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The Philippines Is Planning To Make Its Own Assault Rifles

October 5, 2018

President Duterte inspecting a CQ carbine from an arms package delivered by China in 2017. Via PCOO.

One of the minor revelations at last week’s ADAS 2018, which is the largest tri-service arms show in the Philippines, was the Government Arsenal’s plans for localized small arms and protective equipment manufacturing. This is being undertaken with assistance from South Korean partners. The two programs are among the lesser known joint ventures tucked inside the defense cooperation agreement between Manila and Seoul from late 2013.

The strong participation by South Korean exhibitors at ADAS 2018 is proof the Philippine military isn’t turning away from its favorite supplier. In fact, bigger transactions are in the works as manufacturing processes will be transferred to the Philippines little by little.

The standard issue firearm of the Philippine Army (PA) is the Remington R4 that was ordered in bulk during the Aquino administration from 2010 until 2016. But the PA’s elite Scout Rangers, as well as the navy’s own special forces and the marines, have a variety of older weapons such as the M16A2 and the M14 battle rifle. During the early 1980s a local manufacturer acquired the “ArmaLite” brand together with the tooling for the M16A1 and its shortened derivatives. Today at least a handful of Filipino gunmakers can assemble AR-pattern rifles from both imported and locally made parts.

The Government Arsenal (GA), on the other hand, was established more than a half century ago as a state-owned facility for refurbishing the weapons used by the armed forces and the constabulary. On its own the GA can make Colt 1911 handguns and its ammunition as well as bullets for .30 caliber machine guns, .50 caliber heavy machine guns, and the M16’s used by the armed forces. Maintaining an antiquated collection of howitzers, mortars, and recoilless rifles were also among its specialties. Its work has since grown after it was reorganized as the Government Arsenal Defense Industrial Estate (GADIE) in 2015 to allow deep collaboration with foreign companies.

The details of the GA’s joint venture with South Korean conglomerate S&T Motiv have long been inaccessible but the main thrust is for making AR-pattern assault rifles similar to the R4/M4 carbine. While the GA has decades of experience refurbishing M16’s and replacing its parts, it still can’t manufacture barrel assemblies to the correct standard. This is where S&T Motiv steps in with its expertise and tooling for a 5.56mm carbine. If there’s one fault in this joint venture, though, it’s the ambiguous timetable it’s supposed to follow.

At this point the GA can manufacture all of an AR-pattern rifle’s internal parts and even quad rails. What it can’t produce are the collapsible stock and the barrel assembly. Its input for the maintenance of the army’s 5.56mm squad automatic weapons is even less impressive, being limited to the rivets that hold the machine gun together. But aside from AR-pattern rifles, the GA’s other upcoming projects are for ballistic protection. This is another joint venture with a South Korean firm called Samyang Comtech to acquire manufacturing processes for tracked vehicle armor, wheeled vehicle armor, and personal body armor.

The need for locally made body armor–a standardized ballistic vest and Kevlar helmet–is very urgent in light of the military’s combat experience in Marawi. But none of these projects, for rifles, vehicle armor, and body armor, have a tangible outcome yet.

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