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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
STATUS OF ONGOING PAF MODERNIZATION PROJECTS,
KAI contracts for serial production of the FA-50,
AGM-65 Maverick@USAF website,
Raytheon (Hughes) AGM-65 Maverick,
AGM-65 Maverick@US Army Combined Arms Center,
SIPRI data on Arms Transfers to the Philippines from 1965 to 2012,
Multi-Mode Airborne Fire Control Radar ELM-2032,
List of active People’s Liberation Army Navy ships,
Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) AGM/RGM/UGM-84 Harpoon,