Friday, February 10, 2017

The Philippine Submarine Procurement Program

Running for decades, the Philippines and its military aims to procure diesel-powered submarines in which it is ideal for an archipelagic nation where such vessel serves as a deterrent to any nation which poses a naval threat in the country.

A Chang Bogo-class submarine of South Korea.
A diesel submarine can suffice Philippine Navy's needs.
Source: Naval Technology
Way back 2013, a submarine office was established by the Philippine Navy (PN) as part of the AFP Modernization Program which at that time is in its full throttle mode. It is known that the Submarine Procurement itself will be slated on the Second Horizon where it calls on the partial acquisition of around three submarines. These are expected to be commissioned in the Third Horizon, all based from the Philippine Navy Sail Plan 2028. Such Sail Plan can be change without notice upon the discretion of the Navy or the Department of National Defense (DND) so it is at best not to get high hopes with regards to such matters [Rappler]. 

With regards to the very discussion itself about the Submarine Procurements, several forums like the now-defunct Timawa, it's successor DefensePH and Philippine Defense Forces Forum (PDFF) have taken notice of the said ideal procurement that submarine choices and updates are being made. Speaking of updates, it was reported that the DND at first rejected Russian submarine offer (see more: Russian Weapons Options to the AFP) and eventually re-assessing them altogether with other shipbuilders specialized for submarines like France's DCNS, Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, SAAB Kockums of Sweden, and of course, South Korea's DSME and HHI which is also the one who won the frigate bid.

The following points that are about to be given out in this article is an insight of what the forums discussed about the procurement for all over the years plus the possible bidders of the submarine procurement program. This will be based on knowledge among defense sites rehashed together where years of discussion and series of articles will be up to one in the expense of the public who deserves an understandable viewpoint suited for their limited knowledge on the matter plus analysis given in the sense that any factors are to be considered such as the cost, quality, performance, combat records, reports and most of all, technicalities based on research plus articles that we can get upon where links will be provided here. This is to take note that this article have basis to take its stand.

A DCNS-produced submarine made in France like this one for Chile.
From Defense News
As early as the year 2005, a PDFF contributor started a thread with a defunct link to a NEDA pdf file where the so-called long term plan for the AFP was laid. Take note that it took place 12 years ago where the old AFP Modernization Program is in effect. Territorial defense procurements didn't took place until 5 to 7 years later in the former Aquino administration that such weaponry was being considered considering the increasing hegemony against China in the West Philippine Sea which escalated since the Scarborough Shoal incident in 2012. 
The recent procurement plans of the Philippine Navy. Take note that
it calls to procure 6 submarines. Via MaxDefense.
More unto this, it was also well known to a fact, based on DefensePH sources that such procurement program traces back to the former Estrada administration where the office during the time of then-Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado, they issued a press release that submarines are to be procured in 10 years time. Take note that 10 years after during the former Arroyo administration in the year 2010 that also in 10 years time through an AFP press release that submarines are to be procured. Hence, despite all of these announcements that simply doesn't come out of fruition, the armed forces' interest to have a submarine in its arsenal simply didn't wind away considering its significant importance to the Philippines as an archipelagic nation in the sense that naval deterrence is something potential adversaries needs to be considered before any plans of invading the Philippines. Speaking of interest in present tense, there are several movements regarding about such matter where assessment are just begun. Take note that a submarine office is already in place and a submarine division was just formed under the surface action force specified above. (See more: A PDF file about the Submarine Group; Capt. A Torres, PN)

Given the preferences and the historical information that was laid here, it is given that the Armed Forces really has its eyes on procuring submarine through the years where a step-by-step plans are started to have taken place. Moreover, what the Russian did at present pushes the Defense Department more to assess the submarines being offered by numerous interested submarine manufacturers that sees the potential to the Philippines as a potential customer that may improve their sales pitch upon bagging a contract. And these submarine builders will be assessed together with their products.


Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine
Submarine products can be accessed here.
An HDW-class submarine model of ThyssenKrupp Marine
at ADAS 2016 - Manila. From MaxDefense
ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) is a subdivision of a greater ThyssenKrupp Company whose specialty is more on engineering which is a hallmark of German ingenuity and integrity. Accordingly, this company set eyes on the Philippine Defense Market as the proof itself is being in ADAS 2016 in Manila where according to the source of the photo illustrated above that draft specifications, especially the present assessments given the Russian offer, is being given in TKMS among others. Accordingly, this company offers Meko-class corvettes and HDW Class 209/1400mod submarine.

Technical Data - HDW 209/1400mod
Length, Overall:   ~62 m
Pressure hull ø: ~6.2 m
Surface display: ~1,450 t
Height incl. sail: ~ 12.5 m
Weapon tubes:      8
Crew: 30

With regards to the technical data, the size of the submarine is deemed shorter and needs only around 30 crewmen where it may seem as an ideal for the Philippine archipelagic waters where it may already suffice the necessary patrol/deployments for the Philippine Navy. Moreover, German technology is deemed quality-based that such ingenuity is known for being durable where they get the reputation as having a quality-based product that also comes with a price (IOSB - German Engineering.PDF). However, given the uncertainty of what really the Defense Department's technical requirements entailing for its submarine program (which is still unavailable), let there be a benefit for a doubt with regards to the potential of the HDW class 209/1400mod to the Navy considering that the contract price as well as the required specifications that may be given in the near future will surely affect how the way TKMS plays the game of bagging a contract, assuming that the program is on full throttle.

Speaking of the design, the South Korean Chang-Bogo class submarines do derived from the Type 209 or HDW-209 as in this case. Considering the similarities of the design, it may give some probability that the South Koreans through the DSME will offer the same type of submarines with only the advantage with regards to cost considering the South Koreans having the cheaper labor than those with the Germans [link]. Considerably, the South Koreans improved the design of such submarines that they considered it their own that the Indonesians grabbed the offer [link]. Considerably, these submarines have seen service in several nations which includes Germany, South Korea and Indonesia which means that logistics will be less of an issue given the cases.

France's DCNS

Website:; Products can be accessed here.
Source: Pinterest
Understanding DCNS' potentiality on the deal in this procurement program predates way back three years ago last September 17 to 19, 2014 when then-President Aquino visits France and signs a defense agreement with President Francois Hollande [link]. In this case, it gives the DCNS a chance to get some hands on the deal where like the others, they are also after the contract as well as having the Philippines as a stable market for their products. Speaking of these, this 2014 article of The Diplomat about submarine procurement mentions the availability of SMX-23 submarines on a navy who wants an affordable force of 4-6 submarines such as the Philippine Navy. 
Link for the source here.
Accordingly, Global Security gives the point that aside from being a direct descendant of the Scorpene-class submarines, these so-called stealthy submarines offer agility as well as power suited for shallow waters or littoral kind of geography like the Philippine territorial waters or the West Philippine Sea. A bit smaller and having a fewer crew than the TKMS' HDW 209/1400mod, it may be seen as a smaller sub that the Philippine Navy is perhaps looking for. However, take note that a request of information is on its way to different submarine makers like DCNS and its direct rivals. Hence, it may determine the outcome of the procurement program through given parameters. In this case, a small submarine like the SMX-23 may give an edge for the Philippine Navy which the crew number as well as the size may suffice the needs. The only problem for this submarine is that the Andrasta is nothing more of a design concept where it may be an obstacle since the Armed Forces does not accept unproven designs. But then yet, the SMX-23 being based from the earlier Scorpene-class which are in service may suffice such requirements [link].

Sweden's SAAB Kockums
SAAB's A-26 Submarine. Source
Designated in Malmö Sweden, this shipyard produces Visby-class corvettes and Gotland-class submarines. With regards to the company itself, SAAB is aiming to get the Philippine market to sell its products like the Sea Giraffe where it may found itself on the Del Pilar-class Frigates or the JAS-39 Gripen which is the all-time favorite of the Philippine Air Force Pilots. SAAB provides wide range of products which includes submarines of any kind.
Those are:
 - Gotland-class submarine
 - A26 submarine

Considerably, SAAB produced submarines before catering the Swedish Navy as well as the Singaporean Navy. Those are:
 - Västergötland-class submarine
 - Södermanland-class submarine

