ASEAN Beat | Security | Southeast Asia

New Missile-Armed Attack Craft Puts Philippine Military Modernization Into Focus

The Philippine Navy looks to be moving forward with more integration of a new missile system into its capabilities.

Prashanth Parameswaran
New Missile-Armed Attack Craft Puts Philippine Military Modernization Into Focus

In this July 18, 2017 file photo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stands in front of the presidential seal during a ceremony with the Armed Forces of the Philippines at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines (AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File)

Credit: AP Photo

Last week, the Philippine Navy made an announcement surrounding the future integration of a new missile system into its capabilities. The announcement marked another signpost in this aspect of the Southeast Asian state’s military modernization under President Rodrigo Duterte.

As I have observed before in these pages, one of the major developments within Philippine military modernization that has continued under Duterte had been the finalization of procurement of Spike extended range missile systems from Israeli weapons weapon manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, to be installed on the PN’s multiple-purpose attack craft (MPACs). In addition to the fact that the missile system constituted a manifestation of growing Israel-Philippine defense collaboration that has taken place under Duterte, the system had also represented a milestone for the PN as it meant that it was equipped with its first-ever anti-surface missile capabilities.

The missile system first arrived in late April 2018, and it was gradually incorporated into the MPACs thereafter. For instance, in November 2018, a notable test was held where three MPACs, all fitted with the Spike-ER missile system, along with an AgustaWestland AW-109 attack helicopter participated in a scenario-based capability demonstration and live-firing.

Last week, this aspect of Philippine military modernization was in the headlines again with a new announcement made related to the Spike-ER missile system and the MPACs. A Philippine Navy official indicated that three more MPACs would be equipped with the Spike-ER surface-to-surface missiles next year.

The launchers for the Spike-EU surface-to-surface missiles will be installed in early 2020, Philippine Navy spokesperson Henry Quinto said in a phone interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA). Quinto did not disclose any more specifics about how the installation would be done. But he said that the installation would “be done in the Philippines like in the previous MPACs,” suggesting that the process would follow a series of tests as with prior instances as well, including a demonstration exercise.

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Assuming the installation happens as scheduled, there would then be a total of six Spike-ER armed platforms in the Philippine Navy. This would come as the Philippines continues to acquire more MPACs, as has been made clear by Philippine defense officials previously as well. There are currently a total of 12 MPACs in the PN, and PN chief Robert Empedrad had previously indicated that at least 12 more MPACs would be acquired within the so-called Third Horizon of Philippine military modernization, which lasts from 2023 out to 2028 as the Philippines continues to develop its capabilities in the coming years.