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Philippine Defense Budget in 2024 as Explained

The Philippine government has enacted the 2024 General Appropriations Act into law just recently, enabling it to get its effectivity scheduled into the fiscal budgeting year of January 1, 2024. So far, many in the defense community expressed full interest and enthusiasm for getting deeper regarding the discussion of the country's national budget, especially the ones involving national defense and how much is getting allotted to the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

In this quick entry, let us delve deeper into the details.

2024 General Appropriations Act, Defense Budget, Philippine Defense Budget, GAA, Department of Budget and Management, DBM, Department of National Defense, DND
The 2024 General Appropriations Act funds all projects of the government for the said year.
This includes the AFP Modernization Program.

Before the year ends, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signed the Php 5.768 Trillion national budget for the year 2024, encompassing all expenditures of national agencies and government-owned corporations, from salaries and bonuses of government employees down to the maintenance and operations of each government entity and large projects, of which it include ones under the Revised AFP Modernization Program or the R.A. 10349.

This is a noteworthy achievement, as mentioned by the Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management or DBM, as the government successfully having the law enacted, ensuring the continuity of government operations effective January 1, 2024, using the new Appropriated items intended to address the operational and project requirements of each government agency involved, of course it includes the ones under the Department of National Defense.

Speaking of the Department of National Defense, it has allotted initially at least Php 283 Billion for its annual budget before the eventual Php 6.17 Billion increase, excluding the re-aligned confidential funds that are intended for securing the country's sovereign right in the West Philippine Sea. The recipients of the re-aligned confidential funds are not from the defense department and instead, it went to civilian maritime enforcement agencies that are currently working their duties and responsibilities in the West Philippine Sea such as the Philippine Coast Guard (currently under the Department of Transportation), and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (under the Department of Agriculture).

While the Php 283 Billion peso budget for the Department of National Defense seems big that it can address the funding requirements for the Revised AFP Modernization Program, take note that the budgeting process involves the utilization of funds in other expenditure items that are different in purpose than the ongoing modernization plans and programs like the ones programmed under the Horizon 3 phase, as this involves the overall operations that the entire department and its agencies have throughout the fiscal year.

In this brief discussion entry, let us discuss the breakdown and special provisions of the 2024 National Budget for the Department of National Defense or DND, with an aim of understanding the budgeting terms even further while giving a gist of how much is getting allotted for the acquisition of fighter jets and naval warships that the Armed Forces of the Philippines needed for its territorial or external defense posture as pushed by the national government as a policy.

DND Budget 2024, Department of National Defense Budget 2024
Here is the programmed budget for the National Defense for the year 2024.
From the 2024 General Appropriations Act.

In the table presented above, the Department of National Defense's total appropriations amounts to Php 238,356,544.000.00, of which it encompasses the Personnel Services or basic salary and benefit requirements of all serving military personnel and non-uniformed employees under the department amounting to Php 143,975,789,000.00

The items under the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses or MOOEs intended for base upkeep and maintaining existing military assets of the Philippine Armed Forces, comes with an allotment amounting to Php 70,413,754,000.00, and Capital Outlay or smaller acquisition projects that are different to the dedicated budget for AFP Modernization, of which the amount comes at Php 23,967,001,000.00.

At the initial observation, it is noticeable that there are no signs of where the AFP Modernization Program budget item is under the Department of National Defense, as the total amount may not make sense if compared to the reports presented by reputable media outlets that reported an initial budget allotted of Php 282.7 Billion. The said initial allotted budget increased by Php 6.17 Billion, enabling the budget to arrive to the Php 288 Billion defense budget as it is now known. 

Now, as observed on the table once again, it lacked the difference of Php 50 Billion budget allotment to meet up the number, of which this is likely be the one that is programmed for the Revised AFP Modernization Program under R.A. 10349, of which it comes with special provisions that are primarily interesting as this may hasten any process of acquisition along the way.

To put it out, the core budget for the Department of National Defense, like any other government entity, comes with day-to-day operations in mind, as it is essential to keep government personnel and soldiers on the payroll, military aircraft and ships fully operational with its spare parts maintenance and fuel addressed, and key facilities within military bases fully functional, ensuring that the Philippine military is always ready to defend the country's national sovereignty and interest.

RAFPMP, Revised AFP Modernization Program, Defense Budget 2024, AFP Modernization Budget, 2024
The provisions for the Revised AFP Modernization Program include process exemptions from the Government Procurement Law (R.A. 9184).

The budget allotted for the Revised AFP Modernization Program under the 2024 General Appropriations Act is at around Php 40,000,000,000.00. This is actually a significant budget increase for the AFP Modernization as compared to the Php 27,500,000,000.00 budget allotted for the year 2023. This means that this budget for acquiring new military hardware has increased by Php 12,500,000,000.00 or at least 45% budget increase from the 2023 budget allocation.

In spite with the said increase, it is still a far cry from the originally requested budget from the Department of National Defense, which amounts to Php 115.1 Billion for the Revised AFP Modernization Program, whereby such amount may help the department push its acquisition programs especially the ones that are in the priority list under the Horizon 3 phase of the said program. Projects under the priority list have primarily aimed at purchasing fighter aircraft and naval warships.

