2013 AGM-65 Maverick Procurement for the FA-50 Golden Eagle

An AGM-65 Maverick missile. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
An AGM-65 Maverick missile. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Aside from the possible AIM-9L Sidewinder missile procurement for the FA-50 Golden Eagle (or Geagle) mentioned in my previous blog “2013 AIM-9L Sidewinder Procurement for the FA-50 Golden Eagle“, another type of missile is being procured for the aircraft as per the Philippine Air Force’s Modernization Update1, this time it is an “Air to Surface Missile”.

The procurement details called for 125 Air to Surface Missiles for a total cost of P 1,696,697,702 which at the exchange rate of USD 1 = P 45 (used in the FA-50 transaction) would be equivalent to USD 37,704,393. Unit price will be at P 13,573,582 or USD 301,635. The transaction will be made thru direct contracting, and a note for October 2013 read, “… reviewed lot 2 AGM 65 …”. So it seems that the procured missile will be for the AGM-65 Maverick.

‘Maverick Background’
The AGM-65 Maverick missile is made by the American company “Hughes Missile Systems” and first entered service with the United States Armed Forces in 1972. It is described as an air-to-ground or surface, precision-guided tactical missile designed for close air support for use against targets such as armored vehicles, air defense systems, ships, ground transport and military/logistical facilities.

Just like the Sidewinder it is another commercially successful missile with over 70,00 built and served in over 34 countries in eleven versions. The Maverick is a COMBAT-PROVEN design, having seen actual combat action from the jungles of Vietnam during the Vietnam War to the deserts of Iraq during the US-Iraqi wars. Estimated combat accuracy of the missile has been between 60-90%.2

The update is unclear on exactly which of the Maverick’s eleven versions are going to be acquired, however to date the FA-50 has only been certified for four out of the eleven versions, A, B, D and G,3 hence it is likely to be one of these four versions, or maybe even a combination of these versions. Here is a quick rundown on the characteristics of all four versions (references taken from 4 5 6):

The AGM-65A is the first operational Maverick introduced in 1972, and is no longer in service with the US Armed Forces. It weighs 209 kg with a shaped-charged 60 kg warhead designed for use against tanks. It has an Electro-Optical Television (EOTV) Guidance System that limits it for use only during the day and in fair weather conditions.

The AGM-65B is an improved version of the A model with its EOTV seeker having a five times wider field of view and having a zoom capability, though it still has the same night/bad weather limitations. It started development in 1975 and has the same total weight and warhead weight/type as the A model.

The AGM-65D is the much improved version with an Imaging Infra-Red (IIR) guidance system which allows it to operate during the day, night, or in bad weather. It is slightly heavier at 220 kg, though it still retains the same warhead weight and type as the A and B models. It entered service with the US Armed Forces in 1986.

The AGM-65G Maverick entered service in 1989 and has the same IIR guidance system of the D model, but it has a much heavier 135 kg warhead blast/penetrator warhead. Owing to its heavier warhead, the G model also is much heavier than the A, B and D models at 304 kg.

All four Maverick versions have the ability to attack different types of targets using either of its two main modes of operation: One tracking mode for armor or land targets, and another tracking mode for seaborne targets.7

From the above comparison we can see that the most capable Maverick version available for the Geagle is the G model due to its ability to operate during the day/night and in adverse weather conditions. It is also more effective against larger or hardened targets because of its heavier warhead.

Here are the common specifications for all four versions:
Diameter = 0.030 m
Wingspan = 0.071.12 m
Range = 15-40 km
Speed = 1,150 kph

‘Maverick Videos’
Here is a video showing a live fire exercise using an AGM-65 Maverick missile:

If you are wondering how it is to use and fire the Maverick from the cockpit, here is a good computer simulation on what it would be like:

You can find more simulation videos on this Youtube search link giving a valuable insight on how these Mavericks could possibly operate in real life since these simulations are designed to be as realistic as possible: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=maverick+missile+tutorial&sm=12

‘Significance and Capability Upgrade’
President Noynoy Aquino had already made quite a number of historic procurements for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under his term, and this is another one of them. This will be the first guided missile designed to be launched from the air and hit targets on the ground or surface to be purchased by the AFP.

Yes sir, since the founding of the Philippine Republic in 1946, we have not bought any air to ground/surface guided missile8 until now … well, if this purchase pushes thru. Also, since this could also be used against ships, it will be the FIRST GUIDED ANTI-SHIP MISSILE (AShM) ever by the PAF. Before this, the only weapons our aircrafts can use against ships are their machine guns or cannons, and unguided rockets, all of which have ranges well below 10 km.

