The Philippine Air Force (PhAF) recently released on their official website (at http://www.paf.mil.ph/) a presentation called, “Philippine Air Force Flight Plan 2028”(the original link is here). The presentation was noted as having been originally presented during the “AFP Governance Exposition 2014” last December 17, 2014 at the AFPCOC CGEA (whatever that means) Main Restaurant.
The document is a unique treat for us civilians as it outlined the GOALS, PROCUREMENT and TRAINING PLANS (among other things) of the PhAF in a nice-looking, well-made and relatively easy to understand format. Hence I have decided to SUMMARIZE some of the more important points of that presentation on this blog.
The PhAF outlined TIME-BOUNDED GOALS in the document, the most important of which would be acquire the ability to DETECT, IDENTIFY, INTERCEPT and NEUTRALIZE INTRUSIONS in what it describes as “Area Readiness (AR) 3 and 4” around the Philippines by 2022. The AR3 and AR4 areas cover around 74% of the Philippines’ territory including all of Luzon, most of the Visayas and most parts of our claimed territories in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The PhAF intends to achieve these goals thru the PLANNED procurement of aircraft, weapons and equipment (in addition to the ones that they had already procured recently) from 2016 to 2022.
A breakdown of some of the more important procurements are as follows:
* Surface Attack Aircraft (SAA) / Lead Fighter Trainer Aircraft (LFTA) – These are Advanced Trainer aircraft with secondary role as a Light Combat Aircraft similar to the FA-50 Fighting Eagle aircraft which we already bought twelve of and which will all arrive by 2017. An additional twelve SAA/LFTA are planned to be procured by 2020, and these will very likely be FA-50s also as it makes good sense to buy the same aircraft for easier and cheaper logistical support. It is possible that the PhAF will go for a more advanced version of the FA-50, whatever will be available by 2020. This will bring the number of SAA/LFTA aircraft to 24.
* Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEWACs) – In simplest terms these are flying radar stations, designed to SUPPLEMENT the ground based radars that the PhAF is buying. Being in a fast, airborne platform makes these radars less vulnerable to enemy attack, and their coverage can also be extended at least for a limited amount of time since an aircraft can move around and travel great distances relatively quickly. Their airborne perspective also makes them better at spotting low-flying aircraft or missiles. These aircraft are very important in terms of having a good surveillance system for the country. Two are planned to be acquired by 2020.
* Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) Aircraft – A bit of a surprise as these are pretty sophisticated aircraft, and we’ve never had this type of aircraft before in our inventory. My guess is that one of its main tasks would be as support for our defending aircraft against enemy aircraft. This makes sense as Chinese Flanker aircraft have long range radars, which would be most especially true if China does acquire the SU-35 Flanker E (which I personally call, “The Beast”) whose Irbis-E radar range is claimed by its manufacturer as having a 400 km range for a target with 3 m^2 Radar Cross Section (RCS). ECM aircraft on our side would help OFFSET the possible radar disadvantage of whatever fighter aircraft we might get by DEGRADING the enemy radar’s detection range, enabling our fighters to (hopefully) have a more “even” fight. Two are planned to be acquired by 2020 and another two by 2022.
* Aerial Refueling Aircraft – This will help extend the range of our aircraft, but since only one is planned to be acquired by 2021 then it will only have very limited support capability, being able to refuel only a maximum of three aircraft at a time.
* Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) Aircraft – These will be the most capable fighter aircraft in our PhAF inventory, better than the SAA/LFTA we are getting and their main task will be to defend our airspace. An informal survey by a local news organization a couple of years ago showed that Filipino pilots preferred the JAS-39 Gripen aircraft as the MRF for the PhAF, but whether that materializes or not still remains to be seen, though. Four MRFs are planned to be acquired by 2021 plus another eight by 2022.
The PhAF is also acquiring Air Defense Surveillance Radar Systems (ADSRS), the first three by 2016 will be situated in Mindoro, Ilocos Norte and Palawan, and if you will notice ALL these three will be directly facing the WPS where the threat is present as of now.
A bit of confusion here as the procurement plan calls for another three by 2020, but they listed the “Future Radar Sites” as four. It’s possible that the shortfall of one will be acquired beyond 2022 as the plan only reaches up to that year. Nevertheless, the three systems will be deployed mostly in the Central and Eastern Visayas areas, and one in Mindanao to cover the rest of the country not directly facing the WPS.
As for the first three radar systems, the respected publication “IHS Jane’s” says that these will likely be the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) EL/M-2288 AD-STAR. If so, it is a medium to long range radar system which is relatively compact and mobile, allowing it to be moved from one place to another via air or ground, improving its survivability. It has a maximum range of from 300 to 430 km, depending whether we are getting the medium or long range model.
’Surface to Air Missiles’
Another system in the plan for procurement are Ground Based Air Defense System (GBADS) which will likely come in the form of Surface to Air Missile (SAM) systems, at least if want something that will be most effective in deterring enemy aircraft or missiles. An initial three is planned to be procured as soon as 2016, plus another three are planned to be procured by 2020.
These SAMs will likely be used to PROTECT the ground-based mobile Radar Systems mentioned above, they are about the same number as the SAMs and the radars would be PRIORITY targets by enemy aircraft and/or missiles in the event of war.
The local media reports two SAM systems being considered: The Israeli SpyDer and American Hawk XXI systems. The Spyder has short and medium range versions while the Hawk XXI has an older MIM-23 and a newer AMRAAM version, both of which are medium range systems. The reports did not specifically mention which models were being considered, but personally I would prefer to go with the medium range versions, and overall I am leaning towards the MIM-23 Hawk XXI despite its older design simply because it has the flexibility of being able to intercept ballistic missiles also, something which the other systems do not have.
