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Indonesia's Anti-Submarine Aircraft Offer to the Philippine Navy

The Philippine Navy focuses on modernizing its overall capabilities in different threat assessments, whether it may be the one that lies under the sea or the one coming from the sky. The overall efforts pushed for its improvement give opportunity to a neighboring country whose aspiration is to expand its existing and ever-growing defense industry.

CN 235-200 MPA, Maritime Patrol Aircraft, Philippine Navy, Indonesian Navy, TNI-AL, PT Dirgantara Indonesia, PTDI
Here is an image of an Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) C-235-200 MPA aircraft.
Image Source.

During the visit made by the Indonesian President Joko Widodo to Manila as part of its state visit to meet his Filipino counterpart President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the former asked support for the latter in the acquisition of anti-submarine aircraft, of which this comes as one of many gestures that will increase bilateral ties between two neighboring archipelagic countries, both of which are key members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN.

Case in note, the Philippine Navy only comes with a single type of anti-submarine aircraft at the time this article has published, as this primarily refers to the Leonardo AW-159 Anti-submarine helicopters that comes as the mainstay platforms assigned onboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigates and comes complementary to the onboard anti-submarine capabilities that these two sophisticated naval assets that the Philippine fleet currently possess.

The Philippine Navy pursues such capability on its own as their counterpart in the Philippine Air Force purchases two (2) ATR-72-600 Long-Range Patrol Aircraft or LRPA, of which this comes as lacking with the capabilities needed for anti-submarine warfare, and instead focuses more on long-range surveillance patrol of surface naval, coast guard, and maritime militia vessels that China currently deploys within the country's 200 Nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea area.

This comes really timely as the Indonesia's aerospace industry, PT Dirgantara Indonesia, produces maritime patrol aircraft versions of the CN-235-200 MPA that may come as the potential candidate for this push made by the Indonesian president to the Philippine government, of which this sees both as a marketing for the bolster of the Indonesian defense industry and the improvement of the capabilities of the Philippine Navy, all of which are part of the ever-growing ties between both nations.

As some aspects of understanding the Indonesian aerospace industry or the development of the aircraft itself have already discussed in several articles here on Pitz Defense Analysis on both the topics regarding both the C-295 Medium-Lift Aircraft and the NC-212i Light Lift Aircraft of the Philippine Air Force, let us focus instead on the added capabilities that may come with this aircraft, with correlation to the capabilities of the Long Range Patrol Aircraft or LRPA have.

TC-90 King Air, Philippine Navy, Naval Air Wing, Maritime Patrol Aircraft, C235-200 MPA
Aircraft like the TC-90 King Air form as part of the Philippine Navy's Naval Air Wing.
From Jet Photos.

While the Philippine Navy as a service branch specializes itself more into maintaining and operating naval assets such as Frigates, Corvettes, Amphibious Vessels of different types, and Offshore Patrol Vessels, they also maintain a unit that is primarily responsible for conducting air operations that correlates to the primary service purpose of the organization, primarily focusing more both in the anti-submarine and surveillance domain operations.

As the history of this air unit under the Philippine Navy has already discussed in our separate entry on the Beechcraft TC-12 'Huron' Aircraft Acquisition Plan in an article link here, let us focus more instead on its current aircraft composition, which encompasses its current air capabilities that ranges from surveillance operations to specific roles like anti-submarine warfare, of which the Indonesians are attempting to market to the Philippine government to consider.

Currently, at the time this article has written, the Philippine Navy still did not possess the aforementioned Beechcraft TC-12 'Huron' Aircraft, and instead comes with a different aircraft belonging to the same family, which is the TC-90 King Aircraft coming from Japan's Self Defense Force through a donation.

Initially a lease, these patrol aircraft are essential to the improvement of the service branch's overall maritime patrol capabilities, especially in surveillance operations in the West Philippine Sea.

Another type of aircraft to point out are the BN-2 Islanders that have still served actively in the Philippine Navy's air wing, as one of such aircraft successfully conducted an air-drop of goods and materials intended to supply the personnel onboard the BRP Sierra Madre, as part of its first rotation and resupply (RORE) operations for the year 2024. 

This comes as a temporary solution while the vessels used for the resupply operations currently undertaking repairs after sustaining damage from encounters with both the China Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels.

These aforementioned air assets of the Philippine Navy's Naval Air Group do not have any capabilities that can conduct anti-submarine operations, except at least one air asset that intertwines with the country's Jose Rizal-class Frigates. We are referring to the Leonardo AW-159 Wildcat anti-submarine helicopters, of which the naval service branch comes with at least a pair of these units. There is a likelihood that more AW-159s gets added later on, contemplating the increasing number of warships in the fleet.

Another type of helicopter that comes actively with the Philippine Navy's fleet of warships are its Leonardo AW-109 naval helicopters, all of which serves onboard in any of its active naval vessels, whether it may be the largest ones in the fleet - the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks, or the mainstay Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessels, or even the Jose Rizal-class Frigates at some instance. These air assets provide an extra capability to the warships it complements, minus the anti-submarine feature, of course.

