Elbit to supply Sabrah light tanks to Philippine Army

The Southeast Asian country's military decided early this year to acquire the tank but the spread of COVID-19 has delayed the signing of the deal, a report says 

The Sabrah tank. Photo: Elbit 

Philippine blog MaxDefense reports that the country's military decided in early 2020 to purchase the Sabrah light tank produced by Israel's Elbit Systems. However, the spread of the coronavirus epidemic is said to be preventing the final signing of the agreement. The blog estimates that the value of the first shipment is about $30 million.

Elbit's competitors for the Philippine Army Light Tank tender were the Turkish-South Korean joint venture Hanwha-Otokar's K21-105 tracked light tank, the Arma 105 tank destroyer, and the Harimau medium tank produced by Indonesia's PT Pindad.

In its original proposal, Elbit Systems offered a version of the ASCOD 2 medium main battle tank (MMBT) and the Pandur II tank destroyer. Elbit used the same Oto Melara Hitfact 105mm tank turret found on the ASCOD 2 MMBT, but with the gun and subsystems from Elbit Systems. Elbit also incorporated the ASCOD turret into the Pandur II tank destroyer, all in order to meet the requirements of the Philippine Army acquisition project.

MaxDefense reported that at one point the Philippine Army preferred to award the project to Hanwha-Otokar, mainly because the venture offered not only the largest number of units relative to the price, but also assembly of some of the tanks in the Philippines. The blog said there were also various technical and regulatory reasons for the Army's preference.

Following this development, Elbit Systems revised its offer and proposed the new Sabrah light tank instead, abandoning the Hanwha-Otokar turret and developing a new turret with the assistance of the Merkava tank directorate and a South African turret manufacturer. The new light tank still uses ASCOD 2 and Pandur II as platforms, but now with a higher elevation arc and auto loading system compatible with those found on the K21-105, Amra 105 and Harimau MT. Although proving to the Philippine Army that a well-trained loader can load 6 rounds per minute and that a fourth crew member is more helpful and less dangerous than removing it in favor of an automatic loading system, Elbit decided to simply follow the Philippine Army requirement for 3 crew members, according to the report.

The blog noted that one of Elbit's main selling points, which apparently gave them the lead in the project, is the use of Elbit's C4 system, including the Battle Management System (BMS), and the Combat NG fire control and command system. These are already in service in the Philippine Army's upgraded M113A2 APCs, 155mm towed howitzers, ATMOS 155mm self-propelled howitzers, and in the M113 mortar-carrying APCs about to reach the Philippine Army. Elbit's recent winning of a contract, which Israel Defense reported this week, to supply E-Lynx software-based radios compatible with C4 systems installed in Sabrah light tanks is seen as increasing the likelihood of Elbit winning the light tank tender.

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