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5.56mm Squad Automatic Weapon (2021) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy (Marines)

The Philippine Navy has raised a requirement for the acquisition of new 5.56mm Squad Automatic Weapons (SAW) for the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC).

This was to address the shortage of SAWs in PMC service, and to improve the overall firepower delivery capability of individual Marine squads.

With this, the Philippine Navy, through its Bids and Awards Committee (BAC-2), invited manufacturers and suppliers of light machine guns to submit a bid for the 5.56mm Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) Acquisition Project (2021).

A trooper with a Negev SAW. Photo credits to Armada International.

Project Summary:

5.56mm Squad Automatic Weapons (2021) Acquisition Project:

Note: Edited as of 11 July 2022.

* End User: Philippine Navy (Philippine Marine Corps)

Quantity: 160 nos.

* Modernization Phase:
Philippine Navy GAA Acquisition for 2021

* Project ABC:

Acquisition Mode: Public Bidding

* Source of Funding: Philippine Navy GAA Funds for 2021

* SARO Release: SARO-BMB-D-0007029 worth Php200,000,000.00 (combined with another project) dated 16 August 2021, released 16 August 2021.

* Winning Proponent: System Defence (Turkey)

Product for Delivery: MRF56 light machine gun

* Contract Price: TBA

* Residual Difference (Savings): TBA

* First post by MaxDefense: 19 August 2021

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PMC556mmSAW2021Acquisition 

* Status: Pre-Bid Conference scheduled on 28 July 2021, SOBE on 11 August 2021, moved to 13 August 2021, and moved again to 24 August 2021. Project reportedly awarded to System Defence of Turkey as of July 2022.



The PMC has been using the Belgian-made FN Minimi as its standard 5.56mm SAW, but only less than 80 units received in 2003 as part of a joint acquisition with the Philippine Army, and many are either lost in combat, or are damaged and needs replacement.

The PMC currently uses the FN Herstal Minimi as its standard 5.56mm SAW. Photo credits to Government Arsenal.

Currently, typical Marine Squads are using the M60E3/E4 7.62mm machine guns, which are heavier than a 5.56mm SAW at more than 10.5 kilograms for the machine gun alone. In comparison, typical 5.56mm SAWs or even newer 7.62mm light machine guns weight less than 8.5 kilograms.

Providing a lighter SAW helps the automatic rifleman, as shaving a few kilos off the weight of his weapon allows for reasonable comfort and better movement.

The PMC's primary LMG is the M60E3 or M60E4 7.62mm machine guns, as seen here carried by PMC MARSOG personnel during the Battle of Marawi. Photo credits to original source.

With the PMC moving to change its Table of Organization for Marine Squads soon with the upcoming introduction of new weapons and equipment, it was decided that a new SAW are needed to equip future Marine Squads to replace or complement the existing FN Minimi.

Technical Requirements:

Based on the technical specifications provided by the Philippine Navy, the SAWs shall have the following:

Caliber: 5.56mm x 45mm NATO
Overall Length: between 800mm to 1,041.40mm
Overall Weight: between 6.0kg to 8.16kg
Barrel: 408.94mm (16.1 inches) to 533mm (21 inches), quick changeable
Design: air cooled
Bipod: foldable bipod, adjustable leg height

Receiver Assembly Material Composition: Machine steel
Rail Interface: MID STD 1913 or Picatinny rail
Operating System: Gas-Operated, Rotating Bolt
Maximum Range: 1,000 to 3,600 meters
Effective Range: 300 to 1,000 meters
Rate of Fire: 700 to 1,200 rounds per minute
Firing Mechanism: Striker Fired, Firing Pin
Muzzle Velocity: 850 to 1,000 meters per second
Feeding: capable of accepting STANAG M16 30-round magazine, or belt-fed with standard 200-rounds ammo box

Major Accessories:
* 4 x 30-round STANAG magazines per SAW
* 4 x 200-round ammunition box/magazine per SAW
* 1 x Reflex Optic Sight per SAW

Possible Options:

Since the procurement process is through public bidding, it is possible that several companies would be submitting their bids.

Machine gun manufacturers such as Israel Weapon Industries (IWI), S&T Motiv, Heckler & Koch, FN Herstal and ST Kinetics have local representatives in the country and are expected to participate.

