Elbit chosen to supply light tanks, wheeled APCs to Philippine Army, report says

The compatibility of the company's systems was cited as a major factor in the decision. The contracts are said to include nearly $200 million worth of Sabrah tanks and armored combat vehicles

The Sabrah light tank. Photo: Elbit

The Philippine website MaxDefense reports that the Israeli company Elbit Systems is the winner of two large tenders for the supply of light tanks and wheeled armored personnel carriers to the Philippine Army. According the website, the Israeli Ministry of Defense received the notice of award for these two tenders several months ago.

As part of the light tank contract, Elbit will supply 18 Sabrah ASCOD 2 tracked tanks, 10 Sabrah Pandur II 8x8 wheeled tanks, one ASCOD 2 armored command vehicle and one ASCOD 2 armored recovery vehicle worth approximately $196 million. All tanks are equipped with an Elbit turret with a 105mm gun, an E-LynX computer-based communication system and a Torch-X battle management system made by Elbit. The contract includes the supply of 105mm tank gun ammunition. In this tender, Elbit collaborated with General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS) and the Czech Excalibur Group, which supplied the ASCOD 2 and Pandur II 8X8 armored vehicles for the project.

The wheeled APC contract includes 28 IVECO Guarani 6x6 wheeled APCs worth about $47 million. All APCs have a manned turret with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher. In addition, the APCs are equipped with an E-LynX computer-based communication system and a Torch-X combat management system made by Elbit. In this contract, Elbit cooperated with the Italian company Iveco, which provided its wheeled APC for the project.

MaxDefense gave a detailed description of the reasons why Elbit was selected as the supplier of the products in question. According the website, the company's strongest point was the inclusion of battlefield management, command and control, fire control, and communication systems that are common and compatible, or to be compatible with existing and future networked systems that the army and the rest of the armed forces are introducing. Elbit's competitors for both projects were said to have been unable to offer subsystems that are compatible with what the armed forces will be using.

The installation of the Elbit Torch-X battlefield management system, the Combat NG command and control system, and the E-LynX software defined radios on the Sabrah ASCOD 2, Sabrah Pandur II, and Guarani vehicles are seen as allowing seamless networked connectivity to each other and to other units using the same systems. While Hanwha Defense did offer to install a Korean-made battlefield management system (BMS) in its light tank and wheeled APC for the tenders, the system does not work with the Israeli BMS and communications system already in use or ordered by the Army and the rest of the Philippine armed forces.

Another advantage for Elbit was the non-usage of Belgian-made turrets and guns due to ongoing restrictions by Belgium's Wallonia regional government on arms exports to the Philippines. Since Elbit's competitors for the Light Tank Project, Hanwha Defense-Otokar JV and PT Pindad, use the John Cockerill C3105 turret and 105mm guns made in Belgium, there was a possibility of delays or problems if one of those companies was awarded the light tank project. The Sabrah's turret was made by Elbit Systems with assistance from the Israel Defense Force's Ordnance Corps MANTAK (designer of the Merkava tank's turret), replacing an earlier proposal that used the Oto Melara Hitfact turret. The changes were made due to the requirement for an auto loading system, a better firing arc for the gun, and lower cost.

Other factors were also considered, including a lack of users of PT Pindad's Harimau tank, as well as the better overall performance by the selected systems, but the abovementioned reasons were said to be the main ones for the selection. 

Since the Philippine Army originally requested 144 light tanks and 114 wheeled APCs in its original proposal submitted in 2017, it remains to be seen if the Army will pursue the acquisition of 116 more light tanks and 86 more wheeled APCs under the 3rd phase of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program, which runs from 2023 to 2027.

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