With its current air asset composition, it gives a sense for the Philippine Navy to kindly consider this platform provided by Indonesia's primary aerospace manufacturer, although the overall decision regarding this matter lies primarily to its leadership, with the advice and discretion from the officers in the Department of National Defense. Apparently, the meeting of the Indonesian president with the Secretary of National Defense provides the platform for this marketing push. 

CN235-200 ASW, C-295 MPA, Torpedo Launch, Philippine Navy, PT Dirgantara Indonesia, Airbus
An image that shows an Airbus C-295 MPA aircraft launching a torpedo during a test.
(c) Airbus, through Image Source.

At its overview, the CN 235-200 Maritime Patrol Aircraft of PT Dirgantara Indonesia belongs to the same family that the Philippine Air Force’s C-295 Medium-Lift Transport aircraft, whereby the latter comes as an stretched and improved transporter variant of the former that has built directly from Airbus production line, formerly CASA, in Spain. 

While sharing design preferences, let us discuss more about what this platform is capable of, particularly in the anti-submarine warfare domain.

Focusing specifically on the CN 235-200 ASW aircraft platform’s performance, the maximum takeoff weight of the aircraft comes at around 16,500 kilograms, while it also comes with the maximum landing weight of the same kilograms specified. 

The aircraft’s maximum payload, of which the aircraft’s capacity is allowable given that it will probably come with anti-submarine warfare components installed onboard, comes at around 4,700 kilograms.

Going further regarding the performance of the CN 235-200 ASW aircraft, the platform comes with a maximum cruise speed of 237 knots, loiter speed of 161 knots, and a maximum operational ceiling of around 25,000 feet. 

The key crucial capability of this aircraft, that being the overall loiter time that it has over a specific body of water across the country’s territorial and EEZ waters, is at around 11 hours and 20 minutes, with the maximum fuel range of around 2,098 nautical miles. 

As for the subcomponents and configurations found onboard the CN 235-200 ASW aircraft, PT Dirgantara detailed it further by having its crews configured into the following - a pilot and a co-pilot, a single flight engineer who's responsible for the fuel dump system if such system exist in an aircraft, at least four (4) operators that oversees and using the anti-submarine warfare capabilities of the aircraft, and two (2) observers that physically monitors and surveys the area through a bubble window.

Complementing the four (4) operators are the console workstations found onboard the aircraft, which are then linked to other essential sensors and launcher systems in the aircraft. Regarding its sensors, the CN 235-200 ASW aircraft comes with a Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera on the fuselage nose, a search radar installed on the bottom part of the fuselage, and electronic support measure (ESM) sensors both on the area near the cockpit and the aircraft’s tail portion.

Its configuration as an anti-submarine warfare platform means it comes likely with both sonobuoy launchers and torpedoes installed onboard, that functions at double with anti-submarine naval assets at sea like the Philippine Navy’s BRP Conrado Yap, the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, and the upcoming HDC-3200 Corvettes that possess these anti-submarine capabilities that further triangulates the tracking of submarines belonging to the opposition forces (OPFOR) under the water.

Case in note, Spanish-built C-295s with this configuration and role as an anti-submarine warfare platform also come capable of both a sonobuoy launching and torpedo-deploying measures, as this aircraft and the CN 235-200 ASW product of the PT Dirgantara Indonesia belongs to the same family of aircraft platform. 

And with the Philippine Air Force’s Long-Range Patrol Aircraft based on ATR 72-600 aircraft lacking any anti-submarine capabilities, getting this platform from Indonesia is a logical step to take.

PT PAL, Philippine Navy, Landing Docks Acquisition Project, Indonesia, Tarlac-class LPD
The Keel Laying ceremony for the first Philippine Landing Dock vessel took place on January 22.
Image Source.

Aside from the offers made by the Indonesian government through President Joko Widodo, especially on the anti-submarine warfare capabilities that the Philippine Navy may find as highly interesting as it keeps on modernizing, let us also cover other areas of development of the cooperation between two countries that belong to ASEAN, especially on other modernization-related projects that these archipelagic countries partake recently.

The first thing is on the developments surrounding the acquisition of the Philippine Navy’s Landing Platform Docks, as these vessels are currently under construction in Indonesia, especially on PT PAL Persero’s own shipbuilding facilities in Surabaya. Just recently, the Indonesian shipbuilder made a milestone by conducting its first keel laying ceremony for the first Landing Platform Dock under the Landing Docks Acquisition Project last January 22, while the steel cutting ceremony for the second vessel took place on the same day.

Just to recall, these naval vessels that are under-construction counts as an improved variant of the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks that the Philippine Navy already has in-service, of which an order of two more vessels count as a follow-up order of vessels that the country’s naval service branch have booked from the Indonesian shipbuilder. Apparently, this shows the country’s appreciation of the reliability and reputation of PT PAL Persero in providing the quality vessels that the Philippine Navy needs in operations.

That appreciation gets conveyed further by no other than the Indonesian president himself, saying that both the Philippines and Indonesian established further trust in having such transactions, with the former using the platforms that the latter has provided, further improving bilateral ties between neighboring countries especially in the defense and military fields. Also, it is a testament that both countries benefit from one another, as the former improves its capabilities and the latter expands its market.

