Friday, January 1, 2016

Philippine Military: The Long Path to Self-Reliance

This post gives an insight about the status of the Philippine Armed Forces despite the fact that mass modernization taking place.

BRP Rajah Humabon, a former WW2 destroyer escort.

The Philippine Armed Forces is now facing a renaissance within its organization. There are now many assets, both donated and brand new, and there is more to come. The Air Force received 12 FA-50s, 3 Airbus military C295, 2 NC212s, and others. The Navy as well received Two Hamilton Cutters with another one coming, 3 LCH from Australia, and there are more hulls expecting to come. For the Army, the 114 M113s from USA is indeed a big plus for its mechanized division which it gives much fire support for the troops on the field in the event of war.

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that the Philippine military is weak. There is no other way but to admit that reality. Before the two FA-50s arrive, it had been 10 years since Philippine Air Force operated a supersonic aircraft (and the previous aircraft was designed in the 1950s). Very little in the way of air defense capabilities. The Philippine navy has no anti-air and anti-submarine capabilities. No missile capabilities. Of the 14 major warships in the fleet that are capable of going into the open ocean and conducting extended duration patrols in the WPS, 9 of them are veterans of the Second World War.

Admitting that sad fact is a small victory in and of itself. A lot of the militarist fanboi types will insist that the Filipino solider is some kind of superhero, and quote MacArthur's infamous 10,000 Filipinos quote. But you can't expect even the best of soldiers to have a fighting chance without the tools needed to conduct such a fight.

So now what? Now that a typical Filipino citizen have admitted to ourselves that one's military is weak, what will one must do now?

The current modernization program is helping. But it's a start. Sad to say, it is now paying the price for 40-50 years of under investment in the armed forces and overdependence on their American allies. Because of that, Philippines aren't just starting from can be argued that the Philippines is starting from less than zero.

For the time being, acquisitions of both new and second hand defense materials are going to have to fill the gaps. It is the fastest way of filling those needs (and even then, thanks to the bureaucracy, bungling, and lack of urgency that is a slow process). But considering that the threat to sovereignty is right there, one cannot afford to wait the years or decades to fully develop a self-reliant capability.

And I say years to decades because some of the basic essentials for local design and production of the really hard core defense materials, such as aircraft and warships do not yet exist. In terms of aircraft, Philippines may have the capability to manufacture some parts and do aircraft repair. But to go to the point of aircraft research and development and production (particularly the production of aircraft engines, which is a difficult proposition for even the most technological advanced nations) will take many years and a huge monetary investment.

The same with warship production. While the Philippines claims to be the fourth largest shipbuilder in the world, the real story goes much deeper than the statistics. A lot of the largest shipyards are foreign owned entities. Few of their parent companies have warships in their production portfolio (Austal does, but it does its warship production in the US and Australia, not Cebu). While civilian vessels are essentially giant floating steel boxes, warships are more robustly built, with extra compartmentalization, protection over vital areas, like the engines, weapons systems, and command/control areas, and provision to integrate sensors, weapons, and command and control. The other thing to factor in when it comes to taking the step toward the country producing its own warships is the fact that much of the steel and propulsion systems needed by the shipyards has to be imported from........China. There isn't enough steel produced in the Philippines to meet the need, and there are no production facilities for ship engines.

That's why the SRDP roadmap is so important (link here).......and Adroth of the Philippine Defense Forum, who runs the site, is a huge proponent of that. The roadmap identifies needs, and points out where and what kinds of investment, both from government and private sectors, would be needed to get things going toward the path of self-reliance. But make not mistake about won't be easy, there are no easy answers, and it will take time......years to decades.

With Notes from Edrick Masangkay


  1. we have had national steel corporation as marcos envision a long term capability in steel production. . . but cory wasn't in it and subsequently ramos sold it, unknowing who was really behind to dump it. you can guess. that factory easily built its own large barges way back in the 70's while its real product was steel and not ships.

    1. Ah. I see. You are pointing to this steel company. Am I right?

  2. Self reliance is the secret to modernization, why buy second hand if we can produce first class outright but no political and military will. Some military commanders would rather buy second hand to siphon commissions and later on kickbacks for repairs. The Navy and the Air Force should be the priority in technology modernization. The Philippines does not have its own defense industry. In Singapore they buy ships from Germany and France because it allows Singapore to builds the same class(purchase with technology transfer) in fact Singapore manufactures their own missiles licensed by France. Why cant we do it here? Because no political will and someone up there will loose their commission. Set your priorities right from the star. We have an arms manufacturer that wanted to sell their weapons to the AFP, however one commander in the Navy stated to the owner we will but it, if you triple the price. Wow...guess what that firm now got the go signal to refurbish and supply firearms to the whole Vietnam Armed Forces but here no way if we wont get the commission.

  3. I think we can start in missile, I heard the sidewinder missiles that they put in FA/50 is just refurbished, acquired during marcos time for F5 and overhauled recently by Filipino company


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