Philippine Army - Modernization
By the turn of the century, among of the most telling weaknesses of the AFP was its equipage. By 2003 Army units still use old model radios which require dozens of D-sized batteries that are quickly drained of power. Even a two or three (2 or 3 day) patrol would entail lugging around heavy bags full of replacement batteries – an anachronism in these digital times when some reasonably-priced commercial models with wafer-thin but long-lasting lithium batteries can easily fit into one’ s pocket. The condition of basic weapons aroused concern. Most of the M-16s had to be replaced by new ones. Some of these rifles are so ancient that they literally looked like relics, and they easily malfunctioned. No new pistols had been issued since the 1960s. Transport and combat vehicles are comparatively small in number. A visit to a Military Supply Unit (MSU) in Zamboanga City revealed many carcasses of old vehicles lying around in depots, cannibalized and eviscerated.
The improvement in the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is vital to maintain and sustain the sovereignty of the Filipino people, from land security to the development of the society. The AFP plays a crucialrole in nation-building. Hence, asthe society matures into a more interlinked and globalized environment, the concept of national security has to adopt with the activities in the society. Traditionally, the Army is known for combat operations to keep the sovereignty of the country.
However, in today’s context, the Army is also utilized for non-traditional activity such as infrastructure development, disaster management, and in social welfare development programs. The AFP is constantly mobilized every time there is an emergency – not just in the Philippines but also in volunteering its resources to help promote world peace. For this to be possible, it is the responsibility of the PA to modernize its capabilities to be prepared in any current and future conflicts.
In 23 February 1995, during the administration of President Fidel Ramos, the first AFP Modernization (R.A. 7898) was passed into law. The objectives of R.A.7898 was to uphold the sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the Philippines by being capable to protect the Filipino people not only from the armed threat, but also from the ill effects and lifethreatening and destructive consequences of natural and man-made disasters and calamities. Aside from this was to give support for the national development. This plan was expected to last for 15 years with initial budget of 50 billion pesos for the first five years. However, due to the global 1997 financial crisis, and due to the lack of support from the successive administrations, the initiative was not a success and expired in 2010.
The inadequacy of the Philippine Army to provide external security with its obsolete military equipments became very clear after the US withdraw its military bases in the Philippines. The Philippine Army remains one of the weakest military in Asia both in terms of military capability and defense spending. The Philippine Army long wanted a ground defense capability. Military modernization act has been passed twice, once during the term of President Ramos and again during the term of President Aquino. It is during the term of President Aquino when the Philippine Army saw a significant increase in their capability as a result of new equipment purchases.
Due to the external and internal threats and challenges that the Philippines have, the Administration of Benigno Aquino revised the Modernization law. It was revised in 2012 as the Revised AFP Modernization Act (R.A. 10349). Here, the law extends the modernization program to another 15 years with an initial budget of 75 billion pesos for the first five (5) years for the whole AFP. The revised law had the same objectives with the previous version.
The Revised AFP Modernization Program is divided into three phases known as “Horizons”. The Horizon 1 was implemented from 2013 to 2017; and Horizon 2 is from 2018 to 2022; while the Horizon 3 is to be implemented in 2023 to 2028. The Philippine Army has carefully selected the lists through intensive planning as they consider the currentsecurity requirement ofthe country. All these efforts are to ensure that participants are competent and have the capabilities to provide the needed assets. The list of projects from these “Horizons” has undergone transparent procurement as stipulated in R.A 9184. This is to promote “the ideals of good governance…”.
The Philippine Army has planned and executed various Modernization Projects since 2000 to give a quality equipment and support to the Philippine Army personnel in different areas. From 2003 to 2018, the organization has expended a total amount of PhP23, 413,814,071.20 for the 59 projects under both the R.A. 7898 and R.A. 10349. Out of 59 completed projects, 19 modernization projects are accomplished for Mobility, and eight (8) for Firepower, 26 for Communication Equipment, three (3) for Engineering equipment, two (2) for Force Protection Equipment (FPE), and one (1) for EOD equipment.
Horizon 1 has two (2) lists which involves the purchases of military hardware mainly for internal security challenges. For the first list, the modernization projects has completed six (6) RAFPMP projects such as the HF 50W (VEH) Radio, 2-5W Handheld Radio, Rocket Launcher Light, Night Fighting System, Shore-based Missile System, Tactical Engagement Simulation System, Thermal Imaging Device, Field Ambulance, and Armored Personnel Carrier (M113). However, there are still four (4) uncompleted projects from this modernization list approved by former President Aquino in 2013.
The second list has completed the procurement of two (2) items which are the 2 ½ Ton Cargo/Troop Carrier/ Wrecker Truck, and the pistols. However, there are still ongoing procurement items which includes the Body Armor, Helmet, 20W (Manpack) Radio, VHF 5W Handheld Radio, 7.62mm Designated Marksman Rifle, CBRN Equipment, Long Range Sniper Weapon System, Fire Power Upgrade of EDA M113s, and Forward Support Equipment.
The procurement of the Horizon 2 lists requires a huge allocation worth 300 Billion pesos with the shift of AFP’s procurement from internal security of territorial defense to the procurement of external defense equipment. These items are from R.A 10349 which includes the following: EDA M113A2 Armored Personnel Carrier, Field Ambulance, Assault Rifle (1st Residuals), AFP Light Utility Vehicle (1¼ Ton Trucks), 2-5W HH Radio, 50W AV Configuration, AFP Civil Engineering Equipment Project (Lot 2 Road Roller - 6 units), AFP Civil Engineering Equipment Project (Lot 5 Backhoe Loader - 29 units), Night Fighting System, Truck, 2 ½ Ton Cargo Troop Carrier/Wrecker, Tactical Engagement Simulation System (Lot 2 - VTESS), Thermal Imaging Device, and Prime Movers with Flat Bed.
