Friday, August 24, 2012

U.S. think tank urges PH to protect maritime claims by improving coastal defense

A U.S.-based think tank has suggested the Philippines should look into the possibility of improving its coastal defense systems.

This is in line with the country's efforts to protect its maritime claims, the Philadephia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) said.

It said this should be done in the meantime that the country is waiting for deliveries of equipment that would improve the capabilities of its Air Force and Navy.

The think-tank raised the suggestion after noting Manila might not have enough funds to acquire potent weapons like the submarine which can deliver a devastating attack on intruders with little or no loss to itself.

"An alternative strategy would be for it to take advantage of its geographic location to the Spratly Islands and meet (an intruder's challenge) from an asymmetric angle," the think tank said in its website.

"Rather than directly confront strengths in air and naval warfare, the Philippines could pose a challenge with a strategy built around new technologies for coastal defense that would have lower long-term procurement and maintenance costs," it said.

These missiles include America’s RGM-84L Harpoon, RGM-109B Tomahawk, India’s BrahMos, and Russia’s P-800 Yakhont.

Denmark, Egypt, South Korea, and a small number of other countries have used RGM-84 anti-ship cruise missiles as part of their coastal defenses.

Vietnam recently ordered two batteries of P-800 missiles to protect its South China Sea claims.

FPRI stated four batteries of such anti-ship missiles mounted on wheeled or tracked vehicles and dispersed along Palawan’s long road network could satisfy the Philippines’ capability requirement to deliver the massed firepower necessary to penetrate any intruding fleet's shipboard defenses.

It added the weapon systems' mobility would reduce the possibility that they could suppress them with either air or ballistic missile strikes.

FPRI said the Russian P-800 missile is part of the K-300P Bastion-P coastal defense system.

A single battery’s standard configuration consists of four launchers, each with two P-800 missiles, two command-and-control trucks, a combat alert vehicle, and four transporter loaders.

Designed for rapid deployment, the battery can ready all eight missiles for launch in five minutes.

The American RGM-84L missile’s smaller size would allow each launcher to mount four missiles, as Denmark’s launchers were configured for its coastal defense batteries that operated from 1988–2003.

If organized like the K-300P system, each RGM-84L-equipped battery could launch 16 missiles in a single salvo, it said.

Although modern ships have improved air and surface search radars, their sensors have limited ability to peer ashore.

And while reconnaissance satellites may be able to find fixed installations and help target land-attack missiles against them, mobile targets are far tougher to locate, as Coalition forces discovered during their hunt for Iraqi Scud-B mobile ballistic missiles in 1991.

With ample jungle cover and good emissions discipline, Philippine coastal defense batteries could remain hidden from intruding forces, it said.

To counter these batteries, the latter would have to send aircraft, helicopters, or unmanned aerial systems deep into Philippine airspace over Palawan to pinpoint them, placing them at risk from land-based Philippine air defenses.

FPRI added coastal defense batteries would require over-the-horizon detection and tracking to provide targeting data for their missiles, and command-and-control coordination to enable a synchronized salvo launch from multiple batteries.

It said: "Ideally, the Philippines could acquire E-2C airborne early warning aircraft to meet both requirements. Given the over 350 kilometer detection range of its AN/APS-145 airborne surveillance radar, an E-2C patrolling over Palawan and well-defended by land-based air defenses on the island could scout for intruding ships anywhere in the Spratly Islands.

"But such an aircraft may prove too costly to acquire and maintain. And it would likely be based on Luzon where it would have better access to service infrastructure, but far from the Spratly Islands, lengthening its response time."

The think-tank added a more flexible alternative may be the MH-60R naval helicopter.

"Since the Philippine air force already has experience operating helicopters from the same S-70 family, it would not have to create a wholly new spares inventory or training program for aircrews, as an E-2C would require. In addition, the MH-60R’s AN/APS-147 airborne surveillance radar has a detection range of probably over 300 kms —- extending deep into the contested waters around the Spratly Islands -— and a substantially lower power output than other maritime radars, making it more difficult to detect," FPRI said.

Better still, four helicopters could be acquired at the cost of one E-2C.

With a fleet of six MH-60R helicopters, two could be forward deployed at Puerto Princesa, while the other four could remain at Sangley Point for repair or local duties.

Though the MH-60R platform may not have the full range of capabilities as the E-2C, they would not be tied to airfields and could be reinforced with the balance of the helicopter force should tensions escalate.

In the future, when unmanned aerial systems become more reliable and less costly, they may also play a role in maintaining persistent surveillance over the South China Sea, FPRI said.-Interaksyon (August 23, 2012 09:04PM)

No comments: