Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missiles for the Philippine Army

A Naval Strike Missile (NSM) in action. Photo courtesy of the Kongsberg Website
A Naval Strike Missile (NSM) in action. Photo courtesy of the Kongsberg Website

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.

‘Limited Options’
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

The excellent 3M-54 Klub-K missile. Effectively disguised and supersonic. Photo courtesy of IPAAT thru Panoramio
The excellent 3M-54 Klub-K missile. Effectively disguised and supersonic. Photo courtesy of IPAAT thru Panoramio

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.

‘AShM Options’
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.

‘Parting Shot’
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 …

A Saab RBS15 being launched from a truck. Photo courtesy of the Forum
A Saab RBS15 being launched from a truck. Photo courtesy of the Forum


  1. PA to get more bigger, powerful guns –DND,
  2. Jacinto-class Corvette,
  3. List of countries by length of coastline,
  4. Silkworm (missile),
  5. DF-21/-21A/-21B/-21C/-21D (CSS-5),
  6. P-800 Oniks,
  7. 3M-54 Klub,
  8. Sino-Soviet border conflict,
  9. China, Russia congratulate each other on Syria at APEC,
  10. China Asked Korea Not to Sell Jets to Philippines,
  11. RAND Corporation,
  12. Employing Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles in the Western Pacific,
  13. RBS15 Mk3 Surface-to-Surface Missile (SSM), Sweden,
  14. NSM Naval Strike Missile – JSM Joint Strike Missile,
  15. Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) AGM/RGM/UGM-84 Harpoon,
  16. La famille Exocet,
  17. Type 88 Surface-to-Ship Missile,

38 thoughts on “Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missiles for the Philippine Army”

  1. i still prefer the harpoon due to availability…our allies in southeast asia, japan and korea used the harpoon and with the united states still having bases in korea, japan, guam, hawaii and its fleet the 7th and 3rd patrolling the pacific in case of emergency we can be assured of supply of the harpoon.
    and if we order the harpoon our military cooperation with the U.S. will be strengthened and a strong deterrent to china.

    1. One thing that bothers me about the Harpoon is that nobody seems to have used them for shore-based platforms lately, unlike the NSM or the RBS15. But then again the manufacturer, Boeing, still markets the Harpoon also as a ground-based weapon also, so perhaps its not really a big concern …

      1. a harpoon is commonly launch from a fixed wing aircraft, surface ships and submarines. but I found in the page of Wikipedia “Mobile Missile Battery” the danish navy had mobile missile battery with a harpoon missile for coastal defense.
        but im interested more of the direct participation of the u.s. of supplying us one of their major missile system. not only of its availability but also of its strategic symbolism of the philippines and u.s.a military cooperation. i think china will now think twice of bullying the philippines.

      2. The Danish Navy stopped operating their shore-based Harpoons some time ago, I’m not sure why.

        Yeah, you’re right, due to our close ties with US, we MIGHT get a better deal from them for those Harpoons, though we will have to wait and see just how much of a good deal they will give us …

      1. They would make excellent AShMs of their very long range, but the USN has pulled out the AShM version of the Tomahawk, preferring to use Harpoons instead against ships and the Tomahawk against land targets …

  2. I would rather choose the italian made due to quality and up to date technology. for recent years, italy has been able to announce to support the modernization of our armed force with no compromised and needless to say that still they could give us a valuable price of all military hardware
    we need for our defense.

    1. We’ve had good relations with the Italians when it comes to defense purchases, the SF-260s and AS-211s were made by Italy, and I’ve always thought their Otomat Teseo AShM was sort of underrated, it was one of the first AShMs with a turbojet engine giving it a much longer range than similar AShMs at the time it was introduced. I wouldn’t mind getting the Otomat Teseo Mk2 AShM for our armed forces …

  3. but i prefer either the navy or air force manned the anti ship missiles mobile battery rather the army. the navy and air force are more capable of accurate information and communication using their expertise of language of navigation in the sea and air. it will be a long training and hard adjustment to army men specially they dont have the skills of navigation and coordinating operations simultaneously with air force and navy. after all the effectiveness of the anti ship missiles is not only because of its radar but also the intelligence information provided by the naval ships and air assets deployed in the front line.

