“Sea denial” vs “Sea Control”

Thanks to a position paper published by Congressman Roilo Golez, the term “area denial” has entered mainstream Philippine social media discussions about tensions with China and territorial threats in the West Philippine Sea. But what exactly is “Sea Denial”? To fully appreciate that mission, one must also understand the super-set mission: “Sea Control”.

The following quotations provide an easy-to-follow layman’s guide to understanding these two concepts.

From an online excerpt of the book The Influence of Sea Power on History: 1600-1783, Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1896 by Mahan, A. T. comes the following concise distinction between control and denial

Sea denial. Sea denial, or commerce-destroying, provides a means for harrying and tiring an enemy. It may be a means to avoid losing a war. It may cause “great individual injury and discontent”. But by itself, a sea denial strategy is not a war-winning one. Nor is it a particularly deterring strategy.

Sea Control. Sea control means, fundamentally, the ability to carry your, and your allies’, commerce across the seas and to provide the means to project force upon a hostile, distant shore. A sea controller must limit the sea denial capabilities of the enemy. To quote the Prophet again, “… when a question arises of control over distant regions, … it must ultimately be decided by naval power, …, which represents the communications that form so prominent a feature in all strategy.”

Between the two strategies, sea denial remains the lowest hanging fruit. Expensive capital ships are principal means of exercising Sea Control and is therefore often beyond the resources of most maritime nations. Even China initially started with this strategy as related by Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at ANU. The paper not only points out China’s approach, but affirms the limitations of this strategy as explained above by Mahan

The Chinese have long understood that America’s sea control in the western Pacific has been the military foundation of its strategic primacy in Asia, and that the US Navy’s carriers are the key. They have therefore focused the formidable expansion of their naval and air forces over the past 20 years on trying to deprive the US of sea control by developing their capacity to sink American carriers. In this they appear to have been strikingly successful, to the point that US military leaders now acknowledge that their sea control in the western Pacific is slipping away.

But for China, depriving America of sea control is not the same as acquiring it themselves. Its naval strategy has focused on the much more limited aim that strategists call ”sea denial”: the ability to attack an adversary’s ships without being able to stop them attacking yours. These days, sea denial can be achieved without putting ships to sea, because land-based aircraft, long-range missiles and submarines can sink ships much more cost-effectively than other ships can. This is what China has done.

< Edited >

The central fact of modern naval warfare – which the Chinese grasp as well as anyone – is that sea denial is relatively easy to achieve, but control is extremely hard. We seem to be entering an era in which many countries can achieve sea denial where it matters to them most, but none can achieve sea control against any serious adversary.

The key take away from White’s thesis is the multi-dimensional nature of the strategy. To enable its own sea denial capability, the AFP needs to make investments in the airborne, maritime, and land-based systems listed above. The Philippine Navy currently has an ongoing acquisition project for brand new Frigates with explicit, albeit limited, Anti-Air, Anti-Surface, and Anti-Submarine Warfare capability. The Philippine Army is moving ahead with studies to acquire land-based Anti-Ship Missile systems. The Philippine Air Force is pursuing a variety of patrol and surface attack aircraft projects. All these efforts, as of writing, remain works-in-progress and their successful and timely completion is hardly assured.

While it is very unlikely that the Philippines will ever be able to make significant headway into sea control on its own, a sea-denial build-up will still put it in a better position to keep cadence with its allies. A coalition of countries with individual sea denial capabilities can approach sea control capability more effectively together than they could alone. A concerted effort to deploy sea-control-compatible assets, would also demonstrate the Philippines’ willingness to participate in an allied effort at sea control and establish its status as a reliable partner in such an allied effort, even if such assets can only maintain a tenuous presence in our EEZ when viewed in isolation.

To comment or discuss this article, see the following thread on the main forum: Sea Control vs Sea Denial.

Duterte rants: Foul language matters, but in more ways than most think

Duterte is crass and foul mouthed. Both of which are counter-productive for a high-profile position where diplomacy is part of the job description. We saw yet another example of that in his “Hitler” speech. This is currently being discussed on the main DRP forum here.