The Philippines acquired six (6) ACV-300s for the Philippine Army and delivered in November 2009. One (1) ARV was purchased in 2004. It was reported in November 2012 that the Philippines Department of National Defense (DND) was planning to acquire 100 armored personnel carriers (APC)s and dozens of artillery equipment from Italy in support of the military’s capability upgrade program. The Italian government might donate 100 units of operational M113 APCs and 25 units of operational FH70 155 mm howitzers. The possible donations were in connection with the procurement of other equipment that may become part of what the DND called the “Italian package.” The DND was negotiating with Italy for the procurement of Maestrale-class ships, C-27J-Spartan medium-lift fixed wing aircraft, special mission aircraft and three naval helicopters. If the procurement came through, the 100 APCs and 25 long-range cannons may be included in the package.
In 2015, the Armed Forces of the Philippines received 114 M113 tracked APCs from the United States. Elbit System upgraded 28 of them with 25mm unmanned turrets, 12.7mm remote controlled weapon stations (RCWS), and fire control systems (FCS) for 90mm turrets.
The Army of the Philippines signed a contract in 2016 with Elbit Systems for the procurement of 4 upgraded M113A2 with 25mm cannons and 6 units with 12.7mm machine guns. The improved version of M113A2 Armored Personnel Carriers will have Remote Control Weapons System (RWS) designed by Elbit Systems. In total Elbit System would upgrade 28 M-113A2 granted by US Defense Security Cooperation Agency in the Philippines.
Elbit was contracted in 2018 by the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) to upgrade 44 M113A2 tracked armored personnel carriers, which includes installation of the Elbit Systems 12.7mm ORCWS and other systems, and conversion of five M113A2 to armored mortar carriers with the installation of the Soltam Cardom 81mm Recoil Mortar System. This marked the delivery of a total of 17 upgraded vehicles with the 12.7mm ORCWS under the M113 Firepower Upgrade Project. Another batch of upgraded M113s entered acceptance tests and hand-over in July 2019.
The Philippine Army is active in building up its aviation unit with armed reconnaissance and air assault and air medical evacuation by utilizing rotary wing aircraft. In October 2019, the Army upgraded its Aviation Battalion into Aviation Regiment. The Philippine Army is looking for a single-engined light attack helicopter.
Boeing is in talks with the Philippines Armed Forces (PAF) are in an early stage of talks for AH-6i light attack and reconnaissance helicopter. This was confirmed by Jane’s in a report quoting Terry Jamison, director for global sales and marketing of Vertical Lift Division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. With the US State Department having recently approved the potential sale of Boeing's AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter to the Philippine Air Force (PAF), the company is also exploring the possibility of selling the AH-6i to the Philippine Army also.
AH-6 procurement would likely replace 12 ageing MD 500MGs now flown by the Philippines Air Force.
In a Change of Command Ceremony held 06 December 2019, Lt. Gen. Gilbert I. Gapay officially assumed the new Commanding General of the Philippine Army (CGPA). Gapay mentioned to “work towards the equipage” of the Army Modernization program and enhancing the Army’s land power capabilities. Prior to his appointment, he was assigned as the Commander of the Southern Luzon Command and was also designated as the Commander of the Mechanized Infantry Division, now the Armor “Pambato” Division, where he supported its various capability upgrades in terms of armor, aviation, air defense, and cyber security.
The Philippine Army (PA) and the Multi-Sector Advisory Board (MSAB) on 30 January 2020, conducted its first meeting at the Army Headquarters in support to advancing the Army’s modernization endeavors. In line with the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR), the Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay together with the new MSAB Interim Chairperson, Philippine Economic Zone Authority Director General Charito Plaza, expressed the need to continue modernizing PA’s capabilities in response to the President’s directive of ending the CPP-NPA insurgency by 2022.
The Army Artillery Regiment (AAR) is at the forefront of the Army modernization in line with its Land Maneuver Concept to address external, internal, and hybrid threats. Programmed to receive new equipment, the AAR created its additional Batteries on Multiple Launch Rocket System, Land Based Missile System, Air Defense Artillery, and Field Artillery.
Iveco Defesa supplied the Philippine Army with 28 Guarani VBTP-MR Guarani (Portuguese > Viatura Blindada Transporte de Pessoal – Média de Rodas; “Vehicle Armored Personnel Carrier – Medium Wheeled) 6×6 wheeled armored personnel carriers. At a total value of $47 million (€39.3 million), the contract marks the first export win for the vehicles. These armored personnel carriers are equipped with turrets with a 12.7-mm machine gun and a 40-mm grenade launcher, there is also the option of installing a remotely controlled turret with a 12.7-mm machine gun. Onboard systems include an E-LynX software-defined radio, a COMBAT NG command and control system and a TORCH-X combat management system, all supplied by Israel’s Elbit Systems. The design was also adapted by IVECO for its SuperAV 8×8, which eventually was selected by the US Marine Corps for its Amphibious Combat Vehicle program to complement and eventually replace the USMC’s AAV7A1 amphibious assault vehicles.
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