Another acquisition project that clearly exhibits full defense cooperation between the Philippines and Indonesia is the purchase of NC-212i Light Transport Aircraft of the Philippine Air Force, whereby it cements the service and reputation of PT Dirgantara Indonesia before the Philippine Armed Forces, and may help as a leverage for them to market the CN 235-200 ASW aircraft that the Indonesian president has actively marketing to the Philippine government recently.

Like the CN 235-200 ASW, the NC-212i Light Transport Aircraft comes as a licensed-copy produced by PT Dirgantara Indonesia, of which its origin traces back to the Spanish aerospace firm EADS/CASA, the forerunner of what is now part of Airbus Defense that have provided the Philippine Air Force its C-295 Medium-Lift Cargo Transporter Aircraft. These platforms define the significant portion of the air service branch’s airlift capabilities, going alongside C-130s and S-70i Black Hawk Helicopters.

This means that the CN 235-200 ASW aircraft may come as a continuation of all these defense materiel that the Philippine military gets shall they consider this platform, as these developments help bolster bilateral relations of both neighboring archipelagic nations in Southeast Asia, not only in terms of economics or diplomacy but also in national defense aspects, as the region comes with ever-increased tensions currently stirred up by a regional power that lie unfounded claims over other countries’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

C-295, CN235-200 ASW, Airbus Defense, PT Dirgantara Indonesia, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Navy
The logistics chain will be easy for the Philippine Navy if it gets the CN235-200 ASW aircraft.
Image Source.

Indonesia's own military industry played a part in contributing to the overall improvement of the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as a whole, ranging from supplying the Philippine Navy its Landing Platform Docks to supplying the Philippine Air Force its light-lift cargo aircraft. 

The projects mentioned refer to both of the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks and the current production-built Landing Docks of the Philippine Navy, and the Philippine Air Force's NC-212i Light Transport Aircraft, respectively.

While most of these projects come with highly successful and appreciative results, especially the currently active Tarlac-class and several NC-212i Light Transport Aircraft that have already delivered to the Philippine Air Force, the Indonesian government, especially its president at the time this article has written, is pushing the defense ties of both countries even further, especially with their plans of marketing their defense products to the Philippine's Department of National Defense to consider upon.

Currently, the Philippine Navy is still improving its capabilities, especially that it keeps on adding more naval assets in its inventory, especially the ones that possess anti-submarine capabilities such as the new HDC-3200 Corvettes from South Korea's HD Hyundai. This also connotes that the naval service branch may likely add anti-submarine helicopters to augment the incoming vessels, plus the fixed-winged ones such as the CN 235-200 ASW aircraft.

Speaking of logistics on maintenance and operations, having an aircraft like the CN 235-200 ASW aircraft will most likely goes smoothly, as the Philippine Air Force already maintains and operates the C-295 Medium Lift Transport Aircraft (see image above), as both shared similar design DNA and composition that the two service branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines can inter-operate one another regarding the sources of spare parts and know-how about its maintenance and operations.

As the Armed Forces of the Philippines improving its capabilities and the Indonesian defense industry trying to expand its market reach in the global military sales market, it is likely that both archipelagic nations that are also members of ASEAN may get the best of both worlds in terms in fully maximizing its defense relations even further, looking forward that deals like this gets push through, with all the technicalities considered and specifications satisfied within the Philippine military's own requirements.

(c) 2024 PDA.

Danish F-16 Fighter Jets for the Philippine Air Force?

The Philippine Air Force still seeks more fighter jets that come in an arrangement different from its Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition project and the Excess Defense Articles arrangement with the United States, whereby they put extra additional air defense capabilities and short transfer times into mind. Now, the Philippine government is sourcing more aircraft from other sources to attain that goal.

RDAF, Royal Danish Air Force, F-16 Fighter Jet, Philippine Air Force, Hot Transfer, Ukraine, Argentina
The Philippine Air Force aims to get some European-based F-16 fighter aircraft like the ones from the Royal Danish Air Force for its capability improvements.
Image Source.

The leadership within the Philippine Air Force aspires to get more-capable Multirole Fighter aircraft for the longest time, both since they retired the older Vought F-8 Crusader and the Northrop F-5 A/B from service, and since the entry of the newer FA-50PH from Korea Aerospace Industries that brought the air service branch back to the supersonic age once again, with the latter renewing that interest for that more-capable aircraft for Philippine air defense and patrol operations.

This is the same point of waiting for a longest time as said in a recent interview made by CNN Philippines to the Philippine ambassador to the United States Ambassador Jose Manual Romualdez, whereby the Philippine government is now actively negotiating to their counterparts to the United States in securing more F-16 multirole fighter aircraft, as this comes as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' ongoing modernization efforts in-line to the current government policy of improving its external defense posture.

In a separate interview, the Philippine Ambassador to the United States pointed out that the acquisition of new F-16 Viper aircraft may come as a costly one, saying that it may require more than half of the country's annual budget (Php 27.5 Billion for the year 2023), and they are now looking to other sources of getting such aircraft like the country of Denmark in Europe. This likely refers to the prices provided under the multirole fighter jet acquisition program.

