02 Januari 2016
Philippine;s new gear in 2015 (photos : Inquirer, AFP. PN)
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is expecting more assets to be added to its inventory in 2016 amid its efforts to build a minimum credible defense.
The military’s boost of assets occurs in the wake of China’s sweeping expansion in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Some of the assets expected in 2016 include the Philippine Navy’s first strategic sealift vessels (SSVs) due to arrive in May.
The government has earlier ordered two SSVs from Indonesia worth P3.87 billion from the AFP modernization fund. As of mid-December, the first vessel is 87 percent complete, Navy spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said recently.
The other SSV, also under construction, will be delivered to the Philippines in 2017.
IHS Jane’s, British publishing company which specializes in defense topics, said that these vessels have a full load displacement of 11,583 tons. It can indicate a crew complement of 121 and a lift capacity for 500 troops. It can also accommodate up to two medium helicopters on its flight deck.
The SSVs have a maximum range of 9,360 nautical miles, a top speed of 16 knots and an endurance of 30 days.
Two C-130 cargo planes from the United States, which were acquired through excess defense articles, are also expected in the first quarter of 2016. This will be added to the three operational C-130s in the Air Force inventory.
Two light-lift aircrafts from PT Dirgantara Indonesia worth P814 million are also expected to arrive in 2016. It will complement the Nomad and Islander planes used in transport of troops and cargo, maritime patrol, airborne operations or search and rescue.
Two more brand new FA-50 fighter jets, part of the dozen acquired by the Philippine government, will arrive in 2016. The first two already arrived last December and the rest are expected in the next two years.
This project is the biggest capability upgrade of the AFP at P18.9 billion. It comes 10 years after the Air Force retired its F-5 fighters.
Some of the other assets expected in 2016 are amphibious assault vehicles, radios and mortars. Night fighting systems for the Philippine Army worth P1.1 billion for 4,464 sets are also expected in 2016.
Also to watch out for is the possibility of the arrival of a Hamilton-class cutter, the same type as the Navy’s current biggest ships, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz and BRP Gregorio del Pilar and a research vessel pledged by US President Barack Obama during his visit in Manila last November.
In 2015, the Air Force returned to supersonic age for the first time in 10 years with the delivery of the first two of 12 FA-50s. Other assets delivered were eight brand new combat utility helicopters, eight attack helicopters, two naval choppers, three brand new medium-lift air planes and over a hundred armored personnel carriers.
The Navy also received two landing craft heavy from Australia.
Last November, President Benigno Aquino III approved the “multi-year-contract” worth an estimated P44 billion for seven projects that was requested by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. These are two frigates, anti-submarine helicopters, amphibious assault vehicles for the Navy, munitions for the FA-50s, close-air support aircraft, air surveillance and long-range patrol aircraft.
“The delivery of these new assets is expected to be completed by 2017 or early 2018,” Fernando Manalo, Department of National Defense undersecretary for finance, munitions, material and modernization told INQUIRER.net.
He said by that time, the AFP’s capability to conduct international security operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster response “will be twice or three times than its capability in 2010.”
Manalo admitted though, that the AFP needs bigger helicopters for disaster response mission.
As for maritime domain awareness, Manalo said that after the delivery of the radar systems, long-range patrol aircraft, close air support, frigates, amphibious assault vehicles, anti-sumbarine helicopters, the rest of the fighter jets and other naval assets, the situation will be “much, much better.”
65 completed projects under Aquino administration
The Philippine military was obsolete in the past administrations due to many years of neglect and had to rely on hand-me-downs. When Aquino assumed office in 2010, he vowed to rejuvenate the struggling AFP.
At the AFP anniversary last December, Aquino said with pride that he completed 65 projects under his watch. The past three administrations combined only had 45.
All the projects completed under Aquino so far are worth an estimated P30 billion.