Another thing to take note is the special provisions that correspond to the acquisition process under the Revised AFP Modernization program, of which this was nonexistent during the 2023 General Appropriations Act. One highlight in this provision is the exemption of the acquisition of military hardware from the usual procurement processes presented under the 2003 Philippine Government Procurement Reform Law or better known as the Republic Act 9184. 

Take note that in modernization projects that will go under public bidding following the procurement law, the underlying process with the endorsement of the bids and awards committee within the Defense Department will still follow, as highlighted by the 2016 revised implementing rules and regulations.

The exemption allowed the Department of National Defense to go directly into acquisition, which comes either as a Government-to-Government or G2G deal, or through negotiated procurement on a commercial deal with a private company which is actually what happened to the acquisition of three C-130J-30s for the Philippine Air Force from Lockheed Martin. Provided that it has the approval of the Defense Secretary up to the President on deals lower and higher than Php 500 Million, respectively.

Ultimately, another provision presented is in allowing the acquisition of used or second-hand military hardware, of which it highlights the in-brand new condition, as this means refurbished military hardware like used F-16s currently in-deal with the United States that can be upgradable to Block 70 Viper configurations. 

The provision for purchasing used and in-brand new condition military hardware gets emphasized further that the conditions of the acquisition of used equipment shall come with at least greater than 50% of its remaining expected and average lifespan, making sure that the received hardware are still up to function for Philippine military operations.

Unprogrammed Appropriations, 2024 GAA, 2024 General Appropriations Act, 2024 Philippine Defense Budget, Department of National Defense
There is at least a PHP 10 Billion budget from Un-programmed Appropriations for the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

To complete the entire budget for the Department of National Defense for the year 2024, an additional ten (10) Billion is in the line item for Un-programmed Appropriations, primarily to cover up projects under the Revised AFP Modernization Program, of which this will total the figures up to at least Php 50 Billion. Still, such an amount is still short from the requested budget from the Defense Department for AFP Modernization Program, amounting to Php 115.7 Billion.

By definition, an unprogrammed appropriation means that there is a standby budget to support the needs of a government agency in unforeseen situations, especially if there is an unexpected need for funding certain budget items that require additional financial support but only to the extent of what is available to each item. For the Revised AFP Modernization Program, it is amounting to only Php 10,000,000,000.00.

Currently, the amount of unprogrammed appropriations for the year 2024 under the General Appropriations Act of the same year comes at around Php 731,448,566,000.00, covering a wide range of government needs from different acquisition projects to support Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations or GOCCs in their day-to-day operations. Primarily, its goals come with social programs and government infrastructure in mind, such as providing government support for marginalized groups and key public transportation projects.

Hence, the overall budget intended for the Revised AFP Modernization Program has increased significantly, but not to the extent of what has requested by the Defense Department to provide much-needed funding to the acquisition projects getting lined-up, especially now that the Horizon 3 phase list is now getting in the process of finalization, and eventually getting its priority for external defense requirements.

This puts the total budget of the Department of National Defense to the figure presented by media outlets, with the breakdown separated into three parts - the operational function of the department and the Philippine Armed Forces for the entire year to support its personnel, basing maintenance, and military equipment maintenance purposes, budget dedicated for the Revised AFP Modernization Program, and a standby budget line item.

F-16 Viper, Multirole Fighter Jet Project, Philippine Air Force, PAF, MRF
Here is an F-16 Viper fighter aircraft taking off from an airbase on a sunrise background.
Image Source.

The Department of National Defense has saw significant increase in its overall budget throughout the years, with this year being the highest one yet, as the government is now gearing up its external defense posture, especially with the current uncertainties and growing tensions that takes place such as in the West Philippine Sea area, within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

Also, there is a huge increase taking place for the budget intended for implementing the Revised AFP Modernization Program as compared to the 2023 General Appropriations Act, although it is still far from what has requested by the defense department for its Horizon 3 requirements plus military acquisition projects that are pending from previous Horizons. This is to note that the mentioned phase comes with essential military equipment at hand that has the country’s airspace and both territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters in mind.

As the year 2023 draws to a close, it is worth mentioning that the Armed Forces of the Philippines receive a lot of military equipment recently to sustain its core mandate of protecting the country’s sovereignty from internal and external threats, of which it comes with a variety of military acquisitions delivered ranging from new armored vehicles of infantry fighting vehicles and light tanks to air surveillance radars that provide large eyes that covers significant parts of the country that watch against aerial threats.

While the budget increase in the 2024 General Appropriations Act for the Department of National Defense and other agencies comes with a bit welcoming and also an underwhelming feeling for the continuous resolve of getting the tools required for a much-needed ever-increasing capability of the Philippine Armed Forces, the year 2024 presents itself with new challenges and opportunities ahead, for the country and its citizens, and for individuals and communities to look forward into.

Ultimately, we are in the community of checking Philippine defense developments and security matters really hoping and aspiring that the trends of budget increases will continue, until the Armed Forces of the Philippines finally achieve and sustain the minimum credible defense posture it deserves to get, sufficient to continue its mandate, as it will be on other government agencies. As citizens of the Philippines, we are looking forward to a better, peaceful, stronger, healthier, prosperous, and promising 2024 for one and all.

To access the documents, here are the following links below.

(c) 2023 PDA.