Euphemisms, expressions and statements that fall under the category of “inside jokes” do not translate well — even beyond domestic regional divides. If even non-Visayans have difficulty making contextual, rather than literal, interpretations of his speeches . . . what hope will a foreigner ever have. This adds avoidable, inexcusably unnecessary, complexity to our foreign relations. Even among our traditional allies who are — theoretically — more accustomed to our cultural idiosyncracies and our history.

In the speeches this month, even Duterte conceded to the issues his language is causing and has started to simply inaudibly mouthing his favorite expression rather than actually verbalizing it. Tacit acceptance that the prevailing state of affairs is, inherently, disadvantageous to the nation as a whole, and his administration in particular.

His demeanor creates problems that didn’t have to be there in a first place. Less unnecessary, extraneous, talk . . . less mistake. Only time will tell the extent to which Duterte FINALLY learns that lesson.

As inexcusable as the Hitler frackas is, there is a method to this madness. In fact, there is even a benefit to appearing mad. Let that sink for a bit . . . then continue reading.

This foul-mouthed persona fits in with a much broader narrative that fits his trademark approach to law enforcement — which remains his flagship initiative: Deterrence and fear management..

Duterte is a career government executive who knows how to motivate the population under his care. He is well acquainted with the tools at his disposal . . . to include fear, which he regularly wielded to deter criminals or implement behavioral adjustment when he was a mayor.

The power of fear greatly greatly benefits from uncertainty about the extent to which the President is willing to go against the enemies of the state. If one keeps this in mind . . . the rationale for his ill-chosen Hitler hyperbole becomes clear. Same goes for his threats to “kill” that he made throughout his campaign and even to this day. It is his intent to the be the drug lord’s worst nightmare, and what nightmare is scarier than Hitler?

Sounding like a mad-man, which a fair number of folks have actually come to believe, lends credibility to his threats.

What folks appear to be missing . . . is that it is actually WORKING. This is evidenced by the sheer number of individuals who’ve actually flooded the existing drug rehabilitation centers.


This is Psychological Operations at its finest. Any student of martial affairs ought to be familiar the following quote from Sun Tzu

“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

If you can get your enemies, and those that would threaten your way of life, to abandon armed conflict peacefully — through a combination of incentives and the FEAR of consequences — then what responsible leader would not try?


Level-headed critics of the President’s methods rightly point out the need for checks and balances. Skeptical critics allege that the President’s threats and antics are evidence that the need for those checks are lost on the President.

It would do the latter category of critic well to remember that Duterte is more intimately familiar with the workings of Philippine jurisprudence than the majority of observers — both friend and foe alike. He was, after all, a government prosecutor before he entered politics.

The following excerpt from his inauguration speech is relevant to this discussion.

See time index 05:27:

“As a lawyer and former prosecutor, I know the limits of the power and authority of the President. I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising”.

Now, consider the following statement he made both in Vietnam and his press conference in Davao after returning from Vietnam, he repeatedly said:

“There is nothing illegal about threatening criminals”

These are threats. Will he act on those threats? If you think he is really crazy . . .

His statements that challenge the status quo also dovetail well with his efforts to establish credibility with the enemies of the state whom he wants to abandon the armed struggle. This is true for both domestic and foreign enemies. His vocal anti-US stance actually neutralizes their go-to response to peace overtures — that the PH government is merely an “imperialist puppet” of the United States.

Any serious student of statecraft OUGHT to understand that conversations in front of the media are not the ONLY conversations that take place. The former can even be used to either obfuscate ongoing initiatives, or be used to extract concessions that would otherwise not be possible.

Naturally, the very nature of such discussions require them to remain out-of-sight. Given the controversial nature of the public pronouncements, which fly in the face of long-standing international norms, the diplomatic machines of world governing bodies and world powers are automatically obligated to issue official public rebukes, since failure to do so would appear to be tacit approval of such pronouncements.

Behind closed doors . . . it ought to be safe to say that more rational discussions are taking place. Absence of evidence of such discussions is often touted as evidence of absence. This complicates the delicate dance that Duterte is apparently making with the status quo. Complicated even further by his lack of tact.


