Category Archives: Surface to Air Missiles (SAM)

MANPADS as CIWS for the Philippine Navy

(Revised April 26, 2015. See bottom of the page for the complete revision history)


A Mistral Simbad Naval Mount. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
A Mistral Simbad Naval Mount. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

The Philippine Navy (PhN) currently has five ships which can be considered as “modern” due to their relatively new design, and these are the three Emilio Jacinto-class (former Peacock-class) Corvettes and two Gregorio Del Pilar-class (former Hamilton-class) Frigates. However, these five ships lack any decent air defense capability, with their primary air defense weapon being their Oto Melara 76mm/62 caliber Compact guns, with the secondary air defence being covered by minor caliber cannons and machine guns. This setup may not be satisfactory against Anti-Ship Missiles (AShMs) due to the lack of guidance of the rounds (as in the case of the 76mm main gun), or their short range (as in the case of the minor caliber cannons and machine guns).

One cost-effective way to improve the air defense capability of these ships would be thru the use of Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) as Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS). Why MANPADS? Because these are MUCH cheaper than TRUE missile-based CIWS like the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) or the RIM- Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), and thus would be a more realistic option for our budget-conscious PhN.
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Mk13 to Mk41 Launcher Conversion for Oliver Hazard Perry Frigates

A Mk 13 Launcher with a Harpoon missile on its rail. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
A Mk 13 Launcher with a Harpoon missile on its rail. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

In researching about these Oliver Hazard Perry (OHP) Frigates, one question that came to my mind was, “Is it possible to upgrade the OHP’s Mk13 launcher to the Mk41 Vertical Launch System (VLS)?” Much of the OHP’s firepower comes from its Mk13 launcher and ability to carry 40 medium-sized missiles, but the launchers have been deactivated by the United States Navy (USN) on all its ships due to obsolescence of the SM-1 missiles and to save on operating cost. The Mk13 is VERY cool to watch due to its fully-automated firing and loading system as can be seen by the video below, but it did have its share of disdvantages also.

‘Mk13 Launcher vs. Mk41 Comparisons’
First disadvantage with the Mk13 launcher is that it is NON-REDUNDANT, you only have that single launcher to launch all 40 missiles. If something happens to that launcher, whether due to battle damage, or whether it malfunctions on its own due to some reason, then you lose ALL of your missile capability. Hence you need to take very good care of that launcher, frequently conducting tests and preventive maintenance to ensure that it is working and that it will be working when you need it. It also has a lot of moving parts, all the worsened by the fact that it is moving heavy, 700 kg missiles at a fast rate in various directions. It also has to withstand high temperatures and shock during firing, hence the parts are subjected to large amounts of physical stress, making frequent maintenance necessary.

Second is that it launches missiles at a fairly slow rate, only 1 missile every 8 seconds,[1] or a maximum of 7 missiles per minute. This is not very ideal against saturation missile attacks, and even more so against saturation attacks by SUPERSONIC Anti Ship Missiles (AShM)s, which are slowly going into service in various major navies around the world. Because of their speed, these supersonic missiles will cut down even more on a ship’s available reaction time, increasing their chances of scoring a direct hit. Third, it can only launch one type of missile at a time, meaning it has to wait every 8 seconds to switch from firing a Harpoon AShM to a SM1/2 Surface to Air Missile (SAM), for example, which could be detrimental under some combat conditions.
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Defense Against China’s Ballistic and Cruise Missiles

At the time this blog is written, there are reports that the Philippine Army (PA) is contemplating on buying Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) from Israel, reportedly the “Spyder” SAM Defense System. It is actually a very nice system, mobile, with separate launchers and command-control unit, all of which help make it a very capable and survivable system (learn more about this weapon here: SPYDER Surface-to-Air Launcher for PYthon 5 and DERby Missiles). However, it is still a Ground-based system and uses relatively small missiles, limitations which may not be enough against the type of weapons that China can bring to bear against us.

Defending against Chinese attacks on land targets from the Air is complicated by the fact that China is a VERY formidable adversary. They have advanced weapons, and lots of them. Against LAND TARGETS, their most advanced weapons are BALLISTIC and CRUISE MISSILES. These are weapons that can strike from afar with great accuracy and would be their main weapons against land targets in case of war.

AIRCRAFTS would also be a threat, but these I feel would only be SECONDARY to the Ballistic and Cruise Missiles which should be the PRIMARY threat to us.
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Air Defense for the Philippine Navy

All of our current Weapons Platforms are vulnerable to missile attack, but they would be even more so once they acquire CREDIBLE, OFFENSIVE ABILITY thru Anti-Ship Missiles (ASMs). Their ability take out enemy ships means they will be on top of the enemy’s list to destroy in case of battle or war. So if and when the AFP does get ASM capability soon, the next order of priority will be to PROTECT them effectively.

For naval platforms, the biggest threat will be coming from enemy ASMs also, and they will be launched from either enemy ships, or enemy aircrafts. Almost all of our naval warships have rudimentary defense systems, especially those armed with cannons. However, most of these are just basic systems, and would be inadequate for enemy aircraft or missile defense. Aircrafts and missiles are small, fly relatively fast and close to the sea, making them difficult to spot, track and destroy, thus all active defense against them tend to be sophisticated systems that employs radar detection, automated tracking and firing system, and fast cannons or fast missiles.

‘Enemy Missile Defense’
The most basic ASM defense system are a type of weapons systems called “Close-In Weapons Systems” (CIWS). These are short-range anti-missile/aircraft defense systems that use radar detection and tracking, and are partially or fully automated. The most famous of these is probably the “Phalanx CIWS”, helped in part by them being prominently featured in a couple of movies like Steven Seagal’s “Under Siege” in the 1990s.
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