Philippine Air Force's Plan of Adding More Bell 412 Utility Helicopters

The Philippine Air Force's primary helicopter workforce at the pre-modernization period have comprised by old UH-1 Iroquois Huey Combat Utility Helicopters, of which this eventually gets replaced by newer rotary assets like the S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters and the Bell 412 Helicopters, of which it shared its design with the old workhorse of the air service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In this topic, we delve deeper into this acquisition project that actually calls for additional Bell 412 platforms for the Philippine Air Force, despite the ongoing bulk orders that the Department of National Defense has made in the recent times for the S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters that made the Philippines its primary user in Southeast Asia.

Bell 412EPX, Subaru Corporation, Philippine Air Force, JGSDF, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, PAF
Japan's Subaru Corporation actively markets its Bell 412EPX helicopters for export.
Image Source via Helihub.

In the budgetary release made by the Department of Budget and Management or DBM on its Special Allotment Release Order or SARO list webpage, the country's primary budgeting agency provided the funding as needed to the Department of National Defense, whereby it has addressed to the General Headquarters, AFP, with the operating unit referring to the General Headquarters - Proper. This SARO comes with a serial number: SARO-BMB-D-23-0020671.

The said SARO serial number actually refers to the Philippine Air Force's funding requirements for the procurement of additional Bell 412 Combat Utility Helicopters, under the Additional Utility Helicopter Acquisition Project of the air service branch, of which the budget released has amounted to Php 958,892,963.00 or US$ 17,199,256.76, using the Php 55.752 = US$1.00 exchange rate as of August 3, 2023, the time the SARO document has released to the Department of National Defense.

Typically, the SARO released actually refers to just 15% of the overall contract price of the acquisition project, as the budgeting process for large projects like these gets funded under Capital Outlay, with its arrangement being through the Multi-year Contracting Authority or MYCA (or Multi-year Obligations Authority or MYOA), a typical key indicator that the acquisition project for additional Bell 412 Helicopters gets materialized and is closer to an actual signing of the contract.

Currently, the Philippine Air Force has around thirteen (13) units of Bell 412 combat utility helicopters, of which eight (8) units have completely purchased by the National Defense Department for the air service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in 2015, of which this gets almost added by another sixteen (16) units in 2018 until the cancellation of the deal that made the S-70i Blackhawk deal for a similar number of combat utility helicopters fully possible.

According to the reports that have circulated regarding this deal, the Additional Utility Helicopter Acquisition Project calls for the acquisition of at least eight (8) units of Bell 412 Combat Utility Helicopters for the Philippine Air Force of which it aims to augment the five (5) older Bell 412EP Combat Utility Helicopters that have purchased in the mid-1990s, with the first unit purchased in 1994.

On the other note, Japan's Subaru Corporation has aggressively marketed its licensed copy of the Bell 412EP Combat Utility Helicopter, or which they called it as the Bell 412EPX/UH-2 helicopter, with its first export market being the Central American Country of Guatemala as the country's own air force has purchased at least two (2) brand new units from Japan, years after their last use of the combat utility helicopter type in 2001 when the three (3) remaining units have sold.

In this topic, let us discuss the usual takes for this platform, especially for knowing the helicopter designer Bell Textron plus some brief detail about Subaru Corporation (as we have discussed deeply this in an article on UH-1J Helicopters), the development history of the Bell 412 helicopters, the specifications of this improved variant of the renowned UH-1 Iroquois Huey Helicopter, and of course, recalling the almost-accomplished 2018 deal of sixteen (16) Bell 412EPI helicopters from Canada.

Bell Helicopters, Textron Corporation, Bell Helicopters Logo, Philippine Air Force, Bell 412, PAF Utility Helicopters
Bell Helicopters is a subsidiary of the Textron Company.

The success of the Bell 412EP Combat Utility Helicopters in its present operations across multiple users, including the Philippine Air Force, is not possible without understanding the history of the company that produced these helicopters through time, especially that it comes as an essential component being the workhorse of the air service branch organization of the Philippine Air Force with its UH-1 Huey Iroquois Helicopters until its numbers gets superseded by the newer Sikorsky-made S-70i Blackhawk Helicopters.

Speaking of history, Bell Helicopters has founded by Lawrence Dale Bell in 1935 in Buffalo, New York, as the Bell Aircraft Corporation. The initial focus of the company's founding initially aims to develop and produce fighter aircraft such as the Bell P-39 Airacobra fighter aircraft and the Bell XFM-1 Airacuda heavy fighter/bomber interceptor, both of which are prewar combat aircraft designs of the company that does not come as prominent as the other fighters of the time.

Bell Aircraft Corporation's venture into helicopters started in the early 1940s when the company hired an inventor Arthur Young in September 1941, after the latter presented his research on this technology before the company's founder, Lawrence Dale Bell himself. 

This gets followed by the development of an experiment prototype that is eventually called as the Bell Model 30 Ship 1A Genevieve. The prototype proved the feasibility of producing helicopters that define the company's future, eventually.

The success of the Bell Model 30 Ship 1A Genevieve paved the way for Bell Aerospace to develop the Bell 47 single-engine light helicopter, whereby it took its first maiden flight on December 1945, just four (4) months since the end of the Second World War when Japan surrendered on August 1945. The helicopter has multiple purposes since it got introduced to the market, ranging from agriculture spraying for farming companies to protect their crops, to firefighting support purposes.

