Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Philippine assault boats upgraded with Spike-ER missiles, RCWS

The upgraded MPAC boats during PN's 124th founding anniversary. Photo c/o Philippine Navy.


The Philippine Navy (PN) displayed three of its newly upgraded assault boats, which are now armed with Spike-ER missiles and a new remote-controlled weapon station (RCWS).

Three of its Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC) Mk. 3, which were designed to accommodate the Typhoon MLS-ER missile launcher and Mini Typhoon RCWS from Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., were showcased during the Philippine Navy’s 124th founding anniversary on 20 May 2022.

The boats, with hull numbers BA-492, BA-493 and BA-494,  received their new weapon systems more than two years after they were inducted to service.

This brings the total number of missile-armed MPACs in Philippine Navy service to 6, serving with the Philippine Navy’s 3rd and 4th Boat Attack Divisions.

The MPAC Mk.3 were built for the Philippine Navy by Taiwanese shipbuilder Lung Teh Shipbuilding in cooperation with Filipino naval contractor Propmech Corporation, and is a modified interdiction version of earlier MPAC designs that were originally designed as troop-carrying fast assault crafts.

The weapon systems upgrade were done under the MPAC Combat Systems and Capability Upgrade of the Philippine Navy, which was contracted to Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd and involves the supply of the Spike-ER missiles, Typhoon MLS-ER missile launcher, Mini Typhoon RCWS, and other related equipment and services.

A separate contract was also awarded to Propmech Corporation to install the weapon systems, including installation of additional hull and superstructure armoring.

Philippine Navy 
[2] MaxDefense Philippines
[3] Philippine Defense Resource

Australia gets US approval to purchase 20 HIMARS rocket artillery system


A M142 HIMARS launcher of the US Army during Red Flag Alaska Exercises in 2020. Photo c/o US Air Force.

The US State Department has approved a potential Foreign Military Sales (US FMS) of HIMARS rocket artillery systems to Australia, with an estimated cost of US$385 million.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has sent the notification to the US Congress on the potential sale on 26 May 2022.

Among the items included in the proposed sale are 20 M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), 30 M30A2 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS), 30 Alternative Warhead Pods with Insensitive Munitions Propulsion Systems (IMPS); 30 M31A2 GMLRS Unitary (GMLRS-U) High Explosive Pods with IMPS; 30 XM403 Extended Range (ER)-GMLRS AW Pods; 30 EM404 ER GMLRS Unitary Pods; and 10 M57 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).  

Also included are Reduced Range Practice Rocket Pods (RRPRP); Vehicular Intercom System (AN/VIC-3) 3-Station; radio communication mounts; machine gun mounts; battle management system vehicle integration kits; wheel guards; ruggedized laptops; training equipment publications; spare and repair parts; support equipment; tools; test equipment; technical data; U.S. Government and Contractor support; technical and logistical support services; and other related elements of program and logistic support.

The principal contractors will be American companies Lockheed Martin and L3 Harris Corporation, and UK-based company Chelton Inc.

The HIMARS will provide the Australian Army will increased artillery capability beyond its current inventory of howitzers, with the HIMARS providing increased range and potential to use longer-ranged ballistic missiles.

The acquisition of a new, long range rocket artillery system is part of the Australian 2016 Defence White Paper and was confirmed in the Australian 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan.

US Defense Security Cooperation Agency
[2] Australian Defence Magazine
[3] Asia Pacific Defence Reporter

Monday, May 30, 2022

Cook Islands receive Guardian-class patrol boat from Australia


The Te Kukupa II. Photo c/o Austal.

Australian shipbuilder Austal Limited has delivered the 15th Guardian-class patrol boat to the Australian Department of Defence, which in turn was handed-over to the Cook Islands Government.

The boat, named Te Kukupa II, was handed over Commodore Ivan Ingham AM Royal Australian Navy to incoming Commanding Officer of the boat Tepaki Baxter, Cook Islands Police Force’s Maritime Wing.

The patrol boat was launched in January 2022, and is expected to arrive in Cook Islands by June 2022.

The donation of the patrol boat is part of the A$350 million SEA 3036-1 Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (PPB-R) Project under the  Australian Government’s Pacific Maritime Security Program which involves providing 21 Guardian-class patrol boats to Pacific island nations including Timor Leste.

The Te Kukupa II will be replacing an older Pacific-class patrol boat named Te Kukupa, which was donated by the Australian Government to the Cook Islands in 1989.

These boats would be used for border patrols and policing, search and rescue, and other missions to support of the recipient governments.

The project not only improves the maritime security capability of the said nations, but also allows the creating of 200 direct jobs and 200 indirect jobs within Australia.

The Guardian-class are steel-hulled monohull patrol boats that made extensive use of commercial off the shelf parts for easy maintenance. They have a length of 39.5 meters, a beam of 8 meters, and draft of 2.5 meters.

The boats are powered by two Caterpillar 3516C diesel engines allowing a speed of more than 20 knots, and a range of 3,000 nautical miles at 12 knots.

It has a crew of 23 men, and was designed to allow a naval gun of up to 30mm calibre, and for port and starboard side 12.7mm heavy machine guns.

