The Philip­pine Army – De­vel­op­ing a Mod­erni­sa­tion Strat­egy

The Philip­pine Army has a proud his­tory. How­ever, it is now en­ter­ing one of the most im­por­tant pe­ri­ods of its his­tory as it seeks to mod­ernise to meet the chal­lenges of to­day and to­mor­row.

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID SAW

THE PHILIP­PINE ARMY CAN trace its his­tory back to the end of the 19th century and the in­de­pen­dence strug­gle against Span­ish colo­nial­ism. In Au­gust 1896 the Katipunan (As­so­ci­a­tion) move­ment pro­claimed a revo­lu­tion against the Span­ish, out of this armed strug­gle grew the Philip­pine Army that was of­fi­cially es­tab­lished on March 27, 1897, as the Philip­pine Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Army. On the dec­la­ra­tion of Philip­pine in­de­pen­dence on June 12, 1898, the army was re­named as the Philip­pine Repub­li­can Army.

The First Philip­pine Repub­lic did not last, the Treaty of Paris of De­cem­ber 1898 brought the Span­ish-Amer­i­can War to the end, un­der the terms of the treaty the Span­ish colo­nial pos­ses­sion of the Philip­pines was ceded to the United States. In Fe­bru­ary 1899 war broke out be­tween the US and the Philip­pine Repub­lic. It came to an end on July 4, 1902, mark­ing the end of the First Philip­pine Repub­lic and the Philip­pine Repub­li­can Army.

By the early 1930s the US had started the process un­der which they would grant in­de­pen­dence to the Philip­pines, this would see the es­tab­lish­ment of the Philip­pine Com­mon­wealth on Novem­ber 15, 1935, with full in­de­pen­dence to be achieved on July 4, 1946. The Philip­pine Com­mon­wealth passed the Na­tional De­fence Act in De­cem­ber 1935, one of its first pieces of leg­is­la­tion, and this was to cre­ate the foun­da­tions for a new na­tional army. The Pres­i­dent of the Philip­pines Manuel Que­zon then asked Gen­eral Dou­glas MacArthur, the for­mer Chief of Staff of the US Army, to over­see the de­vel­op­ment of the new Philip­pine Army with the rank of Field Mar­shal.

Ja­pan in­vaded the Philip­pines on De­cem­ber 8, 1941, and with the sur­ren­der of the is­land fortress of Cor­regi­dor in May 1942 or­gan­ised Philip­pine and US re­sis­tance was at an end. How­ever, many Philip­pine Army of­fi­cers and men evaded cap­ture and took to the coun­try­side to be­gin an in­sur­gency against the Ja­panese oc­cu­piers. In the end over 2,00,000 people would take part in armed re­sis­tance against the Ja­panese, with many more par­tic­i­pat-

ing in other re­sis­tance ac­tiv­i­ties. When the US in­vaded the Philip­pines in late 1944 sup­port from the Philip­pine re­sis­tance was in­valu­able in dis­rupt­ing Ja­panese de­fen­sive mea­sures.

The Philip­pines achieved in­de­pen­dence on July 4, 1946, but the task of post-war re­con­struc­tion was im­mense. As far as the mil­i­tary was con­cerned re­or­gan­i­sa­tion was nec­es­sary and this led to the for­ma­tion of the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines (AFP) in 1947, con­sist­ing of the Philip­pine Army, Philip­pine Air Force, Philip­pine Navy and the Philip­pine Con­stab­u­lary. The Philip­pine Con­stab­u­lary is no longer part of the AFP, hav­ing been merged with the Na­tional Po­lice in the 1990s.

Philip­pine troops would go on to fight in Korea (1951-53) and would par­tic­i­pate in Viet­nam in the civil af­fairs role. The main chal­lenge for the Philip­pine mil­i­tary would be do­mes­tic though, with cam­paigns against Com­mu­nist in­sur­gents and se­ces­sion­ists tak­ing place from the 1940s through to the present day.

Mod­erni­sa­tion & Re­build­ing

The Philip­pine Army has a proud his­tory. How­ever, it is now en­ter­ing one of the most im­por­tant pe­ri­ods of its his­tory as it seeks to mod­ernise to meet the chal­lenges of to­day and to­mor­row. Years of op­er­a­tions against in­sur­gent and se­ces­sion­ist forces took their toll on the Philip­pine Army, fur­ther­more the Philip­pine Army and the rest of the AFP had suf­fered from years of un­der­fund­ing. By the 1990s it was ob­vi­ous to the mil­i­tary lead­er­ship and the politi­cians that some­thing had to be done. This re­sulted in a piece of leg­is­la­tion known as the AFP Mod­erni­sa­tion Act (Repub­lic Act 7898), the aim here was to pro­vide a le­gal frame­work for a 15-year de­fence mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme. Al­though the act came into force in Fe­bru­ary 1995, it never achieved its ob­jec­tives due to lack of avail­able fund­ing.