Bell Aerospace's success comes with its development of the Bell Model 204 in the early 1950s, itself eventually being the primary design for the Bell UH-1 Huey Iroquois Combat Utility Helicopters and subsequently, the ancestor for the current Bell 412EP Helicopters that the Philippine Air Force seeks to add more into its helicopter fleet. 

The design's success has shown during the height of the Vietnam War, of which the United States military renders it as an iconic workhorse during those operations.

It was in the 1960s when Textron Inc., an American multi-industry conglomerate, bought the entirety of Bell Aerospace, of which it signals its entry into the aerospace industry, as this comes at the period when the sales of UH-1 Huey Iroquois comes at an all-time high, and eventually becoming the most widely used utility helicopters to-date that even the Philippine Air Force uses it for the longest time until the entry of newer helicopter platforms from the late 1990s up to the present.

It is still present today as an entity, whereby it produces Utility Helicopters of both civilian and military types, ranging from its helicopter production plant in Mirabel, Canada (where the sixteen (16) Bell 412EPI almost produced for the Philippine Air Force), or through licensed-copy production areas such as the Subaru Corporation in Japan, whose current aims is to provide international sale for its Bell 412 EPX, with its starting point being in Guatemala and hopefully to other countries like the Philippines.

Philippine Air Force, Bell 412, Bell 412EP, Bell Helicopters, Bell Textron
A Chaplain from the Philippine Armed Forces blessing the Bell 412 Helicopter.
(c) Jay Directo, Getty Images.

Understanding the development of the Bell 412 helicopter and the rationale behind the push for its inception is essential to know more, especially that it influences the overall capabilities of the Philippine Air Force and the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines regarding its airlifting capabilities, as it helps augment both the older UH-1 Huey Iroquois Combat Utility Helicopters and the newer Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk Helicopters that both serve as rotary airlifting workhorses of the air service branch.

The first development of the Bell 412 helicopter started in the 1970s, with the prototypes used being the earlier twin-engine Bell 212 Twin Huey Utility Helicopter variants, converted for this exact purpose. The development, in a usual procedure, comes with a first test flight that took place in 1979. 

This eventually paved the way for its first introduction into the commercial and military markets two years later in 1981, as Bell Helicopters officially detailed it in this entry right here.

Since the introduction, there are many design changes that were introduced to the Bell 412 that come nonexistent to the earlier variants of the lineage under the UH-1 Huey Combat Utility Helicopters, like the Bell 212s it used as a reference.  

One of those things is the new four-blade rotor design that makes it distinctive to the Bell UH-1 Huey Iroquois Helicopters that the Philippine Air Force have in its inventory, whereby it provides an improved performance on the overall maneuverability of the aircraft while reducing noise and vibration.

Aside from just the new four-blade rotor design, the materials used for the manufacturing of these blades also come as an improvement, whereby it composes of glass-fiber and Nomex honeycomb, while incorporates a titanium abrasion strip on the rotor edge, has lightning-protecting mesh within the blade structure, and also has provisions to include deicing heater elements if required, especially in colder areas which is nonexistent in the Philippines. There are many variants of this helicopter which will get discussed later.

Speaking of variants, the latest version of the Bell 412 Helicopter developed by Bell Textron Helicopters is with Subaru Corporation’s Bell 412EPX Utility Helicopter variant, which is exactly the one recently exported to the country of Guatemala, and also the one being marketed by Bell Helicopters as the most advanced version of the Bell 412 Helicopter currently in production. It may not be surprising if the Philippine Air Force’s Additional Utility Helicopter Acquisition Project may come with this version, originated from the Japanese company.

Another interesting feature added with the Bell 412 Utility Helicopter at its first introduction in 1981 is with its integrated systems, especially on its main transmission chip detectors that can help pilots into troubleshooting in case there is a problem with the Helicopter aside from its feature that protects the system, especially with its engine and the mechanism that now comes with five (5) out of six (6) interchangeable shaft sections its drive system. 

And of course, since its introduction in the early 1980s, the Bell 412 Utility Helicopters undertake multiple improvements with each version or variant gets introduced into the market, whereby every version gets discussed thoroughly as we go on in this article, as this is also essential given that there is a difference with the current versions of the Bell 412 Combat Utility Helicopters that the Philippine Air Force currently have, as opposed to the recent variant currently produced by a Japanese aerospace firm in-license.

CH-146 Griffon, Philippine Air Force, Bell 412, Bell 412EPI, Bell 412EP, Royal Canadian Air Force, Bell Helicopters
Royal Canadian Air Force’s CH-146 Griffon Utility Helicopter.
Image Source.

Like any other military hardware since its introduction, many variants and improvements have made for the platform, which has purposes that range from complying with the specific requirements of a civilian or military entity or presenting a better, capable platform that comes with marketing stint that entices existing customers to purchase additional or replacement assets, while encouraging potential customers to try to eventually to get their hands-on the platform.

The Bell 412 Combat Utility Helicopter is no different in this continuous upgrade and improvement path, as newer variants get introduced with newer upgrades, if not introducing licensed copies that come as the latest iteration of the utility helicopter platform. 