Currently, the multirole fighter jet acquisition program has the SAAB JAS-39 Gripen being the frontrunner of the project, with the only pending step left is on the ratification of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Sweden and the Philippines by the Swedish parliament. The time is running out for both sides to keep it stuck, and as reports suggest, the United States may provide an enticing arrangement that will ultimately help the Philippine Air Force secure its squadron of new F-16 Vipers.

With the Danish F-16 fighter aircraft for the Philippine Air Force now raised up, let us now discuss even deeper the history of the aircraft serving within the Royal Danish Air Force, the upgrades and service life extension programs it received, the other contenders to the acquisition of these Danish-served fighter aircraft, and ultimately the nature of this acquisition as compared to the 'EDA F-16 jets from the United States and the Multirole Fighter Jet acquisition project, all of which are separate programs of their own right.

F-16, Royal Danish Air Force, Flyvevaben, Philippine Air Force, Hot Transfer, United States, Lockheed Martin
The Danes have bought at least 77 units of F-16A/B in the late 70s, replacing their older F-404 Starfighter.
Image Source.

Based on the known repository website for F-16s operating in different countries - Denmark included, this Scandinavian country initially bought seventy-seven (77) units of F-16 A/B in the late 1970s, just in two to five years since the first single-seat F-16 fighter aircraft first flew in 1976 and the first operational unit successfully delivered and eventually entered service within the United States military in 1979. Denmark actually played a role in the inception of the F-16 program.

Some developmental background, the F-16 program has developed with a five-nation consortium in mind, whereby the United States and the other four European countries that are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO - Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, and of course, Denmark, entered an agreement for the production and long-term operations of the aircraft plus the assembly of components and parts coming from all the countries aforementioned.

The F-16 multirole fighter aircraft has come a long way from just an aircraft that serves the consortium of countries and their air forces' operational requirements to one of the most well-marketed products of Lockheed Martin, as they are now actively selling the latest variant of the F-16 aircraft, the F-16 Block 70/72 Viper, to countries that are seeking this aircraft like Taiwan and Slovakia, and also potential customers like the Philippine Air Force.

Currently, Denmark has at least 62 F-16 fighter aircraft, of which 48 are fully functional platforms and 14 are in reserve status, although all the units undertook mid-life upgrades or MLUs, ensuring that these Danish F-16 multirole fighter aircraft continues to operate within the Royal Danish Air Force requirements until the delivery of F-35 Lightning II 5th Generation aircraft has completed, enabling them to decommission these jets out of service, eventually.

The mid-life upgrades that the Danish F-16s have received may come as a metric in the decision-making process of the Philippine government into considering it for the improvement of capabilities of the Philippine Air Force, as this complies to the special provisions pointed out in the 2024 budget for at least 50% or more remaining lifespan for a military hardware, although the Philippine Ambassador to the United States stressed that the revision of the procurement law may help to push this deal through.

And while the Philippines seek to secure some of the Danish F-16s for the improvement of capabilities of the Philippine Air Force's fighter aircraft fleet for the longest time, it does not mean that there will be no competition for them in securing this aircraft, as there are other countries that are also looking after this type of aircraft coming from the Royal Danish Air Force for their respective air force requirements and their broader defense and security-related needs.

In the competing of limited fighter aircraft resources, it may not come surprising if the plans of securing any of the F-16s that the Philippine Air Force aims to get, both new and used, are all ticking against time, as the production line for new F-16s may get longer if new orders supersedes any Philippine Air Force plans, and that same thing goes with both the Danish F-16s and the ones arranged under the Excess Defense Articles with the United States. 

Ukrainian Air Force, F-16, Royal Danish Air Force, Training, Philippine Air Force, Argentina, Hot Transfer
Here is a fictionalized digital rendition of what will be if Ukraine finally gets its F-16 from countries like Denmark.
Image Source.

As mentioned, there are other countries that aimed to secure the Danish F-16 Multirole Fighter Jets for their respective air force requirements, one of which is in a current state of war that they really do badly need these jets to turn the tide of conflict in their home country, against a more-capable eastern neighbor whose capability wears down through time, coupled with the sanctions that have inflicted to this country since the war started in March 2022.

This refers to the Eastern European country of Ukraine, of which they are entering a second year of prolonged conflict against the perceived might of the Russian Federation, that it significantly dwindles much of the military hardware and troops on both sides as the result of this atrocious conflict. This prompted European countries like Denmark to throw more support to Ukraine and its government, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, that Ukrainian pilots start training with Danish F-16s in mid-2023.

The Danes have shown their full commitment to the Ukrainian war effort that they devoted themselves to providing the latter at least nineteen (19) F-16s for its air force requirements, with at least six (6) units slated for delivery at the second quarter of the year 2024 instead of within this period, citing reasons relating to delays on the ongoing training of the pilots as it is their first in both operating and maintaining the aircraft, as they come in different to the Sukhois and MiGs that the Ukrainians typically use.