They are expected to offer the IWI Negev NG5, the S&T Motiv K3, the H&K MG4, the FN Herstal Minimi or M239, and the Ultimax 100.

The Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard already operate the IWI Negev, with the Negev NG5 and NG7 being the standard SAW of the PNP Regional Mobile Battalions and Special Action Force, while the PCG has the Negev NG7 as ship-board machine gun and with the PCG's Special Operations Unit. Photo credits to Philstar.

While FN Herstal's Minimi is believed to have an advantage, being already in service with the PMC, it may not be the case. First of, the requirement is for a Gas-Operated, Rotating Bolt operating system. The FN Minimi / M249 uses Gas-Operated, Open Bolt operating system.

Then there's the issue of the Belgian Government still banning the sale of weapons, firearms, and related equipment to the Philippines. Among the reasons why the FN Minimi in PMC service may need replacement is also because of this. MaxDefense Philippines received documents from sources showing difficulties in obtaining parts for the FN Minimi SAW due to FN Herstal's non-commitment to supply them.

The latest variant of the FN Minimi, the Mk 3. Photo credits to Ricardo Torres @ Pinterest.

Also, the H&K MG4 may be out of the contention, as the requirement calls for a SAW that has a 3-burst semi automatic mode of firing. The MG4 only fires in automatic mode. The requirement also calls for a SAW capable of using a 30-round STANAG magazine, which the MG4 isn't capable of.

It remains to be seen if the S&T Motiv K3 can be fired in semi-automatic mode, as most online sources say it can only be fired in automatic full-burst mode. 

It also remains to be seen if the latest Ultimax 100, the Mk.8, can also be fired in semi-automatic, and available with 200-round magazine. Our parent page MaxDefense Philippines received info from one of its Singaporean community members that it does fire in semi-automatic mode.

This leaves the IWI Negev NG5 as the most viable option. The Negev NG5 meets all the physical dimensions, feeding system, mode of firing, and all other requirements.

The Negev NG5 can also be fitted with optics, with those from Israeli optics manufacturer Meprolight made specifically for IWI products like the Negev.

The IWI Negev NG5, this photo shows the SF model although it remains to be seen what variant IWI and its local representative Espineli Defense offered. Photo credits to Ricardo Torres @ Pinterest.

U P D A T E S:

18 August 2021:

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released the full funding for the 5.56mm Squad Automatic Weapon Acquisition Project (2021) of the Philippine Navy, although the funds released was based on the project ABC rather than on the winning bidder's offer.

The SARO-BMB-D-007029 worth Php200,000,000.00 was combined with another acquisition project for the Philippine Marine Corps, and was released on 16 August 2021.

Also, it appears that the Submission and Opening of Bid Envelopes (SOBE) will still push through on 24 August 2021, although we do not have information yet on  which companies submitted their bids.


11 July 2022:

Turkish defense page TurDef Global Defence News has reported that the Philippine Navy has signed a contract with Turkish arms manufacturer Systems Defence on 04 July 2022 in Ankara, Turkey for the supply of the MRF56 5.56x45mm NATO light machine gun.

The project involves 160 units, which is what was specified in the tender requirements, and is expected to be delivered in 2 months.

So far we are unable to determine the exact amount of the contract, but the selection of MRF56 is an interesting decision.

The System Defence MRF56 light machine gun. Photo credits to Ahmet Alemdar / Defence Turk.

System Defence is a very young arms manufacturer, established only in 2018. The MRF56 was also among those first displayed internationally during IDEF 2021 defense exhibition in Istanbul, Turkey.

The MFR56 uses an AR-15 lower receiver, and is fed from an M27 belt, similar to those used on the FN Minimi and IWI Negev, and can also use STANAG magazines.
Photo credits to TurDef Global Defence News page.

It weighs around 4.2kg empty, and 4.8kg loaded, which makes it far lighter than most Squad Automatic Weapons / Light Machineguns available in the market, and also has a quick change barrel feature.

Photo credits to System Defence.

PDR and its parent site MaxDefense Philippines will try to get more information about this development.

First edit and release: 20 August 2021
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines / Philippine Defense Resource

1 comment:

  1. You sure on the max range numbers? A 5.56 only has a max range of 1.2km +/- when fired at 45 degrees, no way it is going to hit 3km, it simply does not have the energy for it.


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