More Medium Gun Armed Vehicles for the Philippines?

A Badak Fire Support Vehicle (FSV). Photo courtesy of the Indomiliter website.

The Department of National Defense (DND) revealed to the Press recently that they were studying the possibility of acquiring more medium-sized armored vehicles to augment their forces. The DND said that such vehicles would fit well into any Urban Warfare scenarios like what happened in Marawi.1

For these vehicles, the DND noted some specific characteristics that they are looking for, and these are:
– Should weigh no more than 20 tons;
– Armed with a medium caliber cannon capable of breaching concrete walls.

Not sure why they specified a 20 ton maximum limit, it may have something to do with limiting the cost and complexity of the vehicle, and/or it may be related to our infrastructure’s ability to support the weight of such vehicles.

I also noticed that while the article I referenced above was titled, “DND Might Acquire Medium-sized Tanks”, the DND itself did not necessarily use the word “tank” but the more general term “armored vehicles” in their statements.

This could mean that wheeled vehicles are also being considered since a Tank is defined by general references as, “any heavily armed and armored combat vehicle that moves on two endless metal chains called tracks.”

’Medium Caliber Gun’
Regarding the “Medium Caliber Gun” requirement, some armed forces like those of the United States (US) generally define it as at least 20 mm but less than 105 mm in caliber.2 If we follow that definition, then we do have a number of such guns already on our vehicles, the most powerful of which are the Cockerill Mk 3 90 mm Low Pressure (LP) guns mounted on the LAV-300 vehicles of the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC).

The High Explosive Anti Tank – Tracer (HEAT-T) round of the Mk 3 can penetrate a 130 mm thick Rolled Homogeneous Armor (RHA) plate inclined at 60 degrees at all ranges.3 The priority of course is breaching concrete, but there is no straight up data on exactly how much Reinforced Concrete (RC) it can penetrate.

However, I think a rough approximation can be made based on how a weapon like the M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon System (LAW) is able to penetrate both RHA and RC. The M72 can penetrate 300 mm of RHA or the equivalent of 600 mm of RC4 for a ratio of 2 mm RC for every 1 mm of RHA, which works out to around approximately 260 mm of RC penetration for the Mk 3.

If our armed forces wants a more powerful gun, then there is the new Cockerill Mk 8 90 mm Medium Pressure (MP) which doesn’t have a HEAT-T round, but does have an Armor Piercing, Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot – Tracer (APFSDS-T) round which can penetrate a 150 mm thick plate of RHA inclined at 60 degrees (or roughly 300 mm of RC) at 2,000 meters,5 more at nearer distances.

The Mk 8 also does have the capability of firing the Falarick 90 Semi Active Laser Homing (SALH) guided missile which has a maximum range of 4,000 m and can penetrate 550 mm of RHA or approximately 1,100 mm of RC.

’Wheeled or Tracked?’6
Whether wheeled or tracked, each system has its own advantages and disadvantages. Tracked vehicles have the advantage of greater mobility since they can travel both on roads and rough ground.

However, for the same given weight they are reportedly more expensive to operate than wheeled vehicles, typically having 50-100% less range and slower by around the same margin. They also offer less comfortable rides for their passengers since their suspension systems are not as efficient and thus cause more felt vibrations. This becomes a factor more during long distance rides.

Wheeled vehicles on the other hand are cheaper to operate by up to half as much as they have up to twice the range of tracked vehicles. They also have better suspension systems allowing for more comfortable rides by their passengers. But they can’t travel as well on rough terrain because their wheels have up to more than twice the pressure on the ground per square area than the tracks on tracked vehicles.

It seems that tracked vehicles are best employed for short to medium range missions on rough terrain while wheeled vehicles are best for long range missions on paved or flat surfaces.

Now if the aim is to use these vehicles for combat in urban areas where roads are common, then it may be worthwhile to go with wheeled vehicles instead, although that means it may not be able to cross some rough terrain in some situations where they might be needed.

’Number of Wheels?’
If the government does decide to go with wheeled vehicles, the next question would be, how many wheels should the vehicle have? Generally the more wheels a vehicle has, the more survivable it is against mines. If a mine takes out just one of the wheels of a four-wheeled vehicle, for example, then that vehicle won’t be able to move anymore.