Adding it up, another European country like the Netherlands has shown their commitment to the Ukrainian effort to get at least 42 of their own F-16s, adding it up to at least 61 F-16s for the Ukrainian Air Force to use, a gesture that immediately boost the capabilities of the Eastern European country’s air defense capabilities as they aim to counter the Russian air dominance even further since the invasion started in 2022. Like Denmark, the Royal Netherlands Air Force slowly replaced their F-16s to the newer F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.

Aside from Ukraine, the South American country of Argentina set its sights on the Danish F-16 multirole fighter aircraft, whereby the United States government actually approved the sale of at least 24 of this renowned multirole fighter jet, now increasing the number of F-16s likely ended up to countries other than the Philippines to at least 43, leaving less than a desired number of multirole fighter aircraft for the Philippine Air Force to get, showing that they fight against time if they are keen to secure this MRF from the Danish.

This is where the beloved ambassador raised another option into securing the F-16 fighter aircraft that the Philippine Air Force really needs, which is through financial aid from the United States for the country to secure this type of fighter aircraft. A think-tank in the same article further supported the idea for the United States to provide its Foreign Military Financing scheme to the Philippine government to avail, especially if it goes on getting the F-16 fighter jet through the Danish approach, or for its EDA negotiations and MRF project.

F-16 Block 70/72 Viper, Philippine Air Force, Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, Lockheed Martin, PAF, MRF
Lockheed Martin F-16 Display in ADAS 2018.
Obtained via Wikimedia Commons.

As the proposals raised for the Philippine government’s negotiations on the acquisition and transfer of the F-16MLUs from the Royal Danish Air Force through Ambassador Romualdez, let us discuss further the Multirole Fighter Jet or the MRF acquisition project, whereby reports typically confuse the said proposal to this ongoing program, even though the Danish F-16 deal comes differently to the MRF, of which it primarily focuses more into securing newly built aircraft.

Currently, based on the latest Procurement Monitoring Report presented by the Department of National Defense on their website (PDF file here) for the 2nd half of 2023, the Philippine Air Force’s MRF Jet acquisition project still comes as pending, as they are still waiting for the Swedish Parliament to ratify the Memorandum of Understanding or MOU between the Philippines and Sweden in the mid-2023. Basically, there are no changes in the status since the previous report covering the first half of the year.

This is despite the progress made in the deal between the Swedish and Philippine sides regarding the deal pitched by SAAB for its JAS-39 Gripen C/D multirole fighter jets, such as the approval of the Export Control Board (EKR) for SAAB to export the Swedish-made fighter aircraft for the Philippine Air Force’s MRF acquisition project. 

The slow movement on the MOU ratification may become dire for both SAAB and the Philippine Air Force, as current external defense policy pushes have put this deal at risk as it slowly runs out of time.

The pending status unsurprisingly prompt the Philippine Air Force and the government at-large to seek into other options, with the most obvious one regarding the acquisition of F-16s through different options such as having a different arrangement with the United States government through their Excess Defense Articles or EDA, and through choosing the new F-16 Block 70/72 Viper jets under the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project with the deal sweetened that a squadron (12 units) of jets is attainable.

So, it is not surprising for the Philippine government through its ambassador to the United States to do all the badly needed negotiations just for the Philippine Air Force to get the multirole fighter jet it needs, as it is clear from the get go that the Armed Forces of the Philippines are badly in need of these jets yesterday. 

Apparently, based on what sources shared to Pitz Defense Analysis, the idea of having more FA-50s may come as a ‘Plan B’ in case the MRF acquisition project fails, corroborating a previous report of it on our site.

Hence, these developments have shown the liquidity of the situation surrounding the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, especially the Philippine Air Force, like the rest of the Philippine Armed Forces, now embark to the largest phase yet of the Revised AFP Modernization Program, now coined as the Re-Horizon 3 phase which have this project being the primary priority of the Department of National Defense, alongside the acquisition of warships, submarines, and advanced radar systems.

With the budget increase and the likelihood that it remain constant in the upcoming years, the entire Philippine Armed Forces may eventually get the tools it need for territorial defense, especially now that the rehashed Horizon 3 phase provides the framework of priority projects needed to enhance capabilities, of that includes both the Multirole Fighter Jets, the F-16s currently in negotiation under the United States EDAs, and that one deal involving Royal Danish Air Force’s F-16 multirole fighter jets.

BACE-P, Bilateral Air Contingent Exchange - Philippines, FA-50PH, F-16 Viper, Philippine Air Force, United States Air Force
Philippine Air Force and United States Air Force service members pose alongside one another during the Bilateral Air Contingent Exchange - Philippines (BACE-P) in 2019.
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Small, via DVIDSHUB.

As the Marcos administration successfully approved the revision of implementing the third phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program now called as the “Re-Horizon 3”, it is not surprising that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, specifically the Philippine Air Force, and with the support of the Department of National Defense and the national government at-large, is gunning to get more multi-role fighter aircraft for the country’s air defense purposes, with the eyes primarily set on the F-16 fighter jets.

