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)|
|BRP Datu Sikatuna (PF-5)|
(from cplhawkeye1950 @ pinoyhistory.proboards.com)
|BRP Andres Bonifacio (PF-7) circa 1986|
(from drakula @ timawa.net)
|BRP Rajah Humabon (PF-11) circa 2010|
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)