Attorney Patrick Velez, the Vice Chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee of the Department of National Defense (DND) revealed to the Press recently more details about one of the missile systems that the country plans to acquire.1 According to Mr. Velez, the system will be:
– Shore and missile based
– Worth P6.5 Billion (or USD 144 million at USD 1 – P 45 exchange rate) for a dozen launchers, or around USD 12 million each
– Used to hit ground and naval targets
– Will be placed under the control and supervision of the Philippine Army (PA)
– Will be sourced thru Limited Source Bidding where only certain companies are selected and invited to bid on the project
Even if Atty. Velez specified that the missile will be used for “ground and naval targets”, I feel NAVAL targets will get precedence here because they are high value targets, and China will have to go via sea using ships since these are the ones that has the logistical capacity requirement to successfully mount any type of invasion of our shores.
‘Pros and Cons’
I think this is a good idea as right now we don’t have a lot of modern naval assets that can carry the large Anti-Ship Missile (AShMs) that will be required (more on this later). Our three Jacinto-class ships have top weight problems that limit the weight of missiles that could be mounted on them,2 so that leaves us with only the two Del Pilar-class ships, and possibly the three new Frigates if their purchase will push thru.
We could purchase more ships, or try to use our older, slower ships as AShM platforms, but there are also several advantages to having shore-based AShM platforms. First is that we are particularly suited for these types of weapons because of our VERY LONG COASTLINE, either fourth or eighth longest in the entire world depending on the source quoted,3 hence we have a LOT of areas where we can shoot these missiles from.
Second is that shore-based systems have the benefit of being able to hide behind COVER, either thru terrain and/or foliage, something which ships will NOT be able to do out in the open vastness of the sea.
One disadvantage of shore-based systems compared to ship-based systems though is that ships can travel faster from one point to another since they can travel in a straight line due to the lack of obstacles in their path, while vehicles are limited by factors like terrain, road availability and the vehicle’s rough terrain capability, and will have to travel more often than not a longer distance for the same two points. Plus of course ships can always cover a wider expanse of the ocean since they travel by sea.
One issue for us using shore-based AShMs is that we will likely be limited only to western sources and therefore will not have access to the BEST AShMs available in service the world right now. The irony is that our enemy China and her ally Russia tend to have much better AShMs than their western counterparts mainly out of NECESSITY as they had to develop these missiles to counter the naval dominance of our most powerful ally, the United States. China, for example, was among the first to field shore-based AShMs thru their famous C201 Silkworm family of missiles,4 and is the first to field a BALLISTIC AShM in the DF-21D Dong Feng Missile.5
Russia, on the other hand, was the first to field SUPERSONIC AShMs into service, among which is the P-800 Oniks/Yakhont,6 and the excellent 3M-54 Klub-K7 whose launcher can be disguised as a Shipping Container, making them difficult to identify, track and neutralize. Despite the severe border clashes between Russia and China in the late 1960s,8 the two remain close allies as they have a lot more in common than differences. They both have authoritarian regimes, and have often ended partnering up like Batman and Robin in the United Nations Security Council against western countries on various issues, like Syria, for example.9
And judging by the way China reportedly pressured South Korea NOT to sell the FA-50 Aircraft to the Philippines,10 I don’t think Russia would be a reliable or desirable weapons supplier for us. Arguments to the contrary can be said, but in the end it will always better to be safe than sorry.
Western countries are behind when it comes to the latest, innovative AShM technology by about a decade or so, they have no supersonic or ballistic AShMs, or ones that can be cleverly disguised. There are missiles IN DEVELOPMENT with similar capabilities, but these will not be in operation until late this decade, and with most of them being “new” to the west, they will also likely to be much more expensive. Hence we will likely end up with less capable AShMs that what is generally available out there.
‘Long Range AShMs’
Also, the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit global policy think tank funded by both the US government and private entitie that offers research and analysis for the United States (US) Armed Forces,11 came out with a position paper recommending the use of shore-based LONG-RANGE AShMs with ranges of 150-200 km around the Luzon Strait and Palawan to deny China access to the Pacific Ocean.12 At any rate, the farther a missile can go, the better as it will be able to cover and defend a larger area.
Due to this long range requirement, AShMs powered ONLY with rocket engines will not be applicable as rockets tend to have only short burn times, thereby limiting their range ESPECIALLY since they will not be traveling along a ballistic curve but instead will be “sea-skimming”, or flying at a low altitude above sea level to make it more difficult to detect and counter them. Hence, missiles with jet engines to sustain them for most of their flight are needed as it enables these to have much longer ranges than just rocket-powered engines.
I’ve put into a matrix a short list of AShMs which may be considered by the Army, I’ve made the following considerations in putting up this list:
– It has to be made by a western country
– It has to be “off the shelf”, meaning currently being marketed for shore-based used, available and not in development
– It has to have a range of at least 100 km.
– Other data were taken from these websites:13 14 15 16 17 18
Frankly, any of these missiles will be good enough for us. However, if you are going to look at the published specifications from the manufacturers, definitely the RBS15 Mk3 would be the “best” as it has one of the heaviest warheads and the longest range among the missiles compared.
One question though would be whether these missiles would fit into the DND’s budget of USD 12 million per launcher. Unfortunately, determining approximate costings for all of these missiles are a bit tricky due to the diversity of types and models, hence will be outside the scope of this blog for now. I’ll just assume that all, if not most of these will fit into the budget.
The best AShMs now are those with supersonic speed with innovative camouflage options, but unfortunately these are currently available only to our enemy and her ally. Western equivalents are still under development, so we will likely be limited to subsonic AShMs for now. Among these, Saab’s RBS15 Mk3 may have a slight advantage over the others, but I feel any of the other choices would be good enough for now.
Another important factor to consider is that the Philippine Navy (PN) is also planning to get AShMs for its ships, and ideally for the sake of commonality and easier logistical requirements, both the Navy and Army should have the same type of AShM. Whether that will hold true, though, remains to be seen.
Lastly, if the Army does go around to get AShMs with ranges over 40 km, then it will need AIRBORNE TARGETTING ASSETS in order for them to be able to maximize the range of those missiles, and this will be topic for the next blog …
PA to get more bigger, powerful guns –DND,
List of countries by length of coastline,
Sino-Soviet border conflict,
China, Russia congratulate each other on Syria at APEC,
China Asked Korea Not to Sell Jets to Philippines,
Employing Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles in the Western Pacific,
RBS15 Mk3 Surface-to-Surface Missile (SSM), Sweden,
NSM Naval Strike Missile – JSM Joint Strike Missile,
Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) AGM/RGM/UGM-84 Harpoon,
La famille Exocet,
Type 88 Surface-to-Ship Missile,
OTOMAT MK2 BLOCK IV,