This comes to a point that a certain legislator promotes the viability of the F-16s, especially all the plans and programs that are pushing under the Philippine Air Force from the current Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project as it compete against the SAAB JAS-39 Gripen from Sweden, to other options like the stocks under the Excess Defense Articles of the United States plus tapping on third-party sources like Denmark who is in the process of replacing its jets with the newer F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft.

But with all the eyes within the Philippine’s own defense community staring straight to the current push of getting multirole fighter jets for the Philippine Air Force like the F-16s of both new and pre-loved, one also needs to acknowledge that the time is going against the actions of the planners within the air service branch and the Department of National Defense, as Argentina and Ukraine being hell-bent on securing the Danish F-16s for their own use, while the production line gets longer now as Turkey now likely joins the fray.

With the deal with SAAB for the JAS-39 Gripen being in the limbo as the Swedish Parliament is slow in ratifying the Memorandum of Understanding with the Philippines, and with the current developments regarding other countries getting both the in-stock and order for production F-16s, it is not surprising if thing will go hard for the planners in achieving timeline for getting MRFs for the Philippine Air Force, as what we said in the beginning of this article, the country needs the fighter jets yesterday.

Despite the developments at hand, one thing is certain out of these developments. That is the likelihood that the Philippine Air Force may likely end up getting the F-16 Viper multirole fighter jets under the multirole fighter jet acquisition project, aside from stocked F-16s like the ones from Denmark and the F-16s provided under the Excess Defense Articles. At the end, it will come with full certainty if the projects push through, contracts signed, and the jets with the Philippine Air Force insignia have arrived in the country.

(c) 2024 PDA.

Detailing the 2024 Philippine Coast Guard Budget

As the Philippine government recently enacted the 2024 General Appropriations Act into law, the first comes into mind is the figures relating to how much increase does the defense budget get, and especially the ones dedicated into the Revised AFP Modernization Program that we discussed in a separate article with its own breakdown. 

In this another quick entry, let us discuss the government budgeting relating to defense, this time about the ones received by the Philippine Coast Guard.

Philippine Coast Guard, Austal, OPV 83, 2024 Budget, PCG
The Senate President in an interview said that the additional budget for the PCG is for additional Offshore Patrol Vessels, probably built by Austal's Cebu Shipyard.
Image from Austal.

In the first few days since the new year started on January 1, 2024, the Philippine government is now operating under the General Appropriations Act intended for the same year, as this piece of legislation became law on December 20, 2023, when the president signed the 2024 budget that will probably define the plans and programs of different government agencies under this fiscal period.

Previously, we wrote an entry on the 2024 Philippine defense budget, of which the details come with both welcoming and disappointing news for the Revised AFP Modernization Program, but the overall trend on the increase in the budget intended for the modernization is sufficient and significant enough that it may help the Armed Forces of the Philippines sustain the funding requirements as long as the budget provided is consistent with its allotments and the increase associated to it.

But the discussion of government budgeting intended for territorial security and integrity does not stop here, as there is more welcoming news not only in the aspects of the Department of National Defense getting an increase for both its operational and AFP Modernization Requirements, but also other relevant agencies specializing into enforcing that territorial integrity like the Philippine Coast Guard (under the Department of Transportation) comes with a significant increase on its budgeting pie.

As an ever-assertive China and both of its Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels now used to wrestle more control of features within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone such as the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a budget increase for the Philippine Coast Guard is highly justified, as providing it with sufficient funding will help not only its efforts to recruit more personnel and add more vessels but also to add more facilities with some of which helps assert the country's sovereignty.

In this detailed entry, we will discuss the projects, plans, and programs that have presented not only on the 2024 General Appropriations Act for the Philippine Coast Guard, but also on other reports that gives a clear sign of how plans will go for the maritime law enforcement agency, especially on the procurement of offshore patrol vessels and building new facilities that include areas that are within the highly contested waters such as the West Philippine Sea.

Philippine Coast Guard, 2024 General Appropriations Act, 2024 GAA, PCG Budget
The budget received by the Philippine Coast Guard amounts to around Php 29,420,681,000.00.

In the 2024 General Appropriations Act as enacted by the Congress and signed by the President in the last quarter of the year 2023, the budget received by the Philippine Coast Guard amounts to around Php 29,420,681,000.00

Detailing further, the budget allotted for Personnel Services or PS amounts to Php 19,727,892,000.00, Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses or MOOE amounting to Php 4,948,744,000.00, and Capital Outlay that amounts to Php 4,744,045,000.00.

As we notice, the budget intended for Personnel Services is higher, which makes sense considering the significant number of newly recruited personnel that the Philippine Coast Guard has recently, as the entrant rank of a Seaman Third Class has a basic salary amounting to Php 29,668.00, plus other benefits such as Hazard Pay that will make their net pay per month increased to around Php 35,000.00 to Php 36,000.00, with other deductions considered ranging from income taxation to availed loans and monthly contributions.

