Thursday, May 2, 2013

Frigates in the Philippine Navy - better late than never

Frigates (or destroyer escorts) has been the backbone of most of the world's 1st and 2nd rate navies; they have size, speed, weaponry and capability to do most naval warfare operations.  But unlike destroyers or cruisers, frigates come in smaller packages, with less complicated systems, and a more affordable pricing affordable enough for countries with only a reasonable defense budget.


The Philippine Navy is one of the first navies in Southeast Asia to operate frigates/destroyer escorts or frigate-sized warships. It's close cooperation with the United States in its formative years gave it access to some American excess defense articles, which include naval vessels of this size.


RPS Rajah Soliman (D-66)
(from Wikimedia)
On October 1960, the United States loaned the former USS Bowers (DE-637), a Buckley-class destroyer escort as the Philippine Navy's first destroyer escort under the name RPS Rajah Soliman (D-66). But its untimely loss on June 1964 cut short its service, with the Philippine Navy only accepting its next destroyer escort, the former USN Cannon-class destroyer escort USS Booth (DE-170) in 1967 as the RPS Datu Kalantiaw (PS-76). 


BRP Datu Sikatuna (PF-5)
(from cplhawkeye1950 @ pinoyhistory.proboards.com)
More US destroyer escorts arrived later on, with the unexpected arrival of the former USN Edsall-class destroyer escort formerly with the South Vietnamese Navy, USS Camp (DE-251) became the RPS (BRP) Rajah Lakandula (PS-4, later PF-4) in 1976. Former USN destroyer escorts USS Amick (DE-168) and USS Atherton (DE-169) became the RPS (BRP) Datu Sikatuna (PS-77, later PF-5) and RPS (BRP) Rajah Humabon (PS-78, later PF-6 , PF-11) in 1980. US ships formerly serving the RoKN, the USS Muir (DE-770) and USS Sutton (DE-771), were used as spares for the other Cannon-class ships and never entered service.


BRP Andres Bonifacio (PF-7) circa 1986
(from drakula @ timawa.net)
Other than destroyer escorts, the Philippine Navy also received former US Coast Guard high-endurance cutters and were classified as frigates, coming from the Republic of Vietnam Navy as well. These were the former Casco-class cutters USCGC Chincoteague (WHEC-375) as RPS (BRP) Andres Bonifacio (PF-7), USCGC McCulloch (WHEC-386) as RPS (BRP) Gregorio del Pilar (PF-8), USCGC Bering Strait (WHEC-382) as RPS (BRP) Diego Silang (PF-9), and USCGC Castle Rock (WHEC-383) as RPS (BRP) Francisco Dagohoy (PF-10).


BRP Rajah Humabon (PF-11) circa 2010
(from Wikipedia)
With most of these assets in service, the Philippine Navy became one of the largest navy in the region, with enough assets to keep its territorial waters checked. There were a maximum of 7 frigates in commission at a time during the late 1970s to early 1980s. 



BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15)
(from BRP Gregorio del Pilar PF-15 Facebook site)
Through the years most of these navy assets were lost, retired and scrapped due to age and maintenance issues, as well as the unwillingness of the Philippine government to support its navy. All hope was thought to be lost after the 1995 AFP Modernization Program was ended in 2010 without the requested 3 new frigates coming into service. Until 2011, only the BRP Rajah Humabon was left to shoulder on with the decline of the Philippine Navy. The arrival of former US Coast Guard high endurance cutter former USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715) as BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) broke the curse, and now the PN is also expecting the arrival of former USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716) as BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16). As the old "lolo" Humabon is still soldiering on, it is expected that she will still servce the PN well after 70 years since she was built in 1944, and will keep the title as the oldest frigate/destroyer escort in service in this part of the world.

With the revitalization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the navy is expected to be getting new materiel, including frigates in its arsenal. Based on the "Philippine Fleet Desired Force Mix" released in 2011, the navy would like to obtain at least 6 air warfare frigates and 12 anti-submarine corvettes (light frigates), with the light frigates getting underway with the first 2 units to be bid-out in 2013. With enough government support and fundings, as well as the PN hierarchy's willingness to commit to such purchases will make this "desire" successful. 

Hopefully all goes well with this new endeavor of the navy, as it is already too late in getting enough ships, especially frigates in its arsenal to replace its mostly dilapidated assets. 

(We'll be discussing the current light frigate purchase program on the next posting)



13 comments:

  1. ‘What I’m fighting for today is an extension of what I fought for before’

    -Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda

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  2. e kasi wala naman talaga eh..puro drawing yung gobyerno natin....