This is what the aeronautics arm of the Japanese company Suzuki Corporation has with its latest Bell 412EPX helicopter, whereby it comes with newer avionics and also its Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T-9 Twin-Pac engines.

Just like the Bell 412EPX (or UH-2 while in-service within Japan Self-Defense Force), the Bell 412EPI made by Bell Helicopters Canada that almost sold to the Philippine Air Force in 2018 also came with the same Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T-9 Twin-Pac engines, of which it comes as an improvement in performance capabilities for the Utility Helicopter as compared to the older, legacy Bell 412EP like the one Philippine Air Force have purchased (five units) in the mid-1990s and still operational to this day.

Aside from the ones mentioned, there are more variants that define the Bell 412 Utility Helicopter and the effectiveness of its design that still serves the civilian and military entities that operate these platforms currently. One of those examples is the Canadian CH-146 Griffon that is currently in service with the Royal Canadian Air Force, of which they operate at least 85 units out of 100 originally ordered from the Canadian office of Bell Helicopters. All of which may undertake its life extension program.

Another thing to point out is the variants derived from other aerospace manufacturers that have secured the license to produce the Bell 412 Utility Helicopter. This is clearly the case with Italy’s Agusta (now part of Leonardo Helicopters), of which the helicopters built through this production line count as an Agusta-Bell 412 or AB-412 Utility Helicopter. This is also a similar case for its Agusta-Bell 412EP or AB-412EP variant, as this is just the Bell 412EP Utility Helicopter produced in Italy under license.

Still regarding the licensed copies, it is an interesting note that Indonesia’s PT Dirgantara produces the Bell 412 helicopters for the Indonesian Military and also several civilian customers in the country, whereby it comes as its own variant as the “NBell 412” Utility Helicopter, although the Indonesian aerospace firm markets it as the conventional Bell 412 helicopter without the variant designation.

Hence, the number of licensed copies and variants introduced serves as a testament to the success of the Bell 412 Utility Helicopter design, itself being an improvement over the multiple iterations of the helicopter that a Textron subsidiary has provided, with its foundations being the Bell UH-1 Huey Iroquois Combat Utility Helicopters, itself being an iconic Vietnam War-era helicopter that many countries, the Philippines included, still sees its importance even to this day.

Bell 412 Specifications, Bell 412EPI Specifications, Philippine Air Force, Combat Utility Helicopter
Here is the detailed specification for the Bell 412EPI Combat Utility Helicopter variant. From Bell Helicopters Website.

We are now in the most interesting part of this topic, which is to delve deeper on the specifications of the Bell 412 helicopter, especially the Bell 412EPI/Bell 412EPX as produced by Bell Helicopters and Japan’s Subaru Corporation, as this is likely the path that the Philippine Air Force may go in acquiring such additional combat utility helicopters to augment its existing units in inventory as this acquisition, once pushed through, may supersede the older Bell 412EP units along the way.

The image above shows the basic dimensions of the Bell 412EPI Utility Helicopter, especially with the length of its fuselage to the tail of the helicopter which is at 12.91 meters, the length of each helicopter blade that is at around 7.01 meters, the height of the helicopter up to the base of the blades coming at around 3.52 meters, and the width of the fuselage which is at around 2.89 meters. Add also that the height accounts for the space of the fuselage to the ground with the landing skids, which is at 0.40 meters.

Some additional information includes the maximum seating inside the helicopter, which is at around 15 personnel overall (including the crew), standard fuel capacity of 1,251 liters or 331 US gallons, max gross weight of around 5,398 kilograms, cabin volume of 6.2m³, empty weight (IFR standard configuration) of around 3,207 kilograms, useful load of 2,190 kilograms, and cargo hook capacity of 2,041 kilograms. The weight listed influences the overall performance of a helicopter like the Bell 412EPI Combat Utility Helicopter.

In comparison, the specifications for the Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk Helicopters that the Philippine Air Force comes with a larger fuselage and capacity as based on its dimensions and details provided by the subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, as the length of its fuselage to the tail of the helicopter comes at 15.26 meters, rotor diameter of around 16.36 meters or 8.18 meters for the length of each helicopter blade. The width of the Black Hawk is at 4.37 meters and the height is at 3.76 meters.

This means that while the Bell 412 helicopter may carry 15 personnel overall as compared to S-70i Black Hawk’s 13 (11 troops plus 2 crew), the latter comes with a better cabin volume of 11.22m³, allowing for more cargo to get carried onboard, which is very useful especially for the Philippine Air Force’s disaster relief operations as it carries a lot of supplies and goods needed for affected civilians during natural calamities. Black Hawk’s Maximum Takeoff Gross Weight, in this context, is at 9,979 kilograms.

This, of course, does not mean that the Bell 412 Utility Helicopter comes as a lesser capable platform, as this descendant of the Bell UH-1 Huey Iroquois Combat Utility Helicopter comes as more capable than the aforementioned predecessor, which is not surprising given that this is an example of how the UH-1 base design gets improved through time. For example, the Bell UH-1’s passenger capacity comes at 11 people (9 passengers and 2 crew) onboard, and a cubic volume of 208ft³ to 220ft³, or 5.89m³ to 6.23m³.

