By Manny Mogato, News 5 editor-at-large
OCTOBER 11, 2019 – South Korea is expected to deliver within a year two batteries of multi-launched rocket launchers system to boost the country’s ground forces territorial defense, an army spokesman said on Friday as the military continued to upgrade its capability to catch up with its Southeast Asian neighbors.
Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said the Philippine Army is also looking at a medium-range supersonic missile system, the ground forces’ first-ever missile technology after the Navy acquired last year a short-range ship-launched system to enhance its firepower against fast-moving boats used by pro-Islamic State militants in the south.
“The multiple rocket launcher systems are due any time,” Zagala said after the deal with South Korea was signed last year. “We’re getting about 20 units and the defense department is now looking into how the weapon systems will be transported to the country.”
The Philippine military is considered among the region’s weakest organizations as it lags behind in terms of missile and multi-launched rocket launchers system due to limited resources to fund its modernization program as well as its over reliance on the U.S. security umbrella for a long time to focus on its internal security threats.
Zagala said they have activated three new units in the army in preparation for its transition from a counter-insurgency force to a territorial defense, leaving the pacification campaign to law enforcement agencies, like the Philippine National Police. An aviation regiment, a multiple rocket launch system battery and a land-based missile system battery had been created at Fort Magsaysay to start training soldiers for new roles.
“What we are doing in the army is to anticipate these new developments, preparing our troops for the future,” Zagal said, adding the activation of the new units are designed to address current emerging and future threat scenarios.
He said two batteries consisting of six launchers each are expected to be delivered any time soon from South Korea while army planners are still discussing potential suppliers for its first land-based missile system. The BraHmos medium-range cruise missile has a range of more than 300 kilometers, capable of hitting man-made islands built by the Chinese in the disputed Spratly island.
“The acquisition of land-based missile system is still in the planning stage,” Zagala said. “The deal is a government-to-government procurement, there will be no public tender but we’re not ready to disclose more details until the contract is signed.”
The Army leadership believed it is better to create units now, train soldiers before actual acquisition of the weapons system. The Navy has started training sailors for sub-surface warfare as its planned to acquire electric-diesel submarines from France.
But an unnamed senior Army officer said discussions have started between the Philippines and India for the sale of medium-range BraHmos missile worth $2.75 million each. The 3,000-kg, 8-meter-long Mach 4 missile system was based on Russian technology and was developed by a joint venture between Russian and Indian companies.
Apart from point-defense systems, the Army is also creating a aviation regiment and planning to acquire a squadron of attack, transport and reconnaissance helicopters following the Navy’s acquisition of AW159 anti-submarine warfare helicopters, which are deployed aboard warships patrolling the disputed South China Sea.
The helicopters will also boost and hasten the Army’s anti-rebel campaign. It has been fighting for half-a-century Maoist-led guerrillas in poor but resource-rich areas, stunting economic growth. More than 40,000 people had died in the conflict, one of the longest running Communist insurgencies in Asia.
The government of President Rodrigo Duterte has allocated 25 billion pesos for military modernization un the 2020 national budget. Congress has passed in 2012 a 300-billion pesos, 15-year, three-phased plan to modernize the equipment and capabilities of the military in an effort to build a modest but credible defense and gain the respect of other nations in the region.
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