(Revised November 23, 2016. See bottom of the page for the complete revision history)
A media news article recently said that the Department of National Defense (DND) was considering the purchase of an improved version of the Hawk Surface to Air Missile (SAM) for the Philippine Army (PA).1 The source was unnamed, so this probably was an informal “leak” to the Press. The news is actually a bit confusing as the budget cited for this of P 6.5 billion (USD 144.44 million at the exchange rate of USD 1 = P 45) for 12 units, or an estimated price of USD 12 million each is actually the same as the budget for the planned Shore Based Anti-Ship Missile (SB-AshM) procurement that the DND also revealed a couple of months ago (see my blog, “Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missiles for the Philippine Army“). So either the DND changed its mind to buy SAMs instead of AshMs, or that this is a parallel procurement with the AShMs.
‘The Hawk SAM’
The MIM-23 Hawk SAM is made by the American company “Raytheon” and first entered service with the United States Armed Forces in 1960. It is described as a medium-range SAM and has been quite successful commercially with over 40,000 missiles built over the years and has seen service in the armed forces of at least 22 countries. Credit Raytheon for coming up with an acronym that actually sort of work, as “H.A.W.K.” reportedly means “Homing All the Way Killer”.2 The Hawk is a COMBAT PROVEN system having seen action in almost all of the major wars in the Middle East since the 1960s, and is credited with having shot down at least 74 aircraft throughout its combat career.3 The respected defense publishing company Jane’s reportedly puts the I-Hawk’s single-shot kill probability at 85% based on its combat record, which (if true) is quite good.
It is likely that the DND is looking at two versions of the Hawk SAM for acquisition, and these are either the Improved Hawk (I-Hawk) or the newer Hawk XXI.4 The I-Hawk was the last version in service before the missiles were retired from all of the US armed forces service in 2002, while the Hawk XXI is the latest version being offered by Raytheon in a joint venture with another defense company, Kongsberg. The main difference between the 2 is that the Hawk XXI is a more “compact” system in that it uses only one instead of two search radars, and its main control module is housed in a smaller, self-propelled platform mounted on a Humvee while the I-Hawk uses a towed trailer-type main control module. The Hawk XXI also allows use of more modern missiles such as the RIM-162 Enhanced Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM)5 or the AIM-120 Advanced Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM).6
A typical Hawk battery is actually quite complex, consisting of around 9-10 major semi-mobile towable or self-propelled components:7
– Either an AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel Radar for the Hawk XXI or a Pulse Acquisition Radar (PAR) and a Continuous Wave Acquisition Radar (CWAR) for the I-Hawk – Search Radars for detecting targets.
– High Power Illuminator Radar (HIPIR) – Illuminating Radar for tracking targets and guiding the missiles.
– Fire Distribution Center (FDC) mounted on a Humvee chassis for the Hawk XXI or a trailer-type unit on an I-Hawk
– Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Transceiver
– Triple missile launcher for the MIM-23 missile or ESSM/AMRAAM launchers
– MEP-816 Generators 60KW (400 Hz) each for the missile launchers.
– M-390 Missile transport pallets with reserve missiles
– M-501 Missile loading tractors.
– Bucket Loader
Although the ESSM or AMRAAM are available options for the Hawk XXI, I think the more realistic option for the Army purchase would be the older MIM-23 missile. The MIM-23 missiles will likely be refurbished by Raytheon/Kongsberg from existing US military stocks and thus would be the cheaper option than the ESSM or the AMRAAM, both of which are still being used at frontline service with the US armed forces. The MIM-23 is guided by the principle of Semi-Active Radar Homing (SARH)8 system which, in simplest terms, means a separate radar “illuminates” the target, and a receiver on the missile receives the signal bounced off the target and homes on to it. This is similar to the Terminal Semi-Active Radar Homing (TSARH) guidance system used of the ESSM, but the TSARH guidance is newer and more advanced as it allows illumination of the target only when the missile is near it, giving the target less warning that a missile is already homing in on it.
A day/night Electro-Optical guidance system is also available as back up in case the radar systems are inoperable for one reason or the other. The latest and most capable version of the MIM-23 is the MIM-23K/J and is the culmination of improvements made to the MIM-23 missile over the years which include high resistance to jamming and better performance at low altitude. It has a range of 40 km and a ceiling of up to 18 km. Other physical and performance characteristics of the MIM-23K/J are as follows:
Diameter: 0.37 m
Length: 5.03 m
Weight: 635 kg
Warhead Weight: 74 kg
Speed: Mach 2.5
Despite being an old missile design, the MIM-23 does have advantages of its own compared to newer missile designs like the ESSM or AMRAAM, and the main one is its heavier and more powerful warhead. At 74 kg, the MIM-23’s warhead is 2-3 times heavier than that of the ESSM or AMRAAM, and this means it has a much larger “kill radius” (i.e., the distance from point of burst at which a missile will likely destroy a target), making it theoretically more effective than other missiles with a smaller kill radius. That large warhead also allows it to bring down bigger targets more effectively. In fact, the largest target that a MIM-23 missile has shot down is a Libyan TU-22 Bomber which French forces shot down over the African country of Chad in 1987.