Side view of an inert AGM-65D Maverick missile used for practice. Photo courtesy of Arturo Yee thru Wikipedia Commons.
Side view of an inert AGM-65D Maverick missile used for practice. Photo courtesy of Arturo Yee thru Wikipedia Commons.

After those guns and rockets, the next most powerful weapon that the AFP can use against enemy ships are with the Philipine Navy and their Oto Melara Compact 76 mm cannons installed on the Jacinto and Del Pilar-class ships, each with a range of 16 km. Hence, these Mavericks with their 40 km maximum ranges are a MAJOR upgrade in terms of anti-ship capability not only for the PAF but for the entire AFP as well.

The Maverick can be used on different targets, but I feel it would be used mainly as an AShM as ships are high value targets and are a major threat to our country. We are an archipelagic nation surrounded by large bodies of water and thus any invader will have to go by sea to reach us as it is the only transportation that would be able to carry the quantity of military and logistical equipment required to mount a successful invasion.

As an AShM, despite the fact that at 40 km the Maverick outranges any of our other anti-ship weapons, it is may actually be still not enough as it would put the Geagles well within the reach of the Surface to Air Missille (SAM) defenses of China’s most modern ships.

It is not able to optimize the range of the Geagle’s EL/M-2032 radar as it can detect large ships at over 288 km9, but due to the relatively short range of the Maverick, it will have to move in much closer for the Geagle to be able to fire its missiles.

Here is a list of China’s ships with the SAMs that they carry and the ranges of those SAMs:10
* Type 52C Luyang II Destroyer, HQ-9 SAM, 200 km range
* Type 52B Luyang I Destroyer, SA-17 Grizzly SAM, 42 km range
* Type 51C Luzhou Destroyer, S-300FM SAM, 150 km range
* Sovremennyi Destroyer, S-300FM SAM, 150 km range
* Type 52 Luhu Destroyer, HQ-7 SAM, 15 km range
* Type 54A Jiangkai II Frigate, HQ-16/SA-17 Grizzly SAM, 42 km range
* Type 54 Jiangkai Frigate, HQ-7 SAM, 15 km range
* Type 53H3 Jiangwei II Frigate, HQ-7 SAM, 15 km range
* Type 53H2G Jiangwei II Frigate, HQ-61 SAM, 10 km range
* Type 56 Jiangdao Corvette, TY-90 SAM, 6 km range
* Type 22 Houbei Missile Boat, FLS-1 MANPADS-class SAM, 6 km range

From the above list we can see that the Maverick is outranged by the SAM defense of most of China’s destroyers. It would not be ideal for a Geagle pilot to try to attack a Type 52C Luyang II Destroyer, for example as its HQ-9 SAM would be able to shoot it out of the sky long before it can launch its Mavericks.

However, the Maverick DOES OUTRANGE the SAM defense for most of China’s smaller Frigates/Corvettes/Missile Boats. The famous Type 22 Houbei Stealth Missile Boat, for example, cannot hope to shoot down a Geagle, it can only try to shoot down the Maverick missiles fired at it.

‘Compatibility Issue’
The ideal AShM for the Geagle should have a range of at least 100 km. This is still within the range of China’s best ship-based SAMs, but it will take time for any missile to cross that 100 km distance, enabling the Geagle to turn around and run away at a high speed, flying at a low altitude to make it harder for the enemy SAM to track and catch up with it.

AShMs like the American AGM-84 Harpoon (93-220 km range, depending on model)11 have this range but the problem is that the Maverick is the only certified air to ground/surface missile for the Geagle right now as per KAI’s official website. Certification of additional weapons could take years, and if we need to have air to ground/surface missiles for the Geagle right now, then no choice for us but to go with the Mavericks.

‘Pricing and Quantity’
At USD 301,635 each the Maverick is actually around 60% more expensive than the AIM-9L Sidewinder, but it is a bigger and much heavier missile designed to sink much larger and hardened targets. We will have twelve Geagles, and each can carry a maximum of six missiles each plus 50% spares, the quantity the total minimum would be 108. The remaining could also be re-allocated to the Multi Purpose Aircraft the Philippine Navy is planning to buy, hence the overall quantity this time will be just about right.

‘Parting Shot’
Despite its range limitations, the Maverick will be a game changer for the Philippines in its standoff against China. No longer can they afford to send their smaller or older ships in any confrontation, they will have to send their latest Destroyers to negate the threat of the Maverick-armed Geagles.

I do hope we will exclusively get the G model with its large warhead and all-weather capability instead of the other models. Aside from ships, these Mavericks can also be employed on a range of other large targets as well, ranging from Main Battle Tanks to military installations.

A historic first for the Philippines, its first guided air to ground/surface missiles and its first guided anti-ship missiles in its history as a country, bringing our armed forces into the modern missile age and thus something to be truly proud of.

