SHAH ALAM: I was in Manila last week to cover the second installment of Asian Defense and Security show. It was not a big show compared to other regional defense trade shows but its significant nonetheless as the Philippines has been quiet active in the procurement front in the last few years.
For the record, the Philippines have ordered and taken delivery of transport aircraft (3 C295s); light fighter jets (12 FA-50PHs, 2 delivered) and light helicopters (12 AW109Es) and patrol boats. They also received Excess Defense Articles from the US – Coast Guard cutters, M113 APCs and Hercules transport aircraft.
They have also ordered two AW159 Wildcat ASW helicopters and looking to sign two light frigates from South Korea.
There are also plans for a multi-role fighter aircraft by 2018 but it is not known whether this will actually be implemented due to changing priorities of the new administration.
The current Philippine administration under President Rodrigo Duterte – who took over in June – is signaling that they might be buying Russian and China made arms soon following criticisms of the country’s war on drugs which saw some 3,000 people killed so far.
Duterte had also stated that the armed forces should buy arms for counter-insurgency instead of shiny new fighter planes which are only good for flypasts only. Whether or not this will actually happen is beyond me, at this stage.
But enough of politics for now. So what’s the most interesting at the show? Honestly, it was the number of M16 or its derivatives that was in display. They were not from the arms maker but courtesy of the Philippine Armed Force and the National Police.
And although the Philippine is standardising to the Remington R4 Carbine, the Colt M4A1 Carbine and the HK416s remained the mainstay of the Special Forces. There is also also the Ferfrans M4 but I saw only one with the Philippine National Police Special Action Force unit.
The army, marines and air force Special Forces operators displayed only R4s, M4A1s and the HK416s apart from a number of .50 calibre rifles and sniper rifles.
Its also interesting to note that the Defence Department own ammo factory, the Government Arsenal, also manufactured copies of the M16s from carbines to sniper variant.
They also made a carbine chambered in 7.62mm x 37 cartridge for CQB operations, which they had produced since 2011. The case used is the M16 5.56mm x 45, which is shortened so the round can fit into a modified M4, also called Musang.
Apart from the Israelis, the South Koreans had the biggest country pavilion at the show. South Korean firms are supplying fighter jets, trucks, ambulances, APCS and soon, frigates to the Philippines so it was logical for them to expand their footprint in the country.
Thyssenkrup, one of the companies which designed the RMN’s Kedah class, displayed a model of the Meko Flex, a new derivative of the Meko A100. The model is an interesting reference point for us as RMN set out to build an improved version of the Kedah class.
The Meko Flex is equipped with two VLS launchers on both sides of the deck, behind the main guns.
According to a representative, the Meko Flex was a lot different from the Meko A100 design being manufactured for the Israeli Navy, which is among others are more heavily armed. the Meko Flex is no slouch either in the weapons department. The proposed weapons are the 76mm main gun, two VLS launchers, four SSMs, a RAM and two 30mm guns.
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