Thursday, February 2, 2017

Used Warships as Stop Gap Measures to Replace World War 2 Assets of the Philippine Navy

As part of its plans to improve and renew its fleet of ships at the fastest possible time, the Philippine Navy is embarking on the possible acquisition of used naval warships from friendly countries. These has been happening for some time now, starting with the acquisition of three Hamilton-class high endurance cutters from the US Coast Guard, and five Balikpapan-class heavy landing crafts from the Royal Australian Navy.

Recently, MaxDefense discussed that the Philippine Navy is planning to acquire a new fleet of Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessels which would eventually replace all World War 2-era warships of the fleet, while be able to conduct patrols even on offshore territorial and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the country. But because of time to plan, formulate, tender, award, and construct the new ships, it is expected that the first ships can only enter service with the Philippine Fleet by 2019 at the earliest.

With the need for new ships immediately needed, the Philippine Navy will have to adjust and acquire assets that can be used in the short-medium term to improve its capabilities, while also allowing to have more assets to train with as the Philippine Navy schedules the arrival of new assets in the next several years.

Aside from the Hamilton-class cutters from the US (which are now known collectively as the Del Pilar-class frigates), the other options are smaller in size but with comparable capabilities in some way or another. Those already made known to MaxDefense and clear for public knowledge will be the only ones discussed here.


Based on the Philippine Navy's own Sail Plan 2020, the organization intends to retire all warships from the World War 2-era by 2020. But by law, only when new assets to replace the old ones are available can the Navy retire their assets.

Originally the plan is to acquire brand new Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessels, which was among those new directions provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in line with the new policies of Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

As of 2017, MaxDefense was informed by its sources that the Philippine Navy has not yet made concrete moves to solidify its plan to acquire brand new patrol vessels, except for a formal offer made by Israel Shipyard last August 2016. wherein they proposed to sell an Offshore Patrol Vessel variant of their Sa'ar 72 design.

Even if the Philippine Navy approves the acquisition of a couple of ships, it would take around 3 years for them to receive the ships, which is too late if they intend to follow their plan of retiring all 9 WW2 warships currently in service by 2020.

Thus, the Philippine Navy has opened the possibilities of acquiring used but still capable warships from friendly countries to speed-up the retirement process, as this is the fastest option available to bring in newer ships into the fleet.

Philippine Navy's Parameters:

Based on the information and records obtained by MaxDefense, an analysis can be made to determine the parameters in which the Philippine Navy will be considering any proposal to acquire used warships from other countries.

First and foremost are the age and the general condition of the ship/s. The PN would like the ships to only require minimal refurbishing works for the hull and superstructure, as well as for the mechanical and electrical systems of the ship. The less time at drydock and less expenses, the better.

Another main consideration is cost. How much will the ship's overall cost be, including acquiring the ship itself, refurbishing and rehabilitation cost, replacement of obsolete or damaged systems, and logistics and support concerns. At this point, the PN has very limited funds that they can use for this, and is also facing funding problems for any other upgrade it wishes to conduct for these ships.

Time to bring to full operation is another factor, that is also related to the general condition of the ships, and the amount of money to be spent. The lesser the needed for dockwork means lesser costs too. The support of the vendor country's government is also important especially in providing the training with the vendor country's navy allows for ease of transfer at less time possible.

Another important factor is the presence of anti-submarine warfare capability, specifically more on having the detection capability using Sonar. These ships are expected to be training platforms too for personnel to be assigned on the PN's future frigate, which are equipped with anti-submarine warfare capabilities. Currently, it was made known to MaxDefense that the PN has almost nill ASW capability and experience to say off, with most of its officers and men previously rated for sonar and ASW already retired from the service for years.

The Philippine Navy is eyeing at least two ships as an initial requirement, with a follow-on third or even fourth unit being considered should funding become available.

Choices of the Philippine Navy:

Based on costs, it appears that there are only a few choices for the Philippine Navy to pick, even though there are many countries who appear to have excess warships that could be available for sale. Italy, for example, are selling their warships at a price way above the allocated budget of the PN, so their warships are out of the possible options.

So far, only 2 options were made known to MaxDefense as of late, although it is highly doubtful that there are any other options at the moment aside from these.

1. Joao Coutinho-class and Baptista de Andrade-class patrol corvettes from Portugal

Discussed on MaxDefense as early as December of last year, we reported that the Portuguese government has offered to sell some of their Joao Coutinho-class and Baptista de Andrade-class patrol corvettes to the Philippine Navy.

Both classes are retired, or being progressively retired from the Portuguese Navy, and will be available for transfer to any interested buyer very soon. In the Philippine context, both ship classes were inspected by officers from the Philippine Navy to determine their actual condition, and their viability for transfer. There are currently 3 Baptista de Andrade-class ships and at least 4 Joao Coutinho-class ships that are available according to MaxDefense sources. Both ship classes are not in service with the Portuguese Navy anymore, being retired a few years ago and are maintained in port while waiting for a buyer.

The Joao Countinho-class (top) and the Baptista de Andrade-class (above) were both evaluated by the Philippine Navy for suitability to their needs for patrol vessels that can immediately replace World War 2-era assets still used by the fleet.

Based on the reports from the Joint Visual Inspection team that were sent to Portugal, the Baptista de Andrade-class are in less favourable condition than the older Joao Coutinho-class ships, and the recommendation is to forego the Baptista de Andrade-class in favour of the Joao Coutinho-class.

The ships will need refurbishing and some repair work before the actual transfer to the Philippine Navy, should it proceed with the acquisition. Among those that will require overhaul and repair works include the hull, the diesel engines, several mechanical system, and the guns and weapons mount itself.

Other works need to be done including installing a new generator and power management systems, navigation radar system, and several other electrical and electronic systems that are already beyond their lifespans or are obsolete.

The offer made by the Portuguese government for the ships are reasonable enough, since it will also include the education and training of Philippine Navy crewmembers and maintenance teams, spare parts and logistics support, and billeting in Portugal. MaxDefense won't mention the amount, but we can guarantee that it is affordable for the Philippine Navy.

The helicopter landing deck on the Joao Coutinho-class, small as it seems, is still an added feature and will be sufficient enough to allow the ship to operate PN's AW-109 Power naval helicopters, as well as ship-launched drones that allows an increase in its visual surveillance range.

The Joao Coutinho-class have been in service with the Portuguese Navy since 1970, only a few years younger than the Hamilton-class cutters acquired from the US. They were designed in Portugal and built in Spain and Germany.

