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.

No comments:

Post a Comment




Total Pageviews To-Date

Webpage Visitors

Free counters!