Friday, Aug 21, 2015
Manila: The Philippines has a solid reputation as a source of seafarers. It is little known fact however, that the ships that these Filipino sailors man are protected by firearms manufactured in their own country.
Some 350,000 sailors or about one in five of the world’s seafarers are Filipinos, they are a top choice of manning agencies because of their reliability, diligence and discipline. Not surprisingly, this kind of dependability is reflected on the weapon chosen by international maritime security contractors to defend commercial shipping against pirates and terrorists lurking in the waters of West Africa and parts of Indian Ocean.
United Defence Manufacturing Corporation (UDMC), a 100-per cent Filipino-owned firm based in southern Metro Manila’s Paranaque City, makes the rifle that defends commercial shipping plying the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean sea lanes against these modern day buccaneers.
It was also no coincidence that the rifles used to protect commercial ship crews, the S5-PVAR and the S5-DGIS, are also from the Philippines. These rifles uses 5.56 x 45 mm rounds.
UDMC CEO Gene Carino says the rifles were selected by international security contractors for their reliability and accuracy even under adverse conditions.
“The rifles were chosen by several maritime security contractors securing the ships, one of the largest is the Trident Group, due to their reliability even in harsh conditions that they would be subjected to such as at sea,” he told Gulf News.
Trident Group is made up of seasoned veterans of the United States Navy SEAL (Sea, Air and Land commandos) and is registered with the US Department of State’s ITAR programme (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) which means that weapons are made and used to comply with the highest standards and are guaranteed not to end up in the hands of terrorists.
Infinite Security Solutions Ltd. (ISS) is another large risk and security contractor that uses UDMC rifles. ISS was formed by and deploys veteran Royal Navy Special Boat Service operatives in its theatre of operations both at sea and in land security environment.
In videos accessible in sharing sites such as YouTube, operatives can be seen using the UDMC rifles effectively against pirates trying to board ships.
The rifle was “Designed by Soldier for Soldiers”. It was tested and quality-checked by the Philippine Navy SEALS under adverse fighting conditions in sandy fields, in the highs seas, in the mangroves and in the jungles of Mindanao against terrorists,” Carino said.
The assault rifles are made using modern manufacturing processes through the use of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines. 3D designs and programs were in-house developed using Dassault Systemes softwares. Quality processes are strictly monitored under ISO quality procedures. Raw materials are imported from Europe and Asia. “No, we don’t use raw materials from China due to quality issues and we also do not use raw materials from the U.S.A. since we are not allowed to re-export the finished rifles to other countries under ITAR regulations.”
“These conditions ensure that our rifles are made at par to if not exceed military standards,” he said.
The S5-PVAR model in particular can be fired with reliability even if half submerged horizontally in water. Carino said the S5-DGIS was made with simplicity in mind without sacrificing quality.
Externally, the S5-PVAR (or its full-automatic brother the F5 series) looks no different from the typical M4 assault rifle used around the world. What sets it apart from the ordinary M4 assault rifle is what is inside, a short-stroke combination of gas and piston that “communicates” with each other to fire and cycle the round in battery even if salt water is inside the system. This attribute is critical in SEAL-type operation where soldiers literally have to fire their weapons as soon as they emerge from waterline. This cannot be said of the ordinary M4 which can blow-up in the hands of troops if not drained of water before firing, thus resulting to precious seconds wasted which could spell life and death in combat.
“PVAR stands for Pneumatic Valve and Rod System and this what makes it very reliable in the field,” Carino said adding that the assault rifle combines the ease of use of the M4 with the dependability and reliability of the Kalashnikov.
He refuses to disclose how many PVARs and DGISs were ordered by Trident as he said such information is “confidential.” And so is the sales of UDMC to other special forces around the globe.
Carino is quick to add that, the Philippine government has to approve each and every single export sale of the firearm to ensure that the weapons are sold only to legitimate end-users before the export permit is issued to UDMC.
Aside from the F5-PVAR rifles, which are strictly for military use, UDMC also manufactures civilian versions of the rifle that can only be fired in semi-automatic mode in compliance with Philippine government firearms laws.
UDMC also makes the S7, a rifle specially made for military snipers. In the PVAR model, the S7 is a combination of self-loading (firing at multiple targets) and bolt-action. The S7 comes in the bigger calibre 7.62 x 51mm, a sniper round. “All our barrels, made from Bergara cylindrical blanks, are guaranteed to register group shots of 1-MOA (Minute of Angle, a standard for measuring the accuracy of a rifle) or less at 100 meters,” says Carino. The maximum effective range of the S5 and F5 is 500 meters, while the S7 is 800 meters.
“The S7 precision rifles and the F5 assault rifles made by UDMC will soon be deployed in the Northern border of Myanmar, an ASEAN country, against illegal loggers, separatists and terrorists,” said Carino. Other ASEAN countries are evaluating the UDMC weapons as we write this article.
Carino said that given adequate government support, self-reliance in defence articles production could be an industry that will employ a good number of Filipinos, an advocacy that will help “protect the good versus evil” in the Philippines and around the globe.
“I think what is important is that Filipinos now are being recognized not just for providing reliable seafarers around the world, but also for producing dependable, well made products such as the UDMC rifles that defend the international commercial shipping fleet,” he said.
He added that by the fact that the PVAR is made in the Philippines means that the manufacture of these rifles will employ many Filipinos and that the country is capable of turning out firearms that are of globally competitive quality.
By Gilbert P. Felongco Correspondent
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