MANILA—With the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) now in full swing, the spokespersons of its military branches have expressed their appreciation of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s efforts to provide the country with a credible external defense force.
“We are very thankful of President Aquino’s unprecedented support to our modernization and capability upgrade programs. Even before the signing of the Revised AFP Modernization Act in 2012, more than P16 billion was made available for the acquisition and upgrading of our assets. His continued support to our efforts to modernize the AFP will surely empower us in fulfilling our mandate,” AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala told the Philippines News Agency.
His views on President Aquino’s support to the military establishment was reiterated by Philippine Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato.
“With the support the Army is getting, our Army Transformation Roadmap is well on its way of achieving the Army’s vision by 2028 (of being) a world-class Army that is a source of national pride,” he said.
The Philippine Navy, which is getting its external defense capabilities regenerated with the arrival of the two Gregorio Del Pilar class frigates in 2011 and 2013, and delivery of three AW-109E “Power” helicopters, also in 2013, and six multipurpose assault craft, is also very thankful for the support it is getting from the Chief Executive.
“The Philippine Navy is very grateful for the continued support of the President. That support can be felt down to the grassroots level, the sailors and the marines, as we continuously pursue in achieving the objectives set in our strategic sail plan and towards the attainment of our vision which is to become strong and credible,” Navy public affairs office chief Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said.
His view was also shared by Philippine Air Force (PAF) spokesperson Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya.
“The leadership, men and women of the Philippine Air Force, are grateful for the support of our Commander-in-Chief. The modernization of the PAF offers numerous opportunity such as further upgrading the skills of (our airmen) and expanding our capability to support territorial defense, internal security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response and national development,” he said.
As of this posting, thanks to the efforts of the Chief Executive, the Philippines has already signed the P18-billion contract for the 12 Korea Aerospace Industries F/A-50 “Fighting Eagle” which will act as the country’s interim jet fighters while waiting for the proper funding and training which will allow it to procure multi-role combat aircraft. The contract was signed last March 28.
Also signed during that date was the P4.8-billion contract with the Canadian government for the eight Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters. Two of the F/A-50s and a pair of the Bell 412EP helicopters are expected to be delivered by the latter part of 2015.
These planes will greatly boost the capabilities of the Philippine Air Force.
Aside from this, the PAF is expected to commission into service eight AW-109E attack helicopters starting January 2015. Deliveries will be completed by July 2015.
The contract for this modernization program for the PAF is worth P3.4 billion.
On the other hand, the Philippine Army is expected to take possession of 63,000 units of brand-new M-4 automatic rifles which will replace the Vietnam-era M-16 rifles in its arsenal.
Contract for this weapons is worth P2.4 billion.Deliveries will start by July and will be completed before the end of 2014.
Meanwhile, four of the 21 refurbished UH-IH “Huey” combat utility helicopters, acquired to beef up the PAF, had been delivered late in June. Another three units are en route and expected to arrive before the end of July.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin expects the remaining 14 to arrive before the end of 2014.
Sources said these planes were acquired as the PAF’s “Huey” fleet was whittled down to just 18 helicopters, from an estimated 100, due to airframe aging and accidents.
The contract for the 21 refurbished UH-1Hs is worth over P1 billion.
Another piece of good news for the PA is the signing of the P882-million contract for the upgraded armored personnel carrier (APC) which was bagged by Israeli defense manufacturer Elbit Systems Ltd. last March. Payment will be done in three tranches.
Dr. Peter Paul Galvez, Defense spokesperson, said the first payment will be pegged at P405 million, the second at P335 million and the third at P142 million.
Elbit Systems Ltd. formally announced the signing of the P882-million deal (roughly USD 20 million) last June 22.
Upgrades include 25-mm unmanned turrets, 12.7-mm remote controlled weapon stations (RCWS) and fire control systems (FCS) for 90-mm turrets.
The APCs, which are 28 in number, will be supplied over a one-year period.
The contract marks a significant breakthrough for Elbit Systems, as it is the first one awarded to the company in the Philippines.
“We are very pleased to be awarded our first contract for the Philippines Armed Forces, which we hope will be followed by others. Our extensive portfolio and our vast experience enable us to offer our customers advanced solutions, answering the specific requirements of various combat vehicles, and this award further positions us as world leader in the field of ground vehicle upgrades,” Elbit Systems’ Land and C41 general manager Udi Vered said.
The APCs are for the use of the Philippine Army, which operates at least 343 AFVs (armored fighting vehicles) and APCs.
Around 85 percent of these AFVs are on green status (fully mission capable) while another 10 percent are on yellow status (undergoing repair) and five percent on red (beyond repair).
Of thes 343 AFVs, 150 comprise the United Kingdom-built GKN “Simba” with the remaining AFVs consisting of United States-designed V-150 and V-200 APCs, M-113 “Bradley,” Turkish- made ACV-300s and British Scorpion CVRTs.
These vehicles give the PA its armor capability and are organized into a 14-vehicle mechanized infantry companion for deployment with regular units.
Meanwhile, the PN announced that the specifications of its two state-of-the-art frigates, which are worth P18.9-billion, will be out by July.
These ships will be armed with a variety of weapons capable of dealing with surface, sub-surface and air threats.
This was confirmed by Philippine Navy technical working group head Commodore Roland Mercado in a message to the PNA.
“It (specifications) might be released by July. I’ll just have to present it to the PN leadership to get their comments and approval,” he added.
He declined to give the frigates’ specifications pending his presentation to Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Jesus Millan.
Earlier, two more foreign shipbuilders had joined the Navy’s P18-billion frigate program.
These firms are Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd. of India and STX France SA.
They were allowed to join in the bidding after their motions for reconsideration were considered by the Department of National Defense’s Special Bidding Awards Committee.
They were earlier excluded from the project due to deficiencies in documentary requirements.
These companies now join Navantia Sepi (RTR Ventures) of Spain and South Korean firms STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. Ltd. and Hyundai Heavy Industries Inc. which have successfully passed the first stage of the bidding.
Design assessments of the frigate proponents started last February. Each bidder was given five working days to present its concept.
During this period, hull, power plant, communications, and weapon systems designs were scrutinized closely by the technical working group.