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The Philippine Army Is Looking For New Armor

September 27, 2018

Via Wikimedia Commons.

New details have emerged about the Philippine Army’s (PA) own modernization efforts during this week’s ADAS arms show. In recent months, the medium-term plans of its sister services, the Philippine Navy (PN) and Air Force (PAF), were revealed but it’s now clear the ground forces have their own prerogatives. Foremost is a low-key tender for a “light tank” suited for the Philippines’ climate and geography. There’s also a tender accepting bids to supply wheeled APCs in bulk.

Unlike the PN’s eagerness for diesel-electric submarines, neither of the army’s vehicular acquisitions have been announced to the public. Yet exhibitors at ADAS 2018 were kept up to date on the requirements for both programs.

One company that’s confident about its prospects is South Korea’s Hanwha Defense International or Hanwha Defense Systems. Though much of its catalog is divided between precision weapons and C4I equipment, the company is now responsible for manufacturing the K21 infantry fighting vehicle and its derivatives. During ADAS 2018, however, a mockup of the K21 supporting a turret armed with a 105mm Cockerill gun was put on display. Hanwha’s representatives at the show even boasted it was already a contender in the PA’s light tank competition.

The K21-105 medium tank retains the hull of the original vehicle whose armor level makes it impervious to large caliber automatic weapons. Thick side skirts partially cover the tracks and these have a secondary purpose aside from stopping shaped charges. Each K21 is able to move across bodies of water using pontoons located underneath the sideskirts and a frontal trim vane protects the driver’s compartment from being submerged by currents. Another novel feature of the K21-105 is the troop compartment can be repurposed as a magazine for storing additional ammunition for the main gun.

Yet the competition for the PA’s next light tank does have a few hoops suppliers must jump through. Foremost is a gross weight requirement that doesn’t exceed 30 tons. Anything heavier is at risk when driving in local roads and terrain. The army also insists on rubber, rather than metal, tracks even if depots will need to be built where these are installed. The total order is modest too, with less than 50 units of light tanks meant for a single mechanized brigade. Details remain vague on timetables and trial dates, but the reality is less than a handful of models can vie for the contract.

A separate tender for a wheeled APC is also restricted to a narrow selection of manufacturers. The PA see little use for current-generation modular 8×8’s and want a specific model that augments their aging fleet of V-150’s and Simba armored cars. The new wheeled APC must be amphibious and have a 6×6 chassis. Unless the PA begin testing the Indonesian Anoa, which is manufactured by PT Pindad, or the Chinese WZ 551, their best options are from suppliers in NATO countries. These include the FNSS PARS, the Nurol Makina Ejder, and the Otokar Arma that are all from Turkey; the VAB from France; the TPz Fuchs from Germany; and the Pandur from Austria-Slovenia.

But since the PA have put their faith in South Korean vehicles, it’s no accident an amphibious 6×6 APC is also available from…Hanwha.

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