The website “Israel Defense” (at http://www.israeldefense.co.il/en) recently made an interview with retired Brigadier General Eli Reiter who is currently the Head of the Advanced Artillery and Rockets Administration of the Israeli company IMI. What’s curious about this interview with regards to us is how he stated that they had already supplied a missile system to the Philippines. Take note that he didn’t use a Present or Future tense like “…is supplying…”, or “…will supply…”, but used a Past tense as in “…have already supplied…”.
Now this could be related to the Philippine Army’s (PhA) Shore Based Missile System (SBMS) program which had been mired in controversy after the new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Gen. Hernando Irriberi tried to cancel it and re-align its budget to buy other stuff. The last news we have about this as reported last September 2015 was that President Benigno Aquino had put the re-alignment on hold for further consideration. However with this latest news, it is possible that there had been some developments about the acquisition.
’The EXTRA Missile’
I initially thought that the SBMS system that IMI offered to the PhA was the Delilah GL Anti-Ship Missile (AShM), but this news report indicates that it is likely the EXTRA Ballistic Missile, probably because it fits our budget. EXTRA stands for Extended Range Artillery and is made by Israel Military Industries (IMI) Ltd. It is a pretty large and heavy missile, 4.4 m long with a diameter of 306 mm and weighing 450 kg. Its estimated accuracy in terms of Circular Error Probable (CEP, meaning the radius of a circle around the aiming point whose boundary is where 50% of the rounds are expected to land) is ten meters, or about the length of a Squash court. It has a 120 kg Fragmentation Warhead with a Proximity Fuse, so anything within that ten-meter CEP is bound to have a very bad day indeed.
Just a quick note, though. The terms “Rocket” and “Missile” tend to overlap each other in terms of definition and thus can be somewhat confusing at times, but for the purposes of this blog, I will define “Rockets” as unguided weapons powered by a rocket motor. Now if a guidance system is installed on a rocket, I will refer to it as a “Missile”. Since the EXTRA is a Rocket with a Guidance System, then I consider it as a Missile, specifically a “Ballistic Missile” since it follows a Ballistic Trajectory (to be explained more later).
There is no mention in the article which launcher will be used for the EXTRA missiles we supposedly bought, it’s possible that these could be fixed or semi-mobile launchers. It’s also possible that the launcher will be the fully-mobile Lynx Autonomous Multi-Purpose Rocket System, a truck-mounted missile launcher system that has been in service with around eight countries since 1983 and of which at least 200 units have been produced. The Lynx can carry a maximum of eight EXTRA missiles per truck, and each EXTRA missile is housed in a sealed Canister that allows Low Maintenance and Long Service Life. As of now, only Azerbaijan and Vietnam is confirmed to have procured the Lynx/EXTRA system, and possibly us.
What’s great about the EXTRA’s Fragmentation Warhead is that it is not only good against Ships, it can also be pretty devastating against enemy vehicles and troops landing on the beaches of, say, Palawan, for example. An air burst would be a rain of death to anything within up to a couple of hundred meters, making the EXTRA a true multipurpose weapon.
I am making a comparison between the Delilah GL and the EXTRA to illustrate the differences between an Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (AShCM) like the Delilah versus an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (AShBM) like the EXTRA. First is that the EXTRA is a much heavier weapon at 450 kg compared to the Delilah which is only around 250 kg. Despite this the Delilah has a longer range of 180 km compared to the 150 km for the EXTRA, and this is because the Delilah uses the much more fuel-efficient Turbojet Engine for Propulsion compared to the Solid Rocket Propellant propulsion for the EXTRA.
The Delilah is also much more accurate, having a CEP of only one meter which is ten times more accurate than that of the EXTRA. However, the EXTRA does have a more powerful warhead which at 120 kg is four times that of the 30 kg warhead on the Delilah. There is also a big difference in the way both weapons are guided towards their target: With the Delilah an Operator can actually “see” what the missile sees thru its Charged Coupled Device (CCD) or Imaging Infra-Red (IIR) sensors at its nose, thus the Operator can steer the missile and hit even moving targets.
The EXTRA on the other hand uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates of the target to which it steers to. I initially thought that the EXTRA is good only for Static or fixed targets because the GPS coordinates could only be inputted before launch, but as per the manufacturer the coordinates could also be inputted in real time throughout the time of flight of the missile thru a datalink. If so, then it can hit targets like Ships as long as their moving GPS coordinates are continuously fed into the missile, allowing the missile to make steering changes. A separate set of Sensors on a separate platform though would be needed to feed the target’s coordinates to the EXTRA. The sensor can either be like a CCD/IIR or a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR, basically an “imaging” radar).