Completing this up, the Bell UH-1 Combat Utility Helicopter’s power plant composes of a single 1,400shp (1,044 kW) Lycoming T53-L-13 turboshaft engine that has the performance that provides the max speed that is at 148 mph (238 km/h), cruising speed of 127 mph (204 km/h), and service ceiling of 12,600ft. Overall, the advanced avionics and improved engines helped the Bell 412 helicopters augment the existing ones, especially this acquisition project that the Philippine Air Force embarks to-date.

Bell 412, Sunrise, Philippine Air Force, Bell Helicopters, Inspire More, Stock Image
A Bell 412 Utility Helicopter parked in the helipad as the sun rises in the sky.
Image Source.

The Philippine Air Force aims to get more brand new Bell 412 Combat Utility Helicopters for its fleet, despite that it has a bulk order of 32 more S-70i Black Hawk Helicopters from Sikorsky’s subsidiary PZL Mielec in Poland, as this acquisition has the augmentation in mind as relying to a single type of helicopter may cause problems in an event of a catastrophic crash that may prompt the grounding of helicopters such like in this incident involving a S-70i Helicopter that paralyzes the airlifting operations of the organization.

With this, the released Special Allotment Release Order or SARO by the Department of Budget and Management or DBM to fund for the 15% down-payment for the contract of this project is a clear indicator of a project currently and actively in its implementation and materialization phase, whereby it comes closer to fruition that the Philippine Air Force secures its additional Bell 412 Combat Utility Helicopters of a newer variant to keep sustain its rotary airlifting operations.

Apparently, the variant of the Bell 412 Combat Utility Helicopter that the Philippine Air Force aspires to get comes from Japan’s Subaru Corporation, whereby the UH-2 or Bell 412EPX Helicopter is the latest and currently produced variant of the Bell 412 helicopter, whereby the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force have purchased several units as it aims have its older Bell UH-1J Helicopter slowly replaced. The latter utility helicopter mentioned is also the one that the Philippine Army actually has its eyes set on getting.

Currently, there are at least thirteen (13) units of Bell 412 Combat Utility Helicopters currently serving in the Philippine Air Force, whereby by adding at least eight (8) more will make the air service branch have at least twenty-one (21) units actively serving for the military’s rotary airlifting organization, complementing the existing ones that have purchased by the Department of National Defense in the 1990s and in the 2010s, when the Horizon 1 of the Revised AFP Modernization Program is in force.

The experience that the Philippine Air Force has in operating and maintaining its older UH-1 Huey Iroquois Helicopters before the bulk of orders for the likes of Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk Combat Utility Helicopters in the current date helped the air service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines into securing its first and second batch of Bell 412 Utility Helicopters in the mid-1990s (under R.A. 7898) and in the mid-2010s, when the Horizon 1 of the Revised AFP Modernization Program is on its full push.

This means that the Philippine Air Force may ultimately have at least two (2) types of Combat Utility Helicopters in its fleet of rotary aircraft, as it aims at decommissioning its older UH-1 Huey Iroquois Helicopters from active service, eventually. The replacements for the legendary combat utility helicopter may help further improve the rotary airlifting capabilities of the air service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in both wartime and peacetime aspects, with the latter leaning more on disaster response.

Ultimately, the acquisition of additional Bell 412 Combat Utility Helicopters may help further replenish the fleet which, in its totality, will get at least 68-69 combined units of both Bell 412 and Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters, further sustaining its primary workhorse needs in transporting goods and personnel across the country, especially in remote areas not accessible by road vehicles and fixed-wing aircraft. This capability is essential for the Philippine military’s nationwide logistics chain development.

(c) 2023 PDA.

Updates on the Philippine Army's VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carrier Purchase

The Philippine Army has purchased armored personnel carriers from an Israeli firm, with the primary platform provided by the Brazilian manufacturer of armored vehicles that the Israeli firm took a partnership with. While the platform itself has already discussed on this website and on our social media outlets several times, this article deals with a detailed information regarding this program.

VBTP-MR Guarani, Armored Personnel Carrier, Philippine Army
The Philippine Army version of the VBTP-MR comes with Ballistic Armored Plates,
protection that is nonexistent in Brazilian variants.
(c) Paulo Roberto Bastos Jr., Tecnologia & Defesa.

In the recent news at the time this article has published, a first batch of the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers are apparently on its way to the Philippines, with projected delivery dates being at mid-December 2023 as reported by the Brazilian outlet, with the remaining units under the contract slated for delivery at the first and second half of the year 2024. This comes as the arms restrictions imposed by Germany to Brazil has lifted, allowing the sale to push through.

The first batch, which comes with five units (see image above), has seen on the port of Santos in Brazil's State of São Paulo, getting the Brazilian-made Armored Personnel Carriers embarked onboard a vessel bound to the Philippines with the Port of Manila as its destination, as this gets reported by this same Brazilian outlet. The port of Santos, which is in the State of São Paulo, counts as the largest and also the busiest container port in both Brazil and the entire Latin America area.

Currently, the Philippine Army's Armor 'Pambato' Division has a significant number of armored personnel carriers in its fleet inventory, ranging from the M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers and Infantry Fighting Vehicles armed with Remote-Controlled Weapons Systems and UT-25 unmanned turrets after getting the upgrades from Israel's Elbit Systems Ltd, and wheeled ones such as the GKN Simba Armored Personnel Carriers that is only in operation with the Philippine Army.

