Monday, July 8, 2013

A "New" Maestrale Frigate? Another Case of Lack of Understanding by the Press


In a Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) press conference last July 2, 2013, DND Undersecretary for Finance, Munitions, Installations and Materiel Fernando I. Manalo discussed the status of several ongoing projects including the much awaited new frigate acquisition program. While explaining what happened to a previous plan to purchase 2 used Maestrale-class frigates from Italy, he suddenly uttered the words "...instead of buying second hand we might as well buy a new Maestrale..." while continuing his explanation on the program's status.

The Italian Maestrale-class frigate. The design is already more than 30-years old, why get an old design when new, updated and fresh designs are available worldwide?
Photo taken from Wikimedia.

The next day, Philippine news reports mostly sourcing their content from the French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), have published headlines saying that the Philippines will be buying new Maestrale-class frigates from Italy. As one of the largest and oldest news organization with a history of reliable and wide coverage news, it was also picked-up by major foreign-based news outfits, defense and shipping-related publications and internet news, and even blogs and forums. And everything was history.


To those familiar with ship design, you could already see the big difference in technology between a 1970s warship design like the Maestrale-class here....

...and this new frigate design from the 21st century. Notice the sleek and smooth lines of the ship design that contributes to the stealthy features of the warship?

Analyzing the press conference remarks by Mr. Manalo and raw transcripts posted by TheInsider at Timawa Philippine Defense Forum (which fortunately is available online), we can see that Mr. Manalo indeed made an unintended but damaging mistake of saying "buy a new Maestrale". But looking further it appears that he actually meant "buy a new frigate". Mr. Manalo wanted to say frigate, but instead said Maestrale.

DND Undersecretary for Finance, Munitions, Installations and Materiel Fernando I. Manalo.
Photo taken from Interaksyon.com

Although it was a mistake made by Mr. Manalo, MaxDefense does not totally take it against him, rather it was also the mistake of the press. The press just simply quoted USec. Manalo, right? Wrong. Judging from the entirety of the press conference, it shows that the press was not taking into consideration what Mr. Manalo was discussing all along. Or worse, they did not understand what Mr. Manalo was talking about.


Bidding for new frigates were discussed during the press conference. Different shipbuilders like Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries are interested in the program and is offering their Incheon-class frigate.

Early in the press conference, USec. Manalo explained that the Philippine Navy has just submitted the Acquisition Decision  Memorandum or ADM, which provides the basic information and specification to implement the two-stage bidding. It clearly means that bidding will be made, but has not yet started. He also said that the PN will recommend the services of a specialized consultant to guide the PN , probably with regards to system integration, specific technology information, and other needs of the PN Project Management Team that they may not be very familiar with. Again, there is no specialized consultant yet, but hiring is a strong possibility. These information already points out that the PN has not yet chosen any specific bidder or shipbuilding/systems contractor & integrator until that time. But the press ignored these facts (and even all other issues discussed), went straight for the juiciest part of the interview, and made news history.


New frigate designs, like Daewoo's DW3000H frigate, is available in the market. Why would the PN settle for an old and outdated design?

Also, the Maestrale-class frigates were designed in the 1970s, taking into consideration the warship technology of that time. Besides a relatively small difference in costs, what are the advantages of buying a brand-new ship using a 1970s technology to use against threats that are using 21st century ship technology? The Italian shipbuilder of the Maestrale-class, Fincantieri, have stopped building Maestrale-class ships since the mid-1980s, and are now building new generation frigates based on the latest designs. Why would Fincantieri offer an old ship design when they can offer their latest design to square-off with the latest designs from South Korea, Spain, Australia, US, etc.


Fincantieri, the Maestrale-class' builder, is now offering new designs like the MOSAIC family.
Photo taken from Orrizonte Sistemi Navali website.

So to clarify everything, MaxDefense is confident to inform everyone that the Philippine Navy will be buying brand new frigates, and will not be Maestrale-class ships. With this, we refer you back to our original blog topic posted last May on:

 "Why the Philippine Navy dropped the Maestrale-class" (http://maxdefense.blogspot.sg/2013/05/why-philippine-navy-dropped-maestrale.html), and 

"Proposed Designs Offered to the Philippine Navy Frigate Program of 2013" (http://maxdefense.blogspot.sg/2013/05/proposed-designs-offered-for-philippine.html)

For those who haven't seen or read them yet, these 2 blog topics discuss relevant information on the PN's current frigate program. 

MaxDefense suggests that the DND, especially Usec. Manalo, should be more careful in their press releases next time. DND should give importance in giving correct information, and making sure their spokespersons are very familiar with what they discuss to the press. Committing such mistakes causes misinformation of great scale when taken directly by the press, just like what happened to this Maestrale issue. The DND and AFP should also conduct defense information training to its press corps (who also make mistakes as shown in their past press releases), and invite the local press to attend similar workshops and talks. 

The press should also give more importance in analyzing their reports and transcripts, give some time for research and reconfirmation before publishing their reports. Mistakes like this happen due to lack of understanding by the press on what they are reporting, even with sufficient information already given to them. Another proposal from MaxDefense is to hire defense-oriented reporters who has enough experience in dealing with defense-related news and information. MaxDefense believes that with the current security issues in the Philippines and in the region, the press will have a lot to handle in terms of defense-related issues in the years to come.