But if a similar thing happens to a six or more wheeled vehicle, then there is still a chance that it will be able to limp back slowly to its base or at least to a safer place. However, the more wheels a vehicle has, the heavier it gets and it will have higher maintenance costs due to the additional number of wheels.

By the look of things, it seems that a six-wheeled vehicle hits the “sweet spot” of the DND’s requirements in that they are lighter and more easily meets the under 20 ton requirement, have less maintenance costs than eight or more wheeled vehicles, and still has enough wheels to be more survivable than four-wheeled vehicles.

’Vehicle Protection’
As for the vehicle’s armor protection, this can be covered by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Standardization Agreement (STANAG) number 45697 which specifies the level of protection of the occupants of Logistical and Armored Vehicles. The first edition was released in 2004, and it is now on its second edition released in 2012.

What’s nice about this standard is that it specifies protection from three main weapons threats to armor, namely Kinetic Energy (KE, or direct fire projectiles), Artillery and Mines. And there are up to six levels of protection for KE and Artillery, starting with KE Protection Level One which specifies 360 degree protection from 5.56 and 7.62 mm Ball ammunition fired from 30 meters and 155 mm artillery burst from 100 meters.

The highest KE Level Six on the other hand specifies protection from 30 mm Armor Piercing (AP) ammunition fired from 500 meters and 155 mm artillery burst from 10 meters. There is also a separate protection level for Mines which goes from Level One against Hand Grenades and similar devices all the way up to Level Four against Mines with 10 kg of explosives.

’RPG Protection’
But the main threat to armored vehicles in Marawi were Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) which uses Shaped Charge or High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warheads, and unfortunately STANAG 4569 does not specify protection against those. But the S4569 standard armor can still be used in combination with specific Anti-RPG armor like Slat Armor (or also known as Cage Armor).

Slat/Cage Armor are basically bars of metal usually placed horizontally and spaced at a distance that is smaller than the diameter of an RPG round, which is at least 70 mm in diameter. It works mainly by deforming the Conical Liner of an RPG thus preventing an optimum plasma jet to be formed and penetrating the armor,8 and it has proven to work very well in actual combat conditions in the Middle East.9

’Current Assets’
Aside from the LAV-300 mentioned above, another AFP asset that fits into the DND’s description would be the FV101 Scorpion vehicles of the Philippine Army (PA), but these use the less powerful L23A1 76 mm Low Pressure (LP) gun.

The PMC only has around twelve units of the LAV-300,10 which could be one reason why the DND is looking for more vehicles like it. For the FV101 on the other hand, around 27 were active as of 2011,11 although no update on how many are still active now.

’Wheeled Vehicle Options’
Both the LAV-300 and FV101 are now out of production, but there are a lot of options available now for wheeled armored vehicles, although most of them are eight wheeled versions and over 20 tons in weight.

Some of the options that would fit the DND’s requirements include the six-wheeled PTL-0212 (also known as the WMA301) and the eight-wheeled ZTL/PTL-0913 made by China. Both are armed with a higher caliber 100+ mm guns, although their specific models and capabilities are unknown.

The PTL-02 has an all-around equivalent of S4569 KE Level Three (against 7.62 mm caliber AP Tungsten Carbide ammo) protection while the PTL-09 has the same level of protection, but only in the front. Its sides, roof and rear has a lower S4569 KE Level One (against 5.56/7.62 mm Ball ammo) protection. As a bonus, both vehicles are fully amphibious.

For those allergic to China, there are the Badak14 and Tarantula15 vehicles in service with the Indonesian armed forces. Both are armed with the same Mk 3 gun as our LAV-300 vehicles, and both have S4569 KE Level Three (against 7.62 mm AP Tungsten Carbide Core ammo) protection all around. The Tarantula is fully amphibious, but the Badak is not.

Mine protection level for all of the above mentioned wheeled vehicles are unknown, though.

’Tracked Vehicle Options’
Tracked vehicles armed with big guns that are under twenty-tons in weight are not as common, most are well over that weight limit at around 28-38 tons. One of the few around that meets the specs is the BMP-316 thanks to its use of Aluminum as material for its hull and turret.

