the Philippine Navy’s submarine acquisition project.

As gathered directly from Navantia’s website, the S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class submarine comes with an overall length of 81 meters, maximum beam (width) of 11.6 meters, a draught of 6.3 meters, diameter of 7.30 meters, surface and submerged displacement of 2,965 tons, 50 days endurance, and accommodation of 32 crew plus 8 Special Forces. Its test depth is at around 460 meters (1,510 feet). The dimensions provided define it as the largest non-nuclear submarine developed and produced to-date.

Comparing it to the other offers provided by competitors like Naval Group’s Scorpene-class submarine, the latter comes with only 1,700/1,750 tons, a length of 66.4 meters (67.5 meters for Royal Malaysian Navy variant), 6.2 meter in maximum beam (width), and a draught of 5.8 meters (5.4 meters for Royal Malaysian Navy variant). Its operating depth is at around 350 meters or 1,148 feet, which is 160 meters or at least 362 feet less than what Navantia tested with its submarine. 

Meanwhile, regarding the Hanwha Ocean’s DSME-1400 PN submarines offered to the Philippine Navy from this South Korean firm, it primarily derives itself from the Chang Bogo-class submarines currently serving the South Korean Navy. As being patterned after the Type 209-1200 submarine design of Germany’s Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft, the South Korean submarine comes with 1,200-1400 tons, 56 meters in hull length, maximum beam of 6.3 meters, draught of  5.5 meters, and has an endurance of 50 days and a crew of 33. It also has the lowest operating depth, of around 500 meters or 1,600 feet.

As for the engines, the S-80 Isaac Peral-class submarines come with a propulsion capability of at least 12 knots on the surface and 19 knots when submerged, as its power plant configuration comes with at least three diesel engines rated at 1,200 kilowatts each, a 3,500 kilowatt main electric engine, and its main feature being the 300 kilowatt Air Independent Propulsion system or AIP. The latter of which is the primary marketing point of Navantia’s offer for the Philippine Navy’s submarine acquisition project.

In comparison, a Scorpene-class submarine’s propulsion system comes with a capability of getting a speed of at least 12 knots on the surface and over 20 knots when submerged, making it just as par as the capabilities presented by the Spanish submarine. The French submarine’s engine configuration comes with at least four (4) 2,500 kilowatt diesel generators. Take note that Naval Group’s submarine offer does not come with an Air Independent Propulsion system as opposed to what Navantia offered with their S-80 Plus.

Completing it up, a Chang Bogo-class submarine, using as a reference for the DSME-1400 PN offer made by Hanwha Ocean for the Philippine Navy, comes with a speed of 11 knots on the surface and 21.5 knots when submerged. Like the S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class submarines, the engines onboard a DSME-1400 PN give it with an endurance of at least 50 days, as its engine configuration comes with at least four (4) MTU 12V 396 SE diesel engines and at least a single Siemens electric motor with 3,700 kilowatt power.

The submarine base offered by Naval Group to the Philippine Navy.
Image Source.

The Philippine Navy’s submarine acquisition project recently earned a third interesting shipbuilder, as this said shipbuilder refers to Spain’s Navantia and its S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class offer, a submarine that comes larger and more capable than the two other offers from Naval Group of France and Hanwha Ocean of South Korea in terms of integrated subcomponents found onboard. The Spanish offer is promising, even though the two other offers are designs that are proven and currently serving recipient navies.

Case in point, Naval Group’s Scorpene-class submarines serve Chile, Malaysia, India, and Brazil, whereas the DSME-1400 PN design is a derivative of the Chang Bogo-class submarines currently serving the South Korean Navy. Navantia’s S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class submarines are relatively new in this field even though its design came from a submarine concept within the Spanish Navy for its submarine fleet that took place a decade or two ago.

While the current submarine concept that the Spanish visualized in getting the S-80 Plus submarine design developed, the country itself is not a stranger to submarine developments as the S-80’s namesake, Isaac Peral, was an inventor that developed and produced the world’s very first electric-powered submarine in an era that still relies on steel gunboats and sees such technology as a state-of-the art and very advanced. Employment of similarly developed submarines didn’t take place until the First World War.

As the submarine acquisition project of the Philippine Navy pushes through, and with the increase of the contract price to around Php 97 Billion, this may push both Naval Group and Hanwha Ocean to provide better offers as opposed to Navantia, as all the three aforementioned shipbuilders provided the training of Philippine Navy personnel in maintaining and operating the submarines, along with submarine basing and credit line financing for the Philippines to avail that makes the acquisition bearable.