The patrol boats – designed, constructed and sustained by Austal Australia – are based on a proven design platform that has included the 38 metre Bay-class, 56 metre Armidale-class and 58 metre Cape-class patrol boats that are in service with the Australian Border Force and Royal Australian Navy.

[2] Defence Connect

Philippine Hermes 900 UAV crashed while attempting to land

One of the PAF's Hermes 900 UAV. Photo c/o PAF.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) confirmed that one of its Hermes 900 medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV) has crashed while attempting to land on 28 May 2022.

The UAV was proceeding to land at the PAF’s Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City after completing functional check flight.

It was already starting decent when communications with the UAV was cut-off, and crashed in a vegetated area around 1.5 miles east of the air base.

According to the PAF, despite the considerable damage the UAV received, it was still recoverable and investigations will be made to determine the cause of the crash.

No casualties and damage to property on the ground were reported, and field service representatives from its manufacturer Elbit Systems has been called to assist in investigation and troubleshooting.

The PAF operates 3 Hermes 900 unmanned aerial systems (UAS), each with 3 Hermes 900 UAVs. They are operated by the 300th Air Intelligence and Security Wing, together with other UAVs including the Hermes 450 and ScanEagle 2.

 The Hermes 900 has an endurance of over 30 hours, and a maximum operating altitude of 30,000 feet, and can be loaded with sensors and surveillance equipment to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, and communications relay.

Previous reports also confirmed that PAF Hermes 900 UAVs are capable of carrying a maritime search and rescue package to assist in providing advanced assistance prior to arrival of rescue.

Philippine News Agency
[2] Inquirer
[3] GMA News

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Thailand officials receives RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial system from the US Navy


USN and RTN officials with RQ-21A Blackjack UAV during handovet ceremony. Photo c/o US INDOPACOM.

The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) officially received its first RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial system (UAS) from the US Navy on 24 May 2022.

A ceremony was held in Bangkok, with Commander US 7th Fleet Vice Admiral Karl Thomas presiding the hand-over.

The new RQ-21A Blackjack UAS will be joining the RTN’s 104 Air Squadron, Wing 1 of the Royal Thai Naval Air Division.

The RQ-21A Blackjack UAS was funded via the Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative (MSI) program of the US Government to provide the Royal Thai Navy with improved maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

Aside from maritime security missions, it can also be used for search and rescue operations, and drug and human trafficking interdiction by the RTN.

It will also advance the interoperability between the US and Royal Thai Navies.

The entire system consists of five RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), two ground stations, launch and recovery equipment, and in-residence training in the United Stats for the operators and maintenance crew.

The program also includes having technical advisers from the US to assist the Royal Thai Navy with the operations and maintenance of the system.

The RQ-21A Blackjack UAV has a range of 50 nautical miles, a speed of 60 nautical miles per hour, and an endurance of around 16 hours.

US Indo-Pacific Command
[2] Naval Today
[3] The US Embassy & Consulate in Thailand

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Australia orders 7 additional MQ-28A Ghost Bat loyal wingman UCAVs


The MQ-28A Ghost Bat. Photo c/o Mick Tsikas / AAP

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is scheduled to receive seven additional MQ-28A Ghost Bat “loyal wingman” unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV).

This is after the Australian Government has stepped-up its investment in the Loyal Wingman Program, investing an additional A$454 million (US$317 million) to support the joint venture between the RAAF and Boeing Defence Australia.

This will bring a total of 13 new MQ-28A Ghost Bats ordered for the RAAF, with the first one expected to be delivered to the RAAF by 2024.

The MQ-28A Ghost Bat is expected to bolster the RAAF’s air combat capability with the addition of uncrewed autonomous systems that team with existing air combat aircraft and conduct air combat, reconnaissance, and surveillance missions.

The Loyal Wingman Program between the RAAF and Boeing Defence Australia started in 2017 with an initial investment of more than A$150 million for six new MQ-28A Ghost Bat UCAVs, and is the first Australian designed and manufactured military combat aircraft in the last 50 years.

Components of the aircraft will be manufactured around Australia, with 70% of the components to be locally sourced from more than 80 companies, and will help generate significant job opportunities locally especially in the production facility in Toowoomba, Queensland.

The first MQ-28A prototype first took flight on February 2021, just two years and three months since the project started, while a second aircraft has joined the flight test program, and a third one being readied for flight testing later in 2022.

Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton MP said that the Loyal Wingman Program could offer potential benefits also for allies and partners in the region and around the world.

““By sharing technology and leveraging the expertise of our US partners, the MQ-28A aircraft will be interoperable with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region ensuring that our combined air combat forces are enhanced and stand ready to defend Australia and its national interests.”

Australia Liberal Party
[2] Shephard Media
[3] Australian Defence Magazine

Monday, May 9, 2022

Australia selects S-100 Camcopter for maritime UAS requirements


The S-100 Camcopter. Photo c/o RAN.

The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) has confirmed that it selected the Schiebel S-100 Camcopter to meet the initial phase of the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) requirements for a Maritime Unmanned Aerial System (MUAS).