    1. Interesting insight, jcenabre, but other countries like Japan do put their Coastal AShMs under the control of their equivalent of our Army, which is the “Japan Ground Self Defense Force”.

      Incidentally, my next blog is about giving the PhA airborne assets of their own to provide targeting information for their Coastal AShMs, especially if they decide to get long ranged ones, those with more than 40 km range.

      1. well the JGSDF for several decades used already high tech weapon system including mobile missile batteries unlike our army i think even training of operating a radar they will have difficulty and will take a lot of expense and time to train them.
        in regards to air force and navy they have already people already trained to operate a radar and expert in the navigational system. were not questioning the expertise of the army but we have to be practical maybe in the future if there will be cross training but for now i prefer either the navy or air force will operate the mobile missiles.

    2. I agree with you that the PN should operate the shore-based missile batteries. My reasoning is more on the lines of what domain you are exerting power and control. If its at sea then the PN should have control and the same for PA for land and PAF for air. Of course there will be some exemptions such as PAF performing close air support (CAS) and PN conducting naval surface fire support (NSFS).

      Another reason that the PN is a better candidate is that it reduces the administrative and training burden. The PN will have to eventually field ship-based AShM to provide a credible deterrent. If both the ship and land platforms used the same type of missile, it would be cost effective to rotate sailors that operate and maintain the missiles from the ship to the land batteries and vice versa. Setting up a PA unit to handle the batteries would require extensive administrative and training support for something that is totally new to them (which are large missiles).

      Lastly when sailors rotate between ship and shore and performing almost the same job (working on the missiles) the risk of skill atrophy is reduced.

      In any case if the country decides to field AShM missiles we need a robust C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) infrastructure that allows the missiles to perform effectively. Sure the Chinese DF-21 missile could be impressive but what about the supporting systems, parts of the “kill chain” that America is planning to disrupt.

      Whenever you field missiles, electronic warfare (EW) comes in. I wonder on what level of progress the country is at regarding that. If your radar is not working properly how can you shoot your missiles?

  4. Thanks for your blog , i really enjoy reading and i hope more Filipinos will be educated by your blogs about the status of our defence ,,keep the good work and more power

    1. Thanks, Jerry. The only thing I am worried about is that the AFP has been more secretive recently about upcoming purchases, hence its getting hard to blog about the modernization that is based on facts. Right now I just end up making too many guesses. Anyway, I hope they open up again …

  5. One thing that we should also consider, is how resilient are these missiles when it comes to anti-missile defenses.

    Both by CWIS and ECM. On this, I would put my faith on the Harpoon Block II or the NSM which is being developed into the JSM.

    I’m also not comfortable with the idea of disguising weapons as freight containers as these are the types of tactics that rouge states are most likely to take and may tarnish the image of the Philippines within the international community.

    1. the land based missile anti ship missiles is part of the deterrent triad that includes the naval and air force. that’s why in order to have a strong deterrent we must upgrade our naval assets (frigate and gun boats missile capable) and MRF before we can have these land base missiles. without a capable modern naval ships and MRF the land base missile will be useless. just what happen in Iraq war without cover in the air and navy land based missiles are sitting ducks it could be useless in time of war. further, land based missiles must be protected also with modern anti-aircraft guns and missiles or CIWS.

      1. I think the Del Pilar-class ships will get their missile upgrades, its just a matter of time. Don’t forget the 2 new missile-armed Frigates. These Shore-based AShMs is a good way to get the PhA involved with missile technology also …

      1. harpoon missiles were very effective during the Iraq war however before harpoon were launch effective air campaign knockout and jammed the radars and anti missile system of the Iraqis.
        again, we have to consider first to modernize the navy and air force for external defense or else the land base missile system will not be effective even as deterrent since china can still intrude any part of our territories beyond the range of the missiles.