But . . . what if Duterte REALLY crosses the line?

Every level-headed supporter of ANY point of view needs to be mindful of their “Red-lines”. Lines that should never be crossed is support for that point of view is to continue. Related to this, “trip wires” need to be laid down to warn of approach of that line . . . as well as when such lines are crossed.

Many have suggested that Duterte’s statements alone crossed any reasonable red lines. Especially his statements towards the US and overtures towards alternative powers, to inlude the unthinkable: China.

Let’s think about that for a moment.

The ultimate reason why relations with any country are strong in the first place is built upon in the sheer number of out-of-the-sight-of-media relations that exist at all levels of government. The periodic occupant of the Office of the President is but one such relation. It is, of course, a very important position as it dictates the course of foreign policy. But it does not sever all lines of communication and all linkages.

If all 71 years of US-PH relations can be irrepairably damaged by the antics of a single politician, then common-sense dictates that we question that strength — and nature — of that relationship in the first place. Look to the Netanyahu incident, prior to the 2012 US elections, for an example of how mature relations between independent nations can take dramatic turns, without permanent effects.

If we are ever to arrive at a resolution with China, a dialogue must take place. It would be foolish to pretend that they did not exist. One does not defeat a bully by ignoring him. You win by facing him. Standing up to him as the situation demands, and if necessary defuse the situation with calm words.

At this point in our history, we as a people need to reflect on what it means to be independent, and what it means to be an ally. If there is any legacy that Duterte can leave behind, it would at the very least be this conversation.

How does one know when such trip wires have been triggered? That is what discussion groups like the DRP are for. To foster frank, level-headed, discussions about where things are going. This is why Opus’ decision to shutdown the Timawa forum is atrociously ill-timed, and why it became necessary to create this alternative forum.

The Pohang corvette acquisition

Nothing confirms the impending transfer or an EDA asset like a PhilGEPS invitation seeking bidders for contracts to refurbish the acquisition target. The long reported, and mysterious, Pohang class corvette from South Korea has not only been confirmed in this manner, it has also been identified. See the relevant PhilGEPS invite below:


Rumors of a potential Pohang class transfer first surfaced in 2011. However a formal announcement of the transfer was not made till 2014. Additional discussions about this acquisition are available here.

The ROKS Mokpo (PCC-759) was the fourth ship in the Pohang Class to be built. Produced by Daewoo SB & Hvy Mach., Okpo in 1988. It is the last of the class to be optimized for Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) and armed with Exocet Surface-to-Surface Missiles (SSM). Subsequent members of the class geared towards for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) missions.

In Korean service, it was armed with 2 MM38 Exocet launchers, a single 76mm Oto Melara DP gun, 2 twin Emerlec AA guns, and 2 triple 324mm ASW torpedo tubes. Its air search capability stemmed from a Raytheon SPS-64 radar, and for ASW functionality, it was equipped with a Thales PHS-32 hull mounted sonar. As of writing it is unclear how much of this equipment would be retained in the transfer.

Unlike the Hamilton class WHECs whose gas turbines were of an older variant that were used exclusively by the class, the Pohang is powered by the significantly more commercially successful General Electric LM-2500 which is the gold standard for marine gas turbines. For low-consumption transit, the Mokpo relies on its two MTU 12V956 diesel engines.

 Photo c/o itiexue.net


Combat Fleets of the World, 15th Edition

Naval Technology.com

Teddy Locsin: Letting the “cat out of the bag” on the SAA/LIFT Munitions project?

The SSA/LIFT munitions project was a separate effort to acquire the following items for the FA-50PH:

Air-to-Air Missiles (312 Pieces)
Air-to-Surface Missiles (125 Pieces)
20mm Ammo (93,600 Pieces)
Chaffs/IR Flares.

The projects for the ammo and flares are proceeding. The missile component, however, stalled. Problems made it to the press as early as November last year. Not long after the first two FA-50s arrived


Upon delivery, the jets’ munitions will still undergo another procurement process. It takes two to three years more before the jets can be completely armed, Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin disclosed.

