One frustration I have with the ongoing modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is the fact that they seem to be obsessed with buying “Weapons Platforms”, without buying the actual “Weapons” themselves. In a way, it is like buying Guns, without buying the actual Ammunition that you could use with the guns. It doesn’t mean that the weapons platforms the AFP will be procuring will not have the capability to fight, of course, but its that these will not have the necessary weapons to effectively fight the threat.
‘Acquisitions, and Non-Acquisitions’
As of this writing, the Philippines only has 2 effective, modern Anti-Ship Missile Platforms, and these are the 2 Hamilton-class Cutters/Frigates that are in the Philippine Navy Service. One is already in service, while the other one is expected to arrive in the Philippines in August 2013. So far, none of these two ships have been officially confirmed to be armed, or will be armed with Anti Ship Missiles (ASMs).
The Department of Defense (DoD) also announced that they are “very near” in terms of completing the deal to buy a dozen South Koren FA-50s, and in fact expect it to be completed this month, and the most important quality for me in the Philippines’ aquiring this aircraft is its ASM capability.
These 2 Frigates and 12 Multi-Role Fighters are effective modern weapons platforms, and would be the “Guns” I am referring above. The “Ammunition” for these “Guns” I am referring to would be MISSILES, to be specific, ANTI SHIP MISSILES. The area that China is slowly stealing away from us are in the ocean, and control of these involve ships, Warships to be exact. Of course the Hamilton Frigates have their 76mm Auto Cannons and other cannons as well with lesser caliber to fight with, while the FA-50s have their 20mm Gatling Guns and Bombs.
However, none of these will be very effective in a modern warfare environment, especially since China’s naval warships are quite advanced in terms of technology. In order for us to have a good chance of doing damage or even sinking their ships, we will need “Missiles”. Missiles will allow our few weapons platforms to have standoff capability against enemy ships, and also give them parity since these Chinese Warships also have standoff Anti-Ship and Anti-Aircraft capabilities.
Using only cannons and bombs in a modern naval battle would be like bringing a Knife in a Gunfight, and would in effect make these modern Weapons Platforms as “underarmed” in terms of their capability against the quality of the opponent. However, it seems the AFP is not in any hurry to correct this situation.
Current procurement plans made public involves buying even more Weapons Platforms, 2 new Frigates (reportedly the very new, very capable, state of the art Incheon-class Frigates from South Korea), and 3 Fast Patrol Crafts which may or may not be ASM Capable as of now. But there is NO announced plans for buying any types of Missiles yet. There has been news reports, but these has not made the same progress as the weapons platforms.
‘The Need for Missile Capability NOW’
The DoD’s timeline is to acquire these new weapons platforms by 2017, a full 4 years from now. Who knows how much China has encroached to Philippine territory by that time? China is in a hurry to gain as much ground as possible as they realize they might have a limited time on which the United States remain weak economically and which the US President will remain a Democrat, both factors of which will have significant effect on their expansion plans.
IMHO, the DoD should focus on arming the 2 Hamilton Frigates we have now with ASMs at the soonest possible time, and also focus on having the FA-50s delivered with ASMs so they will have that capability as soon as they are delivered. Cannon-armed ships and aircraft armed with bombs will not be much of a concern for China, but arm these with ASMs and it will definitely get China’s attention. We don’t have time to wait for bulk orders and getting discounts half a decade from now to buy those ASMs. We need to have them right now, immediately if possible.
True, a measly 2 Frigates and a dozen aircraft might not mean much in an actual battle, but the important thing is to have a more effective deterrent in place. Right now, China is a bully who only understands STRENGTH. They will not back down over anything else, we need to show them that we are strong also. Why do you think that they picked on the WEAKEST country in terms of defense to bully? You don’t see them acting as brazenly against Malaysia, or Indonesia, or any of our South East Asian neighbors because they all are much better armed than us.
They picked on us because they know our cannon-armed ships and non-existent Air Force are weak, and will not trouble them even a bit. We need to change that, and a good start would simply be having our limited number of Weapons Platforms to be Missile-armed as soon as possible.
As for “provoking” China if we acquire these missiles, we did not start this Cold War against them. It was them who insisted on acquiring our territory just because they are stronger than us. It is they themselves who are provoking us, and despite all the insult, despite all the provocations, we have not been able to do anything except bend over and take it from behind. They are provoking us because we are weak. Like it or not, we have no choice but join the Arms Race.
– DND finalizing TOR for acquisition of 12 fighter jets, http://www.pia.gov.ph/news/index.php?article=241369962766
– KAI T-50 Golden Eagle, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KAI_T-50_Golden_Eagle