The Armored Personnel Carrier acquisition project of the Philippine Army, amounting to Php 2,265,200,000.00 that calls for the purchase of 28 VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers, is just one of many deals that the Philippine Army has with Elbit Systems Limited of Israel, the other being the Sabrah Tanks and ATMOS 2000 Self-Propelled Howitzer platforms, both of which packs firepower that the Philippine Army needs for a counterinsurgency scenario.

In this update, we will tackle the arms restrictions that Germany imposed to Brazil that took its toll on the overall contract of providing the Philippines with the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers, along with the specific subsystems that Elbit Systems installed onboard the Brazilian-made armored vehicle platforms, and also the report regarding the follow-up order of these units that may count as a potential replacement move for the older GKN Simba and the V-150 Cadillac Gage Commando.

Philippine Army, Elbit Systems Ltd., Arms Embargo, Germany, VBTP-MR Guarani, IVECO Systems, Brazil
Here is the screen grab of an article from Defense Aerospace regarding the German Veto.
Article Source.

Earlier in February, Germany's export control office Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control or BAFA, as abbreviated in German, has blocked the sale of 28 Brazilian-built Guarani 6×6 armored personnel carriers to the Philippines. What enabled the veto to take place is the existence of German-made subcomponents onboard the armored personnel carriers made by Iveco Latin America, which made this move possible from the German side.

The justification pointed out from the time the news reports made regarding the export control block or veto made by the Germans comes from a purported retaliation move they made against Brazil, as the latter outright refuses to provide ammunition that is badly needed in the ongoing conflict in the Eastern Europe, as Ukraine keeps on defending its country against Russian aggression, although some sources points to the country's alleged human rights violations as the cause.

It came to a certain point in time that the Israeli defense firm Elbit Systems Ltd., faced into a dilemma, as its contractual obligations and commitments with the Philippine Army comes at a high risk of getting riddled with delays and fines that have associated with it, so much that the Israeli firm contemplates into getting the Pandur II 8x8 Armored Personnel Carriers instead just to fulfill the firm's contract, while not risking of getting denied for its failure to commit.

It took at least seven (7) months for the German export control authority to lift the arms embargo it imposes to the Brazilian-housed arms manufacturer which it took place on September 27, 2023, enabling them to resume export operations once again to the Philippine Army, giving a sigh of relief to the Israeli defense firm as it ensures that it met the contractual obligations for this acquisition project, while the end-user having an assurance that it will get all the 28 units as intended on-time.

And this is where the delivery status comes now, with the first batch of deliveries taking place on December 2023, with the remaining units getting delivered by next year, complete with Elbit-installed systems and specifications that are currently not available with the Brazilian variants of the VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 Armored Personnel Carrier. We will delve further down the specifications added on the armored vehicles in the succeeding portion of this article.

VBTP-MR Guarani, Elbit Systems Ltd., Philippine Army, Armor Pambato Division, IVECO Latin America
The Philippine Army variant may come with extra added systems, as provided by Elbit Systems Ltd.
(c) Paulo Roberto Bastos Jr., Tecnologia & Defesa

The version of the VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 Armored Personnel Carrier that the Philippine Army sets to receive comes with different subsystems and design as compared to the ones currently serving the Brazilian Armed Forces, whereby it comes with added weapons and armor as provided by Elbit Systems Ltd., for the requirements set by the Philippine Army for this acquisition project. These additives give overall improvements on capability for this armored vehicle in terms of firepower and protection.

One of those things mentioned was the weapons load-out of the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers, whereby it features a remote-controlled weapons system or RCWS that is likely those installed onboard the upgraded M-113 armored personnel carriers that the Philippine Army also has in its fleet of armored vehicles, of which it may come with the usual 12.7x99mm machine gun that the aforementioned M-113s also have, or the 7.62x51mm machine gun like the ones usually carried by troops in the infantry.

Another thing to point out is that the Philippine version of the VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 Armored Personnel Carriers also came with an added armor protection composed of ballistic plates that can achieve level 3 protection per the STANAG 4569 standard. The STANAG 4569 standard is just one of many parameters set by NATO under its Standard Agreement, whereby its primary aim comes with interoperability among members, which influences like-minded allied countries outside of the block, such as the Philippines.

At the Level 3 protection level of the STANAG 4569 standard, the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carrier is capable enough to protect infantry and crew onboard against incoming sniper rifle threats with 7.62x51 armor piercing (AP) rounds, aside from the protection against Level 1 and Level 2 threats such as normal rifle (7.62x51mm NATO ball) rounds, and 7.62x51mm API BZ (armor-piercing/incendiary) rounds, respectively. The protections provided increase the survivability of troops needed in combat.

Further adding the list of added specifications is the inclusion of a battle management system and the E-Lynx software-defined radio as provided by Elbit Systems Ltd., for the Philippine variant of the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers, whereby a battle management system comes as an essential add-on as marketed by the aforementioned Israeli defense firm, coming with a C4ISTAR-oriented network suite that improves tactical coordination.