They are armed with mostly similar weapons systems as the Philippine Navy's World War 2 assets, including Mk. 33 twin 76mm guns, and Bofors L70 40mm twin AA guns.  The Philippine Navy has no problem operating and maintaining these weapons systems due to being familiar with them. The ships currently do not have any anti-submarine warfare system which were removed due to obsolescence and were not replaced.

The ships are powered by OEW Pielstick diesel engines, which is not new to the Philippine Navy either. The ships also do not possess advanced electronic machinery control systems, and any other advanced electronic systems that control much of the ship's operation. This means that there is nothing new for the Philippine Navy to learn much from.

The presence of a helicopter deck is also an added plus, which will allow the ship to limitedly operate PN aviation assets like the AW-109 Power naval helicopters that can increase the ship's capability.

In short, these ships are primarily newer replacements for the older World War 2-era ships, and are good force additions to a depleted fleet, and short-term replacements while new ships are being prepared for delivery to the Philippine Navy.

Based on the reports made by the PN JVI team, the ship hulls are being offered for free by the Portuguese government, and any other refurbishing, repair and rehabilitation work will be done in Portugal. The ships are found to still be good for use for at least 15 years, which complies to the procurement laws of the government which applies to military assets too. Should the Philippine Navy give a go-signal to acquire the ships by March 2017, they stand to bring these ships into active duty by 3rd or 4th quarter of 2017 at the earliest.

2. Pohang-class combat corvettes from South Korea

This appears to be our latest entry regarding the status of the offers made by South Korea for Pohang-class corvettes for the Philippine Navy.

As many MaxDefense readers already know, this class has been among the most talked-about among defense enthusiasts and navy officials, and was already made known to public as early as 2014. Previously it was also made known in several sources that the Philippine Navy will be getting the former ROKS Mokpo, a Flight II Pohang-class corvette retired from the Republic of Korea Navy some years ago.

As of the latest information received by MaxDefense, the former ROKS Mokpo is out of the running in the Philippine Navy, after the ship was evaluated by officials to be in very poor condition, and will not be feasible for refurbishing and rehabilitation back into service. It was also found to lack the anti-submarine warfare capability that the PN needs to train its personnel in preparation for the upcoming future frigates it will be receiving from Hyundai Heavy Industries. It was made known to MaxDefense that the former ROKS Mokpo is now being offered to other countries, which mentioned Peru as among the possible takers.

Instead, the Korean government has a renewed offering to the Philippines, which now involves the proposed transfer of at least three Flight III or newer Pohang-class corvettes, with an initial 2 units readily available for refurbishing works at any notice, and a third unit to be made available should the option be accepted by the Philippine Navy.

Based on these information alone, it appears that the ships being offered are already retired from service and are just awaiting for any eventuality. The Republic of Korea Navy's records mention that at least three Flight III ships were retired from service in the past few months, namely ROKS Gimcheon (PCC-761), ROKS Chungju (PCC-762) and ROKS Jinju (PCC-763). All others Flight III ships or newer are still in service with the ROKN but are also expected to be retired soon with the arrival of new FFX-2 frigates to replace them.

ROKS Jinju (PCC-763), a Pohang-class Flight III corvette of the South Korean Navy, was recently retired and is among those possibly offered to the Philippine Navy.
Photo credited to website.

These were later backed by information from MaxDefense sources, although it would be best not to be very specific, for now, on the ships being offered, as it might affect any discussions ongoing between the Philippine and South Korean governments.

The Flight III ships are not yet inspected by the Philippine Navy as of this writing, but it was disclosed by sources that the ships are in far better condition than the former ROKS Mokpo. The ships also have working ASW capability, although it was recommended that replacement of the systems be made in the long run. The ships won't be armed with missiles as many expect, but the ships can be easily be installed with better sensors, guidance, and weapons systems in the future. It is also expected that the ship's weapons and sensors systems will remain, although some will require replacement soon. It is still up to the PN's joint visual inspection team to submit a report and recommendation on their findings of the ship's overall condition, so nothing can be finalized for now.

It is strongly expected that the hulls itself will be offered to the Philippine Navy for free, but any refurbishing, repair and rehabilitation work will be paid for, and will be done in Korean shipyards and using Korean subsystems.

The Flight III Pohang-class are armed with two Oto Melara 76mm Compact naval gun, two Breda 40mm twin guns. It is also equipped with two triple trainable Mk. 32 lightweight torpedo launchers, which are expected to remain should the ship be transferred to the PN.

The ships are also powered by a LM2500 gas turbine, which is more powerful and newer than the Del Pilar-class' P&W FT4A gas turbines. Operating and maintaining this could be an issue, although it is expected that personnel with gas turbine ratings on the FT4A will be given the slot to train for the LM2500 since they already have the base knowledge needed.

They are built in the late 1980s and are far younger than many of the PN's major naval assets. It is expected that the PN will need more transition training to operate the Pohang-class compared to

Overall, the Pohang-class are much newer, more capable, and more advanced than the Joao Coutinho-class, and can fill-in a lot of gaps in the PN's capability. They are also more complicated that will require more attention in terms of preparation, training, and maintenance. These ships are not just good replacements for the World War 2-era assets of the PN, but can also be used as force multipliers to also bridge the PN to future advanced warships.

Note: MaxDefense has a previous blog entry discussing the entire Pohang-class, including the differences between Flights, and their fit and capabilities. You can access it on the link provided below:

"Overview on ROKN's Pohang-class Corvettes, and Transfer of 1 ship to the PN" - dated June 8, 2014.

The Pohang-class' twin 40mm guns and mount are something new to the Philippine Navy, but he mount apparently uses the same technology as the Oto Melara 76mm Compact gun already in service with the PN. 

Problems Faced by the Philippine Navy on the Proposals:

It was made known to MaxDefense that there are delays hampering the proposal of the Philippine Navy's JVI, which recommends the acquisition of the ships as a stop gap measure. According to sources, the recommendation is still stuck in the Philippine Navy due to a request by a certain high command official (which MaxDefense prefers not to disclose) for further analysis even though it was a very much obvious to not need such requirement. This is due to the fact that the ships are being compared to the much older, much harder to maintain World War 2-era ships.

It remains to be seen now if the Philippine Navy will get these requirements in the next weeks, before the recommendation can be forwarded to the Armed Forces of the Philippines GHQ, and to the Department of National Defense for funding request. This sickness of red tape and delays within the Philippine Navy continues to linger on, which is a surprise for MaxDefense considering the huge improvement strides made by the organization to improve itself compared to when yours truly is still with the service more than a decade ago.

