Anti-Ship Missiles and Their Weapons Platforms for the Philippine Armed Forces

‘ASM Weapons Platforms’
If you look at a map of the Philippines below, one you will notice is that is is surrounded by large bodies of water on all sides: The Luzon Strait in the North, the South China Sea in the West, the Philippine Sea in the East and the Celebes and Sulu Seas in the South.

This means that any invasion against it will have to involve ships, LOTS of ships. Aircrafts have speed, but they can’t match the amount of payload that ships can carry. Hence, it is only right that our external defense strategy should involve defense against ships.

In World War 1, defeating ships involved using other ships with large cannons in Battleship vs. Battleship showdowns. In World War 2, it involved planes to strafe/bomb/torpedo other ships. In this day and age, it involves using Anti-Ship Missiles or ASMs.

These weapons need Weapon Platforms to launch from, and an ideal one for them would be other ships also as they can match the endurance of other ships in terms of stationing themselves in a certain area. But right now, most of our ships are not suitable as launch platforms for these ASMs.

We only have 14 Corvettes and Frigates, and of these 9 are World War 2 relics.[1] Of the 5 modern ships, 3 are not suitable for handling standard sized ASMS due to balance problems (the Peacock Class ships).[2] We have 38 Patrol Crafts, but a vast majority of them are way below 200 tons,[1] a bit too small as platforms for standard sized ASMs. So in effect, we only really have 2 ships that are suitable as weapons platforms for standard ASMs (the Hamilton-class Frigates).

The Philippines is on its way to procuring modern, large ships that could support ASMs, but each of these ships costs tens of billions of pesos. A good alternative would be modern ATTACK AIRCRAFTS, because these are good platforms also for ASMs, and they are much, much cheaper than ships. They could not altogether replace ships, of course, as it is cheaper and more efficient to patrol and protect large areas of the sea using ships.

‘Harpoon ASMs’
The Philippines is acquiring modern attack aircrafts or Multi-Role Fighters (MRFs),[3] and it is important to choose ones that will be suitable as ASM weapons platforms. But aside from that, the Philippines should also most importantly acquire ASMs in its inventory. An aircraft without ASM capability would be hard pressed to effectively attack modern ships in the open sea nowadays.

There are unconfirmed reports as of this writing that the US has allowed to Philippines the purchase of RGM-84 Harpoon ASM along with its 2nd Hamilton Class Frigate. If true, then aside from purchasing more of these RGM-84s, then the Philippines should put plans to acquire more of its air-launched variant, the AGM-84 alongside its purchase of attack aircrafts for the sake of commonality. It would be ideal for the country to have similar ASMs in inventory in terms of commonality of parts, and ease of maintenance and training.

The Harpoon in its various configurations is a very capable and proven ASM. It is heavy at typically around 700kg, has a range of over 100km carrying a warhead of 220kg at a speed of 860km/hr. It has seen actual combat since 1980, and has sunk at least 2 enemy ships. It is the standard ASM for the US Armed Forces, and in service with at least 28 other countries around the world.[4]

These Harpoons for me are ideal because not only do they have large warheads and are battle-tested already, but mainly because of their 100km+ range. The longer the range from which an aircraft can fire its ASM, then the more survivable it is against enemy defenses, and vice versa, the nearer an aircraft has to be to its target ship, the more it will be in danger of being shot down.

‘Fast Attack Crafts’
Aside from the 2 additional Frigates, the Philippines has also indicated they will be getting 3 “… fast vessels for coastal patrols …”[3] Perhaps the Philippines should consider acquiring these vessels with ASM-capability in order to increase the number of ship-based ASM platforms available. These smaller (below Corvette-class) ASM-armed ships are known as “Missile Boats”, or the alternate term of “Fast Attack Craft” (FAC).

Modern FACs typically have a displacement of at least 200 tons, with some models even exceeding 500 tons. Most are armed with at least 4 SSMs, and have speeds in excess of 35 knots, living up to their name as “fast”.