It is in service with the Russian armed forces and has impressive armor protection of roughly equivalent to S4569 KE Level Six (against 30 mm caliber AP ammo) at its frontal arc and KE Level Two (against 7.62 mm caliber AP Steel Core ammo) for the rest of its body. As an added bonus, it is fully amphibious, and has a 30 mm gun as its secondary weapon.

Its 2A70 100 mm caliber gun though only fires High Explosive Fragmentation (HEF) rounds, which can only penetrate 25 mm of RHA or 50 mm of RC.17 But the 2A70 can fire SALH missiles like the 9M117M which has a range of 4,000 meters and can penetrate up to 600 mm of RHA or 1,200 mm of RC.18 The BMP-3’s Mine level protection is unknown, though.

’Parting Shot’
A wheeled vehicle gives our armed forces more model options to choose from that will fit the specs, and is more economical and seem more ideal to use for urban operations. But it only has limited mobility as it can’t travel as well on certain types of rough terrain.

A tracked vehicle on the other hand can travel almost anywhere, but are more expensive to operate and not as many model options are available out there as of now that will meet the specifications.

If that 20 ton maximum limit is retained, then we might have to trade off to a lower level of protection if an all-steel construction is used for the vehicle.

Personally, I think that a vehicle with at least six wheels and armed with at least a medium caliber gun will be ideal for urban operations. At any rate, I am hoping to see this acquisition for our armed forces push thru, and soon.

A BMP-3 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


  1. URBAN WARFARE | DND might acquire medium-sized tanks,
  2. Small and Medium Caliber Ammunition Production Support,
  3. Cockerill CSE 90LP,
  4. M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon System (LAW),
  5. Cockerill LCTS 90MP,
  6. Wheels or Tracks? On the ‘Lightness’ of Military Expeditions,
  7. STANAG 4569 (Edition 2) – Protection Levels for Occupants of Armoured Vehicles,
  8. McCurdy’s Armor™ vs. RPG,
  9. Stryker slat armor protects troops,
  10. Philippine Marine Corps to upgrade turrets of its armored fighting vehicles,
  11. Philippines army to upgrade Scorpion tanks,
  12. PTL02/WMA301 Assaulter,
  13. ZBD 09 Snow Leopard,
  14. Badak FSV 90mm Fire Support 6×6 Armoured Vehicle,
  15. Tarantula 90 mm Fire Support Vehicle,
  16. BMP-3,
  17. BMP-3 Fighting Vehicle,
  18. Tulamashzavod 3UBK10M missile,

18 thoughts on “More Medium Gun Armed Vehicles for the Philippines?”

  1. If you want my opinion, the only light tanks that come to mind that the Philippines should look at is the Russian 2S25 Sprut-SD, Italian B1 Centauro, CV90105, CV90120-T, Argentina’s Tanque Argentino Mediano. Even the joint Turkish/Indonesia Modern Medium Weight Tank and even Chinese VT-5. Their are options for light tanks for the Philippines.

      1. I would say for the Philippines, the 2S25 Sprut-SD, K21-105, K-21 With XC-8 Turret, and Chinese ST2 are all perfect for them because they come under 30 tons. Though IMO, the 2S25 Sprut-SD, is the logical choice for the philippines

  2. Maybe the 20 ton limit is to allow these armored vehicles to be air transportable by our C-130H aircraft (max. payload = 22 tons) to respond to terrorist events anywhere in the country at a moment’s notice? If so, I think the 2S25 Sprut-SD would be a good fit as this light tank was expressly designed for airborne operations (i.e. based on the modified chassis of the BMD-3 airborne combat vehicle).

    1. Great point there, Harrison. We don’t have a lot of C-130s, though, and if they only carry one at time, not sure how much impact a few of those at a time could have.

      We do have the Tarlac class ships which can carry a lot more, although deployment will be measured in a couple of days.

      1. So true about the limited C-130’s in PAF inventory. And this is really more a wish than a considered opinion on my part but wouldn’t it be great if the DND was also thinking along the same lines of having an airborne armored QRF on standby to reinforce units facing Marawi-type events at any time, anywhere in the country?

        We mitigate the limited C-130 numbers by basing them out of Mactan to ensure they’re always within 1 hour from any point in PH, making round trips faster.

