January 27, 2017

Philippines may buy Russian subs and Thais buying Chinese

A gradual submarine arms buildup is continuing among Southeast Asian countries. Southeast Asian countries already owning submarines include Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. This buildup also marks strengthening preferences for China, away from the traditional US ally.

The main impetus seems to be China providing soft loans and projects in Southeast Asian countries along with provision of sophisticated weapons at low prices. Possible new Southeast Asian buyers of submarines include:

-  Thailand. Reuters, January 25, 2017, reports. “Thailand's military government has approved
    [US$380 million] to buy a [Yuan derived S26T] submarine from China...Thai officials said [on
    January 25, 2017]. Relations have been strengthening between China and America's oldest ally in
    Southeast Asia, particularly since ties with the United States cooled after [the US criticised
    Thailand’s] 2014 coup.”
    =  see the whole Reuters article, also
    =  see Submarine Matters March 25, 2015 article on new submarines for Thailand.


-  the Philippines. Update Philippines, January 26, 2017, reported: [Philippines Defense] Secretary
    Delfin Lorenzana said the country is now evaluating Russia’s offer to sell the Philippines some of
    its advanced diesel-electric submarines....[the Philippines is] determining whether Kilo submarines
    are]essential for the modernization needs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and whether the
    country can afford to acquire and maintain such an expensive weapons platform...Six Russian-
    made Kilo-class submarines are now being operated by Vietnam People’s Navy [just across the
    South China Sea from the Philippines]...The Armed Forces of the Philippines is expected to
    acquire its own...submarines under the AFP Modernization Program which is now entering the 2nd
    Horizon (2018-2022)..." See whole Update Philippines article

China is also well positioned to sell likely even cheaper Yuan derived S20 and S26 to anti-US President Duterte's Philippines.



Anonymous said...

From Nicky K.D Chaleunphone

Hi Pete,
Did you hear, looks like Russia is offering the Philippines, the improved Kilo class Submarine. What's your take on all this.

Evaluating DND Russian Offer of Diesel-Electric Submarines

DND evaluating Russian offer of diesel-electric submarines

DND evaluating Russian offer of diesel-electric submarines

Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete,
What's your take on the Philippines buying Submarines from Russia. I think for the Philippines, Russia is the safer option to China and that Russia can offer them the Project 636 Improved Kilo class SSK or the Amur class SSK. Though if China did offer submarines to the Philippines, I would think the Ming class SSK or the cheaper Yuan derived S20 and S26. Though in my opinion, I think the Project 636 Improved Kilo class SSK or the Amur class SSK would be a better option for the Philippines due to cost issues.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky

Towards the end of 2016 Duterte was saying the Philippines did not need heavy/expensive weapons because it had no country enemies {can't find a reference though). He said the Phils wanted to stay out of South China Sea tensions - that subs would be part of.

However the Philippine Navy may be floating a nationalist (and also career Navy) idea "the Philippines needs submarines to".

I'd say the Philippine Navy, and broader defense budget, would need to a sharp, perhaps unlikely, jump in funding to move from:

- a few patrol boats up to corvette size, and slightly upgrading 50 year old donated US Coastguard cutters

- to buying new high tech submarines. New frigates are already on the P Navy wishlist.

The crew and maintenance costs would be high. Also the Philippine Navy's level of technical knowledge using combat electronics, torpedos and missiles remains probably low. So a great deal of technical and language training in Russia (like Vietnam has done for its Kilo purchase) or China would be needed.

BUT if very low (upfront) priced Russian of Chinese subs are offered to Philippines as part of a broader alliance sweetener (for Base access to Philippines?) then submarines may happen within the next 10 years.

Russia seems only to have Kilos available, with 636s being the only model in production. Maybe also used Kilos. Russia has never build Amurs because it has been unable to develop the definitive AIP capability.

