Facing a resurgent People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Philippines are relying on rearmament, closer defence relations, and international arbitration over existential disputes with the PRC. Will the former include submarines, and if so, could they be German-made?
In March 2016 President Benigno Aquino stated “We are a natural transit point into the Pacific and we are now studying whether or not we do need a submarine force.” Berlin already cooperates with Manila and during parliamentary hearings in September 2015 it was revealed that Philippines Navy Captain Vincent J. Sibala was undergoing submarine warfare training in Kiel, northern Germany.
A possible conventional hunter-killer submarine (SSK) for the Philippines could be the ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems ‘Type 212’ class, operated by the German and Italian Navies. It can operate in very shallow waters, no more than 17 metres (15 feet) in depth deep, and its armament includes torpedoes and missiles, and in the future could carry the Diehl BGT Defence IDAS (Interactive Defence and Attack System for Submarines) missile. With a range of some 10.7 nautical miles (20 kilometres), the IDAS can be employed against naval support helicopters, small and medium-sized ships, and coastal targets.
Japan, with its ‘Soryu’ class, also looms large as a potential supplier. Tokyo and Berlin are currently competing in Australia to win the contract to replace the Royal Australian Navy’s ‘Collins’ class SSKs. It must be stressed, however, that Manila has not confirmed the purchase of submarines, and cost may still be a major obstacle.
By Alex Calvo