‘Impressive:’ PH Navy flaunts first-ever missile system
ABOARD BRP DAVAO DEL SUR — After a successful missile test fire in August, the Philippine Navy on Wednesday showed off its new capabilities with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in the audience.
It was the first time the Defense chief witnessed the live-fire capability of the high-end weapons acquired earlier this year, which ushered the missile age in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The demonstration, held at the vicinity of Lamao Point, Bataan, follows the rounds of sea acceptance tests conducted last August. Aside from the two floating targets, the main target this time was the decommissioned BRP Dionisio Ojeda.
The Spike-Extended Range (ER) Missile Launching System and Mini Typhoon Machine Gun System were installed in three multipurpose attack craft (MPAC) of the Navy. Two Spike ER missiles were fired as it simulated an attack from armed hostile surface vessels, while the AW-109 naval helicopter fired its rockets.
Each round costs P10 million.
“Very impressive,” Lorenzana said in a press briefing on board BRP Davao del Sur after he saw firsthand the firing of the short-range missiles from Israel.
“Ako’y na-impress talaga walang nasayang na bala although the ammunition is quite expensive pero in the long run kung bibili ka naman murang bala at di tumatama, mas sayang ‘yun,” he told reporters.
The missiles, he said, are likely for territorial defense and deterrence. It is seen “good enough” to destroy small boats and armored vehicles, or inflict damage to small ships.
“This is just a deterrence to protect our territorial seas… Kung titignan natin sa mga kapitbahay natin, tayo na lang ang nahuhuli na talaga. The message here to the Filipino people is ang inyong Navy ay nag-iimpove na,” Lorenzana said.
“Para bang kung meron ka sa bahay mo to deter magnanakaw kailangan i-protect sarili mo, kahit ganun lang. At least deterrence. ‘Pag meron kang panglaban, they might think twice before getting inside to do something in your home. Ganun lang naman, deter others, stop them from doing things that have nothing to do with your area,” he added.
The Philippine military is one of the most poorly-armed in Asia despite facing several security threats.
“Before, we didn’t have a lot of resources. Now, the Americans had their bases here for the longest time until 1992 and they have provided us with a security umbrella so we’re secure,” Lorenzana said.
This was the very reason why the Philippine military neglected to improve its capabilities, he added.
“Nung umalis sila, we saw the need so it took us a lot of years like 1995 the AFP modernization program was crafted by during the term of Ramos… So ngayon lang tayo nag-i-improve talaga. naiwan na tayo ng ating mga kapitbahay,” he said.
Lorenzana also played down the timing of the live-fire testing, which coincided with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit in Manila.
He said President Rodrigo Duterte was originally supposed to witness the program months ago, but it had been delayed a few times.
“Finally nagkaroon na ng window, sabi niya ikaw na lang ang pumunta para sa akin. We could have done this before or after… There’s no purpose na ipakita yan. It’s a very modest capability, about 8-kilometer range,” he explained.
Asked where these weapons would be used, the Defense chief said this is likely to neutralize pirates in the Sulu Sea.
Ready for more ambitious projects
Flag-Officer-in-Command Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad said the new acquisition only means the Navy is “ready to embark on more ambitious projects.”
Upcoming big-ticket acquisitions such as frigates and corvettes would also be missile capable. More missile-firing MPACs are also needed.
“Based on our matrix, dapat magkaroon tayo ng 42 of these type of vessels (MPAC). Ngayon 9 pa lang. Three will be coming over next year with the same missile capability,” Empedrad said.
“Kung sabay-sabay gumalaw yan, when we are under siege, I think this will do harm to any threat whether internal or external,” he added.
But the Navy chief said they would only fire the missiles from the MPACs sparingly because of its expensive cost.
“Certainly, we will not use missile to destroy small banca na naka-aboard Abu Sayyaf, but we can use the 50 caliber… For the missile, we have a doctrine when to fire the missile because it’s P10 million worth. Alangan naman iputok namin sa isang bangka ang P10M na missile. Lugi tayo dyan.” /kga
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