And most important of all for me, the large warhead also enables it to have a limited Anti-Ballistic Missile capability which the ESSM or AMRAAM does not have. Ballistic missiles generally have large, heavy warheads and they travel at a very high speed thus giving them a lot of momentum necessitating the need for missiles with also large warheads to effectively counter them. In fact, the US Marine Corps developed the MIM-23K/J to have anti Theater Ballistic Missile (TBM, or ballistic missiles with ranges between 350 km to 3,500 km)9 capability. We all know that China has a lot of ballistic missiles, and having a SAM system that could also counter that would be a good thing to have.
While a larger warhead allows a bigger lethal radius and Anti-ballistic missile capability, it also means a much heavier and bulkier missile. Each MIM-23 launcher for example is limited only to three missiles per launcher with a combined weight of at least 1,905 kg, and to have more missiles at the ready one will need to bring around more launchers, with each launcher requiring its own separate vehicle to tow it around.
The MIM-23’s SARH guidance system also means it can only engage 1-2 targets at a time, a disadvantage when dealing with multiple attackers. The older SARH guidance and lack of datalink capability also limits its effectiveness to engage Cruise Missiles or very low flying/terrain-following aircraft from the ground, it won’t be able to engage them until they are visible within the radar’s line of sight, which maybe too late depending on the terrain. In contrast, an ESSM with its TSARH/Datalink guidance or an AMRAAM with its Active-Radar Homing/Datalink Guidance means a surveillance aircraft theoretically can guide it against low flying cruise missiles or aircraft.
‘Targets to be Defended’
The biggest question for me though is, “which targets does the DND and Army intend to defend against using these Hawk missiles?” This is because for me, a system like the Hawk SAM is only “semi-mobile” and not that easy to move around. First is that it has a lot of components (at least 5-6 main components, plus peripheral equipment) necessitating a good number of vehicles to tow all those equipment around. Because of its relative complexity, it is also not a very fast system to setup from one place to the other. Third is because of the number of equipment required it needs a fairly large area to spread all those equipment around.
The Hawk would be ideal for guarding FIXED or STATIC positions, like Airbases, for example, or SEMI-MOBILE assets like those new tow-able Radar Sets we have right now and those additional units we plan on buying. However, I am not so sure about the idea of having Army assets guarding Philippine Air Force (PAF) assets, so I imagine these Hawks could be used to guard Army barracks instead, or strategic targets like Power Stations, Communications Facilities, etc.
However, if the Army intends to use them to guard those Shore Based AShMs, then it would not be a good fit as the SB-AShM units are less complex requiring less equipment to transport and set-up, meaning it will be more mobile than the Hawk AShMs, and it wouldn’t be good to have them being slowed down just because the Hawk SAMs can’t keep up with them. A better “fit” to pair with those SB-AShMs would be something less complex and more mobile (i.e., less and lighter equipment to move around and set up), maybe something that is self-propelled, like the Crotale Mk3,10 for example which can carry its missiles, radars and command center on only 1-2 vehicle chassis. Unfortunately, such systems also will have shorter ranged radars and missiles (16 km for the missile), but if the purpose is for self-defense only, then I think such systems will suffice.
The MIM-23 Hawk is a good SAM system against aircraft and has anti-ballistic missile capability. It has limited capability against Cruise Missiles, but then again there aren’t many SAM systems that can work effectively against all the three main threats of Aircraft, Cruise Missile and Ballistic Missiles. Most armed forces uses a combination of platforms against all three threats. Besides, it remains to be seen just how good and reliable China’s Cruise Missile are since those missiles require a much more complex guidance system capability.
The Hawk would be a good and relatively cheap way to provide much needed protection for our Airbases and Radar Sites, hence I think the Air Force might want to procure units of their own for this in the future. The Hawk SAM platform is somewhat old, but I am not so worried about long-term logistical support as missiles are generally easier to refurbish than aircraft, hence as long as Raytheon and Kongsberg remains in business I don’t think it will be an issue. Because of its complexity that gives it less mobility and less flexibility, though, I don’t think this will be good fit to defend the planned SB-AShM units. A shorter ranged system that is lighter, less complex, more compact and more mobile would be more ideal to be paired with the SB-AShMs.
I almost forgot to mention that if this purchase pushes thru, it will be another “first” for the Philippines since it will be the first ever Medium Range Surface to Air Missile purchase by the Philippine government since its creation in 1946. We did buy some limited quantities of Very Short Range Air Defense (VSHORAD) systems before in the Mistral SAMs being used to defend Malacanang,11 but this is the first SAM of this size for us. Frankly, I am getting sick and tired of mentioning all these “first” military weapons buys being made by this Administration of President Benigno Aquino, like the first guided Air to Ground/Surface missiles, the first Short Range Air to Air Missile (SRAAM) since the mid-1960s, etc., and now this (I’m just kidding, of course 🙂 ).
(1) April 26, 2014: Originally posted.
(2) November 23, 2016: Updated formatting using Markdown syntax; archived links on “The Wayback Machine”; removed reference to the Blowpipe Missile
Improved surface to air missiles hanap ng DND,
Raytheon SAM-A-18/M3/MIM-23 Hawk,
- The Deadly Hawk Missile, (https://web.archive.org/web/20160119211911/http://6thbattalion56thartillery.com/The_Deadly_HAWK_Missile.html) ↩
Raytheon / Kongsberg Hawk XXI,
Active and Semi Active Radar Missile Guidance,
Theatre ballistic missile,
Crotale NG Short Range Air Defence System – France,
The Phoenix Journal, Doris’ Corner – The Roving Eye on Malacanang’s Mistral Missiles p. 18,