The budget allotted for both the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses or MOOE and Capital Outlay or CO does not come far altogether, as the former focuses more on maintenance and operating expenses for the Philippine Coast Guard’s outposts and facilities, traveling expenses for its personnel to attend seminars and trainings, and fuel expenses for both of its fleet of vehicles, aircraft like the Airbus H145 Helicopter, and white-hulled vessels that venture out to the sea like several of its Parola-class vessels patrolling the West Philippine Sea.

It is in the latter where the focus is on, as the Philippine Coast Guard sources its key acquisition projects and programs from its Capital Outlay project, of which its procurement comes with a wide range of variety such as construction of new facilities or installation of existing coastal radar, or regarding the acquisition of new Offshore Patrol Vessels through Austal’s Balamban Cebu shipyard

Take note that other acquisition projects like the five additional Teresa Magbanua-class Multirole Response Vessels under the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Acquisition Project come with a different funding arrangement, pointing directly to Japan’s Official Development Assistance or ODA Loan.

Compared to the 2023 General Appropriations Act, the Philippine Coast Guard saw its largest significant increase to-date, as the 2023 figures come only at around Php 21,908,100,000.00, of which its Capital Outlay only amounts to Php 729,976,000.00, of which this means that the Philippine Coast Guard’s budget under the 2024 General Appropriations Act for Capital Outlay comes as more than 4x larger than the 2023 figures, although the budgets for both Personnel Services (PS) and Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) saw its respective increases, albeit not as significant as the presented budget for the Capital Outlay.

Comparing both budgets even further, the Philippine Coast Guard receives a significant increase amounting to Php 7,512,581,000.00, of which the figures for Capital Outlay comes with the difference amounting to Php 4,014,069,000.00, whereas the increase for both Personnel Services or PS and Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses or MOOE comes at around Php 1,728,950,000.00 from the previous year's budget of around Php 17,998,942,000.00, and Php 1,564,863,000.00, compared from the previous year’s budget of around Php 3,179,182,000.00, respectively.

This simply means that the Philippine Coast Guard, like the Department of National Defense, receives the significant budget increase it deserves to get, as the maritime law enforcement agency aims to get additional white-hulled vessels along the way. 

Take note that like in the 2024 defense budget, the Philippine Coast Guard comes with an exemption in terms of procurement under the R.A. 9184, although similar provision applies. This further shows the ever-increasing significant role that the Philippine Coast Guard plays in securing territorial integrity whereby it also receives additional funding through other means, such as its own confidential fund.

Philippine Coast Guard, China Coast Guard, Ayungin Shoal, West Philippine Sea, BRP Sierra Madre
The intensified situation in the West Philippine Sea helped increase the Philippine Coast Guard's budget for the improvement of their mandate.
Image Source.

Another thing to highlight regarding the Philippine Coast Guard’s budget under the 2024 General Appropriations Act is the approval of the re-aligned confidential funds to the maritime law enforcement agency from other departments like the Department of Information and Communications Technology or DICT, or the Department of Education or DepEd

Apparently, the escalated tensions between China and the Philippines in the year 2023 prompted the need for confidential funds for the proper agencies that need it.

According to this report from the online publication of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Philippine Coast Guard received at least Php 200 Million additional confidential funds as the result of the realignment that took place, with other beneficiaries being the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency or NICA amounting to Php 300 Million, National Security Council or NSC amounting to Php 100 Million, and Php 381.8 Million for the Department of Transportation, of which we will also cover under this article.

Under the 2024 General Appropriations Act, the confidential funds of the Philippine Coast Guard comes as an item under the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses or MOOE, whereby it amounts to around Php 400 Million, under the item named Confidential, Intelligence, and Extraordinary Expenses. 

This means that the Philippine Coast Guard received a significant increase into its confidential funds, compared to its 2023 General Appropriations Act budget of just Php 10 Million

This means that aside from the Php 200 Million confidential fund that the Philippine Coast Guard received through the realignment of funds before the 2024 General Appropriations Act gets enacted, the agency saw an increase of at least Php 190 Million on its own confidential fund, of which this is something that the Philippine Coast Guard deserves to get as they are now playing a role in the frontline, escorting and protecting Philippine interest in highly tensioned areas of the country like the West Philippine Sea.

Going back five years, the Philippine Coast Guard only receives at least eight-figures of confidential fund budget that does not surpass the Php 30 Million to Php 50 Million mark. For instance, the confidential fund budget for the maritime service branch under the 2019 budget only amounts to Php 39 Million, then reduced to Php 10.990 Million in the 2020 budget, and then it reduced further down to Php 10.100 Million under the 2021 budget and Php 10 Million under both 2022 and 2023 General Appropriation Acts.

This means that the Philippine Coast Guard’s confidential funds for the last five (5) years comes as small compared to the one it received under the 2024 General Appropriations Act. And that alone speaks volumes to the urgency of providing the maritime law enforcement agency the resources it needs to sustain and continue its operations, especially now that they go hand in hand with their fellow uniformed counterparts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines in pushing external defense posture.

The discussion is not just limited to the budgeting of the Philippine Coast Guard itself, but also going further to the ones that the Department of Transportation or DOTr sets to get, whereas mentioned earlier, it also received the portion of the realigned confidential funds of which they can use it to improve and develop further its projects relating to the country’s resolve of enforcing its outposts in the West Philippine Sea, specifically within the Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan.