Among the submarine products SAAB obtains, it will be ideal for us to assess the A-26 submarine considering that this stealth-featured submarine is the latest product they visualize as well as having various offers in several countries such as Norway and Australia alongside Sweden which it will replace their Götland-class submarines. [link][link][link]
The product in itself is still in design phase with full production coming in soon as the Swedish government and the two countries who are aforementioned with regards to submarine orders coming soon.
Performance of the A-26 submarine.
[Addendum: It can accommodate 26 personnel]
Source: SAAB; Naval-Technology
The size and tonnage of the A-26 is somewhat a bit similar or approximate to ThyssenKrupp's HDW 209 at around 62 meters and 1,400~1,800 tons. Even the number of personnel needed to get operate on board is at around 28 to 30. Given the circumstances, it is indeed a stiff one since these submarines simply have minor differences on its technical specifications that may influence the overall performance needed by the Philippine Navy in patrolling its underwater territories. The only advantage the HDW 209/1400 mod against the A-29 is that the former already have its design proven in operations among several navies of the world where it is one requirement the Defense Department considers when procuring any military equipment. But more unto that, given the technical specifications SAAB has to offer on A-29, it may seem a promising thing that a navy is looking for. 

Russian Ministry of Defense (via Rosoboronexport)
Products can be accessed here.
Amur-class submarine, one of the ships offered by Rosoboronexport.
Source: Sputnik
Rosoboronexport is a key Russian agency dealing on exporting and importing Russian weapons all in behalf of the Russian Government. It is known that the Russian Government offers various kinds of military weaponry to a certain country such as the Philippines where submarines such as these are now under assessment alongside different submarine producers mentioned in this article. [link]
Among the products or say, Russian military weaponry that is allowed to be exported by Rosoboronexport, there are two submarines offered by this agency to those who are interested to have it included the Philippines. 

These two submarines are the following:
- Amur 1650 Submarine [link]
- Kilo 636 variant Submarine [link]

These said submarines have different variables in terms of its technical specifications given the different "projects" or "classes" submarines belong which is just like between Russian manufacturers MiG and Sukhoi which produces aircrafts which also have a bit different in specifications but still compatible considering that these are upholding Russian military standards which are a bit different to the western ones. These are the following technical specifications of the said submarines offered by Rosoboronexport:

Amur 1650 Submarine Specifications [Source]
- Crew: 35 
- Days Submerged: 25 
- Number of Vertical Launch Systems: 10 
- Number of Weapons: 18 
- Torpedo Tubes: 6 
- Dimensions
  - Beam: 7.10 meter
  - Length: 67 meter
- Performance
  - Max Operating Depth: 300 meter
  - Max Range: 11,112 kilometer
- Speed
  - Top Speed Submerged: 21 knot (10.8 mps)
- Time
  - Mission Endurance: 45 day
  - Displacement Submerged: 1,765 ton

Kilo 636-class Submarine Specifications [Source]
- Crew: 52 
- Number of Weapons: 24 
- Torpedo Tubes: 6 
- Dimensions
  - Beam: 9.90 meter
  - Length: 74 meter
- Performance
  - Max Operating Depth: 300 meter
  - Max Range: 13,890 kilometer
  - Max Range Submerged: 400 nautical mile
- Speed
  - Top Speed Submerged: 20 knot (10.3 mps)
- Time
  - Mission Endurance: 45 day
- Weight
  - Displacement Submerged: 3,125 ton
  - Displacement Surfaced: 2,350 ton

Given the specifications, as well as the alleged Russian offer, one may say that it is a promising opportunity to grab on considering that both Amur and Kilo have sought service to several nations that have close ties with Russia like Vietnam. Moreover, the Kilo 636 variant have better tonnage and size over the other submarines aforementioned. The only problem in this case is that the Chinese also obtain such submarines in their arsenal especially the Kilo-class. Hence, it may be a problem where they may tapped its weaknesses assuming that the Philippines obtained them. The bright side though is that the Chinese obtain a different type of Kilo-class that albeit the same classes have little variations among the other. If speaking of that Russian offer, it may better be opted for them to offer the Amur-class submarines since it is all at par with the submarines the other nations offered as well as the Chinese not having such submarines of that class. In the end, it's up to the Russians what submarines will they offer in the case they suit best for the Philippine Navy that they can show the best one over their competitors.