With the entry of Navantia into this project, this will encourage further competition between the three shipbuilders that are actively taking part in this acquisition project of the Philippine Navy, whereby any winning proponent under this submarine deal may also win entry into the country’s defense market and also those in the region, while the Philippine Navy benefits in the increase of its capabilities as it exerts effort in prepares to play a key role in the country’s external defense posture.

The Philippine Navy’s submarine acquisition project only comes as a part of its grand scheme of things within its modernization program alongside the other branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, whereby some of its projects like the Corvettes and the Offshore Patrol Vessels are already on their way into shipbuilding production. Getting the submarines may help the Philippine Navy increase the country’s minimum credible deterrence in the region, joining countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

In the end, the decision-makers in the Philippine Navy will choose the preferable shipbuilder for this acquisition project, as the options are now increased to at least three shipbuilders that are taking their part in this project, with Navantia presented its newly developed submarine and also the largest one among the candidates offered. All of which may help the Philippine Navy get the capabilities it needs in gearing itself into external defense, as with the other branches within the armed forces.

(c) 2023 PDA.

Philippine Army's Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge Project

The Philippine Army invests in its own share of military hardware, whereby we already discussed the likes of the Sabrah Tanks under the Light Tank Acquisition Project and the IVECO VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 Armored Personnel Carrier under an acquisition project for Armored Personnel Carriers.

Regarding bridge-layers, it came with the chance that the armored vehicle platform that an Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge is based on may serve as a basis for the Philippine Army's future main battle tank project.

Philippine Army, Bridge-Laying, Merkava Mk. IV, Israel, Elbit Systems Ltd
Philippine Army's Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge or AVLB, from Israel.
(c) Philippine Army, via The Defense Post.

The Philippine Army has successfully taken the delivery of its own Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge or AVLB last July 14 2022, whereby it came with two units of such military platform, itself being a new capability for this service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as these AVLBs are primarily for logistics support that can improve mobility of armored vehicles and other military-issued vehicles.

Signed in 2019, the bridge-layer project has awarded to the joint venture of two Israeli defense firms, Elbit Systems Ltd and Israel Military Industries or IMI, at the contract price of the 27.7 Million U.S. Dollars, or amounting to 1.407 Billion Philippine Pesos, in which it took the project at least three years before the units have successfully delivered to the country.

Originally, the logical thoughts surrounding the platform that might get used on the Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge platforms came as German Leopard 2 Armored Vehicle chassis, formally known as the Panzerschnellbrucke 2 from Germany's Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) as it has seen as the one that has apparently met the desired specifications or requirements of the Philippine Army during those periods.

But then, the two Israeli defense firms that are under a joint venture have delivered these units with Merkava IV Main Battle Tank chassis as the basis, making this procurement an interesting development for the Philippine Army's acquisition planning as these Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge units served as a preference for any future prospects of Main Battle Tanks for this service branch.

Since this type of military hardware is relatively new to the likes of the Philippine Army, that does not have a unit of such type in years, as well as these platforms serving as a primary benchmark for what may be plans for Main Battle Tank requirements later on, as logistical factors play a role for decision-planners to consider military hardware, especially in operational interoperability and spare parts standpoint.

AVLB, M60A1 Tank
M60A1 Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge. (c) Kevin Quihuis Jr., via Wikimedia Commons.

Before discussing further the discussions surrounding this latest military hardware of the Philippine Army and its implications on what will be the prospects for a future Main Battle Tank project, let us discuss first the basic function of an Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge platform, its essentials in combat in terms of mobility, and some of the history surrounding this military equipment.

Speaking of these platforms, its primary function is for an armed force to have an immediate solution that hampered its mobility of troops and military equipment, by having these Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge platforms deployed in craters blasted by explosives or pounded by artillery, anti-tank ditches, inaccessible canals and rivers, and blown infrastructure such as bridges and railroads that slows down advancement.

This band-aid immediate solution is essential for the momentum on the advancement of troop and military equipment, rapidly advancing armored brigades of light tanks of the Philippine Army such as the Sabrah Light Tank or any of its Infantry Fighting Vehicles such as the ACV-300 AIFVs or its soon-to-have Iveco VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers from Brazil.

The essentials regarding the usage and utility of the Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge, as well as its importance in the war effort of a country's armed forces, are something that the European armies also see especially regarding its role in their armed forces, as its widespread use goes along with the preparations in relation to the realities of war and the destruction it brought on, with undermining each forces coming in mind.

