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The Philippine Army Is Buying Precision Artillery From Israel

October 9, 2018

An earlier variant of the ATMOS wheeled self-propelled howitzer. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Israel is poised to become one of the Philippine military’s largest suppliers in the coming years as new arms deals are signed between Manila and Tel Aviv. But these transactions are often unannounced and unacknowledged by the parties involved. At the ADAS 2018 arms show held from September 26 to 28 Israeli companies enjoyed unequaled floor space for their commodious booths.

Elbit Systems, for example, had a towering booth and then some. Behind it was an M113 APC armed with an M2 Browning on a remote weapon station, the same kind used in the Battle of Marawi, as not-so-subtle advertising. A 120mm CARDOM mortar was also left nearby for visitors to ogle.

After the Philippine Army (PA) received a dozen Soltam 155mm towed howitzers made by Elbit Systems in mid-2017 another order was placed for extra guns. These next deliveries are for the ATMOS self-propelled howitzer while a batch of CARDOM mortars are to be installed on five M113 APCs, converting these to self-propelled mortar carriers. The value of both orders hasn’t been revealed although they might represent just the initial arrivals in a longer acquisition process.

While it makes sense for a dozen self-propelled howitzers to be covered in a single contract, the PA are adopting just six units of the ATMOS. The complete weapon system combines a Soltam 155mm howitzer with a 6×6 truck that has an armored cab. One key takeaway from the ATMOS is the remarkable variety of munitions it can fire, including precision guided artillery rounds. The PA want to have artillery that reaches targets “painted” by forward observers with laser designators so their combat operations won’t result in collateral damage.

The same precision targeting is available to the five CARDOMs meant for the PA’s M113 APCs. Howitzers and mortars always have a significant role during large army operations against Muslim rebels and terrorists in Mindanao. As the Battle of Marawi exhausted the air force’s ordnance, the PA resorted to using 105mm howitzers in a direct fire role. When these couldn’t be brought deeper in the city soldiers resorted to using their underbarrel grenade launchers, 90mm M67 recoilless rifles, and newly acquired RPG-7’s at close ranges.

The PA haven’t announced when its newest artillery is arriving but it won’t be a surprise if more units are added next year. Having just 12 ATMOS self-propelled howitzers and maybe 10 or 20 CARDOMs is a significant upgrade compared to the PA’s antiquated collection of artillery pieces. But another acquisition the PA are quietly taking care of are platoon level direct fire weapons. This explains why, aside from ordering a large batch of RPG-7V rocket launchers from Russia last year, the PA sought additional launchers from Bulgaria and the Czech Republic as a hedge against US sanctions.

Together with the Chinese Type 69 rocket launchers it’s due to receive soon, the PA may have at least several hundred RPG’s by 2020.

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