The biggest difference between the two weapons though is how they travel in the air to reach their targets. The Delilah being a modern AShCM is a “Sea Skimmer (SS)” while the EXTRA uses a “Ballistic Trajectory (BT)”, and each method has its own Pros and Cons. What the Delilah does is it flies a more complicated flight path, most of it comprise of maintaining an altitude close to the surface of the sea, usually around ten to fifteen meters thru the help of an Altimeter and other Sensors.
The advantage of this is that it will be more difficult to detect because the enemy Ship’s radar won’t be able to spot it until it reaches the Radar Horizon (RH). The RH can vary depending on the heights of both the Weapon and the Sensor of the target, but typically it is around 30-40 km for standard heights of ships and sensors. Also, travelling that close to the sea makes it more difficult for radar to detect the Delilah since the sea will interfere to some degree with the radar reflections coming off of the missile.
The Ballistic Trajectory of the EXTRA on the other hand, follows a simpler path similar to that of a Cannon round that is shaped like a Curve or an Arc. The advantage of this is that there is no need for sophisticated electronics to allow for a more complex flight path, like maintaining the weapon’s height at a certain low altitude consistently, so the weapon can be made simpler and cheaper. The disadvantage though is that it is easier to detect than a Cruise Missile since it is coming in from a high altitude.
Cruise Missile also has the advantage in that several of them can be made to follow different routes to the target, like say one in front, another behind and another on the side. This has the effect of “stretching” and confusing the enemy ship’s defenses, thereby increasing the chances of a hit. A Ballistic Missile on the other hand is a lot more predictable since they all will be following the same flight path.
Last is that Ballistic Missiles because of its Ballistic Trajectory have a minimum range where it will not be able to engage the enemy, which for the EXTRA is around 20 km. The Delilah as a Cruise Missile on the other hand in theory does not have a minimum range and can engage targets well within 20 km. Overall, Cruise Missiles do have a lot of advantages compared to Ballistic Missiles, but this does not necessarily mean that the latter will not be effective against Ships. Ballistic Missiles do have one big advantage over Cruise Missiles, and that is its SPEED because for the same range, they generally can travel at much higher speeds than Cruise Missiles, often many times faster, making them more difficult to shoot down.
For example, the speed of the EXTRA missile has not been given, but we can estimate its Terminal Velocity (i.e. its velocity as it reaches its target) using its given diameter and making some assumptions about its weight (say 250 kg after it has burned off all of its propellant), its Drag Coefficient, etc. and we come up with a speed of around 4,368 kph. Again this is just a very rough estimate, but I expect the actual speed to more or less around this range, so it will be a lot faster than the 860 kph maximum speed of a Delilah missile. At 4,368 kph, the EXTRA would be moving faster than the 5.56 mm caliber bullet coming out of a M4 Rifle, so in effect, trying to intercept it would be like trying to hit a bullet with another bullet.
’Use of Submunitions’
It’s a pity that the Philippines is a signatory to the “Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM)”, an international treaty prohibiting the use of Submunitions (i.e. a small weapon or device that is part of a larger warhead and separates from it prior to impact) because such weapons would have optimized and improved the lethality of Ballistic missiles like the EXTRA when used against Ships. Submunitions could be used to “soften” the defenses of enemy Ships or Fleets by damaging their Sensors and Weapons, making them more vulnerable to subsequent attacks.
For example, the first wave of EXTRA missiles armed with submunitions could damage an Air Search Radar here, or a Fire Control Radar there, and/or maybe damage missile or countermeasure launchers. Any of these will make the ship less capable of defending itself, and thus will be easier to hit during the next wave of attacks, this time with EXTRA missiles armed with more powerful Fragmentation Warheads.
Take note that only a few countries in Asia like the Philippines and Indonesia have signed the treaty, while other claimants in the West Philippine Sea like China, Taiwan and Vietnam have not and therefore can use Submunitions if they want to. In the case of China, they can use it against us. Not sure if it is still possible for us to pull out of the treaty, but at any rate it would have been a very interesting option for us.