British defense media outlet Janes reported that they received confirmation from the DoD’s spokesperson on 03 May 2022 regarding the selection.

Raytheon Australia and Schiebel Pacific offered the S-100 Camcopter for Block 1 of the A$1.3 billion (US$920 million), three-block MUAS Program under the Project SEA 129 Phase 5.

The S-100 Camcopter was one of the five shortlisted contenders, with the others being Northrop Grumman-Leonardo with the latter's AWHero, Insitu Pacific with their ScanEagle/Intergrator family,  Textron with the Aerosonde V4/HQ system, and BAE Systems with an undisclosed offer.

The selection of Raytheon Australia-Schiebel Pacific allows for the project to proceed to a single-source procurement evaluation of around 6 months, before an initial operating capability (IOC) process.

While there has been no confirmation on the total quantity to be acquired, unconfirmed media reports has pointed out to a potential initial procurement of 40 units.

The Schiebel S-100 Camcopter is a small-medium vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), designed to carry multiple payloads simultaneously for up to 6 hours. 

It can operate day and night, over land and sea, under adverse weather conditions, and has a range of 200 kilometers.

The Project SEA 129 Phase 5’s Block 1 is the first part that involves the acquisition of the MUAS, with Blocks 2 and 3 covering the rolling upgrades to incorporate new technology and keep up with its expected life service of around 30 years.

[2] Australian Aviation

Friday, May 6, 2022

Philippines select Hyundai Heavy Industries to build 6 new offshore patrol vessels


The HDP-150 Neo OPV design from HHI. Photo c/o HHI.

The Philippine Navy (PN) has recommended the awarding of a contract to build 6 new Offshore Patrol Vessels to South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), beating several offers from Turkish, Japanese, Indian, and other Asian and European shipbuilders.

This was announced on 05 May 2022 by Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during interview by local press about the status of the Philippine Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessel Acquisition Project.

Sec. Lorenzana said that the PN’s Technical Working Group (TWG) for the project has selected HHI’s offer to take advantage of having a common system with its current and future major warships, and ease of maintenance and repair.

He also said that the Department of National Defense (DND) would try to have a contract signed with HHI by June 2022, before the current administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ends.

HHI built the PN’s 2 existing Jose Rizal-class frigates, currently its most capable warships, and is also building 2 new corvettes that are scheduled for delivery starting 2024.

HHI also has an recently-signed agreement with the Philippine Navy to provide Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) servicing for the Jose Rizal-class frigates.

The PN is expected to have the same MRO agreement to cover its new corvettes, and may take advantage of its decision to have HHI build the 6 new OPVs and have them covered with the same MRO agreement.

According to Philippine defense page MaxDefense Philippines, the South Korean shipbuilder offered their HDP-1500 NEO OPV design, which was displayed during the ADAS 2022 defense exhibition held in April 2022 in Manila.

The HDP-1500 NEO in its current form is 81 meters long, 13.1 meters wide, and has a displacement of around 1,700 tons. 

It would be powered by two marine diesel engines allowing a maximum speed of 21 knots, and a  maximum range of 5,500 nautical miles at cruising speed.

The ships are expected to be armed with a 76mm naval gun, two 30mm autocannons in remote controlled weapon stations (RCWS), and at least four 12.7mm heavy machine guns. It will also have allowance for potential installation of two twin anti-ship missile launchers, two triple torpedo launchers, and a short range air defense system.

The PN’s Offshore Patrol Vessel Acquisition Project was originally planned to be awarded to Australian shipbuilder Austal, which offered a design based on the Evolved Cape-class patrol boats, and were planned to be built in Austal’s shipyard in Cebu, Philippines.

But delays on the project has not allowed Austal to keep its original offer, and the Philippine Government has not compromised to allow the cost increases due to inability to release more funds at a very short notice.

This pushed to the DND and PN to reopen negotiations with other shipbuilders, with HHI and Turkey’s ASFAT believed to have been shortlisted.

Philippine News Agency
[2] MaxDefense Philippines
[3] Philippine Defense Resource

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Australia decommissions Armidale-class patrol boat HMAS Maitland

The HMAS Maitland (ACPB-88). Photo c/o RAN.

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has recently decommissioned one of its Armidale-class patrol boat, the HMAS Maitland (ACPB-88) after 16 years of service.

The patrol boat was retired during ceremonies at HMAS Coonawarra in Darwin, Western Australia on 28 April 2022.

The RAN Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan has recognized the service of both the patrol boat and the boat’s crew’s contribution to protect the country’s borders and offshore maritime interests.

The HMAS Maitland was commissioned on 29 September 2006 and is the sixth ship of the Armidale-class patrol boats, and is the third ship of the class to be decommissioned from service.

It was named after the City of Maitland in New South Wales, and the World War II naval training center located in Newcastle, New South Wales.

There are still 11 Armidale-class patrol boats in service with the RAN, but all will be temporarily replaced by the Enhanced Cape-class patrol boat until their eventual replacement, the Arufara-class offshore patrol vessel, enters service a few years later.