Nobody in-the-know would comment openly on the circumstances surrounding this issue. So those given the privilege of taps-on-the-shoulder were left to make cryptic comments.

At least . . . until this tweet by Teddy Boy Locsin, the incoming Philippine Ambassador to the UN. While the the wording could have been done better, since it doesn’t highlight the separate nature of the FA-50 acquisition from its munitions . . .

. . . has the cat FINALLY been let out of the bag?? Discuss this on the forum here.


The legacy of Martial Law

Fourty-four years ago, a President exploited the absence of constitutional safeguards to declare martial law in the Philippines. Given the law of the land at the time . . . this unilateral act was actually legal. As per Article VII, Section 11, sub-par 2:

The President shall be commander-in-chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and, whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it, he may suspend the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.

There was no qualifier for what constituted “imminent danger” or similar conditions. There was no oversight by the other branches of government. The architects of the 1935 constitution clearly did not forsee the rise of Marcos. So on this date, Proclamation 1081 was issued, and the rest is history.

Since the strong man’s overthrow, constitutional safeguards were put in place to ensure oversight and protection of the rights of citizens. The 1987 constitution’s flavor of Martial Law is written as follows:

Article VII, Section 18

SECTION 18. The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.

Barriers to the imposition of martial rule is not the only legacy of the martial law years. Let us remember them here.

Requirements for 2nd-hand equipment

To protect the AFP against accepting unsupportable surplus equipment, Administrative Order 169, series of 2007 stipulated the following acceptance criteria for accepting Excess Defense Articles and similarly “pre-owned” assets.

3.2.3. Used equipment or weapons system may be acquired, provided that:

a. The used equipment: or weapon system meets the desired operational requirements of the AFP;

b. It still has at least fifteen (15) years service life, or at ieast fifty percent (50%) of its service life remaining, or if subjected to a life extension program, is upgradeable to attain its original characteristics or capabilities;

c. Its acquisition cost is reasonable compared to the cost of new equipment; and

d. Tbe supplier should ensure the availability of after-sales maintenance support and services,

To download a copy of this Administrative Order, click here.

Discussions about this AO are available on the DRP forum here.

The Timawa forum community: Rebuilding a cyber-institution

The process of rebuilding the oldest, active, defense-oriented social media community in the Philippines is fully underway. (Proper credit to the now defunct Kawal Pilipino forum for being first).

 Photo credit to Ludo38

We are taking things slow, making sure to re-establish the posting culture that made the Timawa community what it was, before completely opening the forum up for general membership. For those waiting on membership approval, we ask for your patience. We want to do this right and ask for your patience.

“Building new” often presents an opportunity to re-think how things are structured and organized. As we rebuild the community and its infrastructure, one area that has undergone a make-over is the forum’s front-end: a blog


This blog is hosted on a completely different database and therefore will stay up if the forum ever goes down for maintenance. It will also serve as a source of service bulletins, along with the forum’s Facebook extension: https://www.facebook.com/groups/rpdefense/

The blog also allows the community to showcase specific threads. Whereas the original forum only had a static Webpage, the blog will allow forum members who take the time to write extensive — reference quality — posts to have their posts not only on the forum, but also showcase them on the blog for wider circulation. Think Horge and Ignatius level posts.

Here is an example how this would work and tie-back to the forum:


Since posting on the blog itself is disabled, the forum would be the place for comments. Where they can be preserved and further discussed.

It’ll also be a place for updates about the community itself as well as summaries of the discussions within. Admittedly, one issue the forum had was that a lot of the nuggets of information were often buried in years worth of discussions that new members were expected to sift through. That gave rise to a “secondary market” of bloggers who data-mined Timawa discussions. While some were conscientious enough to give credit to the community — since these ideas were often synthesized through the contributions of many individuals and not just one person — as the source of insight, others have not been . . . to the lament and consternation of long-time community members.

