Philippine Navy to Acquire Multi-Purpose Amphibian Aircraft under Horizon 2

As part of the Horizon 2 Priority Projects phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program, the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Philippine Navy (PN) has started the bidding process for the acquisition of one (1) Multi-Purpose Amphibian Aircraft.

The Approved Budget for Contract (ABC) for this project is at Php1,333,333,333.33 (US$24.69 million based on US$1=Php54), and bidders are expected to deliver the aircraft within 730 days (2 years) from signing of Contract and receiving the Notice to Proceed (NTP).

The end user for the aircraft is the PN’s Naval Air Group (NAG), which currently operates the Beechcraft C-90 King Air & Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander surveillance and utility aircraft, and Cessna 172 Skyhawk trainer aircraft, aside from helicopters.

The Viking Air DHC-6 Twin Otter Guardian 400, which MaxDefense believes is the basis of the technical specs of the project.
Photo taken from Viking Air website.


Based on the Bid Documents and Technical Specifications released by the DND for the project,  the aircraft can be considered as a brand new, Twin-Engine, multipurpose seaplane which is large enough to be capable of maritime surveillance, search & rescue, and Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC) and Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC).

The aircraft itself should have the following features:
– Twin Turbine Engined;
– Short Take-off and Landing (STOL) capable;
– With a cruising speed of at least 150 knots in full mission configuration;
– Payload of at least 1,500 kilograms in amphibian configuration;
– Endurance of at least 6 hours;
– Range of at least 900 nautical miles:
– Can take-off and land at Sea State 3 condition

For Maritime Surveillance, the aircraft is to be equipped with the following:

a. Electro-Optical / Infra-Red sensor – retractable to protect from sea landings, capable of multi-sensor imaging and lasing, and in high definition output.

b. Radar – Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) using X-Band Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology capable of surface, air, and weather surveillance, with a maximum range of 120
nautical miles, and weighs not more than 40 kilograms.

c. Fitted for but not with Tactical Data Link 16, and permit 2-way exchange of tactical data with other TDL-equipped AFP units.

d. Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) / Selective Identification Feature (SIF)

e. Bubble-type Windows on both sides – to allow eyeball observation, including suitable use of DSLR camera and digital handheld video cameras.

As a Utility or Passenger Aircraft, the aircraft should have the following:

a. 4 Stretchers for MEDEVAC missions;

b. Seats for at least 19 passengers excluding the pilots:

c. Detachable Static Line for Para jump operations.

The supplier is also required to provide Integrated Logistics Support (ILS), including spares for 1200 hours of operation (an equivalent of 3 years worth of flying hours), Support Equipment and Structures including the tools, ground support equipment, and even the aircraft’s hangar that can accommodate 3 aircraft of the same model at any given time, and conversion training for pilots and ground crew.

PAF Search & Rescue Seaplanes Version 2?

Based on the requirements for the Philippine Navy’s Multi-Purpose Amphibian Aircraft, it is almost exactly the same as the requirements made by the Philippine Air Force a few years ago for their proposed Search & Rescue (SAR) Seaplane, which was later on shelved due to funding diverted to other requirements of the PAF during the Horizon 1 phase of the RAFPMP.

Even the budget for this PN project, which is Php1,333,333,333.33, is exactly the same budget allocated by the PAF for each seaplane.

Dimension size, range and endurance, engine requirements, and other aircraft feature requirements are also almost if not exactly the same as the PAF’s. The radar and EO/IR sensor requirements are also almost the same.

Previosuly, MaxDefense posted a blog entry regarding the PAF’s Search and Rescue Seaplane acquisition project, which can be accessed on the link below:

Details and Analysis of the PAF’s Search and Rescue Seaplane Acquisition Project” – first posted on 16 November 2013.

You can see from the blog entry above and from the current requirements that there are not much differences from each other’s requirements, both for the platform/aircraft and the onboard equipment. And it seems that it’s also pointing to the same aircraft as before, which MaxDefense believes is the Viking Air DHC-6 Twin Otter Guardian 400.

There isn’t too many available amphibian aircraft in the market that fits the requirements provided by the PN’s technical specifications. Other minor features indicated in the specs, like a need for a lavatory, makes it more specifically pointed at the Twin Otter Guardian 400.

The Viking Air Twin Otter Guardian 400:

This is a special missions version of the standard DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 400 currently being manufactured by Viking Air of Canada.