Isn't it a no-brainer that the Joao Coutinho-class from the 1970s is a more practical choice compared to the likes of BRP Rajah Humabon (above) from the 1940s? Come on Philippine Navy.
Photo taken from US Navy.

The Korean offer is also not without problems, this time regarding the possibility of using the offer as a hedge to push the Philippine Navy to give them an edge on ongoing and future modernization projects.

The Koreans are known to use grant of excess defense articles to create new markets for their wares. This was shown when South Korea sold SSM-700K Haeseong C-Star anti-ship missiles to Colombia, after being promised to be granted a Donghae-class corvette. Even members of the AFP are expecting the Koreans to provide a "freebie" for the acquisition of FA-50PH Fighting Eagle aircraft from Korea Aerospace Industries.

If the offer proves to be something of a hedge in nature, it would not only be something that is difficult to approve, but will also mean the approval may likely affect other matters negatively with regards to the procurement laws and specified requirements. MaxDefense prefers that this offer by South Korea to have no strings attached on other projects, since the offer already benefits the Korean defense industry by having the ship refurbished in Korea, and paid for by the Philippine government.

While MaxDefense is not concluding anything yet regarding the revised Pohang-class offer from South Korea, but it is expected that the Philippine Navy stay true to it form, and allow compromise only without sacrificing anything.

MaxDefense's Recommendation:

Since the PN's JVI for the Joao Coutinho-class already was recommended for acquisition, MaxDefense supports this move. Based on price and availability alone, these are good additions to the ageing fleet, even as a short-term solution.

MaxDefense also recommends that the Philippine Navy immediately send visual inspection team to South Korea to check on the overall conditions of the latest Pohang-class ships offered to them. This would immediately allow them to decide, and not linger on a proposal that turns out to be impractical. If they find the ships not feasible for acquisition, it then further supports the acquisition of the Joao Coutinho-class, and allows the PN to look further in other markets for alternatives for the Pohang-class.

Should the PN find the revised offer acceptable, and strings are not attached, MaxDefense recommends their acquisition as well. Why? Because these ships are sure assets that can be obtained, compared to newer ships that remain as plans up to this day. The culture of planning in the AFP is a well-known fact among international and local defense suppliers and manufacturers, wherein the AFP, as whole, have a lot of good plans for its modernization, but fail miserably in implementation and actual acquisition.  The Pohangs, if found to be OK, can make sure that the PN has the necessary assets it needs even when the government fails to provide funding to order new ships, a reality compared to an aspired dream.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Multi-purpose Patrol Vessel, the Philippine Navy's Newest Horizon 2 Project

With the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program already moving to the second five-year phase, dubbed as the Horizon 2 Phase covering years 2018-2022, the planners of the AFP, including those in the Philippine Navy (PN), are now preparing their next projects for implementation under this phase. While their shopping list has been changing lately due to the changing policies of the country under the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, MaxDefense believes that the AFP has made a priority list that will be immediately implemented, out of the numerous projects that were submitted.

While there are several naval projects indicated in the memorandum submitted by the AFP to the AFP Chief of Staff early last month, a project stood out for being something new and was not among those listed in previous shopping lists submitted by the PN since the initial Desired Force Mix presented in 2012.

That project is called "Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessels" of the Philippine Navy. We would refer to this class of ship as "MPPV" on the duration of the blog entry.

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Note and disclaimer: all these, especially the information on the ships themselves, are based only on informal initial information provided to MaxDefense by its different sources from the PN and DND, and other special sources. As of this writing, MaxDefense was informed that the Philippine Navy has yet to form a Defense Acquisition System Assessment Team (DASAT) and a Project Management Team (PMT) for this specific project, and no Request for Information (RFI) has been sent out to shipbuilders, system providers, and integrators as of yet. This blog entry will be overwritten later on as more formal and concrete information becomes available. 

The information on the background section, and on the "parallels within the ASEAN region" section are confirmed, and can be vouched by MaxDefense.
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Singapore's Independence-class littoral mission vessel are the best that MaxDefense can hope on what the PN should use as a template for its Multipurpose Patrol Vessels. It has all the features the PN could want, but the price could be an issue.
Photo from Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF).

Previously MaxDefense mentioned that there were several versions of the Philippine Navy's shopping list that were released within the AFP, although it was said that only two versions were approved as official. The first was released in 2012, which was called the Desired Force Mix, while the second was the Philippine Navy Capability Upgrade Program released on April 2016. Between 2012 and 2016, there were also draft wish lists made, that were a little different from the two approved lists but were said to be overridden by the April 2016 version.

The 2012 Desired Force Mix of the Philippine Navy, which was meant to be acquired during the 3 Horizon phases of the AFP Modernization Program.
Photo taken from forum.

The 2012 Desired Force Mix included a requirement for 18 Offshore Patrol Vessels and 40 Patrol Gunboats in its wish list. These were optimized by the PN to be the bulk of the patrol fleet that are much useful during peacetime and law-enforcement operations while surface combatants like corvettes and frigates are meant more for low to high intensity naval conflicts. 

Later versions of the Philippine Navy's wish list did not include both the Offshore Patrol Vessel and Patrol Gunboat requirements, although changes were made on the quantity of other assets included in the DFM list, including the inclusion of new assets like LHA-type vessel, Landing Craft Air Cushioned, and other assets.

This wish list was released by the Philippine Navy is 2015, although the same content was already on documents provided to MaxDefense via its sources as early as 2014. This does not show any requirement for OPV or Patrol Gunboats, yet it included new items like an LHA-type SSV, and other assets.
Photo taken from the Philippine Navy's website.

The latest version of the wish list, released on April 2016, further made changes to the previously released lists. It still did not include Offshore Patrol Vessels and Patrol Gunboats in it, but a new type of ship called the Littoral Patrol Interdiction Craft (LPIC) was included, which was described by MaxDefense sources from the Philippine Navy to be a ship of similar size and capability as the Cyclone-class inshore patrol vessel currently operated by the PN (BRP Gen. Mariano Alvarez (PS-38)) acquired from the US during the term of Pres. Gloria Arroyo.

The latest pre-Duterte administration wish list of the Philippine Navy, shown here in part due to the photo's emphasis of assets for the Philippine Fleet and not for the entire Philippine Navy. The Littoral Combat Force portion shows the LPIC which appears to be similar to the Cyclone-class patrol vessel already operated by the PN.
Photo taken from Cods Salacup M's Facebook page.