In 2010 a new govern­ment came to power in the Philip­pines un­der Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino III. The need to take ur­gent ac­tion on de­fence mod­erni­sa­tion was un­der­stood, and a re­vised ver­sion of the AFP Mod­erni­sa­tion Act (Repub­lic Act 10349) came into ef­fect on De­cem­ber 11, 2012. As be­fore this is a 15-year de­fence mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme, but un­like be­fore sus­tained eco­nomic growth un­der the Aquino govern­ment is pro­vid­ing the fund­ing nec­es­sary to have a real mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme. Ad­di­tion­ally an ef­fec­tive and trans­par­ent pro­cure­ment struc­ture is in place to guar­an­tee that pro­grammes deliver what is re­quired.

The Philip­pine Army had de­vel­oped its own mod­erni­sa­tion strat­egy known as the Army Trans­for­ma­tion Roadmap 2028 (ATR2028), this was an 18-year du­ra­tion pro­gramme that came into ef­fect in 2010. The pur­pose of ATR2028 is to make the Philip­pine Army a ‘world-class army’ by 2028. Both the Philip­pine Navy and the Philip­pine Air Force have their own longterm strate­gies as well, but they all work in par­al­lel with the over­all pol­icy di­rec­tion im­posed by the AFP Mod­erni­sa­tion Act.

The ob­jec­tive of the AFP Mod­erni­sa­tion Act is to al­low the AFP to pro­vide a ‘Min­i­mum Cred­i­ble De­fence Pos­ture,’ with this be­ing achieved through the joint cre­ation of a joint force struc­ture that com­bines land, air and naval forces. To meet this goal, by the time that the third-phase of the 15-year AFP Mod­erni­sa­tion Act is com­pleted in 2027, the Philip­pine Army will have evolved into what

is de­scribed as a “Joint Force Land that can per­form a wide spec­trum of ca­pa­bil­i­ties from peace­time de­vel­op­ment, to low in­ten­sity con­flict and to limited con­ven­tional war.”

The task of mod­ernising the Philip­pine Army should not be un­der­es­ti­mated, sim­ply be­cause there is so much that needs to be done. On top of that, the Philip­pine Army finds it­self be­ing given mis­sions that in other coun­tries might fall to the air force and the navy, for ex­am­ple the pro­gramme to ac­quire a Shore-Based Mis­sile Sys­tem, of which more in­for­ma­tion is given be­low.

It should be noted that in the first phase of AFP Mod­erni­sa­tion Act fund­ing, run­ning through to 2017, that the other ser­vices have re­ceived far more re­sources than the Philip­pine Army. The main Army pro­grammes were the Shore-Based Mis­sile Sys­tem, the ac­qui­si­tion of com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment (VHF 2-5 W hand­held ra­dios and HF 50 W ve­hi­cle-mounted ra­dios), the Rocket Launcher Light and the Night Fight­ing Sys­tem (night vi­sion gog­gles and weapon sights).

In to­tal some $145 mil­lion has been al­lo­cated for the Shore-Based Mis­sile Sys­tem, a land-based anti-ship mis­sile sys­tem with 12 launcher sys­tems and as­so­ci­ated equip­ment be­ing re­quired. This pro­cure­ment has high pri­or­ity and the aim is to com­plete the ac­qui­si­tion process as quickly as pos­si­ble, hence only a limited num­ber of bid­ders will be con­sid­ered. Brah­Mos Aero­space of In­dia is seen as a sig­nif­i­cant con­tender for this pro­gramme, al­though there is also in­ter­est in coastal de­fence op­tions cur­rently in ser­vice in the Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries.

The Rocket Launcher Light pro­gramme will re­place some 186 M18 57mm and M67 90mm re­coil­less ri­fles and Airtronic USA has been selected to sup­ply 400 units of its ver­sion of the RPG-7 sys­tem. How­ever, other in­fantry weapons pro­cure­ments are also tak­ing place. Rem­ing­ton Arms of the US has re­ceived a con­tract to sup­ply 63,000 M4 5.56mm ri­fles (orig­i­nally the con­tract was for 50,629 ri­fles). A to­tal of 100 Ser­bian M69B 81mm mor­tars have been ac­quired via Is­rael, along with sup­plies of mor­tar am­mu­ni­tion. Other in­fantry weapons ac­tiv­ity is fo­cused on the re­fur­bish­ment of ex­ist­ing weapons by the Govern­ment Ar­se­nal, such as the M16A1 ri­fle (many of which were man­u­fac­tured un­der li­cence in the Philip­pines). Over 22,000 smoke and frag­men­ta­tion grenades have also been ac­quired, while new body ar­mour is be­ing in­tro­duced as well.