        Even with just 1 C-130 attached to this armored QRF, they could send 1 light tank (i.e. with its crew, ammo, and maybe even a small commando team) in harm’s way within an hour of a terrorist event; 2 tanks et al within 3 hours; 3 tanks et al within 5 hours; and so on – and that’s just with 1 Herc flying the maximum distance of an hour’s flight time from MAB. We can double those figures by attaching 2 C-130s to the standby unit.

        I think it would have made a difference in Marawi had the AFP been able to deploy light tanks within hours – not days – after fighting first broke out.

        And speaking of Marawi, I would like to join the nation in congratulating our brave troops and policemen for finally defeating our enemies. We are very proud of you.

        And to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, my deepest thanks and prayers to them and to their grieving loved ones. May their families be at least consoled by the thought that their loved ones died a hero in the hearts and minds of their countrymen.

      2. By the way, Sir rhk111, totally agree that sea transport is obviously the best way to move armor around to meet Marawi type events. But it’s not the timeliest because sailing from NCR (where most of our armored units are stationed) to CDO (for example) takes almost 1 day. Add the loading and unloading times, plus the time to move them to the battle area and we could be talking a minimum of 2 days, if not more, to deploy.

        We can mitigate this by basing armored units in CV to minimize sailing time to anywhere or we eliminate shipping altogether by pre-positioning armored units on Mindanao itself. But these alternatives take armored assets away from NCR where, I would argue, they’re more needed. After all, it would be absolute catastrophe IMHO if a Marawi-type event ever happened in Metro Manila.

        This is why I think having airborne light tanks that can be deployed quickly might be the way to go, especially in light of the president’s warnings that terrorists could stage multiple Marawi-type events in different parts of the country at the same time.

        I just hope that, aside from reviving or acquiring more C-130’s, DND also considers acquiring at least a couple of larger transport aircraft like C-17s or A400M or even those Russian Ilyushins or Antonovs.

      3. Yeah, very good points, Harrison. Hopefully we can get more large transport aircraft for our Air Force, they are very useful whether for Military Logistical Support or Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations.

    2. Yeah, I think the 2S25 Sprut SD would fit right into our requirements if the government goes for a tracked vehicle instead. It has a better gun than the BMP-3, and better armor, too. And yet still under 20 tons.

      1. It’s why I think the 2S25 Sprut SD, K21-105 and K-21 With XC-8 Turret are the only options the Philippines have for a Light Tank.

      2. It’s why I think the A-400M is what the Philippines needs. It’s not only a strategic Airlift but also a Tanker transport as well.

  3. At least armed with minimum 105 mm, amphibious, wheeled for maneuverability, and fitted optional with reactive and/or passive APS.
    Few candidates in mind are the piranha and its cousin the US Stryker or the russian Bumerang.

    1. The problem with the stryker is that the vehicle was designed without air conditioning, crews are given individual cooling vests that circulate cooled water from outside the vehicle to the garment. Vehicle computers still overheat regularly. Which is why I don’t think the US will sell the Stryker to the Philippines. It’s either the 2S25 Sprut SD or the the South Korean K21-105 and the K-21 With XC-8 Turret

  4. Late reply. The 105mm-gunned M1128 Stryker MGS is well beyond the PhiI. Army’s requirement. At its basic configuration, i.e., no added armor, the M1128 MGS empty weight of 18,734 kg combat weight is well within the limits of C-130’s 20,400-kg load-carrying capacity. However, with a combat weight of 21,589 kg, the MGS’ weight is above the driveline’s nominal load capacity of 19,051 kg gross vehicle weight. Moreover, in OIF or Operation Iraqi Freedom configuration, the MGS can weight by as much as 22,864 kg further straining the already strained vehicle driveline and suspension.

  5. This article is kinda sorta relevant again especially now that there’s official confirmation of the AFP acquiring 44 light tanks in this year’s budget. I noticed how they specified “light” instead of say medium or heavy tanks so that narrows down the list of potential tanks/IFV’s even more. One thing I’d say though is that we can rule out any Indonesian or Korean offers. Isn’t it that our current procurement laws forbid the AFP from buying material that is only in use in one country(Korea) or buying stuff thats still in development?(Indonesia/Turkey). Unless of course there are different rules for G2G transactions. Either way, its good news that the AFP is finally getting some new mech units.

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