Yes for China? Upgraded Mings (as for Bangladesh), second hand Songs and new non-AIP developments (S20s and S26Ps). Cost is a highly political artform when dealing with a new customer.

Its early days yet. If the Philippines changed leadership back to the pro-American norm any Russo-Chinese sub projects might be quickly dropped.



Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete,
How likely is the Philippines going to get Submarines and what do you think the time frame will look like for them. if you had to place a bet, what would the odds be and how likely will the Philippines look at buying Improved Kilo class SSK

Anonymous said...

Submarines will be a long term project. It will take some years to get it delivered. By that time, the Philippines 1 term presidency will be changing hands. It will take many more years to get the crew trained on top and to set up the logistics. Will events wait that long, who knows?
Patrol boats and corvettes are much nearer term. The Philippines should take advantage of the proximity of its mainland and use shore based defensive systems to exert control over its EEZ. MTCR compliant 300km system will cover lots of water. Basing on the mainland also brings substantial political advantages as it is no longer just some rocks. Any long arm does need eyes so one cannot forget OTH radars or dual use mini sats.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Urgent defense stask of the Philippines is not to procure used submarine, but, is to repair damaged diplomatic relationship with USA. President Trump does not seem to be tolerant to rude insulting.


Peter Coates said...

Russian influence over the Philippines will increase, not only through soft infrastructue loans and cut price weapons but through an exchange of military officers. That is up and coming Philippine officers training in Russia and Russian officers training at taditionally politically powerful Philippine military academies.

See http://www.rappler.com/nation/159836-russia-philippines-military-agreement-submarines of Late January 2017 :

"...[Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin] Lorenzana said he is joinging Duterte in his scheduled to visit Russia. Lorenzana's priority is to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will allow exchanges between the 2 militaries so they could get to know each other.

"I'll accompany the president there. We hope to sign an MOU – a military to military agreement with the Russians – that will allow visitation of troops and perhaps ships coming here," he said.

"They could observe our exercises. We could also observe their exercises there. And exchanges of students in our schools," he continued.

Duterte had talked about possible military exercises between the Philippine and Russian militaries, similar to the annual Balikatan exercises with the US.

But Lorenzana said these kinds of huge exercises will require treaties.

"Maybe later on we could also go into joint exercises, but that will be in the future... It's not part of the MOU that will be signed [the] visiting forces to engage in massive exercises here in the country," he said. – Rappler.com"

Peter Coates said...


See my 27/1/17 5:20 PM

For what university or other entity are you asking?


Peter Coates said...

Hi KQN [at 28/1/17 11:06 AM]

Yes the Phil Navy would take at least 10 years, from Kilo order to independent Kilo operation, if it bought Russian. This is noting much more technicly advanced Vietname (running complex SAM electronics since late 1960s) has taken 8 years so far from Kilo request (2009) to last of 6 delivered (2017). There remains many Russian advisers at Cam Ranh Bay helping the Viet Submarine Service and many Viets training in Russia. For Sub Matters earliest Viet-Kilo article see

Always a chance Duterte may do a Marcos and rule by martial law or alter th Constitution to allow unlimited terms of office ("President For Life")


Peter Coates said...

Hi S [28/1/17 2:15 PM]

Unfortunately I think Russia and much more so China has the money and strategic power to replace the US in dominating the Philippines from now on.

However Philippine people power (democracy) may grow tired of Duterte's illegal killings and other decisions - with another peaceful revolution to unseat him.



Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete,
My take is that it will take 10 years to build up a submarine navy for the Philippines. from Contract to Independent Kilo Submarine operations, I suspect it will take them 10 years. That's why I think for the Philippines, an improved kilo class SSK would help them out but I think India should help train them.

Anonymous said...

Kilo-Class Submarines are the best in terms of affordability and excellent deterrent. This also a good strategy as China has it's own Kilo class sub and they are station on "Hainan Province" which one of the reason why china became very aggressive on its claim on the west Philippine Sea.

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