For the Philippine Army, the concept of having an Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge Platform seems to come as a renewed form of concept, as the organization typically gets armored platforms like the Sabrah Tank or its Iveco VBTP-MR Guarani for its combat operations, while its engineering brigade gets the other combat engineering equipment like the FNSS Kunduz AACE from Turkey on top of the AVLBs it has from Israel.

Philippine Army, Merkava IV, Israel Defense Force, Main Battle Tank
The Merkava IV Tank of the Israel Defense Force.
Image Gathered via Wikimedia Commons.

The chassis of the Israeli-made Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge or AVLBs for the Philippine Army derives itself from the Merkava IV Tank (see image above), a first for the Israelis to get a chassis of its indigenously made armored vehicle outside its country, operated by another nation, as it was first for Elbit to deliver the Sabrah Tank, an indigenously made turret with its chassis derived from both Pandur 2 and ASCOD 2 Armored Personnel Carriers.

In context, the Merkava IV tank served as a mainstay tank platform since 2003, as the tank is an indigenously built design intended for the Israeli Defense Force. It weighs at around 65 tons and entered full production in 2001 until the first battalion of tanks entered full service with the Israeli Defense Force in 2004 and since then became the Israeli-made tank that the defense community recognize at the present day.

The Merkava IV tank comes with a capability of carrying a 120mm gun turret, as a unit comes with 4 tank crew, namely the tank commander, loader, gunner, and the tank driver. Its 120mm gun turret comes as a development made by the Israel Military Industries or IMI, as they made the smoothbore gun more than an improvement over the tank's predecessor, the Merkava III tank with better capacity in handling high barrel pressure that enables it to provide high muzzle velocity.

Just like the Merkava IV tanks serving the Israel Defense Force, the Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge platforms of the Philippine Army comes with a General Dynamics (now known as MTU) MT883 V-12 diesel engine, with an output coming at 1,500 horsepower. The same engine can also seen on other tanks platforms, such as the Challenger Tank, through a 'EuroPowerPack' configuration.

Currently, there are no other armed forces in the world aside from Israel itself who operate the Merkava family of main battle tanks. However, recent reports have suggested that this development may change as an unknown European country at the time this article has published, expressed their interest in getting this Israeli-made tank. 

Apparently, it may not be surprising for the Philippine Army if they opt for the Merkava tank as their go-to option for its future main battle tank project if this pushes through.

AVLB, Philippine Army, Merkava Tank, Elbit Systems Ltd.
An Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge with Merkava Chassis, such as the ones that the Philippine Army has.
Image Source.

With the Philippine Army getting its own Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge vehicle for the first time, and especially that the platform design derives itself from Israel's known mainstay tank platform, the possibility for the Philippine Army into getting the Merkava Mk. IV tank for its Main Battle Tank project isn't that far-fetched, especially if this comes through a logistical standpoint.

Case in point, Israel sold several of its Merkava tanks to other countries like Cyprus and Morocco, adding more users for this type of tank, and also for a country like Israel to supply at, although these tanks refer to the earlier iterations of the Merkava tank and not the Mk. IV variant that the Philippine AVLBs comes with and even serve as a reference for the Israelis to offer them later on, as suggested by this article.

Adding to the probability is the excellent reputation of Elbit Systems Ltd., in providing military equipment to the Philippine Army, as most of its recent acquisition projects are likely coming from the development and production provided by this Israeli firm, such as the acquisition of its ATMOS 2000 Self-Propelled Howitzer or the acquisition of Sabrah Tank of both ASCOD 2 and Pandur 2 8x8 chassis under the Philippine Army's Light Tank Acquisition Project.

While the idea is not far-fetched given the logistical advantages that the Merkava tanks have with the Philippine Army having an Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge variant of the platform, the current Horizon 3 requirements actually call for acquisition of military hardware required that are intended for the country’s external defense

As the Philippine geography comes as an archipelago surrounded by bodies of water, any acquisition of armored vehicles may go to the back burner as priorities go into more both Philippine Navy and Air Force assets such as corvettes and frigates, and aircraft like Light Combat Aircraft and Multirole Fighter Jets.

With the priority now involves naval and aerial assets, it will now be up to the leadership and in their planning discretion that will define whether the likes of the Merkava tank may push through or not, as it is only fair that the Philippine Army so far comes satisfiable with the brand new assets it recently received, while the likelihood of getting their assets moving forward may involve the likes of HIMARS and BrahMos coastal-based rocket and missile systems.

