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The US Will Not Help the Philippines Defend the Spratlys

US President Barack Obama conferring with Philippine President Benigno Aquino during Obama's visit to the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Getty Images
US President Barack Obama conferring with Philippine President Benigno Aquino during Obama’s visit to the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

President Barrack Obama’s visit to the Philippines last April 28-29, 2014 was very important because it more or less answered one of the most important questions in the minds of Filipinos right now which is, will the United States (US) help the Philippines retain its territories in the Spratly Islands? Sadly, the answer is a clear … NO. There are a couple of indications on why this is so, let me try to enumerate them one by one.

‘Historical Position’
Historically as early as 1975 the US had already outlined its position on the Spratlys Islands, specifically in a telegram sent by the then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet that was declassified in 2006.[1] In it, Kissinger outlined that they consider the ownership of the Spratlys as “undertermined” and that they take a “neutral” stance in the claims of various countries in terms of ownership. This means that the US does NOT recognize our ownership of territories in the Spratly Islands, this is because they say NONE of those territories were ceded over to them in the “Treaty of Paris” in 1898 when Spain surrendered some of their colonies (including the Philippines) to the US. So all the while we’re telling the Americans that those Spratly Islands are ours, they are saying back, “Oh no they’re not, nobody owns those yet.”
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Brahmos Missiles for the Philippines?

Brahmos missiles on open ground lauchers, showing good detail of the missile's physical characteristics. Photo courtesy of World News.
Brahmos missiles on open ground lauchers, showing good detail of the missile’s physical characteristics. Photo courtesy of World News.

Ever since China raised tensions in the West Philippine Sea by cordoning off Panatag Shoal in 2012,[1] there has been a LOT of talk about the Philippines acquiring the Brahmos missile for use against China’s naval fleet, with some of these talk even coming from some prominent politicians. Although the Department of National Defense (DND) never seem to seriously consider the Brahmos (at least not publicly), I thought it would be a “fun” blog to explore the merits and demerits of the missile as far as the Philippines using it.

‘The Brahmos’
The Brahmos is a supersonic Anti Ship Cruise Missile (AShCM) that could be launched from ships and land vehicles, with new versions under development that could be launched from aircraft and submarines. It is made by a company called “Brahmos Aerospace” which is a joint venture between the state institutions of India (Defence Research and Development Organisation or DRDO) and Russia (NPO Mashinostroeyenia). It first entered service with the Indian armed forces in 2005, and since then approximately 364 missiles have been produced, all used by India as the Brahmos has not yet been officially exported to any other country. The name “Brahmos” was derived from the main rivers of the two countries involved in the joint venture of its production, the “Brahmaputra” of India and the “Moskva” of Russia.
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A Bonanza of South Korean Warships?

The Ulsan-class Frigate FF-956 Kyong Buk. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The Ulsan-class Frigate FF-956 Kyong Buk. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

‘A Second Pohang?’
The Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said recently that the Pohang-class ship that will be donated to the Philippines by South Korea will arrive on October, 2014.[1] While reading around about the Incheon-class Frigate, I noticed that a new such Frigate, the “Gyeonggi” will also be commissioned on the same month.[2] Putting two and two together, it looks like the South Korean Navy (SKN) in this case will be making a straight swap, retiring a Pohang and commissioning in a new Incheon vessel at just about the same time.

The more interesting prospect though is the fact that the SKN also intends to commission another Incheon-class vessel, the “Jeonbuk”,[2] by December 2014. The big question is, will the SKN also retire another Pohang? No news yet from South Korea on this, but if so, what will happen to this ship? And more importantly, will the Philippines have a good chance of getting this vessel also? Right now we can only speculate, and time will tell if another Pohang will really be retired, and as to what its possible fate will be.
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Pohang-class Flight II Corvette for the Philippine Navy

The Pohang-class Corvette PCC 758 Geyongju. Photo courtesy of the Poder Naval website
The Pohang-class Corvette PCC 758 Geyongju. Photo courtesy of the Poder Naval website

The relative stillness of my late afternoon was jolted by the announcement that the South Korean government was going to donate a Pohang-class Corvette to the Philippines, and that it is going to arrive by the end of 2014.[1] There had been a couple of rumors about this since around 2011, but nothing official has come out of it … until now. The Philippines highly appreciates this “gift”, the Korean government said it is a token of appreciation for the sacrifices made by Filipino soldiers during the Korean War.

This donation came after we bought a dozen FA-50 Fighting Eagle Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT) and 8 Armored Amphibious Vehicles (AAVs) from South Korean defense companies,[2][3] and there’s also the issue of the upcoming bid for the 2 new Frigates where South Korean companies are involved. France sent a demonstration ship in the Prarial to help STX France’s bid using an upgraded version of the Floreal-class ship,[4] and this donation will also help foster a lot of good will between the Philippines and South Korea.
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First Year Blog Anniversary and the Future of the AFP Modernization

Photo courtesy of The Facey Family thru Flickr
Photo courtesy of The Facey Family thru Flickr

My “rhk111′s Military and Arms Page” blog celebrates its first year anniversary this month. I can’t exactly recall when I founded this site, and WordPress doesn’t have the tools to let me find out. Anyway, I first started blogging about military stuff again one after the other on my “rhk111′s Blogspot” site before finally spinning off this blog dedicated to military stuff and matters.

