By Florante S. Solmerin | Jun. 23, 2013 at 12:01am
THE Philippine Army is planning to purchase a number of self-propelled 155mm artillery to bolster the country’s territorial defense capability, defense and military sources told Manila Standard Today.
The sources did not disclose how many guns are being considered, but Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes is pushing for the acquisition of a computerized autonomous truck-mounted 155mm artillery system produced by the Israeli defense contractor Soltam Systems.
The military already has 14 Soltam M-71 155mm towed howitzers, 12 M114A1 155mm towed howitzers and hundreds of 105mm howitzers, including 12 that were recently donated by the Italian government.
One source said the delivery of 12 more 155mm howitzers of unspecified make has been delayed and Coballes wants to junk the order and replace it with advanced wheeled howitzers made by Soltam.
The system is called Autonomous Truck Mounted System (ATMOS) 2000, a long range, fast moving, truck mounted howitzer with high firepower and mobility, rapid deployment, short response time, operable in all kinds of terrain.
The system is integrated with a fully computerized system, providing an automatic control, accurate navigation and target acquisition, the system is offered with various gun calibers, but the military is interested in the 39 calibre, or 155mm.
However, the source said the ATMOS 2000 will likely need the approval of the Department of National Defense because the cost of the system may surpass the P50-million cap given to the Armed Forces chief of staff.
Moreover, the source said the project may pose a “little problem” because the prime movers, or artillery tractors, of the 12 155mm guns that the defense department ordered three years ago from an unidentified overseas supplier gas already been delivered.
“I think there are at least 12 prime movers – those big military trucks you saw during one of the presentations made by the AFP – have already been delivered,” the source said.
“If are they going to scrap the purchase and delivery of the 12 cannons, what will they do with the prime movers that are already with the AFP?” he asked.
A second source confirmed said that six of the prime movers are with the Army while the other six are with the Marines.
When aslked to confirm the planned artillery purchase, Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. declined to confirm or deny the proposal.
“I am not at liberty to discuss the specifics of the AFP Modernization program much more the details and types of armaments to be acquired,” he said.
But a third source said Department of National Defense Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez left for Istael last week along with representatives from the different armed services to shop and possibly initiate purchase agreement with suppliers.
Among the items in the agenda is the possible acquisition of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) or multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) from Israel Military Industries Ltd. or Rafael Advance Defense Systems, the source said.
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