(Revised April 26, 2015. See bottom of the page for the complete revision history)
The Philippine Navy (PhN) currently has five ships which can be considered as “modern” due to their relatively new design, and these are the three Emilio Jacinto-class (former Peacock-class) Corvettes and two Gregorio Del Pilar-class (former Hamilton-class) Frigates. However, these five ships lack any decent air defense capability, with their primary air defense weapon being their Oto Melara 76mm/62 caliber Compact guns, with the secondary air defence being covered by minor caliber cannons and machine guns. This setup may not be satisfactory against Anti-Ship Missiles (AShMs) due to the lack of guidance of the rounds (as in the case of the 76mm main gun), or their short range (as in the case of the minor caliber cannons and machine guns).
One cost-effective way to improve the air defense capability of these ships would be thru the use of Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) as Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS). Why MANPADS? Because these are MUCH cheaper than TRUE missile-based CIWS like the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) or the RIM- Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), and thus would be a more realistic option for our budget-conscious PhN.
‘Fire and Forget Guidance’
MANPADS nowadays can be segregated into two major groups in terms of the guidance system being used by their missiles: Those with “Fire-and-Forget (FAF)” capability, and those using “Line of Sight Guidance (LOS)”. FAF as its name implies basically means a missile than can be fired on its own and guides its way to the target without any further interference from the operator. These missiles have the advantage of simplicity of operation, basically just point and shoot, and the missile does the rest.
It also has the advantage of enabling the operator to engage multiple targets at the same time as after firing off one missile, he can train his sights on another target and then fire again. However, for these missiles, since guidance is done by a computer system rather than by a human operator, then there is a possibility that this can be decoyed off or jammed, although manufacturers are continuously developing ways to keep their missiles systems become less susceptible to decoys and jamming.
Some of the most prominent MANPADS with FAF capability available in the west are the Mistral and the FIM-92 Stinger missile, both of which use Passive Infra-Red Homing to guide its way to the target. In basic terms, this means it homes in on the heat emissions being given off by the target.
‘Line of Sight Guidance’
Missiles with LOS guidance require their operators to train their sight and follow the target all the way until the moment of impact. This can be a bit difficult to do against missiles that are small and fast-moving. It is also largely operator dependent, meaning it depends on the competence of the human operator to keep the missile on target. Thus, competence for the operator has to be built up and maintained thru constant practice, probably thru simulators to ensure a cost-effective way of doing the training.
It also limits the operator to shoot only at one target at a time, waiting to hit or miss a target before firing off another missile. However, such missiles do have the advantage of being less susceptible to jamming because a more intelligent human operator is in charge of guiding the missile thru, and manufacturers of these missiles do frequently advertise their missiles as “unjammable”. Among the more common western missiles of this type are the RBS-70 and the Starstreak missiles, both of which uses laser beam guidance wherein the operator has control of the laser beam thru his optical sight which he then has to keep on the target.
I think FAF guided MANPADS are better due to their simplicity of operation and ability to engage multiple targets, both of which have distinct advantages in combat. They are not perfect as they are not as “unjammable” as LOS guided missiles, but I feel that it is a better compromise to have overall.
The Mistral and the Stinger missiles are very similar in physical properties and performance: Both have an effective range of around 5 km and a warhead weight of 3 kg; Both travel at over Mach 2, although the Mistral is faster at Mach 2.5 versus the Stinger’s Mach 2.2; However, the Stinger is much lighter at only 10 kg, while the Mistral at 19 kg is almost double its weight.
A lot of countries use these MANPADS for naval air defence. These are usually put on mounting systems on a fixed base that allow the users to go on standby mode for longer periods of time as they will not need to carry a 16 kg plus MANPADS on their shoulders. It also allows the operators to have more missiles at their disposal, usually two, since the load is being carried by the mount. And the semi-fixed nature of these mounts also helps in improving reloading time.
For the Stinger, There is a “Dual Mounted Stinger (DMS)” system being offered by the manufacturer, Raytheon. It consists of two missile containers controlled by one sighting system, and is mounted on a tripod.
However, for some strange reason, most navies opt to use a different setup with their Stinger missiles, just cobbling two separate launchers instead into a movable pedestal with a fixed base. These are basically naval minor caliber cannon gun mounts modified to accept the two Stinger launchers.
Mistral has a more “polished” naval mount in that the manufacturer itself, MBDA, is offering a twin mount sytem for the Mistral which it calls the “Simbad“. As you can see from the video, it uses two Mistral containers using only one sighting system, and is really designed as a naval mount.
These types of naval mounts are not perfect, they do have disadvantages. For one, you are limited to only two missiles at a time, and reloading is relatively slow, around a minute or so. Second is that the operators are exposed to possible harm from shrapnel from cannon or missile fire. MBDA is offering the “Simbad-RC“, which is a remote-controlled version of their Simbad mounts. However, these are scheduled for full production only in 2015, and could be another blog article to consider in the future.
Either of these Simbad/Mistral or DMS systems will offer a more cost-effective way of improving our ship’s air defense capability. They have guided capability unlike the rounds from the 76mm gun, and they have much longer ranges than minor caliber cannons.
The 25mm cannons on the stabilized, Electro Optical mounts like the MSI Seahawk on the Jacinto-class and the Mk38 Mod 2 to be installed on the Del Pilar-class ships, for example, only have effective ranges of around 2.5 km, while the Mistral/Stinger can go twice as far. At 5 km, the Mistral/Stinger has even better range than the 3.6 km range stated for the Phalanx CIWS.
Both of these missile systems costs probably around a couple of hundred thousand dollars each, much cheaper than the USD 12 million reported price for the Phalanx CIWS. Right now, though, I am more partial to the Simbad/Mistral combination as it is a more polished system, with a naval mount really designed for navy ships available directly from the manufacturer.
Having one or two of these on each Jacinto and Del Pilar ships will improve the survivability of each ship, and these are probably the most cost-effective way to do that. I hope the Department of National Defense (DND) will consider acquiring these systems for the PhN.
^ Raytheon (General Dynamics) FIM-92 Stinger, http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/m-92.html
^ Dual Mount Stinger (DMS), http://www.raytheon.com/capabilities/products/stinger/dual/index.html
^ King Of The CIWS, http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/King-Of-The-CIWS-11-29-2012.asp
* September 1, 2013: Originally posted
* April 26, 2015: Updated Youtube dead link with an active one; Plus minor corrections and updated the Footnotes format to the latest standard.