The biggest reason for me writing a lot again about military topics is because of President Benigno Aquino’s (or PNoy) decision to start buying brand new military hardware for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and buying a LOT of it. For the longest time under the 3 different administrations of Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo, we hardly bought any meaningful stuff. They were always saying, “… there’s no money … there’s no money … there’s no money …” And then PNoy comes along and makes a fool out of all of them by buying all of these stuff.
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New Frigate Bidding Candidate: Upgraded Floreal-class

A front view of the Prarial, a ship of the Floreal-class. Photo courtesy of the French Hong Kong Consulate website.
A front view of the Prarial, a ship of the Floreal-class. Photo courtesy of the French Hong Kong Consulate website.

We got a rare glimpse of what is being offered in the bidding for the Philippine Navy’s (PhN) new Frigates when the French ship Prarial made a 5-day stopover in Manila. The Captain of the ship, Frederic Daumas, revealed that one of the missions for the visit was to demonstrate the Prarial to Philippine officials as it turns out that an updated version of it is being offered as one of the candidates for the bidding.[1]

Spain’s Navantia and South Korea’s Daewoo actually also stated the ships they wanted to enter into the bidding earlier,[2][3] but they released their statements before the actual bidding itself and before they knew what the technical specifications for the ships were going to be. France is the first country to publicly declare the design of the ship they are offering after the start of the bidding, and is being represented in the bidding by STX France.[4]
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Philippine Arms Procurement Summary (1950-2014)

Benigno Aquino Jr., the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines
Benigno Aquino Jr., the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines

All these military equipment bought thus far or are planning to be bought by President Benigno Aquino Jr. got me into thinking as to how his Administration compares with the other past Presidents of the Philippines in terms of military arms procurement, and it just so happens that an excellent tool to do the comparison is available in the form of the Arms Procurement Database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).[1]

‘SIPRI Database’
SIPRI describes itself as “… an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.” This to me means that they are gathering these data in order to find ways to be able to push thru their agenda for arms control and disarmament. That’s not exactly very promising if you don’t favor total arms control or total disarmament, but nevertheless their database is the best available out there right now if you want to research about arms transfers per country. You won’t be able to find a database as comprehensive as what they have now that is available or open to the public.
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200,000 Page Views!!!

Photo courtesy of the Eurofighter Website
Photo courtesy of the Eurofighter Website

Wow, just February of this year I celebrated my 100,000th page views, and now 3 months later my “rhk111′s Military and Arms Page” blog hits another important milestone in celebrating its 200,000th page views. Thank you all very much for reading my blogs, I highly appreciate it. I will continue to blog for as long as I can, for as long as I have the same amount of free time I have now. Again, thanks to all!!!

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AIM-7 Sparrow Missiles for the FA-50?

An AIM-7 Sparrow Missile. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
An AIM-7 Sparrow Missile. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Shortly after the contract signing for the procurement of 12 FA-50 Fighting Eagles between the Philippines and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) last March (2014), the Department of National Defense (DND) thru its Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez announced plans to “upgrade” the FA-50s so these will have the capability to carry and fire Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles.[1] This came at a pleasant surprise for me as it means more capability for the FA-50s we are buying.

BVR missiles means the capability to engage targets at least 36 km or more.[2] Note that the FA-50s have NOT been qualified for the use of any BVR missiles, in fact the only air to air missiles the plane is currently qualified for are the AIM-9 Sidewinder Short Range Air to Air Missile (SRAAM) versions up to the “AIM-9M” version.[3] The FA-50s that other countries like Indonesia and Iraq have bought are only limited to the Sidewinder as far as I know, hence if this pushes thru we will have the most capable FA-50s in the world so far.
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I-Hawk or Hawk XXI SAMs for the Philippine Army?

A MIM-23 Hawk Missile Launcher with its Search and Tracking Radars. Photo courtesy of the Fortress Warbird Information Exchange Website
A MIM-23 Hawk Missile Launcher with its Search and Tracking Radars. Photo courtesy of the Fortress Warbird Information Exchange Website

A media news article recently said that the Department of National Defense (DND) was considering the purchase of an improved version of the Hawk Surface to Air Missile (SAM) for the Philippine Army (PhA).[1] The source was unnamed, so this probably was an informal “leak” to the Press. The news is actually a bit confusing as the budget cited for this of P 6.5 billion (USD 144.44 million at the exchange rate of USD 1 = P 45) for 12 units, or an estimated price of USD 12 million each is actually the same as the budget for the planned Shore Based Anti-Ship Missile (SB-AshM) procurement that the DND also revealed a couple of months ago (see my blog, “Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missiles for the Philippine Army“). So either the DND changed its mind to buy SAMs instead of AshMs, or that this is a parallel procurement with the AShMs.

‘The Hawk SAM’
The MIM-23 Hawk SAM is made by the American company “Raytheon” and first entered service with the United States Armed Forces in 1960. It is described as a medium-range SAM and has been quite successful commercially with over 40,000 missiles built over the years and has seen service in the armed forces of at least 22 countries. Credit Raytheon for coming up with an acronym that actually sort of work, as “H.A.W.K.” reportedly means “Homing All the Way Killer”. [2] The Hawk is a COMBAT PROVEN system having seen action in almost all of the major wars in the Middle East since the 1960s, and is credited with having shot down at least 74 aircraft throughout its combat career.[3] The respected defense publishing company Jane’s reportedly puts the I-Hawk’s single-shot kill probability at 85% based on its combat record, which (if true) is quite good.
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