Sabrah Tank, Philippine Army, Merkava Mk. IV, Elbit Systems Ltd
Sabrah Light Tank with an ASCOD 2 chassis, as presented during a Philippine Army anniversary.
Via Wikimedia Commons.

It is a first for the Philippine Army to have Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge platforms into its fleet inventory, whereby they gained a capability that involves the assurance of continuous flow of necessary troops, equipment, and supplies through a secured logistics chain while gaining momentum in an event of war. These units also play an essential role in case primary infrastructure in the country such as roads and bridges gets unusable, resulting from its destruction by both sides.

The AVLBs are just one of many military hardware that Israel’s defense firm Elbit Systems Ltd., marketed and successfully delivered to the Philippine Army, coming alongside of its other platforms that provide to the land service branch of the Philippine Armed Forces such as the ATMOS 2000, VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers, M-113 turret upgrades, and multiple units of the Sabrah Light Tank that comes with either a Pandur II and ASCOD II chassis.

With the number of items that Elbit Systems Ltd., has provided to the Philippine Army, the idea about the Israeli defense firm providing the Merkava Mk. IV tanks are plausible, although the chances of having them come at the discretion of the leadership, and that chance comes as less likely through time as the Philippine government’s primary priority is to provide the Philippine military the tools it needs with improving the country’s external defense prospects being in mind.

While considering Merkava tanks for the Philippine Army falls into the ‘uncertain’ category, the organization’s Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge has, with its chassis being a Merkava Mk. IV derived one will currently suffice its current requirements, as both the Sabrah Light Tank (see image above) that the Philippine military ordered from Elbit Systems Ltd and the personnel manning these said platforms may gain experience that is useful in an event the organization opts for a better armored tank later on.

To surmise this up, the Philippine Army AVLBs are helpful to ensure continuous logistics of personnel, supplies, and equipment in a war-torn area of the country that needs such tools that ensure a momentum that may mean victory, especially if that area gets severely destroyed by bombs from aircraft and field artillery, or a bridge gets destroyed by either bombs or washed away by severe floods and overcoming entrenched and impassable roads. 

(c) 2023 PDA.

Elbit and the Long Range Patrol Aircraft (LRPA) Project of the Philippine Air Force

The Philippine Air Force aspires to have its own set of Long Range Patrol Aircraft or LRPA that is specifically designed to conduct surveillance missions within the Philippine airspace, of which it includes areas within the country's own Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ. This comes as the activity on the country's western seaboard comes with increased activity from unwelcomed visitors plus the similar trends in the tensions that come with the activities conducted.

Philippine Air Force, LRPA, ATR-72, Elbit Systems Ltd, Long Range Patrol Aircraft
The Philippine Air Force may finally get its pair of Long-Range Patrol Aircraft as part of its Modernization Efforts.
Image Source.

The Philippine Air Force gears up for an improvement of both its capability and organization as the AFP Modernization Program implementation process intensifies with the acquisition of military hardware left and right, and with as many willing bidding suppliers as possible. And with their objectives slowly comes into fruition comes a single acquisition project that has taken years before it finally pushed through.

Recently, according to these series of reports provided, the Philippine Air Force awards the contract for at least two Long-Range Patrol Aircraft or LRPA under the acquisition project of the same name to the Israeli defense firm Elbit Systems Ltd, whereby they will provide their respective sensor suites and other components, while the aircraft itself may come from the Italian company Leonardo, with the preferred platform being the ATR 72-600.

The reports come as Elbit Systems Ltd's website announced that a certain country in the Asia-Pacific region has awarded them at least US$114 Million or Php 6.346 Billion based on the July 10, 2023 exchange rate when the announcement took place. Similarly, a Special Allotment Release Order or SARO has issued by the Department of Budget and Management or DBM for the Revalidation of unobligated allotments to cover the funding requirements of this project, amounting to around Php 896 Million (see page 315 of the SARO release list PDF File).

The deal finally comes with a breakthrough after a decade's worth of waiting and seeing the project facing multiple obstacles, as other projects of the Armed Forces of the Philippines already moves and the entire Revised AFP Modernization Program under R.A. 10349 undertaking the entire Horizons one, two, and three phases. From this point, the acquisition project finally taking progress is already good news of its own worth.

This topic will deal regarding the additional details about the acquisition project itself, as well as other relevant information about the aircraft's development, operations, and specifications, and the concept regarding the use of Long-Range Patrol Aircraft for operations such as in maritime patrol missions and on other areas that its functions work best as designed and as intended for.