The blog, and the forum, will be managed by a moderating team composed of veteran Timawa forum members. This broadening of both access and control of information shared on the forum ensures that no one individual can make far-reaching decisions that can affect the efforts of dozens of individuals who put pro-bono time and effort to making the community what it is. We are here to stay, and we will stay by our efforts as a community.

Why 5.56mm sniping rifles for the AFP?

On August 21, 2006 the Timawa forum saw a discussion between a Philippine Marine Colonel (MBLT6) and a Singaporean Army Major (Shingen) about sniper rifles an engagement distances in the the Philippine setting. The end result was a glowing response from Shingen as follows:

This is one of the best post, or not the best post i have seen so far in this forum. Thank you so much for clarifiying things, all your examples are very clear and informative, especially no. 3. Would add this to my scrapbook and use it as material if required back camp.

This accolade elevated this discussion to a “reference thread” which moderators took special care in keeping troll free.

10872891_714195705362405_2481804744076689959_o-1 barret
Marine Scout Sniper Rifle (5.56mm) Barret (12.7mm / .50 cal)

In an effort to preserve this discussion from database crashes and similar incidents, this section the following thread has been replicated here:

First, lets define terms. The term primary sniper rifle refers to primary range. Our (Marine Corps) doctrine requires three types of sniper rifles ie., primary range (max 600m for company level) , intermediate range ( 800m max and a Bn organic) and long range (1000m and a Brigade organic). We practice combined arms concepts which means higher units may attach thier organic units to subordinates in order to tailor fit their capabilities to the environment they are operating in and the threats they are facing. secondly, the term sniper rifle does not dictate on the caliber. Its defined as a rifle with a scope accurized with high quality parts (match grade) and uses match grade ammunition. The 5.56mm round in the MSSR qualifies per our doctrines and international definition.

Why have 3 types of sniper rifles? Based on our experience in battling communist, muslim seperatist and military adventurism for 30+ years in different terrains in the Philippines. We had learned that under different sniping conditions the characteristics of a type of sniper rifle has its pros and cons.

Example 1. a sniper stalks his prey that requires moving at the least observation by the enemy the reason he has to be a master of camoflauge to avoid detection. It will be diffucult to crawl with a cal 50 barret. The MSSR will be a favorite in this conditions.

Example 2: The MSSR or primary range rifle is the king of 600m engagements simply due to lesser recoil. It accounted most of the kills in our year 2000 campaign in central mindanao. Why? against multiple targets and follow through shot in case of a miss nothing beats the 5.56mm round. the lesser recoil ensures target acquisition after recoil. We tested this with the equally accurisided M-21 7.62mm. each equally skilled sniper were required to shoot 6 poppers each and armed with the M21 and MSSR at 400m. The MSSR finished his 6th popper while the other was just starting to aim for his 3rd – FOV issues due to recoil i’m sure you know. Example 3: the cal 50 barret has the needed characteristics for longer range simply because of of its heavier 750 grain bullet which is less prone to that devil wind that all snipers fear. The MSSR cannot compete with this at longer range. But at shorter ranges below 600m the barret has distinct disadvantages. It has a louder sound report, flash and concussion (leaves/bushes moves) allowing easier detection and wow expect counter fire from the enemy. A sniper always ensures he is not detected please don’t do this in engaging the enemy with highly trained countersnipers. The barret is best in engagements at 1000m+ in a jungle environment if you can find one. the rule is more max at 400m. The MSSR has a an almost negligble flash an sound report. The 24 inch barrel has its advantages it ensures the total burning of the propellant before the bullet exits the muzzle hence lesser flash as well as higher velocity means lesser leads in moving targets – the 5.56mm round does have at least 250+ fps higher speed the the 7.62mm and cla 50 round – right?. longer barrels adds more velocity and having more range and lethality. and of course lesser concussion and sound report compared to the 7.62 and cal.50 round. the MSSR was adopted by us in 1996 and copied by the IDF and US in 2000 you are more than welcome to learn from our experiences.