Aside from the purchase of weapons, weapons platforms and other equipment, the plan also outlines an ENHANCED Training Program for the PhAF to not only be able to operate their equipment, but also operate them well in actual combat by participating in sophisticated multi-national or “Combined Training Exercises (CTE)”.
Right now the PhAF is involved in “Joint Military Exercises” mostly with the United States in annual exercises like the “Balikatan”, but not much in terms of CTEs. The CTEs which the PhAF intends to participate are as follows:
* Cobra Gold – The PhAF plans to join this CTE by 2018. This is an annual military exercise held in Thailand and is said to be the largest military exercise in the Asia-Pacific region, participated in by dozens of countries and involving over 10,000 troops. This is a general exercise involving various branches of the armed forces of different countries like the Army, Navy and Air Force.
* Pitch Black – Participation is planned by 2020. This is a biennial exercise held in Australia and participated in by more than half a dozen countries. This exercise only involves the Air Forces of various countries, and it covers the offensive and defensive aspects of Air Combat in a simulated environment. This is very similar to the “Red Flag Exercise” (discussed below), but on a lesser scale.
* Red Flag – Participation by 2022. Various Red Flag Exercises are held every year in the United States, and it is perhaps the largest and most sophisticated Air Combat Exercise in the world right now, participated in by dozens of countries. It can be compared as like a “World Cup” of Air Forces, and provides about as close a simulation to an actual combat environment involving aircraft.
As far as I can remember I can’t recall our country participating in any sophisticated Air Force focused CTEs like Pitch Black and Red Flag, so if this plan pushes thru it will be the first in decades. The Philippine Navy (PhN) is already ahead of the PhAF right now in that they have recently participated in Naval themed CTEs like “KAKADU” and “KOMODO”, but this is probably because they were able to acquire slightly better equipment ahead of the PhAF.
Most of the planned aircraft purchases will arrive only around 2020, with the MRFs scheduled to start arriving only on 2021, and I don’t think the PhAF brass will want the new aircraft to participate in such complex war exercises right away. The crew will need a couple of years’ experience and familiarity because there are some risks also involved, so we will be likely be using only the FA-50s for the CTEs from 2018 to 2022.
To be able to meet the planned purchases and trainings, the PhAF is asking for an ADDITIONAL budget of P364 Billion (roughly USD 8 Billion) for 7 years starting from this year (2015) up to 2022. That means on average an additional budget of P52 Billion (USD 1.1 Billion) per year.
The budget in 2014 for the PhAF was around P12 Billion, so the average annual modernization budget of P52 Billion is more than four (4) times that amount.
’Vision of the Future’
Based on the plan the PhAF presented, their VISION of the future would be something like this: The year is 2028, and the PhAF now has effective radar coverage of the entire Philippines using mobile, ground based ELM-2288 AD-STAR systems which are protected by equally mobile MIM-23 Hawk XXI SAMs. These radar stations are complemented by two AEWACs aircraft.
The skies are filled with two dozen modern FA-50 Fighting Eagles and a dozen more JAS-39 Gripen aircraft, supported by four ECM aircraft and one Aerial tanker. And our pilots and aircrews are continually honing their skills by participating regularly in some of the most sophisticated aerial war game exercises in the world. It is a bright future indeed, for our air force.
The plan is very good, and presented in an excellent way, but in the end this is just a PLAN. Whether it gets realized or not depends A LOT on the next Administration, especially when you look at the COST involved to be able to meet that plan. For that to happen, the economy will have to continue to improve and the next President should have the INCLINATION and POLITICAL WILL to continue to support the AFP Modernization.
However, if a certain “Dark Lord” wins the Presidency, it is likely that this plan will just come into naught. His daughter in the Senate had already proclaimed her preference for the military to just buy equipment related to Humanitarian and Disaster Response (HADR) operations instead, while the “Dark Lord” himself remains strangely silent about the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), not even mentioning it as among his plans during his first 100 days in office if elected President.
This is probably one reason why if you noticed, the title extends all the way up to “2028”, but the actual plan itself is only up to 2022. The PhAF could be giving an allowance in case the next Administration (term of office is 2016-2022) does not provide the necessary support, then the plan could just be pushed back by another 6 years under the next Administration (term of office is from 2022-2028).
Nevertheless, I congratulate the PhAF for coming up with a detailed, well thought out plan for its modernization. Whatever happens beyond 2016, whoever is elected President, at least they are able to say that they did their job, they presented a solid plan on how they can do a better job of defending the country, and all that was needed was the EXECUTION. If the plan isn’t executed properly or isn’t implemented at all, then it’s out of their control.
Ultimately the realization of the PhAF’s plan will be decided by the Filipino people themselves, on who they will vote for President in 2016. It should be someone who will wholeheartedly support the AFP Modernization …
^ Philippines sets out capability upgrades at inaugural ADAS show,
^ AD-STAR Air Defense and Traffic Control Radar,
^ PH plans to tap Israel for missile launchers,
^ Gov’t eyes enhanced HAWK surface-to-air missiles,
^ US-Thailand Relations and Cobra Gold 2015: What’s Really Going On?,
^ Exercise Pitch Black Concludes in Darwin,
^ Red Flag Air Exercises,
^ Philippine Air Force 2014 Budget,
^ NANCY WANTS TO LEVEL UP CIVIL DEFENSE’S DISASTER RESPONSE CAPABILITY,
^ Binay presents plans for ‘1st 100 days as president’,