’Over the Horizon Targeting’
As is typical with these long range weapons, the weakest link will be its targeting system. IMI did say that the system will come with its own Radar made by Elta, probably one of the many Coastal Radar Systems they are selling, but its detection and tracking range will be limited by the RH which, as stated above, could be typically up to 40 km. Beyond that a different type of targeting system need to be used, and usually an Aerial Platform is preferred. And again IMI says that the system will also come with its own Orbiter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The exact Orbiter model was not mentioned, I assume it should at least be the Orbiter 2, but if we are lucky it will be the latest version with a longer range, longer endurance and more payload, the Orbiter 3.
But there is an issue about the targeting range of these Orbiter UAVs as the maximum range of the Orbiter 2 is only 80 km while for the Orbiter 3 it is only 100 km. Now the Orbiter UAVs will have to use System Payloads like the M-STAMP which has a Laser Pointer or Rangefinder that allows it to determine a target’s GPS coordinate and thus the Orbiter can feed it then to the EXTRA, and the range of these military-grade Laser devices is only around 20 km. This means that the maximum targeting range of the Orbiters are only around 100-120 km, short of the EXTRA’s 150 km maximum range. For targets beyond 100-120 km, an alternative solution is needed, like using better aerial targeting platforms.
There are plans for the Philippine Armed Forces to get Surveillance Aircraft like the TC-90 or even the P-3C Orion that could provide that targeting capability, but as of now these are just plans and nothing concrete has come out of them yet. The FA-50PH with its Multi-Mode Radar (MMR) with SAR capability and Datalink can provide targeting information for the EXTRA, so that will have to be our main option for now.
As a redundancy measure, we could also just mount the Orbiter UAVs on a boat, then send it to 30-50 km offshore. That will be enough to allow the Orbiters to cover the maximum range of the EXTRA. All of the Orbiter’s equipment like the Catapult Launcher, Tablet-based Control System, etc. are compact, portable, rugged and weatherproof enough to be easily brought aboard a small boat. A fast boat with a low Draft allowing it to beach itself on the shore like our Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC) or Riverine Attack Craft would be ideal, although I am just not sure if our land-based Army men will be comfortable with working in the water. These boats would also be useful for recovering the Orbiters if they suffer a malfunction and crash to the sea.
What’s funny about this whole thing is that despite the manufacturer itself saying publicly that we already bought the system, there has been NO confirmation from either our Government or the Military of the acquisition, and it has been more than a week now since IMI made the announcement. Not sure of the reason for this, it could be that the Government and/or Military wanted to keep this acquisition as a “secret”. But I don’t buy this because the procurement of this item would’ve meant the first ever large, ground-based Anti-Ship Missile system ever acquired and put into service in the history of our country, and that is a LOT of political mileage for the government to just keep quiet about, hence I think this is unlikely.
Another reason could be that IMI is just trying to push its claim that there supposedly was already a deal between our government and them to procure these missiles, something which they insisted when the issue of its cancellation by Gen. Irriberi came out. It’s also a good way for them to inform and get the public interested in the system that they are offering, which might help them push their case for its acquisition. Right now I am more inclined to believe that this is really the case.
Acquiring these EXTRA Missiles will mean a huge leap in capability for our Army in terms of defending our shores. Without it, the only weapon we can use in their place would be 155 mm caliber Howitzers which only has a range of around 20 km, and they are not so accurate against moving Ships. With the EXTRA system, our personnel mining the offshore Malampaya Natural Gas Field will be able to rest a little bit easier since they are only around 70 km from the nearest shore from Palawan (measured using Google Maps) and thus within range of the system. If anybody tries to mess with Malampaya, then our EXTRA missiles will just bring the pain to them.
Despite IMI’s public announcement, unless there is confirmation from our side that the deal has been done, then it’s likely that the President has NOT decided to go thru with the purchase yet. However, IMI’s revelation at least allows us a good, close look at what they were really offering to us. With only less than seven months until PNoy’s term ends, I think it is already too late for Irriberi’s proposed re-alignment to be successful. I only hope that the system will be mounted on a fully mobile system like the Lynx, and that the acquisition will push thru as the EXTRA is a pretty good system, something to be really proud of. So … Sign the approval papers, PNoy …
^ “An Accurate Rocket with an Optimal Warhead Changes the Battlefield”,
^ In face of China threat, DND seeks to realign P6.5-B missile program back to internal security,
^ Noy approves AFP modernization shopping list,
^ Philippine Army Shore Based Missile System Re-Alignment,
^ EXTRA – Extended Range Artillery,
^ Delilah GL,
^ Horizon calculator – radar / visual,
^ Terminal Velocity Calculator,
^ Convention on Cluster Munitions Convention Status,