Philippine Air Force, LRPA, ATR-72, Long Range Patrol Aircraft, Elbit Systems Ltd
Notice to proceed issued on May 31, 2023, with expected delivery dates slated on 2025 and 2026, respectively.

While the information that Elbit Systems Ltd, has awarded a project for the delivery of at least two (2) ATR 72-600 Long-Range Patrol Aircraft for the Philippine Air Force, there are some information that have shared by several contributors here on Pitz Defense Analysis, especially regarding on the details as provided on the image above regarding the issuance of the Notice to Proceed or NTP, and the Expected Delivery Dates.

A Notice to Proceed or NTP as described in the procurement law or the Republic Act 9184, is a document that a local bids and awards committee, or the ones in the Department of National Defense in this case, is something that the entity that sets the procurement needs to issue to the winning bidder not later than seven (7) calendar days. In our understanding, this means that it is a document that will serve as a go signal for the winning bidder to get the manufacturing phase going.

As the materialization of the manufacturing phase gets on, the winning bidder, or Elbit Systems Ltd., in this case, needs to comply and get the goods- the pair of ATR 72-600 Long Range Patrol Aircrafts, delivered on the day or even before the expected delivery dates as this comes in the contract signed between the winning bidder and the procurement entity. The expected delivery dates issued above will have the first LRPA delivered to the Philippine Air Force in the 2nd Quarter of year 2025 or 730 calendar days since receipt of NTP, and the final delivery of the second aircraft taking place in the 2nd Quarter of the year 2026 or 1035 calendar days since receipt of NTP.

Based on the information above, it shows that it may take more time for the Philippine Air Force to just wait for the manufacturing process to take its way, before Elbit Systems Ltd and Leonardo to provide the sensors suite and the aircraft, respectively, along with the process that have the platform integrated, tested, and making sure that it complies with the specifications set by the end-user or the procurement entity's Technical Working Group or TWG.

Overall, the two to three year wait on the delivery dates provided is shorter than the almost a decade worth of getting this acquisition program rolling with obstacles regarding the bidding process, as the details provided here entails a clear direction for the project involving the Long Range Patrol Aircraft, and with it comes with a full certainty that the Philippine Air Force may get these platforms, unless there are production-related problems along the way.

ATR 72-600, Leonardo, Turkish Air Force, Turkey, Philippines, Philippine Air Force, LRPA, Long-Range Patrol Aircraft
Here is an ATR 72 Maritime Patrol Aircraft of the Turkish Air Force.
Image Source.

Like any other aircraft designs and inventions, the discussion about the pair of Long-Range Patrol Aircraft by the Philippine Air Force may not be complete without understanding the concept and developments regarding the inception of what became the final product itself. For the case of the ATR 72 aircraft, its development comes with air travel and short-range passenger transport in mind.

The ATR 72 aircraft itself is a direct development of the shorter ATR 42 aircraft, of which the latter came as a concept in the early 1980s from a manufacturer formed from a joint consortium of both French and Italians coming in the name of ATR or Aerei da Trasporto Regionale or Avions de transport régional, both referred as the Regional Transport Airlines in both Italian and French, respectively. 

This fuel-efficient turboprop regional airliner conducted its maiden flight on August 16th, 1984, as its design comes with competition in mind, as the ATR 42 aircraft comes against other aircraft serving European markets supplied by other manufacturers such as the Fokker F-27 Friendship regional airliner. Case in note, the Philippine Air Force once has such aircraft belonging to the 250th Presidential Wing, of which these are no longer in service as these planes have replaced by the newer C-295 Medium Lift Aircraft.

The original ATR 42 aircraft comes as it has described in its designation - an aircraft that has the capacity of carrying at least 42 passengers. The ATR 72 aircraft, meanwhile, comes with at a capacity of at least 72 passengers. And it is with the increasing demand in this segment that the aircraft operates that the aerospace manufacturer dealing in this project comes with an idea that involves developing, introducing, and mass-producing the stretched variant of this type of aircraft that has produced during that period.

Since the maiden flight in 1984, the French-Italian joint consortium company comes in a decision to launch a stretch program for its aircraft lineup, resulting in the inception of the ATR 72 aircraft that is known today. It took more years for the company to sort things related to the testing and certification of the aircraft, whereby the first produced ATR 72 aircraft unraveled by the company in 1988, and eventually getting its certification on October 27 of the said year.