Despite being a new wish list, the April 2016 list appears to have been overridden by another wish list, as shown by the Philippine Navy during ADAS 2016 held last September 2016. It appears that during this time, the Philippine Navy was already reformulating their wish list based on the policies set-upon by Pres. Duterte when he came into power a few months back. There is a sudden requirement for an Ocean Patrol Vessel, positioned very much on the centre of the info-graphic poster in the Philippine Navy's stand. 

But as of October 2016, the AFP submitted a tentative wish list to the CSAFP, which is more of a general wish list without too much specifics except for those listed, and it included this Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessel project, together with other AFP projects that are of immediate requirement and intended for implementation as early as possible.

This is the last infographic displayed by the Philippine Navy during ADAS 2016. While almost half of the projects are already shown on previous infographics prior to this one, many are actually new are were not in previous wish lists. The Ocean Patrol Vessel is actually one that is in the middle, and could be a precursor to the need of the PN for patrol vessels that are less capable than corvettes, but are larger than the fast interdiction crafts that they intend to acquire.
Photo shared by Steel Bamboo, a MaxDefense community member.

The Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessel's Intended Purpose:

It was among the projects presented by the AFP that is, officially, meant to support the government's policy to build a strong interdiction capability to counter the proliferation of narcotics from abroad, and ingress/egress of foreign vessels involved in transnational crime along the country's coastal waters. This is very much in line with Pres. Duterte's policies on war against drugs and terrorism.

Despite these, it is expected that the Philippine Navy will also use them for other purposes, including as a mobile Coast Watch platform that will be connected to the Coast Watch Philippines maritime surveillance system, patrol the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as a search and rescue or HADR platform in support of the national government, and be used as additional combat asset should the Philippine Navy finds the need to do so, especially in times of emergencies and war. Even if the current administration does not intend to push these ships for these missions, remember that the ships would probably be in service for the next 30 years, way way after Pres. Duterte's term.

Thus, in simple terms, the ship would be similar to a typical patrol vessel, and the classification would be further identified by its size. A larger ship would enable it to reach greater distances and deeper waters with higher sea states similar to an Offshore Patrol Vessel, nonetheless it can be a typical inshore patrol vessel.

Aside from these duties, the memorandum from the AFP specifically mentioned that these ships are meant to replace the remaining World War II-era warships in the Philippine Navy's inventory, specifically the sole destroyer escort (DE) BRP Rajah Humabon (FF-11), the two Rizal-class minesweeper frigates (MSF), and the six remaining Miguel Malvar-class patrol craft escorts (PCE).

Based on this information alone, the future MPPVs are meant to replace ships that are capable of offshore operations, with limited modern combat capability, and has enough endurance as OPVs like these old ships. Despite their classifications, the PN uses these WW2-era ships in a similar fashion as an OPV.

Expected Quantity and Specifications:

Based on the information provided by MaxDefense sources, the Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessel was meant to replace the seven Littoral Patrol Interdiction Craft (LPIC) originally proposed on the April 2016 Capability Upgrade Program wish list of the Philippine Navy. 

Also base on the October 2016 AFP memorandum, the PN plans to have somewhere between 6 to 9 ships of this type, and based on earlier count of WW2-era ships, it appears to be a 1:1 replacement.

The ships are expected to be on the same category of the Jacinto-class patrol vessels in service with the PN, but will definitely have better performance, capability, and will meet actual PN requirements rather than adjusting accordingly to the ship.

Dimensions and Features:
The same memorandum mentioned that these ships will have a length in excess of 50 meters, which appears to be on the same range as the Cyclone-class.

Despite the information on the memorandum, MaxDefense sources from the Philippine Navy confirmed that the ships are actually expected to be longer than 50 meters, and will probably range somewhere nearer to 70 to 80 meters in length. No beam (width) and displacement was provided, although a ship of around 70 to 80 meters in length nowadays would translate to at least 900 tons, depending on the features it possess (further discussed on the next paragraphs).

In terms of capability, the ships are to be designed with fast Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) operations in mind. The PN eyes the ships to be capable of carrying a minimum of 2 RHIBs, although preference will be for the ships to be able to carry and operate 4 RHIBs. This capability entails the need for large spaces, and if fast RHIB launching and recovery is a primary requirement, it is expected that the ships will have a stern-mounted ramps, while option to carry additional RHIB means that these would be carried on davits on the port and starboard sides of the superstructure. A ship with these requirements definitely go beyond 50, or even 60 meters in length.

The French Navy's L'Adroit-class OPV, based on the DCNS Gowind family, has a stern ramp for two 9-meter RHIBs, and could carry two more RHIBs on the superstructure sides.
Photo taken from Marine Nationale (French Navy)

Aside from RHIBs, the Philippine Navy eyes the MPPVs to have a helicopter deck capable of operating a helicopter of unspecified weight. It is highly possible that the requirement may only be for light helicopters like the Leonardo AW-109E Power already in service with the PN, and for ship-launched UAVs. 

But it is also possible that if the platform will be used in HADR operations and support of combat warships in the future, it is also possible that the helicopter deck will be specified for medium helicopters of  (10 to 12 tons in full operating weight), similar to the ones specified on the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Dock, and the Philippine Navy's future frigate. 

The ship does not require a hangar, which is standard in most OPV designs. The adding of a helicopter deck further increases the chances that the PN MPPV will be at least 80 meters long, similar to the length of the French L'Adroit-class or the Singaporean Independence-class, although an elevated helicopter deck with a stern RHIB ramp below could reduce the length of the ship to around 60-70 meters only.

An elevated helicopter deck with a stern RHIB ramp below, similar to the one on Damen's OPV-1400 design (above) with RHIBs launched from davits on the sides, is also another good example on how to integrate the two requirements (helicopter and RHIB operations) without extending the ship's length too much. 


The ships are expected to be diesel powered, probably powered by four diesel engines with controllable pitch propellers. The preference of the PN of using German-brand diesel engines, like those specified in the Tarlac-class and the PN's future frigate could also be a template for the MPPVs.

 Based on information provided to MaxDefense, the ships are also expected to have a maximum speed of somewhere between 20 to 23 knots, which is the standard speeds of an OPV, less than that of combat vessels like frigates or corvettes, but definitely faster than the World War 2 ships it will be replacing.

It is also expected that the ships will have a range of somewhere above 3,000 nautical miles, endurance of at least 2 weeks, and will be capable of operations of up to Sea State 5, while also survivable at least up to Sea State 7. 

No mention was made if the ships will be installed with a combat management system (CMS), but it is highly possible that it won't be installed to reduce costs, or a more compact system will be opted as compared to those to be installed on the PN's future frigate.