The FA-50's bigger sibling the F-16C firing a AGM-65D Maverick missile. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
The FA-50’s bigger sibling the F-16C firing a AGM-65D Maverick missile. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.



22 thoughts on “2013 AGM-65 Maverick Procurement for the FA-50 Golden Eagle”

  1. Just like to ask sir, can the missile be installed in a mobile launcher (like a scud missile launcher), i mean that will give the AFP a nice coastal defense system against enemy ships, if such weapons are well concealed and camouflage they have the element of surprise to hit and sink even the most well armed enemy ships.

    1. no 😛 the Maverick is primarily designed as a close-in-support Air to Surface Missile 😀 I also don’t see much sense in deploying it a mobile coast defense batteries with its miniscule 40km range. enemy ships with much longer ranged Missiles can just fire at us from beyond without the chance of counter battery fire 😛

      1. Yes, the Maverick is not an ideal missile for an Anti-Ship Coastal Battery as its range is highly dependent on the altitude and speed of the launching aircraft. This is because the rocket engines of the Maverick have fairly short burn times and can’t really sustain the missile for longer ranges. But missiles like the Harpoon and Exocet have land-based versions which would make as very good AShMs for Coastal Batteries …

    2. You’re talking about an Anti-Ship Missile (AShM) Coastal Battery, and yes, a couple of countries like Vietnam and Japan do use them to defend their shores. But IMHO, they are best used in conjunction with SHIPS with AShMs, this is because coastal batteries are actually LESS mobile than ships. Ships can go from point A to point B faster as they can travel most of the time in a straight line, compared to land-based batteries which are often limited by terrain or road availability. Also not all parts of our shore are accessible by vehicle.

    1. Sorry, but you will have to wait until January 2014 to get the next update on the FA-50 acquisition as negotiations has been awfully slow.

      As for the new Frigates, bidding will be on Wednesday, December 4, 2013, unless they decide to move it again …

  2. one hamilton class ship was installed with a harpoon anti ship missile before. if this can be done rather buying new ships which as of these time there is no definite agenda …how about re install harpoon missiles and phalanx in our del pilar class with the help of the americans. at least the cost might be cheaper but as early we have capability to sink ships and knock out fighters in the air.

  3. I just spent an entire day arguing some crazy guy that the maverick is not an anti ship missile & never is. It will only risk the safety of our pilots & the aircraft. The Korean made Jdam ers & the Spice, how about integrating the deadly AL Delilah (250km) its compatible with Israeli F-16s . Jsow is also combatible with the F-16. If we get the Jsow ers (500km)it will be formidable….

    1. Sorry, but the Maverick can be used as an Anti-Ship Missile. As for the other weapons, it depends on KAI if they will certify those missiles also to the FA-50 …

      1. Yes it can be used as an anti ship deterrent & so can a hellfire , DAGR, Grifin , LOGIR even a JSOW which is a stealthy guided glide bomb can be used against warship. But I think in its true sense its more of a multipurpose air to surface missile than a true anti ship missile having the characteristics of long stand off ranges , sea skimming & a more complicated guidance system that that of an AGM 65 Maverick.

      2. Yes, you are right about the longer range and sea-skimming part of true AShMs. However, I now have severe doubts about fire-and-forget weapons, it seems that they are highly susceptible to softkill systems. I suggest you take a look at my blogs about “Missile Boat Naval Battle Lessons” and “Modern Large Ship Naval Battle Lessons”, and tell me what you think.

  4. let them come. once they will within range of 40 kms thats the time we launch our planes and fire the maverick. if they come nearer to us that will negate their advantage of 200 kms range missiles. it would be dead even. remember, our island is just like an aircraft carrier and we should take advantage of it. just like what the british have done to the germans in world war 2. and that strategy can still be applied even in todays modern warfare. its the same thing the british have done to the argentines. the lesson, do not commit if you are in a disadvantage but strike hard if the situation is on your favor.

  5. I personally think that a fleet of FA-50’s and F-16C’s would be ideal for the PAF, arm them with Mavericks, Sidewinders for the FA-50’s, then give the BVR missiles to the F-16’s

    1. Good point, but this was four years ago, so there might have been other details that has changed, or that we are not aware of.

      Remember that the specific model which we wanted to buy was never mentioned, so it is possible that the budget was set for the older A/B version.

      1. Based on the release of the recent SARO, the PAF most likely received less than 80 of these missiles if we take into account the Maverick’s reintroduction into the PAF. Meaning a lot of Captive training missiles, ordnance spare/repair parts and of course personnel training. I was wondering why there was a pretty big crew that flew to Arizona. Training may be part of the reason.

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