There are a lot of excellent FACs designs from countries all over the world, but I am guessing we would probably be looking at the smaller ones hovering around the 200 ton range mainly due to cost concerns. The bigger and heavier the craft, the more capable but more expensive it is, and vice versa. A good, modern design would be the ‘Hamina’ class FACs from Finlad. They are around 250 tons, can carry 4 ASMs plus a 57mm gun, and has stealth capability, although only 4 are currently in service.[5]

Another good design is the ‘Hayabusa’ class FACs at 200 tons, with 4 ASMs and 76mm gun.[6] Plus there is the added bonus that these are made by Japan, who has come out to be a close ally of the Philippines against other Asian aggressors. Technically and politically, this is a good design to consider.

‘Credible Inventory’
It is not enough for the Philippines own ASMs and their Weapons Platforms, we need to BUILD UP an inventory of them to have a CREDIBLE DETERRENT and defensive capability. Having just a handful of ASMs and their Weapons Platforms is not enough to have a good deterrent and defensive capability as these could quickly run out in times of war.

The Philippines currently has 2 capable ASM Weapons Platforms in the Hamilton-Class Frigates, and plans are afoot to purchase 2 more Frigates, so that would bring the number to 4. Assuming that the 3 fast coastal patrol vessels will also be ASM-capable, then that would bump up the ship-based ASM platforms to 7.

As for the number of ASMs, let us assume that each of the 4 Frigates will have 8 ASMs on board while the 3 smaller patrol vessels will have 4 ASMs each, and allowing for 2 spares for each vessel then that brings the total to 58 ship-launched versions of the Harpoon will be needed at minimum.

If all of the 12 MRFs will have ASM capability, and that each can carry 2 ASMs, plus 2 more as spares for each aircraft for a total of 4 allocated per aircraft. For 12 aircrafts that means an ideal inventory of 48 air-launched versions of the Harpoon needed.

Total inventories for both ships and planes would then be 106 ASMs. In an ideal world, each missile is roughly equivalent to one enemy ship hit, but allowing for misses, it would be less than that. Assuming a 75% Hit Rate, then out of 106 ASMs, we can assume 79 hits. This would not come cheap, as each Harpoon is estimated to cost USD1.2 million (P48 million).[3] For 106 pieces, that would be USD127.2 million (P5.1 billion).

‘Parting Shot’
7 ship-based and 12 air-launched ASM platforms, along with at least 100 ASMs would be a good start for Philippine defense. This I feel would serve as a credible deterrent out there to any of our more aggressive Asian neighbors. Their inventory of modern weapons might still dwarf ours even if we do acquire all of these ASMs and their platforms, but we can at least show that we can do serious damage against them if needed.

Nobody wants to go to war, but all these incursions and aggressions by foreign powers into Philippine territory is forcing the hand of the Philippines to join the arms race. We will need to build up our weapons for external defense in order to stand up against these bullies.


[1] List of ships of the Philippine Navy,

[2] Jacinto-class corvette,

[3] Amid Row With China, PNoy Announces $1.8-B Military Upgrade vs ‘Bullies’,

[4] Harpoon Missile,

[5] Hamina-class missile boat,

[6] Hayabusa-class patrol boat,

2 thoughts on “Anti-Ship Missiles and Their Weapons Platforms for the Philippine Armed Forces”

  1. Installing the Anti Ship Missiles on Phil. Navy Ships are too expensive and time consuming for now. Your description of long Philippines coastlines to facing the South China Sea gives us the idea that it is more logically cheaper and advantageous militarily to buy the Mobile Anti Ship Missiles and Launchers and deployed along our coastlines. The Missiles and the Launchers are a very effective deterrent to whoever attack the Philippines by ships as these Missiles can meet them while this threat still far away from any Philippine coastline. The longer we wait for our government for to buy new or 2nd hand warships, the more we lose gradually our territorial islands and areas at Spratlys to China. China is saying one thing but doing another.

    1. The Philippine Army will likely buy those Shore-based AShMs soon, maybe this year. They have not been giving a lot of details about it, not even the exact timeline, but it seems they realize the urgency also based on news reports …

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