No mention was also made on what type of radar to be used. It is highly expected to have a navigation and secondary surface search X and S-band radar, as equipped in almost all PN major surface asset. It is highly possible that only a 2D surface and air search radar will be used to reduce cost, instead of a 3D system. It is also expected that the ships will be interconnected to the Coast Watch Philippines system, and will act as a mobile coast watch radar.

A 2D surface/air search & surveillance radar, like Thales' Variant series (above) would probably be used instead of a 3D system which is more expensive and illogical considering the capabilities and design intentions of the MPPVs.
Photo taken from Thales' Twitter account.

It is also expected that the main gun would either have its own fire control radar, or if the gun is less than 76mm in caliber, an Electro-Optical Tracking System (EOTS) similar to those being installed on the Jacinto-class patrol vessels (JCPV) of the PN under the Phase 3A and 3B of its modernization program.

MaxDefense also believes an Electronic Support Measures (ESM) would also be installed on the MPPVs, basing on the availability of such systems with the JCPVs (yes, those small ships at least have ESM). For commonality with the PN's future frigate, a Thales system like the Vigile LW could also be used.

MaxDefense was informed that the PN intends the MPPVs to be lightly armed, although they would have spaces provided should the PN decide to uparm them later on. Initial information gathered by MaxDefense points that the ships would only be armed with guns. Its primary gun would be a 30 to 40mm remotely-controlled stabilized gun, with secondary 12.7 to 25mm remotely-controlled stabilized guns and manually operated 12.7mm machine guns. The secondary gun caliber size would depend on what the main gun would be, the smaller the main gun, the smaller the secondary gun too. 

Take note that this layout seems to be not final yet, as another source mentioned that the PN is also looking at installing at least an Oto Melara 76mm gun as its primary weapon, which was the original gun of choice on previous OPV plans of the PN. It is expected that the PN would stick to existing calibres already in service (20mm, 25mm, 30mm, 40mm, and 76mm) and won't be considering a new caliber (57mm) due to logistics issues.

The recent decision of the PN to use a 30mm secondary gun for the PN's future frigate suggests that the PN is trying to move up from the previously used 25mm caliber, and may continue to do so for future warship requirements. Initial information gathered by MaxDefense suggests that the PN may use a 30mm or 40mm caliber for the MPPV's main gun requirement. Future uparming with short-range surface to surface missiles like the Rafael Spike-ER or Spike-NLOS is highly possible too.

If the PN decides to stick with the 40mm caliber as the ship's main gun, MaxDefense suggests the use of the newly developed RAPIDSeaGuardian gun from Thales, which, although uses a different ammunition (cased telescopic ammunition) that is different from standard 40mm ammunition used by the PN, can engage conventional naval and slow moving aerial threats, as well as assuming the role of a Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) capable of defending the ship from sea-skimming anti-ship missiles and fast moving attack aircraft. Only issue with this gun is the cost, which is expected to be far more expensive than a standard 30mm or 40mm RCWS mounted gun.

MaxDefense recommends the use of the Thales RAPIDSeaGuardian naval gun should the PN stick to the use of calibers less than 76mm. This gun can also be a CIWS to defend the ship from sea-skimming anti-ship missiles aside from traditional surface and slow-flying aerial threats.
Photo taken from Navy Recognition website.

The PN's MPPV are said to be designed to accommodate up-arming plans, but would probably be limited to short range anti-ship and short range defensive anti-aircraft capability if the option is given a go.

The ships could be armed later on with Rafael's Spike-ER or Spike-NLOS, or Thales' LMM short range missiles. Spike-ER and Spike-NLOS are already being put into service with the PN with its MPAC Mk.3 and Leonardo AW-159 Wildcat helicopter, respectively, while upcoming fast interdiction crafts (as discussed briefly in a MaxDefense Facebook wall post in the past). Meanwhile Thales has been offering their LMM missile with the PN's Naval Air Group and Littoral Combat Force for use on the Leonardo AW-109 and littoral surface assets.

Air defense can be provided by Simbad-RC with MBDA's Mistral very short range air defense missiles similar to those to be installed on the PN's future frigates, to provide a limited air defense capability. 

Aside from these, there were no confirmation if the ships will be capable of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) with a sonar system and anti-submarine torpedoes, which appears to be a feature available with the future corvettes and frigates only.

The Simbad-RC armed with Mistral very short range air defense system (VSHORAD) could be a good addition to the ship if there are extra funds available to provide the ships with a limited air defense capability. Manually operated Simbads can also be better than nothing at all.
Photo taken from MBDA website.

Possible Choices:
MaxDefense sources pointed out that the Philippine Navy is currently looking at designs from Sweden's Saab Kockums with their FLEXPatrol family, Damen of The Netherlands with the different OPV designs (MaxDefense believes the OPV-1400 and OPV-1800), BAE Systems Maritime-Naval Ships with their River-class Batch 2, and KERSHIP of France (joint venture between French shipbuilders DCNS and Piriou) possibly with their OPV-75 design, although MaxDefense believes French offers could be expensive. 

So far, no mention was made to MaxDefense if the PN is looking at designs from Asian countries like Singapore or South Korea.

Looking at the possible choices above, it looks like all proponents are new to the Philippine Navy, as none of them were even present when the PN decided to tender its requirement for a future frigate. Damen and DCNS were said to have passed-off the frigate due to lack of confidence that it will push through, although a very slim margin of profit was also another reason due to the very small budget provided for the frigates. Hopefully this time they would be pushing their wares seriously to the PN.

BAE System Maritime's River-class Batch 2 OPV design is also being eyed by the PN, considering that it has features that the PN are looking for with their MPPV. This is also considering that the PN is eyeing the acquisition of the Royal Navy's River-class Batch 1 OPVs once they are retired from service.
The Royal New Zealand Navy's Protector-class OPV, built by Tenix in Australia, is another template that could be used to visualize what the PN's MPPV may look like. Dimensions, performance, sensors, weapons, RHIB carrying capability and helicopter deck are all there.
Photo taken from Pinterest.

Parallels within the ASEAN Region:

Several ASEAN navies are also embarking on similar littoral patrol vessel programs and it would be interesting to mention and compare them with the PN's Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessel based on the information gathered.

The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) was the first to launch such type of vessel, considered as an Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) which is used to patrol Thailand's vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as well as its littorals in support of smaller surface assets of the RTN.