  6. Interestingly you put the Japanese Type 88 in there. It would have been better if you placed the Gabriel IV at least in lieu of that. Delilah is another one with much longer range.

    1. I admit I kinda forgot about the Gabriel, but it is an option for the PhA also. The Delilah though seems to be a small missile, only with a 30 kg warhead as compared to the others which start at over 100 kg for their warheads.

    1. Its a relatively small missile, only 187 kg total weight compared to the others which are easily 2-3 times heavier. This will allow more and smaller platforms to carry them, like the Super Tucano. I think some medium-sized helicopters should be able to carry them also.

  7. the japanese type 88 is still similar to the tomahawk. but for me although the tomahawk have a shorter range against the other models however it can be easily integrated to the u.s. navy AWACS in case of emergency. so, getting the tomahawk will further enhance u.s.a involvement in the disputed sea lanes in the west philippine sea.

    1. I think the Type 88 is more similar to the Harpoon. There was an AShM version of the Tomahawk, but it has since been removed from service for some reason.

  8. that is why sir I prefer to use italian technology so we could have a chance to get more support from them and have a good posture of exhanging some knowledge to develop our own arsenal with the help of italians due to good relationship in between us.

    1. why i choose the tomahawk is not about the military but also political leverage. by buying tomahawk missiles it will put more pressure to the u.s. to get involve in the west philippine sea. if we buy anti ship missiles in other countries which has no serious interest in the territorial dispute in the west philippine sea during crisis most probably political pressure will affect them specially they face china. but u.s. will never abandoned his customers in time of crisis just what happened in korea and japan.

  9. Sirs why not go for air launched anti ship missiles. It will solve the range problems of the land based ASMs……… An MB339 , AMX-ATA, possibly FA50 , F-16, F-18, Gripen even a P-3 orion can do that.

    1. I am sure the PAF is going into that direction. AShM doesnt just focused on a single platform, rather a combination of platforms with overlapping coverage so as to give maximum protection. In short, defense is system-based, not just platform-specific. So we need both coastal-based AShM, we need air-launch Harpoons, and we need sea-launched Harpoons. You may also need submarines for good measure. So it should be multiple platforms that can destory enemy vessels.

  10. I think still US technology has far advanced missile defense system. Only their problem is endotermic layered of defense for ICBM. But still they have the HAARP technology and LASER and Rail GUN to counter such hypersonic and supersonic king of missiles. So the question is that we want to really pay a good layered theater missile defense we talk about here billion of dollars not only million of dollars if we are willing to pay just like the Taiwan the US offered them the layered missile defense for $6B plus. When we analyze we must have to go around these missile defense industry what is really the best solution because to have a missile defense systems it needs diplomatic, politic and economic.

  11. Sir You forgot the legendary Gabriel anti ship missile battled tested & reliable comparable only to the Harpoon & exocet in your list….. The price of Gabriel IV & even V according to some sources are cheaper than the new version Exocet , Harpoon . RBS claims its good but its expensive & is it battle tested?

  12. don’t worry about the budget, WE CAN AFFORD IT even the most expensive defense/offensive deterrence worth several billions/trillions dollars…. we have “hidden substantial amount of gold” remember ? hehe … in worst case scenario…these “secret gold” will flood the market. When Yolanda strike some “filipino gold holders” put up a small amount of US$ 50 billion dollar fund (gold assets) thru IMF, but Central bank thru Pres. Aquino rejected it bcoz he thinks it belongs from Marcos…tsktsktsk .. don’t worry these gold assets are here in the Philippines ready for disposal anytime…they are just waiting for right president .

    1. I think all that talk about “gold” is NOT true, its just a myth, or “Kwentong Barbero” as they say in Filipino. If there really is gold, why not use it now? The Poverty Rate in the Philippines is 25%, meaning 1 out of every 4 Filipinos are poor, one of the highest in South East Asia, higher than that of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc., so if we are going to use it, might as well use it now.

  13. What about the Gabriel missile? Finland has just chosen it, it has 200km range when launched from ships/ground and more when air launched, its warhead is 240 kg…
    Looks like a match made in heaven!

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