The Twin Otter Guardian 400 without the amphibian floats.
Photo taken from Viking Air website.

It has all the bells and whistles that the Philippine Navy is looking for based on the aircraft specs it made publicly available.

The aircraft itself is powered by 2 turbine engines, has a surveillance range of 970 nautical miles (vs 900 nautical miles), and surveillance time on station of 7 hours (vs 6 hours).  And aside from having floats to make it amphibian, the landing gear can be configured also to use standard wheels.

It has a 19-passenger seating (meets requirements), a lavatory, and can be configured to carry up to 8 stretchers (vs 4 stretchers).

A typical cabin configuration of the Twin Otter Guardian 400 in martime surveillance mission profile.

It is equipped with a CarteNav AIMS-ISR Data Management System that controls and integrates the mission sensors, which includes the Selex Seaspray 500E AESA surface search radar, and a retractable EO/IR sensor using either the FLIR PolyTech UltraForce 350 or L3 Wescam MX-15HDi EO/IR sensor equipment. An Automatic Identification System (AIS) can also be installed as an option (required by PN), and several other features.

One of the Data Management System console aboard the Twin Otter Guardian 400.
Photo taken from Viking Air’s website.

The only problem we see here is the aircraft being from Canada, which could be an issue after what happened to the G2G deal between the DND and Canadian Commercial Corporation. The export license may be an issue, considering that the aircraft is military in nature although it is obviously not armed and cannot be used to kill people.

But if this pushes through without too much drama, this opens up the window again for defense acquisitions from Canada, although probably limited only to unarmed systems.

Impact on the Naval Air Group:

Once this aircraft comes into service, this would effectively become the Naval Air Group’s most capable maritime patrol aircraft, considering that the plan to upgrade their existing Beechcraft C-90 King Air fleet by installing surveillance equipment is has not moved beyond the planning stage yet as of this writing, while MaxDefense believes that there is only 1 of their BN-2 Islander aircraft that was upgraded with a limited maritime surveillance capability.

One of the 5 Beehcraft C-90 King Air of the Naval Air Group. MaxDefense have reasons to believe that if more of these birds can be provided by Japan, the NAG might convert some of them into ELINT platforms
Credits to owner of photo.

It would also lay the groundwork for the acquisition of more Amphibian Aircraft for the PN-NAG, considering that despite only 1 was requested in this Horizon 2 phase, originally the PN-NAG was requesting for at least 3 aircraft worth Php4 billion (still based on a budget of 1 aircraft for Php1.33 billion). The PN-NAG is targeting to have 6 aircraft by the end of Horizon 3 phase, which means up to 5 more will be acquired.

Together with the Beechcraft C-90, these will form the Philippine Navy’s Maritime Patrol Aircraft fleet covering short-medium range requirements of the AFP, while the Philippine Air Force will cover the long range requirement using their still pending Long Range Patrol Aircraft and their upcoming Hermes 900 unmanned aerial systems.

The disadvantage of these air assets are their lack of capability in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), as well as munitions delivery capability. It is expected that these assets will act as eyes and ears for the fleet, as well as part of the overall AFP C4ISTAR system interconnecting all AFP units into a more cohesive fighting force.

Procurement and Bidding:

The bid opening is currently scheduled on 16 October 2018, although this could change depending on request by potential bidders for time extension or further clarifications. But due to the requirements leading too much for a specific product, MaxDefense doesn’t expect a lot of drama coming out from this project.

Viking Air is apparently represented in the Philippines by Asian Aerospace Corporation (which requested for the bid documents based on PhilGEPS page of the project), although previously, Viking Air appears to have made their own representation during the PAF SAR Seaplane Acquisition Project.
With the project still in the pre-bidding stage, MaxDefense expects a lot of updates coming out in the next several weeks leading up to an award. Hopefully, the DND would at least release the Notice of Award to the lowest calculated bidder before the end of the year.


1. Multi-Purpose Amphibian Aircraft

End User: Philippine Navy (Naval Air Group)
Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP
ABC: 1,333,333,333.33
SARO Release: SARO-BMB-D-18-0013736, released 18 June 2018
Winning Proponent: still for bidding
Contract Price: N/A
First post by MaxDefense: 21 September 2018

Philippine Navy to Acquire Multi-Purpose Amphibian Aircraft under Horizon 2