South Korean Manufacturers - Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI)
DSME's website:
HHI's website:

These South Korean companies offer a wide range of offshore as well shipbuilding options. That is, from the Commercial ones to the Military or Naval types. The said companies both participated in the Philippine Frigate Acquisition Program where Hyundai bagged the contract. At present, the Letter of Credit for the said ships are on its way for HHI to commence designing the ships.

In the line of their submarines, it is known that the South Koreans obtain the Chang Bogo-class submarines which is one of their main combatants alongside Dokdo-class LHDs, King Sejong-class Destroyers and Incheon-class frigates in which the Philippine Navy ships will be based upon.

Considerably, the Chang Bogo-class submarines are based on the ThyssenKrupp HDW 209/1200 series in which it is a direct predecessor of the improved HDW 209/1400 which was also featured in this article. Moreover, based on the article made by Naval Technology, the submarine has a length of 56m, beam of 6.2m and a draft of 5.5m. The submerged displacement of the ship is 1,285t. The Chang Bogo Class submarine can complement 33 crew members. Accordingly, the submarines are armed with 14 SUT Mk.2 torpedoes that can be fired through its eight 533m torpedo tubes. Other than that, several Chang Bogo submarines like the SS Daeyong are capable to fire Harpoon Anti-ship missiles which further enhances its capability. Fitted with indigenous systems, this Korean-made German-designed submarine can compete with others considering that Indonesia also ordered several of these fishes from DSME. Accordingly, Hyundai through a 2013 Korean Herald News also produced improved Chang Bogo class for the Korean Navy though the help of ThyssenKrupp.
Chang Bogo-class submarine ordered by Indonesia, naming
KRI Nagapasa 403.

Submarine procurement plans as per Sail Plan 2028.
These submarines, as what this Philippine Navy Sail Plan have suggest plans to procure three units in Horizon 2 which will start by the year 2018 and have them delivered on the year 2020. Throughout the period, submarine facilities, various offices, various personnel training and advancement will be done assuming all of these things will be follow. Take note that such plans can be changed without prior notice considering that the whole Defense Department in the Philippines have prior experience in the so-called "sudden change" of plans such as the Maestrale-class frigates that in the last minute the plan to procure it was scrapped in favor of what is today brand new frigates from South Korea. Moreover, one may definitely argue that the Philippine Navy shall prioritize first the surface vessels such as Corvettes and Frigates before the submarines considering that a huge partition of the fleet consists of ships originated from World War 2. Apparently, these ships are slowly in the process of decommission which it will be replaced by newer vessels sooner or later such as the BRP IloIlo. Another issue is the budget allocation given on a specific project. It is known that the bidding system brings a curse on the whole procurement system, but the budget allocated in a project makes it much difficult considering that it may arouse several problems. Notable examples are the FA-50PH the Philippine Air Force have with Anti-air missiles a separate procurement. Another is the brand new frigates which is plagued with a capabilities shortage through "Fitted For But Not With" provisions that also be done through separate procurement. For the case of these submarines, it may be a problem to have a submarine without torpedoes or having maintenance issues where spares also need to get bid out or through negotiations via G2G, one may hope that such obstacles may be overcome or rather, thinking of having the best feasible output the DND or the AFP will bring which they may work out for it in due time.


The Philippine Navy through its sail plan projects the procurement of submarines in the near future as part of upgrading the whole armed forces through the AFP Modernization Program. Moreover, having a submarine will mean a minimum, credible deterrent force at sea that will augment the surface vessels Philippine Navy presently have and definitely will have in the future. Speaking of which it will bring effective control to its territorial seas safe of foreign intruders. But with these always comes with doubts and unexpected turn of events that it is not a surprise in every project given there is. Out of this program, only one thing is certain. That is, only time will tell about the nature of this program as to whether the way it will be materialize that is the best for the defense of all.


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