Category Archives: Strategy

Increasing the Firepower of the Philippine Army’s Infantry Squads

I already used this picture in a previous blog, it is one of the saddest pictures I saw during the Zamboanga Siege in 2013, and I am using it again here to stress another point:

The pathetic state of the Philippine Army Regular soldiers revealed in this photo during the Zamboanga Crisis. Photo courtesy of Erik de Castro thru Reuters.
The pathetic state of the Philippine Army Regular soldiers revealed in this photo during the Zamboanga Crisis. Photo courtesy of Erik de Castro thru Reuters.

Now aside from the fact that the soldiers lacked even the BASIC equipment and accessories like Helmets, Load Bearing Vests, etc., another thing I noticed was the lack of VARIETY in the weapons they were carrying. Here you have what looks like a typical REGULAR Philippine Army (PhA) Squad of around ten soldiers, nine of which were armed with what seems like Vietnam War era M16 Assault Rifles (ARs) (identified because of their triangular front stock) while only one of them had a Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW).

The one with the SAW was also the only one with the helmet, probably a concession over the fact that he is the one most exposed to enemy fire. Frankly, I initially thought that this might’ve been a Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) unit than a PhA unit, but no, because while these individuals may look pathetic, the CAFGU are even worse off in terms of equipment and arms.
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Sea Denial Over Recto Bank Using Aircraft-based Anti-Ship Missiles

A JAS-39C Gripen. Photo courtesy of Airwolfhound thru Flickr.
A JAS-39C Gripen. Photo courtesy of Airwolfhound thru Flickr.

This is the third of my series to try to find ways to keep China’s dirty hands off our valuable property at Recto Bank, and this time I am considering the use of AIRCRAFT as an Anti-Ship Missile (AShM) platform. Aircraft does have a couple of advantages over Land or Ship based platforms, one of which is that they are less dependent on Surveillance aircraft for targeting information as each can carry its own radar. Of course, a specialized Surveillance aircraft will still have a better, longer-ranged radar than most attack aircraft, but attack aircraft will still be able to find targets at much longer ranges than ships owing to their ability to fly at higher elevations which allows them to have a much further Radar Horizon.

Aircraft are also much faster than ships, around 10-20 times faster making them much better for hit-and-run tactics since they go in and out of an attack quickly. And unlike land-based platforms, aircraft will not be tied to a single-source for AShMs as there are a number of them that are available in the western world with sufficiently long-range.
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Sea Denial Over Recto Bank Using Ship-based Anti-Ship Missiles

A Visby-class Corvette. Photo courtesy of GLOBALHAWK90 thru Flickr.
A Visby-class Corvette. Photo courtesy of GLOBALHAWK90 thru Flickr.

This is a continuation to my previous blog1 about the possibility of implementing SEA DENIAL over Recto Bank, and this time the topic will be the use of SURFACE VESSELS or ships as platforms for Anti-Ship Missiles (AShM). One advantage of using ships is that it will lessen the need for the “militarization” of Palawan as the main attack won’t come from there anymore, therefore also lessening the possibility of attack or invasion from China of that island. Another advantage is that since the ships can be MOVED CLOSER to Recto Bank, then we can use western AShMs with their below-200 km ranges and won’t be tied up to a single-source like the Brahmos.

The disadvantage of ships though is that first, they don’t have anywhere to hide out in the open ocean unlike land-based AShMs, hence are more vulnerable to weapons like missiles from other ships or aircraft and torpedoes from submarines, and thus will need to provide adequate defenses against these. As AShM platforms, less ships will be needed as the standard load per ship is eight compared to ground launchers which can only carry around three to four AShMs maximum per vehicle, but overall the Acquisition, Operation and Maintenance costs will still likely to be higher due to the more sophisticated and complicated nature of sea vessels.
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Sea Denial Over Recto Bank Using Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles

A Brahmos Mobile Missile Launcher with 3 missiles. Photo courtesy of Anirvan Shukla thru Wikipedia Commons.
A Brahmos Mobile Missile Launcher with 3 missiles. Photo courtesy of Anirvan Shukla thru Wikipedia Commons.

I discussed in my previous blog1 what I think are our prospects of establishing “Sea Control” against the Chinese Armada in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), which, painful as it may seem, seems basically (to quote Muhammad Ali) “Slim and None” as of now. Which brings us to the next naval strategic concept available, SEA DENIAL. Unlike Sea Control, Sea Denial is more achievable for us because instead of establishing a presence in an area, protecting it and keeping our opponents out of that area, the goal of Sea Denial is much simpler: It only aims to keep our opponent OUT of that area.2

Of course it means we won’t be able to use that same area for our own purposes, like for example put mining assets at Recto Bank, etc., it’s just that our opponent won’t be able to do the same also. Think of it as like a “Mexican Standoff”, or a DRAW where they or we will not be able to do anything on the contested area.
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Our Prospects of Establishing Sea Control in the West Philippine Sea

China's first Aircraft Carrier, the Liaoning. Photo courtesy of The Japan Times
China’s first Aircraft Carrier, the Liaoning. Photo courtesy of The Japan Times

Everybody knows that China is a big and rich country with a powerful naval force, but just how powerful EXACTLY is that force, and what can we do to counter them in the West Philippine Sea (WPS)? This is not an easy question to answer, but let me offer my opinion about it. First let’s take a good look at China’s naval forces so we can see what we are up against.

‘The PLAN’
The Chinese navy is called the “People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)“, and no, there is no truth to the rumor that they own the “Army Navy Burger” chain of fastfood restaurants. The PLAN is composed of roughly 470 ships, although only around half are major armed naval combatants (i.e., which for me means Submarines and missile-armed Ships), broken down into:1
– One Aircraft Carrier
– 25 Destroyers
– 42 Frigates
– 120 Corvettes
– 65 Submarines
* 253 major naval combatants in total
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Offsetting Radar Range Deficiency in Air Combat

(Revised July 2, 2016. See bottom of the page for the complete revision history)

A MIG-21 Bison of the Indian Air Force. Photo courtesy of aztonyx thru Flickr.
A MIG-21 Bison of the Indian Air Force. Photo courtesy of aztonyx thru Flickr.

In my previous blog, “The FA-50 Golden Eagle versus the SU-30MKK/MK2 Flanker-G“, I indicated how the FA-50 Golden Eagle (or Geagle) was vastly deficient in terms of air to air detection range when compared to China’s top fighter aircraft, the SU-30MKK/MK2. The Geagle’s EL/M-2032 radar is small, light and relatively cheap, it provides very high ground mapping capability and long range detection and tracking of ships,[1] but it doesn’t have a lot of range in terms of air to air detection range, at least compared to radars like the SU-30MKK’s Zhuk-MSE.

But as I said then, there are ways to offset this disadvantage, and the blueprint in doing so lies in what the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) has done with their MIG-21 Bison aircraft enabling it to be effective even against aircraft like the United States Air Force’s (USAF) F-15C Eagle as proven in war exercises like the “Cope India” and “Red Flag” exercises. A summary of the Bison’s exploits in the Cope India exercise is available in the “Sources” section,[2] and the Bison’s performance at Red Flag was detailed in a lecture captured on video conducted by Colonel Terence Fornof, an F-15 pilot and the then Director of the Requirements and Testing office at the USAF Warfare Center at Nellis AFB in Nevada.[3]
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