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M113 APC Firepower Upgrade of the Philippine Army

 
To further improve the capabilities of its existing mechanized assets, the Philippine Army has raised a plan a project to upgrade the firepower capabilities of its tracked armored vehicles.

The M113 APC Firepower Upgrade Project was then among those included in the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program. The goal was to gradually improve the firepower of its M113-based armored vehicles based on the limited budget provided to the service.

Among the goals of the M113 APC Firepower Upgrade project is to improve the firepower of the ACV-300 APC fleet by installing a 25mm gun and turret in liew of the existing 12.7mm open cupola mount. This allows the ACV-300 to be converted into an Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Photo taken from FNSS' website.

Overview:

The original plan was to improve the firepower capabilities of at least 32 units of its M113A2 tracked armored personnel carriers, selected from those that were not upgraded by other projects.

These 32 units will receive M134 Minigun 7.62 x 51mm gatling guns, which will be acquired from the US, and installed locally. In addition, all 32 vehicles will have protected armored canopy that can fit the barrel of the M134 Minigun, as well as improved communications equipment and other improvements.

The budget for this plan was Php288,000,000.00, which was small especially when compared to other projects. 

But lessons learned from the Battle of Marawi in 2017 made the Philippine Army rethink on its plan. It was found that 7.62mm machine gun rounds are ineffective against concrete walls, and even 12.7mm heavy machine gun rounds have the same effects.

Thus, a revised plan was made to instead use larger caliber guns, like the 25mm autocannon, which will be more powerful against concrete structures than the 12.7mm heavy machine gun, while also capable of destroying typical light armored vehicles.

Project Summary:

M113 APC Firepower Upgrade Project


Note: Edited as of 05 January 2021.

* End User: Philippine Army (Armor Division)

* Quantity: at least 6 units, potentially more.

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:
 Php288,000,000.00

* Acquisition Mode:
 Government-to-Government (G2G) deal between the Turkish and Philippine governments, through the Turkey-Philippines Defense Industry Cooperation Agreement.

* Source of Funding:
 GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund

* SARO Release:
 TBA

* Winning Proponent:
 FNSS Defence Systems (Turkey)

* Product for Delivery:
 BAE Systems-FNSS Sharpshooter 1-man turret, with still unconfirmed medium caliber autocannon.


* Contract Price:
 TBA

* First post by MaxDefense: 
22 September 2018

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag:
 #PAM113APCFirepowerUpgrade

* Status:
 Contract with FNSS Defence Systems was signed on August 2020, with deliveries, installation and integration expected to be completed by October 2021, and logistics support and training by December 2021.


Further Discussions (mostly taken from MaxDefense Philippines):

The Philippine Army's ACV-300 (ACV-15) tracked armored vehicles:

The Philippine Army currently has a small fleet of Turkish-made ACV-300 (now ACV-15) Advanced Armored Personnel Carrier (AAPC) acquired from Turkish company FNSS. 


These vehicles were acquired less than 10 years ago under the old AFP Modernization Program covered by RA 7898, and are considered to be the youngest armored vehicles in the Philippine Army, despite the procurement made before those assets acquired during the Horizon 1 phase.

Six (6) units were acquired from FNSS, are was supposed to be the first batch of a proposed new fleet of new tracked armored personnel carriers for the Philippine Army. While the performance of these vehicles were great, the Philippine Army realized that they are in need of hundreds of armored vehicles, yet their budget is only good for a few dozen.

Instead of purchasing more ACV-300s from FNSS, the Philippine Army decided to use the budget to acquire upgraded M113A2s (which were contracted to Elbit Systems Land & C4I), and to request the US government for used M113A2 tracked armored vehicles under the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program. Part of the funds for the new APCs were used for logistics, repair, and shipping 114 M113A2 armored vehicles from the US to the Philippines.




Some of the Philippine Army's ACV-300 tracked armored personnel carriers made by Turkey's FNSS. These are planned for conversion to Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Photo taken from old Timawa.net forum.

While the ACV-300 appear to be similar to the M113 series of tracked armored vehicles, it is in fact closer to the FMC Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle (AIFV), more commonly known as the YPR-765 after the Dutch examples, which has some minimal improvements over the M113 family, like additional armor, sloped rear section, and enclosed turret/main weapon. 

The PA MID ACV-300 tracked APCs are armed with an 12.7mm M2 heavy machine gun on an armored ACAV main mount. Aside from the six APCs, the PA MID also has 1 unit of Armored Recovery Vehicle acquired separately under an earlier deal.

A cross-section of the ACV-300 (now called ACV-15 by FNSS), in this case with the Sharpshooter turret armed with M242 Bushmaster 25mm gun. Photo taken from FNSS website.

Gun Calibre Options:

When the PA MID originally proposed the M113 APC Firepower Upgrade, the original plan was to install the M134D Minigun 7.62mm Galting gun to at least 32 units of M113A2 and ACV-300 tracked armored personnel carriers, with a proposed budget of Php288,000,000.00.

Prior to this, the Philippine Army actually requested for the procurement of at least 8 M134D gatling guns as an emergency procurement for installation on the M113 fleet, while the Battle of Marawi against Maute terrorists was happening. 

The Marawi campaign ended without getting approval for this emergency procurement plan. Instead of forgetting the plan, the MID decided to request for more M134s Miniguns and not settle for just 8 units.

The original plan was to acquire the M134D 7.62mm gatling gun and install them on at least 32 units of M113A2 armoured personnel carriers. The experiences from the Marawi crisis made military planners change their plans.

