Elbit Systems' front-runner for Philippine Army CEV Combat Engineering Vehicles Bid

On August 26, 2023, the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) initiated another round of public bidding for Combat Engineering Vehicles (CEVs) for the Philippine Army. Interestingly, the technical specifications for these CEVs seem almost identical to those of the Sabrah Light Tank, produced by the Israeli defense company Elbit Systems. The Sabrah is based on the ASCOD chassis, designed by General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS), making Elbit Systems a strong contender in the bidding process.
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ASCOD is available as a platform configurable in several variants (Picture source: Army Recognition)

The striking similarity between the technical requirements for the CEVs and the features of the GDELS ASCOD armored vehicle is hardly coincidental. The Philippine Army has already adopted the ASCOD platform for its light tank and command and control vehicle platforms. Opting for an ASCOD-based CEV would offer the Army significant advantages in terms of training, maintenance, and logistics, thanks to the commonality between these platforms.

The Philippine Army is in the market for new Combat Engineering Vehicles (CEVs) that meet a comprehensive set of technical requirements. These CEVs need to be tracked vehicles equipped with a Common Interface Fitting Kit for attaching various types of equipment. They must also come with Mine Rollers for clearing landmines and other threats, and have the capability to pull a trailer-mounted Mine Clearing Line Charge System. Other specifications include an Obstacle Marker System, a Multi-Rotor Drone equipped with a Magnetometer System for advanced reconnaissance, and armor that meets STANAG 4569 Level 3a standards. The CEVs should also feature a turret capable of mounting a range of weapons, and be powered by a V6 turbocharged diesel engine with at least 275 horsepower. Importantly, these vehicles must be integrated with a common C4ISR system, enhancing their situational awareness and communication capabilities on the battlefield.

The Sabrah Light Tank, already contracted to the Philippine Army, is based on the Pizarro II platform produced by GDELS subsidiary Santa Barbara Sistemas. Given that the Pizarro II Castor sappers combat vehicle is designed for similar combat engineering roles, it's highly likely that the Philippine Army's desired CEV model would align closely with this existing platform.

While the public bidding process allows for participation from various international vendors, the unique requirements of this project present a significant hurdle. One of the key specifications is the integration of the CEV with the Philippine Army's existing C4ISR system, which is based on technology from Elbit Systems. This requirement could potentially limit the pool of contenders, as integration with the C4ISR system would necessitate Elbit's involvement.

If Elbit Systems chooses to participate in the tender independently, it would likely offer a CEV based on the ASCOD Pizarro II platform, similar to their Sabrah Light Tank. In doing so, Elbit would not be available to assist other vendors in integrating their products with its C4ISR technology. This scenario could give Elbit Systems a significant edge in the bidding, not just in terms of pricing but also in its ability to meet all technical requirements.

While we can expect interest from vendors in countries like South Korea, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Germany, and France, the specific technical and integration requirements make Elbit Systems a strong contender in fulfilling the Philippine Army's CEV needs.