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    1. tologo? are you incharge of the acquisitions? just because its not on the news doesnt mean the gov doesnt do everything esp. in military acquisitions..remember the enemy loves those news..just keep our mouth zip and wait -_-

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    2. Do you believe that every ship, aircraft, missile, weapons system, and any other thing started with a drawing? If you think everything is just drawing, then there should not even be a BRP Gregorio del Pilar and Ramon Alcaraz, and Sokol helicopters, etc etc etc in the first place.

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  3. Hukbong Dagat (HD) should be a purely offensive force. The existing organization must be redesigned and rebuilt for this sole purpose in all aspects from doctrine on to operational use. It must be disengaged from coastal, sovereignty and EEZ patrol operations altogether as these missions sap resources better applied to building an offensive capability. These missions and environments rightfully belong to the Coast Guard and other agencies. Humanitarian and disaster relief is not a naval mission but must be the province of a dedicated separate government entity. As well nation building efforts will better flourish in a secure environment.
    HDs energies must be expended on building up the full gamut of offensive capability ready to engage in naval action anywhere in the region and as a progression anywhere there is a perceived threat to our national interest. As an example, witness off the coast of Somalia where a lot of our seaman compatriots got kidnapped by pirates and our country could not even contemplate sending a naval task force as done by other countries. Such offensive capability gives the national leadership confidence and backbone in formulating its options and making its decisions. Only we must look out for our own, we are an independent capable people, are we not?
    A superb military capability indoctrinated into every member of the Filipino populace creates in their psyche a self confident positive outlook on life. Such a capability becomes a source of national pride and accomplishment. Such a capability builds a “can do” spirit.
    The building up of this offensive naval capability in its broadest sense must be done decisively and steadily as it will no doubt be a long developmental process. This does not preclude taking “leapfrog steps” as opposed to “baby steps” to come up with some capabilities “now”.
    The present state of unpreparedness must end and I hope the Filipino nation be wise in time.

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    1. I agree with your assesment. An offensive capability Philippine Navy is the way to go. This would include a Naval/Marine Air Arm and anti-submarine patrol aircraft and drones. The obsolete ships should be immediately retired so as to free up operational and training money for the new weapon systems. The case of the United States Navy with its first six frigates built in 1794 should be followed as an example. The first six frigates(USS Contitution etc)were better designed and built than those of the Royal British Navy. In the War of 1812 the superior ships and crews of the small U.S. Navy sunk several British ships much to the surprise of the British. This could be the scenario of a naval war between Communist China and the Philippine Navy.

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    2. I strongly agree. There is wisdom in the common saying:"the best defense is offense."

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  4. The brand new Austal Shipbuilding Yard in West Cebu, Philippines gives the Philippine Navy and Nation the opportunity to start building warships in the Philippines. The benefits of for instance buying two Korea Inchon Class Frigates and having one of them built at the Austal Shipbuilding yard in West Cebu would be a big maritime capability multiplier for the Philippine people.

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    1. I don't think a Korean ship like the Incheon could be built in Austal. A closer possibility is building them at Hanjin's shipyard in Subic. This may not be even possible as well.

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  5. para sa pangulo at sa dnd ito ang tamang panahon para mag desisyon ng mabilisan para sa pagbili ng mga gamit kagaya ng frigate para sa navy at fa-50 para sa air force. wala ng oras para pagdebatihan para sa anong klase bago man o luma. sinasakop na ng china ang west philippine sea.tingin ko sa dnd walang balak bumili puro press release lang.tatlong taon ng pinaplano wala namang nabibili....tsk..tsk...kilos dnd..gawa kayo ng kontrata at pumunta sa israel para bumili ng gamit sa navy at air force within 6 months meron na tayong mga gamit.

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  6. The government thru the leadership of pinoy shall act now not later.DND must recommend to the president that they need frigate and fa-50 the soonest time.we need now...or go to israel with contract within six months we have brand new military equipment...act now...

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  7. dear max,

    i read in your other thread about the bidding for frigate program that you were "surprised " by the i terest of one israeli shipyard. from my layman's point of view i think the Saar 5 provides the best money for value of all options. it packs more weapons particularly anti air(with the upgrade to the Barak 8 missile) yet offers adequate anti ship and anti submarine capabilities. I think it is pound for pound the best warship for our needs. I would really like to hear your expert comments on this. we really dont need long endurance ships(and thus bigger tonnage ships) since we can base this ships in palawan near where the highest level of tensions are(west philippine sea). More poweer to you and hope to hear your take on this.

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    1. Hi Erwin. Surprised because Israel is not really a foremost warship manufacturer for international market for products above 1000 tons. They are best known for their missile and patrol boats, but not for their bigger vessels. Saár V was actually built by an American shipyard, so there would be some conflict there. The PN need long range ships because these ships are meant to patrol and be on guard for some weeks, while smaller boats can't do that. Having a bigger ship is also better to take in the high sea states around PH waters.

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