The Philippine Navy’s HHI Frigate Controversy

The Philippine Navy’s new Frigate. Photo courtesy of Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI).

I have been closely monitoring the developments on the controversy surrounding the Philippine Navy’s (PN) purchase of two Frigates from Hyundai Heavy Industry (HHI) for the past couple of months, but held off writing a blog until I had gathered and studied enough information from news reports about it.

And now I think I have enough material to comfortably write about the topic, hence this blog. The controversy started to break out into the mainstream when just a couple of days before Christmas on December 19, 2017, Vice Admiral (VA) Ronald Mercado was relieved of his post as Flag Officer in Chief (FOIC) of the PN by the Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.1
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The Thales Group’s Long History of Corruption

A Kang Ding class Frigate of the Taiwanese Navy. Beneath its beauty lies a scandal full of bribes and at least one death. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

One day, after I kept seeing Thales’ name splashed all over the news related to the purchase of our Frigates from Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), I just suddenly got this idea of researching about corruption news related to them on the internet. And I was quite surprised to see virtually a deluge of detailed materials about it come up on my screen. Hence I thought it would be a good idea to organize my findings and put them into this blog.

’The Thales Group’1
But first, let’s learn a little bit about the company, previously known as Thomson CSF until they changed their name in 2000 to the Thales Group. It is a pretty big company with around 64,000 employees in 56 countries, with a revenue of EUR 15 billion (around USD 18.54 billion at the exchange rate of EUR 1 = USD 1.24) in 2016.
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The H145 for the Philippine Armed Forces?

An H145 Helicopter of the German State Police equipped with a Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) Sensor. Photo courtesy of the official Airbus Helicopters website.

A couple of months ago, the aircraft company Airbus Helicopters Philippines Inc. (AHPI) conducted a local media event at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to showcase the helicopters they were offering to our armed forces. AHPI said that they already briefed the Technical Working Groups (TWG) of the Department of National Defense (DND) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) about the aircraft.1

The company presented at least two aircraft, the H130 and the H145M. The H130 is a smaller and lighter aircraft designed more for the light transport role while the H145M is a bigger and heavier aircraft with a clear military role in mind, hence it would seem to be better suited for our armed forces.
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Aboard the Admiral Vinogradov – October 2017

The AK-100 main guns and bow side superstructure of the Admiral Vinogradov Destroyer. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After a couple of tries this year, I finally got to go onboard one of the Russian Navy’s ships at the Manila South Harbor, the Admiral Vinogradov (554), an Udaloy I class Destroyer. It wasn’t easy, but it was a good experience as these ships are not as common in our shores, especially before this administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

’Better Queueing Organization’
One reason I was able to get in this time was because there was a better overall organization of the queueing system for going into the ship. First was that they finally got a fairly competent guy to handle the queue who worked hard, communicated well and had a good system for queueing the people up.
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More Medium Gun Armed Vehicles for the Philippines?

A Badak Fire Support Vehicle (FSV). Photo courtesy of the Indomiliter website.

The Department of National Defense (DND) revealed to the Press recently that they were studying the possibility of acquiring more medium-sized armored vehicles to augment their forces. The DND said that such vehicles would fit well into any Urban Warfare scenarios like what happened in Marawi.1

For these vehicles, the DND noted some specific characteristics that they are looking for, and these are:
– Should weigh no more than 20 tons;
– Armed with a medium caliber cannon capable of breaching concrete walls.
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Russian Smart Weapons for the FA-50PH?

A Soviet R-13 (AA-2 Atoll) missile on the outermost right hull pylon of a Saab J-35 Draken fighter aircraft. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Aside from China, the other country that this new Administration under President Rodrigo Duterte is “pivoting” to is Russia, and as part of that initiative, the Department of National Defense (DND) is considering the possibility of using Russian made Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) on our FA-50PH Fighting Eagles.1

A PGM or “Smart Weapon” is a weapon that is able to adjusts its flight path to hit its target. It can either be guided towards the target, or has its own independent guidance system.2 Note that this is at least the second time that the DND was reported to be pursuing such possibility,3 so they seem to be really serious about doing it. The big question now though is whether this is even possible at all?
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The JF-17 Thunder for the Philippine Air Force?

A JF-17 Thunder of the Pakistani Air Force showing its planform. Photo courtesy of RA.AZ thru Flickr.

During the campaign period for the 2016 Presidential elections, one joke I would occasionally come out with on my page went something like, “oh don’t worry, if Rodrigo Duterte becomes President, our Air Force would eventually end up with the JF-17 Thunder as its Multi-Role Fighter (MRF), ha-ha-ha”.

And then the May 2016 elections came, and he won. By a fricking landslide. Five months into the new administration, in December 2016 Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in a newspaper interview that they were looking at importing weapons from Pakistan where the JF-17 is currently being made.1 Note that Dominguez is also one of Duterte’s closest advisers, being a childhood friend and former classmate.2 So the jokes came out again.
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