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Report: Israeli Company Will Supply Sabrah Light Tanks to Philippine Army

Sources said the AFP had already made the decision to acquire the tank earlier this year.
IMAGE Elbit Systems website
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The Armed Forces of the Philippines has reportedly selected an Israeli defense company to supply the Philippine Army with light tanks as part of the government’s military modernization program.

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A report in popular defense blog MaxDefense Philippines, citing sources from within the Philippine Army and the Department of National Defense (DND), said that the government will purchase the Sabrah light tank from Elbit Systems for the AFP’s Light Tank Acquisition Project (LTAP). The decision was reportedly made “in early 2020,” but final negotiations were delayed by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The report was picked up by the website Israel Defense, which said that the Elbit won over other competing suppliers, including the Turkish-South Korean joint venture Hanwha-Otokar's K21-105 tracked light tank, the Arma 105 tank destroyer, and the Harimau medium tank produced by Indonesia's PT Pindad. 

The value of the first allocation is estimated at P1.42 billion (about ($30 million). 

According to MaxDefense PH, which has been monitoring the AFP’s LTAP since at least 2015, Israel had originally offered “a derivative of the ASCOD (Medium Main Battle Tank) and Pandur II tank destroyer to the Philippine Army, to meet the requirements of the Light Tank Acquisition Project.”

But on October 6, Elbit Systems unveiled its Sabrah Light Tank family after “posiitive movements” on the project “pushed” Elbit to publicly announce the new product in its portfolio. 

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In addition, Elbit Systems repotedly made a commitment to “add something” in their offer to match those made by Hanwha and PT Pindad. MaxDefense said it does not have details of this add-on, but said it believes “it has something to do with tank and artillery ammunition.” 

Meanwhile, Israel Defense said that Elbit’s winning of a contract “to supply E-Lynx software-based radios compatible with C4 systems installed in Sabrah light tanks is seen as increasing the likelihood of Elbit winning the light tank tender.”

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Based on Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program, the LTAP plans to acquire 18 tracked and wheeled tanks, one armored command vehicle, and one armored recovery vehicle. The acquisition cost is about P9.48 billion, according to MaxDefense’s entry about the project dated November 2019.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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