Turn­ing to ar­tillery, in early March the 155mm Towed How­itzer Ac­qui­si­tion pro­gramme got un­der­way, the aim was to ac­quire 12 guns, 240 HE rounds and an in­te­grated lo­gis­tics sup­port pack­age. Pro­gramme timetable had the de­ci­sion to be an­nounced at the end of March with the equip­ment to be de­liv­ered one year later. Even­tu­ally there were only two bid­ders in­volved El­bit Land & C4I Sys­tems (El­bit hav­ing pre­vi­ously pur­chased Is­raeli ar­tillery and mor­tar specialist Soltam) and BNT Tvor­nica based in Novi Tvarnik Bos­nia Herze­gov­ina. El­bit were awarded the con­tract, which had a value of $8.43 mil­lion, yet an­other suc­cess­ful win in the Philip­pines for the Is­raeli com­pany. BNT might have other op­tions in the Philip­pines in con­nec­tion with a fu­ture Mul­ti­ple Launch Rocket Sys­tem (MLRS) re­quire­ment and they also make a ver­sion off the M69B 81mm mor­tar as used by the Philip­pines. Cur­rently the Philip­pine Army has a limited num­ber of Soltam M-71 155mm how­itzers and five M114 155mm how­itzers in ser­vice.

One sig­nif­i­cant weak­ness for the Philip­pine Army, and in­deed for the AFP as a whole, is the lack of a vi­able air de­fence ca­pa­bil­ity. To re­solve this is­sue a num­ber of air de­fence pro­grammes are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­clud­ing the ac­qui­si­tion of a Man­portable Air De­fence Sys­tem (MANPADS) ca­pa­bil­ity. Mov­ing up the scale the AFP is look­ing at a medium-range air de­fence ca­pa­bil­ity and has shown in­ter­est in the Rafael Spy­der sys­tem and in the ac­qui­si­tion of the Raytheon HAWK sys­tem. At this point both the AFP and the Philip­pine Army have yet to re­ally de­fine their air de­fence goals or al­lo­cate a pro­cure­ment budget for this cat­e­gory of weapon sys­tem.

The Philip­pine Army has also moved to up­grade its sup­port ve­hi­cle fleet in re­cent years. KIA of the Repub­lic of Korea has made sig­nif­i­cant sales of KM-250/KM-450 and KM-500/503 se­ries ve­hi­cles. The Philip­pine Army has also used its ac­cess to the US ‘Ex­cess De­fense Ar­ti­cles (EDA)’ sys­tem to ac­quire trucks, quan­ti­ties of M35 2.5 tonne trucks were ac­quired in 2011 and 2013 to add to the ex­ist­ing fleet, with M939 5 ton trucks be­ing de­liv­ered in 2010 and 2013. In ad­di­tion they are a ma­jor op­er­a­tor of the AM Gen­eral HMMWV ve­hi­cle with many hun­dreds in ser­vice in many dif­fer­ent vari­ants, in­clud­ing the M997A2 am­bu­lance ver­sion, 23 of which were pur­chased by the AFP and de­liv­ered in Novem­ber 2011, 19 of which are in ser­vice with the Philip­pine Army.

The mod­erni­sa­tion process will take many years to com­plete and will see the Philip­pine Army look to ac­quire equip­ment from a di­verse set of sup­pli­ers. They will ob­tain best value by mix­ing the ac­qui­si­tion of new equip­ment with ef­forts to ob­tain sur­plus equip­ment from other sources. In this re­gard the US EDA sys­tem has al­ready proven use­ful, while in­ter­est has been shown in sur­plus equip­ment from coun­tries such as Italy, and more re­cently Is­raeli sur­plus equip­ment has come un­der con­sid­er­a­tion. All of which makes the Philip­pines one of the most ac­tive and in­trigu­ing de­fence mar­kets in South­east Asia at the present time.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: US DoD

The Philip­pine Army has made a start on

en­hanc­ing its ar­tillery with an or­der for 155mm ar­tillery guns. There are plans to ac­quire more ar­tillery sys­tems, in­clud­ing Mul­ti­ple Launch Rock­ets Sys­tems (MLRS)

PHO­TO­GRAPHS: US DoD, PHILIP­PINE ARMY

Philip­pine Army and US Ma­rine Corps troops on a ri­fle range

Philip­pine Army pur­chased a de­vel­op­ment of the M113 in the shape of the Ar­moured In­fantry

Fight­ing Ve­hi­cle (AIFV)

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