I really had the same perceptions in my youth when I was a Lt 24 yrs ago. The macho 7.62mm or even the cal 30 (7.62mm x 54) M-1 garand round were superior in all aspects. But my experience change that with advancements in weapons technology as well as my combat and competition experience. I was amazed with the results of our 2000 year campaign as well as the success of the M-16 in the Service Rifle Competitions in Camp Perry,Ohio which since 1996 it had dominated the championships beating the favorites as the M-1A1 and military versions M-14 rifles. We in the Marine Corps have the only existing sniper school in the Philippines since 1967. We load our own match ammo for 5.56mm and 7.62mm in 69 grain Sierra BTHP match, 75 grain Hornady and 168 grain Sierra in 7.62mm BTHP match as well as subsonic rounds for both calibers for use in our Night Fighting Weapon System. Don’t know if there are existing sniper schools in other in southeast asian countries. And please no more lethality issues – shot placement at 600m is not an issue for the MSSR our snipers are trained to hit head shots at 600m and even a cal .22LR at shorter distances can ensure that kill. I’ve seen that – we operate in the most volatile region in Southeast Asia.

To comment this article, please refer to the following DRP forum thread.

BRP Davao del Sur (LD-602) – formerly SSV-2

The following article is an authorized reposting of the original adroth.ph article. It can also be found on the DRP forum here, where readers are encouraged to post their comments.

The two largest warships in Philippine Navy history are currently under construction at the PT PAL shipyard in Indonesia. The first vessel, tentatively named “Strategic Sealift Vessel (SSV) No.1”, is due for delivery in May 2016. Progress of construction for that vessel is chronicled in the following article: Strategic Sealift Vessel No. 1 taking shape. This article, on the other hand, chronicles the progress of SSV No.2, whose construction lags behind SSV No.1 by six months.

Both vessels are based on the Indonesian Navy’s Makassar class Landing Ship Dock (LPD), particularly the last two members of the class referred to as the “improved Makassar”, which were both built at PT PAL, based on a design by Daesun Shipbuilding & Engineering of South Korea. The resulting vessel should appear similar to the KRI Banda Aceh shown below.

 KRI Banda Aceh c/o Wikimedia

The data assembled below largely comes from open-sources and is thanks in no small part to Indonesian members of the Timawa.net forum who monitor Indonesian news reports and share them with the Timawa community. Supplemental data was gleaned from the international press.

Event / Date photo was shared   Imagery 
September 20, 2016. Various photographs shared by Gombaljaya on the FB extension
January 8, 2016. TR4 block of SSV-2 being moved into position.  tr4block
December 22, 2015. Blocks prepared for keel laying  12377770_227958797536054_4626429217158248112_o
October 25, 2015. Hull block completed. Shared on the Timawa FB extension  12189873_206785486320052_785769008714247769_n
October 5, 2015. Various photographs of keel construction. Shared with the Timawa community’s FB extension on this date. See here
June 5, 2015. Steel cutting ceremony for SSV-2 held at PT PAL Indonesia. Photo c/o Tribunnews.com




The Strategic Sealift Vessel project is the Aquino administration’s implementation of two older Arroyo administration projects:

Strategic Sealift Vessel – this was reportedly crafted by the Center for Naval Leadership and Excellence (CNLE) and originally envisioned to acquire a 2nd-hand civilian Roll-On Roll-Off (RORO) vessel from Japan. Delays in the execution of the project resulted in an aborted attempt as the Japanese vendor choose to sell the prospective vessel to another buyer.

Multi-Role Vessel (MRV) – this project sought to acquire a brand-new Makasaar class Landing Ship Dock directly from South Korea complete with an amphibious assault package and a sophisticated mobile hospital. The following image of a Philippine Navy poster displayed on Navy Day shows what this project sought to acquire as a single project.

 The original project that was broken up onto different components

The current administration opted to break up the MRV project into multiple components, award the contract to South Korea’s partner in Indonesia — which had the license rights to the Makassar class LPD — and then renamed the project to the current SSV title. The latter decision initially created confusion among long-time defense enthusiasts who had been aware of both projects, but were not privy to project decisions.

Discussions about this SSV is also available on the DRP forum.