The E-Lynx software-defined radio is a family of communications suite marketed by Elbit Systems Ltd for real-time relay of commands and tactical maneuvers that may count as a vital and essential component needed onboard an armored personnel carrier like the one that the Philippine Army sets to receive from Brazil through an Israeli firm, as it integrates the armored units of VBTP-MR Guarani APCs to a larger part of the Philippine C4ISTAR network, in which the Philippine military sees it as an essential component.

Overall, the added subsystems on these armored vehicles intended for the Philippine Army comes as an improvement in terms of the armor, weaponry, and technological suites installed within the platform, as this helps the Armor ‘Pambato’ Division manage its units in any strategic maneuvers in combat by transmitting real-time combat environment data for the command-and-control platforms of the Philippine Armed Forces to provide real-time execution of orders, increasing a chance of outrunning the Opposition Force.

VBTP-MR Guarani, Philippine Army, Armored Personnel Carrier, Iveco Latin America, Brazil, Elbit Systems Ltd.
Iveco Latin America produces its VBTP-MR Guarani APCs in production lines like this.
File Image.

According to the reports across multiple outlets, the 28 units ordered by the Philippine Army counts as just a portion of this government-to-government (G2G) package between the Philippine and Israeli governments, whereby the project aims to have an overall number purchased VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 Armored Personnel Carriers to at least 114 units, sufficiently replacing older wheeled armored personnel carriers within the Armor ‘Pambato’ Division such as the GKN Simba and V150 Cadillac Gage Commando APCs.

In context, the Philippine Army has purchased at least 155 units of V-150 Gage Commando Armored Personnel Carriers from 1975 to 1988 from the United States and at least 150 units of GKN Simba Armored Personnel Carriers from the United Kingdom from 1993 to 1997, based on the information provided by the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute from 1970 to 2022 for armored vehicles that the Philippine Army received.

This means that the Philippine Army may get the chance to get both the V-150 Gage Commando and GKN Simba Armored Personnel Carriers that are in poor condition decommissioned if we take the additional numbers for the acquisition of VBTP-MR Guarani APCs from Brazil via Israel at its face value, as the plans and programs for follow-up orders may get less likely with the Department of National Defense gears itself for investing more resources for external defense, with missiles and artillery systems being the priority for the land service branch.

Just recently, the legislators in the Senate of the Philippines discussed and acknowledged the fact that the Revised AFP Modernization Program’s overall pace has delayed, with several acquisition projects like the Multirole Fighter Jets under Horizon2 still not yet awarded with a contract. And to take note, the Department of Budget and Management or DBM provides a small annual budget of Php 50 Billion for the AFP Modernization, itself not sufficient for the Php 1.8 Trillion funding requirements for Horizon 3 alone.

So with the budgeting concerns and the pace of the entire AFP Modernization Program being delayed, not to mention the government’s attention shifted to external defense posture, that means putting both the Philippine Navy and Air Force in the priority list, the idea of getting additional remaining 86 units of VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers is highly less likely to happen, but this does not mean that such a plan has completely removed out of the picture, as priorities may change from time to time.

Iveco Latin America, Philippine Army, VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 APC, Armored Personnel Carriers
Personnel from Iveco LATAM posed before the VBTP-MR Guarani APCs destined to the Philippine Army.
Image Source.

The Philippine Army’s Armor “Pambato” Division is about to have this new set of Armored Personnel Carrier, purchased by the Department of National Defense from Israel’s Elbit Systems Ltd and produced in Brazil by Iveco Latin America to fit by the requirements and specifications set by the land service branch for its Armored Personnel Carrier Acquisition Project. The deliveries from the late 2023 until mid 2024 will help boost the number of armored vehicles serving the Philippine military for its mandated operations.

The delivery of the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers to the Philippine Army may help augment its existing armored vehicles, most notably the V-150 Cadillac Gage Commando and GKN Simba APCs, both of which are 4x4 wheeled Armored Personnel Carriers that are still serving the land service branch to this day. And like the upgraded M-113s that the Philippine Armed Forces already have, these new armored vehicles may come with a remote-controlled weapon system (RCWS) turret installed onboard.

This development comes as Germany’s export body lifted the embargo enforced on German components that prevent Brazil from delivering the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers to the Philippine Army, enabling Elbit Systems Ltd to comply to the delivery schedule requirements set for this acquisition project and eventually fulfill its obligations to the Philippine Army without the risk of paying penalties and enforcing undesired decisions that risk the firm’s arms relations with the Philippine military.

And ultimately, the reports for the Philippines to get 86 more copies of the VBTP-MR Guarani Armored Personnel Carriers to meet the so-called 114 copies required have a very remote possibility of even taking place, as the priorities of the leadership within the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are very clear that external defense is an utmost priority, with air defense systems, shore-launched anti-ship missile systems, fighter aircraft, and warships being first on the list.

Overall, the delivery of the VBTP-MR Guarani 6x6 Armored Personnel Carriers to the Philippine Army is now on its way, complete with additional armored plates and systems upgrade that Elbit Systems Ltd has provided to these units that may help improve not only the numbers and the firepower that these armored vehicles will have to the personnel within the Philippine Armed Forces, but also in real-time communications which is vital to the overall outcome for the troops on the ground, victorious in securing this nation.

(c) 2023 PDA.




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