The Philippine Army appears to be preparing to introduce mobile protected direct fire capabilities, often classified as “light tanks” or “assault guns” to its force. It has not had a “tank” since the M-41 Walker Bulldog in the 1950s.
Currently the closest it has had are the Scorpion CVRT and locally modified M113 APCs both with the same a low velocity 76 mm L23A1 gun turret. However, the Army recently announced it’s award of a US$196 million contract to Elbit Systems under its Light Tank Acquisition Project.
Under the contact Elbit will integrate its Sabra 105mm gun turret system on both eight ASCOD tracked and ten Pandur wheeled armoured vehicle chassis provided by General Dynamics European Systems.
The Sabra uses an automatic loader with a ready capacity of 12 rounds. The gun can fire standard NATO ammunition including HESH, HEAT and APFSDS anti-tank rounds. Details of the fire control system have not been revealed, however, it is anticipated to draw on Elbit’s line of advanced digital thermal sights and controls.
The Sabra has further been displayed with a roof mounted panoramic sight. It was also reported proposed with Elbit’s C4 system, including a Battle Management System (BMS), and the Combat NG fire control and command system both of which are already in service in the Philippine Army.
The mix of tracked and wheeled platforms suggest that the ASCOD versions may be employed with the Army’s M113 equipped units and the Pandurs with its wheeled IVECO Brazil Guarani armoured vehicle units. Indeed a second contract has also been provided to Elbit for an additional 28 of the later with a .50 remote weapons station under the Wheeled APC Acquisition Project. These Elbit contracts follow previous contracts to the company for adding it’s ORCWS to Army M113A2s.
The Light Tank Project as been on going since 2015 and has included consideration of candidates from Korean Hanwha, Belgium’s Cockrill, Turkey’s Otokar, Indonesia’s PT Pindad, and Elbit with GDELS.