The RTN's Krabi-class, currently composed of a single active ship and another being constructed in Thailand, have opted to use a modified River-class OPV designed by British shipbuilder BAE Systems Maritime. The ship is 90 meters long, displaces around 2,000 tons, has a high range of 5,500 nautical miles, a maximum speed of 25 knots, and has a helideck for up to a medium-class helicopter. The ship is armed with guns only consisting of an Oto Melara 76mm main gun, two MSI Defence DS30 RCWS-mounted guns, and two manually-operated heavy machine guns. The ship's sensor include a Thales VARIANT lightweight 2D short-medium range surveillance radar which is sufficient enough given the ship's weapons capability.

Compared to the Philippine Navy requirement, this is actually the closest one, but the Thai OPV may be larger, and is more capable than what the PN is looking for.

The HTMS Krabi (OPV-551) while in Australia. A second ship is being constructed and will be installed with almost the same sensors systems in addition to a Thales TACTICOS combat management system.
Photo taken from Credits to the owner.

The small Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) prides itself of having four capable offshore patrol vessels with offensive capabilities in its fleet, called the Darussalam-class, which were made by German shipbuilder Lurssen Wherft. The ships 80 metes long, displaces in excess of 1,600 tons, has a maximum range of 7,500 nautical miles, an endurance of 21 days, and have a maximum speed of 22 knots. It is equipped with a Terma Scanter 4100 2D surveillance radars, and are armed with a Bofors 57mm gun, two Oerlikon 20mm guns, a two twin MBDA Exocet MM40 Block 3 anti-ship missile system. 

These ships, being the most capable in the Brunei fleet, were standard OPVs armed with anti-ship missiles to provide the punch they need due to the absence of other ships that could provide such capability. Without the missiles, they are actually close to the PN requirement.

The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) recently signed for four Littoral Missions Ships (LMS) with China, which will be a new class of patrol vessels that are included in their "15 to 5" Transformation Programme which calls for the reduction of the RMN's fleet from 15 different ship classes, to only 5 by . Two of the ships will be built in China, while 2 will be built in Malaysia. 18 LMS are actually eyed by the RMN, thus it is highly possible that the RMN will be constructing more Chinese-designed LMS in local shipyards as funding becomes available. The LMS is slated to initially replace the Laksamana-class corvettes, and other smaller patrol boats in the near future. The CGI provided by the RMN shows that it looks similar to the Bangladeshi Durjoy-class patrol vessels sold by China recently.

The RMN's LMS has so far no been described much but it was said that the requirement is for it to be armed with guns only, but will be wired for missile systems if deemed necessary.

A CGI of the Malaysian LMS68 ship as provided by the Royal Malaysian Navy.
Photo taken from MalaysaDefense blog page.

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) has launched their Independence-class Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV), a class of 8 new ships that are meant to replace their Fearless-class patrol vessels. The LMVs were designed jointly by Saab Kockums and ST Marine, together with the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), are is slotted below the Victory-class missile corvettes in terms of size and capability. 

Based on information provided by the RSN, the Independence-class will be 80 meters long, displace around 1,250 tons, has a maximum speed in excess of 27 knots, a maximum range of 3,500 nautical miles, and endurance of around 14 days. It is armed with a 76mm Oto Melara gun, probably reused from the Fearless-class, an air defense capability with 12 MBDA VL-Mica anti-aircraft missiles launched from a VLS, It will also be armed with two Oto Melara Hitrole 12.7mm RCWS-mounted guns, a Rafael Typhoon 25mm RCWS-mounted gun, a helicopter landing pad for medium helicopters (probably SH-60 Seahawk category), a RHB fast launch and recovery system, and a Thales NS-106 3D surveillance radar similar to ones to be installed on the Philippine Navy's future frigate.

In a nutshell, the RSN's Independence-class is the maximum level in this category, with high-level weapons and sensors system despite just being a patrol vessel. The Philippine Navy requirement for MPPV is definitely slotted below this class, and would be less capable, but far cheaper than the Singaporean model. Based on the specs of the ship, "littoral" appears to just be a term but in fact the ship can be used to patrol on deep water far away from the Singapore mainland.

The Independence-class Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV) of the Republic of Singapore Navy.
Photo from RSN.


Being a Horizon 2 project, it is expected that the PN might only come up with a program to start this project by 2017 or even 2018, that is a big IF the PN does not change its shopping wish list again. It normally takes a year or two for a project to be conceptualized, and probably a year or two to tender. If DASAT and PMT are not yet made, then it means the concept is probably only in its early stages, so are the information we have above.

But if the Duterte administration allows the PN to forego the tender system as stipulated by RA 9184, then an award of the project can be made earlier than usual, probably as early as late 2018. If that happens, the first ship of the class could be in service within 2020, almost the same time as the new frigates ordered from HHI.

As far as MaxDefense sources confirmed, this project is said to be among the urgent once since the ships it would replace are nearing 80 years old (gasp!) by then, and they don't have the intention to put them to work any longer.

Until then, MaxDefense will be updating its readers of this project as more information becomes available. Hopefully as early as first half of 2017 we could be getting more confirmed information, considering that many of the PN staff involved in planning this project was in EuroNaval 2016 a few weeks ago, already talking to some of the eyed shipbuilders not just for this project, but also for the expected corvette project. And as far as I was told, many of them were also in Indonesia to attend the massive IndoDefense 2016 defense exhibition to do information gathering.

December 18, 2016:

Israel Shipyards appears to be leading the pact of possible suppliers for the Philippine Navy's Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessel project, with a proposal submitted as early as August 2016. It involves an offer based on their Sa'ar S-72 corvette design, although simplified to meet basic PN requirements and to reduce costs and meet with the PN's projected Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC).

Based on the formal offer made by Israel Shipyards to the DND and Pres. Duterte himself, the following are the basic information of the ship:

Overall Length: 71.9 meters
Beam: 10.25 meters
Draught: 2.9 meters
Displacement: roughly 800 tons
Speed: above 28 knots maximum, 12-18 knots cruising
Range: 5,300 nautical miles @ 12 knots
Endurance: 21 days
Crew: 45 

Engine: 2 x diesel engines, with option to fit slow-speed electric drive for fue savings
RHIB: 2 to 4 units lowered by davit cranes

Weapons and sensors will be dependent on Philippine Navy's specifications, once finalized, although the ship can fit most common systems available in the market. Israel Ministry of Defense-SIBAT prefers the use Israel-made systems, probably from Rafael, IAI-Elta, and Elbit-Elisra.

A photo of Israel Shipyard's offer based on their Sa'ar S-72 design.
Photo taken from Israel Shipyard's proposals to the PN.

