Monday, March 19, 2012

AFP ordered to boost deployment of rapid reaction forces

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of National Defense (DND) ordered the military to boost its capability to deploy rapid reaction forces since the mobility of troops has been affected by aging naval and air assets.

In a planning guidance to military officials, the DND said the rapid reaction forces would be used to address contingencies and to move troops on short notice.

“Due to the aging of PN (Philippine Navy) and PAF (Philippine Air Force) lift platforms, the mobility of our forces within the theater of operations is severely affected,” the DND said.

“There is a need to acquire a capability to rapidly move our forces that form part of the national maneuver force,” it added.

Armed Forces resource managers were ordered to collaborate in building a capability to deploy two joint rapid reaction forces to be located strategically in Luzon and Mindanao.

The DND planning guidance, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR, said the forces would address two major contingencies in any part of the country at the same time.

DND said each of the joint forces would consist of an infantry battalion capable of air mobile operations, a mechanized infantry battalion, a marine battalion capable of amphibious operations, a squadron of tactical helicopters, a squadron of close air support aircraft, a heavy airlift aircraft and a strategic sealift vessel.

“In order to establish this capability, joint combat maneuver and supporting forces should have the means to move (like airlift and sealift platforms) on short notice,” the planning guidance read.

The DND has directed military resource managers to acquire medium airlift capability for short haul flights and strategic sealift capability. It also ordered the military to improve its capability to move ground forces within the area of operations.

The limited state funds have hampered the military’s modernization efforts. 

Only about half of the patrol ships in the Navy’s inventory are operational and with an average age of more than 30 years old. Some of these vessels are more than 60 years old.
Almost half of the Navy’s transport vessels are non-operational while the operational small crafts are of an average age of about 21 years old.

Last year, the Navy acquired its first Hamilton-class vessel from the US Coast Guard to enhance its external defense capabilities. It also inaugurated the BRP Tagbanua, a landing craft utility that is 100 percent Filipino made.

On the other hand, a 2010 report by the Commission on Audit (COA) said the Air Force “virtually has a non-existent air deterrent capability” due to aging air assets. COA said as of 2010, only 91 of the 339 aircraft in the Air Force inventory are full mission-capable, 81 are inactive and the rest are for disposal.

Early this month, the Air Force inaugurated its four brand-new combat utility helicopters acquired from Polish company PZL Swidnik SA.

Four more combat utility helicopters are scheduled to arrive in November.

Alexis Romero | The Philippine Star | March 19, 2012 | Article Link