The first maiden test flight for the ATR 72 aircraft has made in September 1989, at the period that a European airliner Finnair that is based in Finland introduced the said aircraft into its fleet, serving its regional destinations from Helsinki to other areas in Northern Europe such as Riga, a capital city in the country of Latvia, or to the city of Oslo, the capital of Norway.

With the design success of the ATR 72 and its shorter predecessor as a regional-based airliner makes it a viable option for several airlines that still use it presently, whereby it is still being produced by this same joint venture of an aerospace company, of which its current structure comes as a joint venture between Airbus (succeeding Aerospatiale), and Leonardo (succeeding Aeritalia), with the latter providing the aircraft into the military and defense segment, which is now the primary topic for this discussion.

ATR-72 LRPA, Philippine Air Force, Elbit Systems Ltd., Long Range Patrol Aircraft
These are the main features of an ATR 72 airliner aircraft.
From ATR’s Brochure.

As this refers to the Elbit’s Long-Range Patrol Aircraft Project for the Philippine Air Force, discussing its specifications count as an essential part of this topic, as it gives insight over the overall capabilities of the offer made for the Philippine Air Force, ranging from the dimensions of the aircraft to its engine output and the capabilities that came with it. Add also to the mix are the subcomponents that the Israeli company may install in the aircraft.

Regarding the aircraft that Elbit Systems Ltd has offered to the Philippine Air Force, the design and the variant offered will be the ATR 72-600 aircraft, the current variant of the ATR 72 aircraft that is actively pushed by ATR primarily for regional airlines to use, with military users like the Philippine Air Force being another segment, giving the flexibility on its utility, purpose, and usage, depending on which end user that such type of aircraft may end with.

The airline version of the ATR 72-600 aircraft has the capacity of carrying at least 72 passengers with high pitch, which originally comes with the design development of this stretched variant of the shorter ATR 42-600 aircraft. The overall length of the aircraft comes at around 27.17 meters, longer than ATR 42’s fuselage, which is around 22.67 meters. Likewise, the wingspan of the ATR 72 comes at around 27.05 meters, making the aircraft wider than ATR 42, which has 24.57 meter wingspan.

Speaking of engines, the ATR 72-600 aircraft’s engine configuration comes with two (2) Pratt and Whitney PW127XT engines, which comes with a 2,750SHP or Shaft Horsepower. The engines enable the aircraft to have a maximum takeoff weight or MTOW of 23,000 kilograms, while having a maximum landing weight of around 22,350 kilograms. Also, the engines give the ATR 72 aircraft the capability of attaining a maximum cruising speed of around 500 kph or kilometers per hour, or at around 269.98 knots. Completing it up, the aircraft’s coverage comes at a range of around 740 NM or 1,370 kilometers, at full pax.

In comparison with other aircraft of the Philippine Air Force, such as the C295 Medium-Lift Cargo Aircraft, the ATR 72-600 aircraft that the air service branch may get as part of its Long-Range Patrol Aircraft requirements come as approximately similar, although there are minor variations regarding the specifications of the two said aircraft. For instance, the takeoff weight of the C-295 aircraft comes at around 23,200 kilograms, which makes it heavier by a bit as compared to the ATR 72-600.

Another thing to take note, continuing the ATR 72-600 aircraft’s comparison to the C-295 Medium Lift Aircraft that the Philippine Air Force already has in its airlifting fleet, is that the former comes larger in dimension compared to the latter, enabling it to provide a bit of extra space for any components of the Long Range Patrol Aircraft to get installed on by Elbit Systems along the way. On another note, the C-295’s engines also come with a Pratt and Whitney, although it is a PW127G engine with a power of around 3,058 ESHP.

Completing this up, an ATR 72-600 aircraft will not be a Long Range Patrol Aircraft variant without the sensors and technical subcomponents that Elbit Systems get installed onboard. The aircraft may come with sensors related to Communications Intelligence or COMINT, Electronic Intelligence or ELINT, Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) Camera, and a Media Management Suite or MMS that can handle sensor data that can transmit to other units of the Philippine Armed Forces through a data link communications platform.

ATR 72, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Air Force, Long Range Patrol Aircraft, LRPA, Elbit Systems Ltd
Local Philippine airline Cebu Pacific comes with a cargo variant of the ATR 72 aircraft.
Image Source.

The ATR 72 aircraft, just like many other types of aircraft, also comes with many variants with respective specializations and improvements that come integrated, along with varying design variations that focuses on differing functions and purposes that an end-user has in mind regarding its use of an aircraft such as the ATR 72. In fact, the ATR 72-600 Long Range Patrol Aircraft is a specialized aircraft of its own variant, leaning nearer to the ATR 72MP category, albeit with some differing specifications.

