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.

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