But changes were made by the MID's Procurement Board after the AFP released its collection of learnings from the Battle of Marawi in 2017, when the MID used several of its newest assets including the M113A2+ Infantry Fighting Vehicle armed with the 25mm gun mounted on an Elbit Systems UT25 unmanned turret. Among the learning made during the conflict was that the 12.7mm heavy machine gun as well as all other smaller gun calibres are practically ineffective in urban warfare, especially in penetrating concrete walls or structures that the enemy uses for protection.

This is the same for the M134D Minigun. While the rate of fire is impressive, the machine gun's munition cannot penetrate brick/block and concrete walls and structures.

One of the Philippine Army's older M113A1 armored personnel carriers tested with an M134 7.62mm Gatling gun. Results from these previous tests from several years ago were said to be not favorable, with the Philippine Army deciding to retain the standard M2 12.7mm heavy machine gun due to its greater range and power, as well as the M134's use of considerable amount of ammunition. Photo taken from old Timawa.net forum.

The Philippine Army also tested their newly acquired M113A2 IFVs armed with the 25mm guns on UT25 turret, and found them able to penetrate some, but not all concrete walls. But the difference with the 7.62mm and 12.7mm machine gun rounds is very apparent.

While the learnings lean more on going for a larger calibre gun than the 25mm, economies of scale kicks in since the Philippine Army does not have other quick-fire medium calibre guns in service aside from the 25mm (which are found on the AIFV, M113A2 IFV, and Simba IFV). While the 30mm calibre is desired, it was decided to stick to 25mm instead, although options to move to the 30mm round in the future will be made open.


Manned or Unmanned Turret Options:

Going for a 25mm gun means requiring for a turret mount to be used, instead of just an armored cupola. In this case, the Philippine Army has two (2) options: either going for an unmanned turret similar to the Elbit Systems UT25 turret installed on the M113A2 IFV, or it can go for an electrical-powered manned turret similar to the one installed on the AIFV YPR-765.


Based on proposals submitted to the Philippine Army TWG, the unmanned turret option is obviously more expensive than the manned turret, although the cost difference is not too far from each other despite the extra cost for the electronic weapon station to control the gun and turret.

But it appears that there were also learning from the Battle of Marawi campaign wherein pros and cons of both manned and unmanned turret were realized. MaxDefense will defer discussion of these learning for lack of authorisation to do so. But we can safely say that manned turrets have their own benefits over unmanned turrets, and that is among the reasons why the Philippine Army TWG decided to recommend the use of manned turrets.

Two AIFVs with manned turrets (top), and an M113A2 IFV with the UT25 unmanned turret (above) during military operations. Both options were considered for the M113 APC Firepower Upgrade project.
Credits to original source of both photos.

Manned Turrets:

With the decision to go for manned turrets, there are a few who are possible suppliers for such products. Among those expected to have submitted their proposals include Turkey's FNSS, being the manufacturer of the ACV-300 vehicles, and other companies who had experience working with the Philippine Army like Elbit Systems and IMI Systems, and and other newcomers like Italy's Oto Melara - Leonardo, Israel's Rafael Advance Systems, South Africa's Denel Vehicle Systems among others.

MaxDefense believes that FNSS and Elbit Systems, as well as IMI Systems (which is now part of Elbit Group of Companies) have the best chance of bagging the project. 


Currently FNSS is expected to offer the BAE Sharpshooter 1-man turret, which is currently the standard 25mm turret for the FNSS ACV-300/ACV-15 and ACV-19 armored vehicles. Meanwhile Elbit Systems may offer a derivative of the Elbit MT30 manned turret, which is similar to the UT25 unmanned turret used by the Philippine Army.



The BAE-FNSS Sharpshooter turret. Photos taken from FNSS' old website.

The Elbit Systems MT30 manned turret shares the same basic structure as the UT30 unmanned turret. Photo taken from Elbit's website.


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U P D A T E S:
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05 January 2021:

It was reported by German defense media outlet Monch Publishing Group, that an agreement was already reached between the Philippines' Department of National Defense and its Turkish counterpart to proceed with the M113 APC Firepower Upgrade, which appears to have been re-named as the "FNSS One-Man Turret" Acquisition Project.

The project falls part of the Turkey-Philippines Defense Industry Cooperation Agreement which have been signed with Turkey in 2019. This can be considered as a Government-to-Government (G2G) deal between both countries.

According to the report, FNSS would be the prime contractor, which will build the turrets in Turkey, and integrated to existing vehicles in the Philippines.

Upon checking with its sources, MaxDefense Philippines received confirmation that the contract between the DND and FNSS was indeed signed in August 2020, with the project's target is to have the turrets delivered, installed and integrated on the Philippine Army's fleet of ACV-300 tracked armored vehicles by October 2021, and complete the training and logistics support services included under the project by December 2021.

The turrets will be based on the BAE Systems Sharpshooter 1-man turret. For those wondering, BAE Systems is part owner of FNSS, and has allowed FNSS to produce the turrets under license.

It also remains to be seen if the Philippine Army will stick to 25mm autocannons, or will move up to a higher caliber like the 30mm autocannons that have become the new global standard due to its 30mm ammunition's more powerful penetrating capability than the smaller 25mm rounds.

The FNSS-BAE Systems Sharpshooter 1-man turret. Photo credits to Monch Publishing Group.

It remains to be seen on how the project was funded, considering the Proposed Program of Expenditures for Fiscal Year 2020 and 2021 submitted by the DND to the Senate, the M113 APC Firepower Upgrade Project, or any project related to this, was not among those included.

Previous DND documents indicated that the M113 APC Firepower Upgrade Project would be funded by the AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund with funding allocated from annual GAA provided by the government. It was planned to be a Multi-Year Contacting Authority (MYCA) for 2 years.

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First edit and release: 14 July 2019
Copyright Philippine Defense Resource / MaxDefense Philippines





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