One of the ATR 72 variants available is the ATR 72-600F Freighter variant, of which this comes different from the usual ATR 72-600 regional airliner that the company markets to multiple airliners across the globe. One of those users of such aircraft is the Philippines’ very own Cebu Pacific Air (see image above), whereby it operates a single ATR 72-600 cargo aircraft, coming alongside its airliner fleet of ATR 72 aircraft for the country’s short range travel, as opposed to its Airbus aircraft that links key cities in the country.

Another thing to check is that while the ATR 72-600 aircraft comes as the most recent and currently produced and marketed aircraft, the aircraft comes with various iterations and previous versions that come with lesser capabilities and configuration, as it does not come with the current Pratt and Whitney engine that makes it a known, more-capable aircraft that it is today. These previous iterations are the ATR 72-200, ATR 72-210, ATR 72-212, and the ATR 72-500 passenger and freighter aircraft.

One key difference between variants is in terms of passenger capacity, whereby the ATR 72-600 can carry four more passengers with its 70 overall capacity, compared to ATR 72-200 and ATR 72-210’s 66 passengers overall capacity. Also, another key factor in the differences shown is the aircraft’s differing engine configuration, as mentioned, with variables affecting the overall performance of each variant mentioned, such as regarding to overall range, maximum payload allowable per variant, and the rate of climb that each ATR 72 version comes with.

For instance, the rate of climb for an ATR 72-600 aircraft comes at around 1,355 feet per minute, which comes less compared to the ATR 72-500 with a rate of climb comes at around 1,374 feet per minute, 1,462 feet per minute for the ATR 72-210, and 1,390 feet per minute for ATR 72-200 variant. The same variable goes with range at maximum pax, whereby the ATR 72-500 comes with 785 nautical miles or 1,454 kilometers, ATR 72-210 with a range of 805 nautical miles or 1,491 kilometers, and ATR 72-200 with a range of 872 nautical miles or 1,615 kilometers.

Hence, while the variables on performance comes at random that an earlier variant performs better compared to the ATR 72-600 latest version of the aircraft, the primary contention in its improvement comes in terms of aircraft capacity, as this comes important for a Long Range Patrol Aircraft that comes with sensors and communications equipment onboard. This reflects on each variant’s maximum payload, whereby the ATR 72-600 comes with a maximum payload of 7,500 kilograms as opposed to the 7,200 kilograms for the ATR 72-500 and 7,000 kilograms for both ATR 72-200 and -210 variants.

This means that the ATR 72-600 comes with reasonable terms of capability for range and capacity that Elbit prefers it as a choice of aircraft to provide for the Philippine Air Force’s Long Range Patrol Aircraft acquisition project, whereby it falls under the Special Mission Aircraft category that the Israeli defense company can provide a systems integration suite onboard an aircraft that makes it compliant to the Philippine Air Force requirements.

Philippine Air Force, Long Range Patrol Aircraft, LRPA, Special Mission Aircraft, Elbit Systems Ltd.
The Special Mission Aircraft solution of Elbit Systems, as presented in its brochure.
Link reference.

Aside from discussing the aircraft platform that the Philippine Air Force’s Long Range Patrol Aircraft may likely end up with, such as the ATR 72-600 aircraft, it is also good to point out the capabilities of this ‘Special Mission Aircraft’ as marketed by Israel’s Elbit Systems Ltd, giving the understanding of the systems integration that may likely end up with the air service branch of the Philippine Armed Forces as part of conducting their primary mandate.

First thing to point out is the already-mentioned Mission Management Suite or System or MMS, as this comes as one crucial component of Elbit Systems’ Special Mission Aircraft offer or the Long Range Patrol Aircraft for the Philippine Air Force. This system, as described, comes as both a command-and-control platform and also a situational awareness platform, receiving up-to-date data essential for a patrol aircraft as it receives information from other sensors onboard which will get discussed along the way.

The features pointed out for a Mission Management System, as marketed by Elbit Systems, comes not only as a Command and Control platform that can conduct mission planning, zones and route management, and alerts and controls, but also serves as a platform that gathers target detection, classification, and identification, with such data getting recorded onboard and can also get transmitted to the ground station, giving an up-to-date situation on the Long Range Patrol Aircraft area of responsibility.

Aside from the Mission Management System that served as the brains of the entire systems suite found onboard a Long Range Patrol Aircraft of the Philippine Air Force, let us note that the system will not be complete without the other sensors and subcomponents suite that Elbit Systems said in their brochure as ‘flexible’ and ‘platform-agnostic’, as the purpose in their systems integration is to make sure they get with the specifications of the end-user and the capabilities they are after in an aircraft platform.

The sensors that may come onboard a Special Mission Aircraft of Elbit or a Long Range Patrol Aircraft include a Wide Area Persistent Surveillance or WAPS platform, Electronic Intelligence suite or ELINT sensor platform, onboard radar, onboard Electro-Optic/Infrared or EO/IR sensor platform, Signal Intelligence or SIGINT solution, and a Communications Intelligence or COMINT suite, all of which are transmissible through an MSS for data uplink to ground station.

With the sensor's integration, the special missions aircraft or the Long Range Patrol Aircraft of the Philippine Air Force may come not only as a platform intended for maritime patrol operations, but also applicable to other objectives such as counterinsurgency operations, enabling the use of the aircraft in an event that another insurgent threat takes place in the country like the recent 2017 Marawi Siege

Another point is that the Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ protection feature of the aircraft really helps the Philippine Air Force improve the country’s Maritime Domain Awareness, enforcing the country’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea amidst ever-increasing Chinese aggression in the area.

With the subcomponents detailed by Elbit Systems for the Long Range Patrol Aircraft of the Philippine Air Force, it is most likely that it may not come with antisubmarine warfare or ASW capabilities, and its role comes only limited to long range surveillance patrol, specifically surveying surface vessels and can help provide updated situation like the incident that involves white-hulled vessel standoffs during the Ayungin Shoal supply missions.

ATR 72-600, ATR 72, Assembly Line, Toulouse France, Philippine Air Force, LRPA, Long Range Patrol Aircraft
This is the ATR 72 aircraft assembly line in Toulouse, France.
Image Source.

The Philippine Air Force sets to get its Long-Range Patrol Aircraft after a decade of continuous bidding for the project and the bid failures that may come with it, finally making it within the reach as Israel’s Elbit Systems may provide such type of aircraft as its capabilities and subcomponents patterned after its Special Mission Aircraft solutions that it marketed in its brochures.

Regarding the aircraft platform used, the Elbit Systems Ltd preferred the ATR 72-600 aircraft, whereby this comes widely used by multiple airlines and several militaries across the world, with the Philippines’ very own Cebu Pacific Air using such type of aircraft both for its passenger and cargo requirements, complementing its larger Airbus A321 and A330 aircraft that served key cities and destinations inside and outside the country.

The widely used type of aircraft and the special mission aircraft solution of Elbit Systems Ltd helps provide the much-needed capabilities of the Philippine Air Force for its long range patrol missions, especially with the ever-increasing tensions between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea, specifically the recent incident that took place within the country’s Ayungin Shoal, a feature well within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

As the Notice to Proceed for the aircraft released in the second (2nd) quarter of the year 2023, it comes with an expected delivery date of the year 2025 and 2026 for the first and second aircraft, respectively. In context, Philippines’ southwestern neighboring nation of Malaysia also signed a deal for at least two (2) ATR 72MP aircraft, with their deal being directly with Leonardo for the delivery of such aircraft, with the dates of these aircraft being delivered also projected in the year 2025 and 2026, respectively. 

This means that from this timeframe, both countries within Southeast Asia may end up having this type of aircraft, enabling both nations to monitor the situation in their respective Exclusive Economic Zones that China aims to claim within its so-called nine-dash line area. Add also the idea that having Malaysia as another end-user of the aircraft comes as an advantage to the Philippine Air Force from a logistics point of view, as this means an additional source of spare parts.

Given that the contract signing and production of the ATR 72-600 may likely go together with the similar delivery dates of both countries’ patrol-oriented aircraft, it gives incentive for the aircraft manufacturer ATR in catering these orders in their production line, adding up any future prospects of any additional orders that may come up from either Malaysia and the Philippines shall the performance of the respective patrol-oriented aircraft satisfied the end-user requirements crafted by these aforementioned countries and their respective military.

Ending this up, the Philippine Air Force finally ended the search for its Long Range Patrol Aircraft acquisition project, with Israel’s Elbit Systems Ltd getting the contract and may likely be a reference for any future follow-up orders of this type of aircraft widely used across the world while utilizing a special mission aircraft solution crafted by the Israeli firm to cater the flexible and ever-changing mission requirements of the air service branch of the Philippine Armed Forces as it uphold its mandate of defending the nation.

(c) 2023 PDA.




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