It also appears that other potential shipbuilder competitors of Israel Shipyards like Damen (Netherlands), BAE Systems Maritime (UK), Fassmer (Germany), Tenix Defence (Australia), and others, have not yet submitted a formal offer aside from standard information provided to the PN. Add to that the low unit price, high interest to cooperate with Israel on defense matters by Pres. Duterte, plus a long term payment scheme for the ships, means that this offer is hard to beat at the moment. 
More information will be provided as the project progresses.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Finally, the Contract Signing for 2 New Light Frigates between Philippine Navy and Hyundai Heavy Industries

Since MaxDefense announced the release of the Notice of Award for the Philippine Navy's Frigate Acquisition Project to Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) last September 1, 2016 signifying the win as the chosen shipbuilder for the project, it has been a hanging question as to when the contract will be signed between the two parties. The project involves the acquisition of two brand-new light frigates, which is to become the most modern surface combatant of the Philippine Navy in the next few years.

It was originally thought that the contract will be signed before the end of the month, with no less than the Department of National Defense (DND) through its spokesman Arsenio Andolong mentioning about the target schedule. We all know this did not push through.

This photo was released by HHI as the perspective design of the PN's new frigate. As expected it will have design cues taken from the FFX-3 which was also designed by HHI.
Photo taken from HHI's website.

For the Big News of the Day:

According to MaxDefense sources, the Frigate Acquisition Project's contract signing ceremonies will be held today, October 24, 2016, at 2:00pm (Philippines time) at the Headquarters, Philippine Navy in Roxas Boulevard, Manila. The program will be attended by DND, AFP, and PN high command officials, HHI executives, and the South Korean ambassador to the Philippines.

It turns out that many even in the Philippine Navy itself is not aware of this event for reasons unknown to us.

The contract signing is an important part of the procurement process as it puts into paper whatever discussions were made in the past, and signifies the order of the Philippine Navy to have HHI build the frigates.

According to HHI, the ships will be based on the company's HDF-3000 frigate design, but with some changes as specified by the Philippine Navy. It won't necessarily be a twin of the Incheon-class frigate of the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN).

Based on the schedules submitted by the Philippine Navy for compliance by the winning shipbuilder, the first ship will be delivered to the Philippine Navy by late 2019, and the second ship by late 2020.

HHI released a computer-generated design of the frigate, and as MaxDefense predicted in the past, it takes a strong cue from the ROKN's FFX-3 frigate which was also designed by HHI.

Weapons and Sensors:

Based on the Bill of Quantities submitted by HHI to the PN during the Submission and Opening of Bid Envelopes (SOBE) during the 2nd stage bidding stage several months ago, the ship will be armed with a 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid main gun, two twin launchers for SSM-700K C-Star anti-ship cruise missiles, two twin Simbad-RC launchers for Mistral short range surface-to-air missiles, two triple trainable torpedo tubes firing Blue Shark lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes, a single MSI Defense Seahawk RCWS with a 30mm gun, at least 4 manually operated M2HB 50-caliber machine guns.

Further discussion about this can be found on our previous blog entry:

"The Philippine Navy's Future Frigate from Hyundai: Discussing the Ship's Design and Some of its Expected Subsystems" - dated September 3, 2016.

Twin Simbad-RC for Mistral missiles are included in the new frigates.
Photo taken from MBDA website.

Frigate's CMS and Sensors:

Based on the same BOQ from the SOBE as mentioned earlier, the Philippine Navy's frigate will be installed with a variety of sensors, described as the following:

(note: this applies if PN's Project Management Team did not do changes, or did not allow changes as requested by HHI)

Combat Management System (CMS) - will be TACTICOS Combat Management System from Thales. Among the most proven CMS in the market today, the PN will be benefiting from the TACTICOS' performance for the frigates, and is designed to be able to integrate the weapons systems mentioned above, as well as all the other sensors mentioned below.

A previous blog entry comparing it to the Hanwha Systems Naval Shield CMS can be accessed below:

"Naval Combat Management System - MaxDefense's Choice for the Philippines' New Frigate & Existing Warships" - dated September 27, 2016.

3D Surveillance Radar - the ship will be installed with the NS-100 series dual-axis multi-beam AESA radar also from Thales. The specific model will be the NS-106, which is a very new product considering Singapore was the launch customer for the Littoral Missions Vessel that are just launched lately. Far better than the 2D type which was indicated in the initial technical specifications during the frigate acquisition program's 1st stage.

The new frigates will be having the NS-106 AESA radars, a far improvement over the 2D system specified in the initial phases of the project.

Hull Mounted Sonar - Thales' Bluewatcher hull-mounted sonar will be used for the frigates. Although not the best in Thales' line-up, it would be a good start and is mostly used in small surface combatants. MaxDefense prefers the use of the more capable but more expensive and larger Thales KingKlip sonar. The Bluewatcher would be complemented by a towed-array sonar system in the future should the PN continue with its original plan.

Fire Control Radar (FCR) - the ships will have a Thales STIR 1.2 EO Mk. 2 fire control radar to guide the 76mm Oto Melara main gun. It has electronic counter counter measures (ECCM) capability and has a full EO suite with it.

The STIR 1.2 EO Mk.2 from Thales, the Fire Control Radar chosen for the frigates.
Photo taken from Thales' website.

Electro-Optical Tracking System (EOTS) - the SAQ-540K from LIGNex1 will guide the Seahawk 30mm gun. This is so far the only Korean-made sensor system offered by HHI based on the BOQ.

Electronic Surveillance Measures (ESM) - so far this is the only softkill EW component on the ship, it will have the Vigile LW from Thales. A lightweight system, it is normally designed for small warships although frigates are also OK with it. But for better capability, MaxDefense believes that the PN should upgrade its ESM system to the Vigile 100 Mk.2 which is similar to those to be used in Malaysia's upcoming Gowind littoral combat ship/frigate.

Missile and Torpedo Decoy Launching and Countermeasures SystemWallop's Super Barricade countermeasures system will be installed on the ships. Two systems will be installed in each ship to defend from both port and starboard sides. The Super Barricade can launch decoys for incoming anti-ship missiles and anti-ship torpedoes.

The Super Barricade countermeasures system will be a part of the frigate's defensive suit.
Photo taken from Naval Technology website.

Tactical Data Link - Thales Link Y Mk.2 was chosen to be the ship's tactical data link, comparable to the NATO Link 11 but with enhanced features. The specs also mentioned that the ships should have space to allow a possible installation of air warfare data Link 16 and maritime data Link 22 in the future.

Design Concerns:

The computer generated image (CGI) provided by Hyundai clearly shows the stealthy features incorporated by HHI to the frigate design, with cues coming in from the FFX-3 frigate of the ROKN which HHI also designed. It looks far more modern than the original HDF-3000 design used on the ROKN's Incheon-class frigate, with cleaner superstructure and less clutter, and a reduced smokestack due to the absence of a gas turbine engine found on the Incheon-class.

Based on the dimensions provided by HHI, it appears that the ship will have a displacement of around 2,600 tons, length of 107 meters, and beam of 12 meters, and a top speed of 25 knots, with a range of 4,500 nautical miles @ 15 knots speed. As specified in the past, the ship will be powered in a CODAD configuration.

This appears to be within the specifications provided by the Philippine Navy in the past, but is very close to it and was not given significant improvements. MaxDefense's concern is the marginal room for improvement, including the lack of space for more anti-ship missiles or land-attack rockets, In comparison, the Incheon-class actually can accommodate a mix of up to 16 anti-ship and land-attack missiles using four quadruple missile launchers, while the PN design appears to have space for only up to two quadruple launchers.

Another design comment is the uncovered deck near the smokestack which exposes the missile launchers, RHIBs and torpedo launchers, and also reduces stealth characteristics on that portion of the ship. This could be added in the final design, while MaxDefense prefers the torpedo launcher to be placed at a lower deck level, hidden in an openable deck enclosure.

Majority of MaxDefense's comment on the design can be found at this portion of the ship. MaxDefense believes that more space should be provided here, while providing a deck enclosure to cover the launchers, RHIBs, and torpedo launchers. Also, the 30mm Seahawk secondary gun would be more suitably installed here than on top of the hangar.
Photo snapped from HHI's photo.

The photo also suggests that the Simbad to be used by the PN will be the Remote Controlled (RC) version. The missile launcher are found on the roof deck of the bridge, but MaxDefense's concerns is on the reloading of the missiles. While it is expected to be done manually, carrying it over to the roof through an access from the bridge is an awkward way of doing it. The photo also clearly shows the NS-100 series 3D surveillance radar.

The twin Simbad-RC launchers, the X and S-band navigation radar antennas, the STIR 1.2 EO Mk.2 fire control radar, and the NS-106 3D surveillance radar are clearly shown on this part of the ship.
Photo snapped from HHI's original CGI.

On the rear part of the ship, the single MSI Defense Seahawk 30mm secondary gun appears to be position too high, considering that its purpose is to defend the ship from incoming small surface targets like fast boats and minor targets. Its very high position may not allow its gun to hit targets closer to the ship, and that position is better suited for the future anti-ship missile CIWS like Phalanx, Goalkeeper, or RAM / SeaRAM.

MaxDefense believes that it would best for the ship to have two Seahawk 30mm guns, one each on port and starboard side, probably positioned lower at the midships, near the current position of the triple trainable torpedo tubes. But this requires the open midship section to be longer, affecting the ship's overall length.

The position of the secondary gun atop the hangar seems too high and too centered, that it may have difficulty hitting targets closer to the ship due to the guns limited negative elevation,
Photo snapped from HHI's original CGI.

And with HHI using the MSI Defense Seahawk gun mount, MaxDefense suggests to the Philippine Navy to consider arming the guns with the Thales LMM missile, which the Seahawk SIGMA has the ability to install on the gun mount itself. This increases the capability of the ship to defend from numerous "swarm" attack of small boats at longer distances with higher accuracy than the gun itself. Considering that Thales is already onboard with the sensors and CMS, acquiring the LMM might not be difficult to make.

The MSI Defense Seahawk SIGMA can mount LMM missile launchers on its side, which allows the gun to engage swarm attacks at longer distances than the gun itself. MaxDefense suggests the use of this system.
Photo taken from MSI Defense website.

While MaxDefense prefers a larger design, probably the same dimensions as the Incheon-class (114 meters length, 14 meters beam), this could take toll on the ship's performance, considering that the maximum speed is already at the low side except if they increase the power of the diesel engines which are also larger in dimensions and heavier in weight.

Design cues for the superstructure were obviously taken from the FFX-3 frigate (above) designed by Hyundai, although the FFX-3 is far larger, and has more accommodations for improvement in the future, which is MaxDefense's primary concern for the PN frigate.
Credits to the unknown owner of the photo.

While the CGI is probably closer to the final design, MaxDefense will be waiting for the final design to be completed, as it is expected that the PN would provide some more inputs, and probably improve on the design and features of the ship. Although this could translate to cost increases, that could be done as a variation order for the project. 

Also, remember that the PN still has a change of more than Php 200 million pesos, the difference between the ABC worth Php 16 billion, and HHI's offer worth Php 15.744 billion. MaxDefense expects the PN to use that amount to further improve the ship, like for example, adding a second secondary gun for both ships, or increasing the ship's size.

Positive Effects of Contract Signing:

Aside from confirming the order for the frigate, the contract signing is actually a bigger event that shows the seriousness of the Philippine Navy in its modernization drive.

The contract amount might be small compared to the frigate project of its peers in the region, but the point that finally the Philippines was able to push for a new build warship will definitely entice the global defense industry to look at the Philippines again. The frigates are just one of many expected new-build naval projects that the Philippine Navy will be undertaking in the years ahead.

Among those expected to take notice are European shipbuilders, who, except for Spain's Navantia and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) of Germany, are mostly absent during the Frigate acquisition project. This includes Damen of Netherlands, DCNS of France, Leonardo of Italy, and BAE Systems of the UK. According to MaxDefense sources, these shipbuilders skipped the frigate bidding due to their disbelief that the project will push through, and if it does, the profit will be too low.

Now that Pres. Duterte has announced his rejection to the tender system in acquiring defense materiel for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, it won't be a fight of who's the cheapest anymore, but on who can provide a good balance of capability and pricing.

The Philippine Navy has several other naval projects coming up in the next few years, and the signing of the frigate contract shows to the world that the PN is ready to acquire modern new systems from the global market.
Photo taken from TKMS' website.

What's Next?

After the contract signing, we will be awaiting for the Opening of Letter of Credit, and the submission of the Notice to Proceed by the DND/PN to HHI. These are also important for HHI, as the Letter of Credit gives them assurance that funding will be provided upon meeting delivery or schedule conditions, while the Notice to Proceed is the document stating that HHI can formally proceed with the project, and will be the basis of the construction and delivery schedule.

These are expected to be provided within this year, at best. MaxDefense will definitely post updates regarding the availability of these two important documents that will push the project forward. Good luck to both the Philippine Navy and Hyundai Heavy Industries for this very important project for the Filipino people.