Thitu Island, Pag-Asa Island, Pag-Asa Airport, Racundo Airfield, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Navy, West Philippine Sea, Kalayaan Island Group
The island now comes with a fully cemented runway that improves landing and takeoff conditions into and out of the island.
Image Source.

Another thing to highlight regarding this topic is that the Philippine Coast Guard’s mother department, the Department of Transportation or DOTR, also has budget allotments aimed at funding the necessities of the troops and civilians living and working within the Kalayaan Island Group.

This Philippine municipality within the West Philippine Sea area always comes as one area of contention, as countries like China always put their so-called claim in these features that are clearly within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

One of those projects slated by the Department of Transportation in its budget under the 2024 General Appropriations Act is the airport development and expansion of the Racundo airfield, also known as the Pag-Asa island airport. 

The project amounts to around Php 1.5 Billion, of which it comes as an item under the Capital Outlay, specifically under the project compilation item named as the ‘Construction, Rehabilitation, and Improvement of Other Transportation Infrastructure - Aviation’.

This means that any of the improvements that the Pag-Asa island airport receives treats in a way that comes equally that to the country’s key airports, showing that this comes as a way for the Philippine government to further reinforce its indisputable right over these domains, as this helps the government improve the logistics chain by ensuring the improvement of this essential facility that caters both civilian and military-owned Philippine aircraft.

Another thing to point out is a special item under the project compilation item named as the ‘Construction, Rehabilitation, and Improvement of Other Transportation Infrastructure - Maritime’, the Department of Transportation provided a special project intended to build up a Shelter Port in another island within the Municipality of Kalayaan. This refers to the island of Lawak, which is another Philippine outpost in the West Philippine Sea and also the 2nd largest Philippine-manned feature of the municipality. 

Into the details, the Lawak Island Shelter Port costs at around Php 800 Million, which is a reasonable price considering that this actually involves building a new structure into a Philippine outpost that other countries also lay claim, including China. 

A shelter port is what it is in description - a facility designed to shelter small boats owned by Filipino fisherfolk living in the municipality against high waves, especially during the Typhoon season where these storms passed through the West Philippine Sea.

Both of the projects mentioned helps enforce the country’s sovereignty and dominion over the features that define the Kalayaan Island Group, of which this comes alongside Philippine Coast Guard’s significant increase in its overall budgeting prospects, particularly to its Capital Outlay and its confidential funds, as the projects in the municipality encourages more civilians to live and settle in this area aside from deploying troops, just like with Pag-Asa island itself. 

All of which covers the welfare of both troops and civilians living in Palawan’s westernmost municipality, while being defiant against the ever-increasing aggression showcased by the China Coast Guard and maritime militia

This also comes as a gesture of assuring the country’s national interest in the West Philippine Sea, as the national government, through the Department of Transportation, are now erecting more structures that further solidify the country’s presence.

BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV-9701), Philippine Coast Guard, Kunigami-class, Japan ODA
The acquisition of five more Teresa Magbanua-class MRRVs will come from a Japanese ODA loan arrangement.
From Wikimedia Commons.

The Philippine Coast Guard, like the entire Department of National Defense, saw a significant increase in its 2024 budgets under the said year’s General Appropriations Act, under the Republic Act 11975. All of which comes with big-ticket acquisition projects and increased operational funding requirements in mind, aside from the ongoing recruitment processes that both the Philippine Coast Guard and different branches under the Armed Forces of the Philippines currently conduct.

This comes noticeably to the significant increase that the Philippine Coast Guard has received in both on its Capital Outlay and confidential fund allotments, in the same manner that the Armed Forces of the Philippines received for the Revised AFP Modernization Program and the budget proper of the entire Department of National Defense, with the former having the plans to purchase at least three (3) vessels from an Australian-owned shipbuilding company based in Cebu.

Take note that both the budget of both the Philippine Coast Guard and the Department of National Defense comes differently to the specific budgetary items that the Department of Transportation has for infrastructure, as they have allotments that are specific to several areas in the Kalayaan Island Group within the West Philippine Sea area, namely the improvements for the Pag-asa island airport and the construction of the Lawak Island Shelter Port that will benefit the logistics and welfare of both Filipino citizens and troops in the area.

With the 2024 General Appropriations Act now rolling from its January 1 effectivity date, it is with the likelihood that there will be interesting developments regarding differing military and coast guard-related acquisition projects and programs, as these processes have the aims of improving the overall capabilities of the Philippine government, through the military and the coast guard, to intensify its foothold and increase its presence further in the West Philippine Sea area.

All it takes now is to wait and see how the materialization phase of each acquisition project may go, as it comes with differing timelines and dates of where and when the release of the Special Allotment Release Orders or SARO documents from the Department of Budget comes out. 

Still, we are hoping and looking forward that the annual budget for these concerned agencies and departments remains constant or in an increasing trend in the succeeding years, as these help make the country secured from external threats later on.

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

(c) 2024 PDA.




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