43 comments:

  1. The Philippines should get the Maestrale-class frigates as an interim frigate while awaiting better frigates. The Maestrale-class frigates would give the Philippines a taste of ASW, ASUW and AAW operations. It can be used to teach crews on how to operate more advance frigates. At the same time, the Maestrale-class frigates would give the Philippines a creditable navy with ASW, ASUW and AAW capability.

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    1. yes, entire 7th fleet is ours.
      We have aircraft carriers, LHDs,LPDs, Destroyers, Nuclear Subs, marines etc.
      US will always help Philippines.

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    2. Hi Nicky, I share in your opinion that the PN should acquire a legacy frigate like the Maestrale, if the price is about 50% of a brand new one, 75% including training, spares and magazine reloads. And it should fit the operational requirements of the PN whatever it is. Yes, the gov't has purchased two 45-yr old, ex-USCG cutters, that can help the PN learn to master marine gas turbine propulsion. Why did the US offer us the cutters instead of the newer O.H. Perry class frigates? Do we need to add more legacy ships? Why not lease it instead? Waiting for the brand new stealthy ships to materialize could be rather boring for us, It has to undergo bidding and all the negotiations, maybe for a year, then another 2 years for building the ships, then another year for fitting out and systems integration, builder's trial,etc. Well we have to wait for at least 4-5 years more.

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    3. damn the population gotta get rid of "the US will always help us" mind set...it's time to help ourselves lol

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    4. Here's the issue, the PN or Philippines has not operated any advance technology such as Missiles or torpedoes. They have no experience, and since they have not had any ship that is state of the art or complex as the Maestrale-class frigates, the learning curve is going to be very steep for them. The Maestrale-class frigates would give the PN a taste and an introduction to Multi role frigates with complex and technological advance weapons and systems. The Maestrale-class frigates are armed ACSM's such as the Otomat/Teseo ASCM, Aspide and Sea Sparrow medium surface to air missile. If the PN has no experience in operating multi role Frigates such as the Maestrale-class frigates, they are going to have a hard time, unless they pay the Italians to teach them.

      The Maestrale-class frigates IMO, are a good Interim Frigate for PN, all while waiting for advance stealth Multi Role Frigates. The Maestrale-class frigates would teach the PN how to use a Multi Role frigate, so later on down the road, they could get Multi Role frigates such as the FREMM Frigate or Incheon class Frigate. The Maestrale-class frigates would teach PN crews how to use advance ASW, ASUW and AAW weapons and systems. Which is something the PN doesn't have any experience in.

      As far as getting a used Perry class frigates from the US Navy, if you can get it would be good, but then again the learning curve would be steep because of the complex weapons and systems on the Perry Frigates. Their are Weapons and systems that PN has no experience in such as SM-1MR missile,CIWS, Harpoon missiles, MK-46/MK-50 Torpedoes . IMO, a Perry class Frigate would be good for PN, if configured in the same way as Australia and Taiwan.

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    5. Nicky, in my previous blogs, MaxDefense has been an advocate of buying used but still effective frigates and corvettes to act as interim platforms and force multiplier. The Maestrales could have been a training platform to bridge the technology and knowledge gap in the PN, while also act as force multipliers since these ships can still do their job as a warfighter and patrol vessel. It is even more modern than some of the frigates of neighboring countries. But besides the reasons I pointed out in the previous blog on why they dropped the Maestrale, it appears that there are other factors that dropped the entire deal altogether.

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    6. US Navy Perrys no longer have missile capability. The Mk13 launchers for both SM-1 and Harpoon were removed from all FFG-7 class ships ten years ago. (http://archives.starbulletin.com/2004/02/01/news/story9.html)

      In 2010 Peru began signing contracts to upgrade its ex-Italian Navy Lupo class frigates. Two years and multiple contract awards later not one upgraded frigate has been delivered. (http://www.selex-es.com/media/press-releases/2013/15-05-2013.aspx)

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    7. The US Navy has retired SM-1, That leaves the Mk 13 launcher without any missiles. However in the case of other NATO navies like Turkey and Poland which operates ex-USN ships,they still use the Mk 13 operationally. Moreover, the US plans to supply the SM-1 to her allies.

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    8. Then the problem their is the technology curve for the Philippines. They will have a very steep learning curve, when it comes to Multi Role frigates. That's because the Philippines have no experience or knowledge in state of the art missile's, Torpedos and weapons systems. They simply don't have any experience in using Harpoon missiles, SM-1 or Sea Sparrow Missiles and even torpedos such as the Mk-54 torpedo.

      Which is why the Maestrale would have been a perfect interim frigate to give the Philippine navy a taste and introduction to Multi Role Frigate operations. Even the Peruvian Navy operates Lupo frigates from the 70's era and are still going strong with updates. Which is why I think the Philippine navy should take a look and follow what was done by the Peruvian navy and maybe do the same buy as them.

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    9. Have anybody of you guys been in an internet cafe in the Phils. lately? Its crowded by the youths, teenagers and alike. They are learning to use the computers and its programs just like eating pandesal. Do you think that the Pinoys will have a technological culture shock? Never!!! As a matter of fact the pinoys are front-runners when it comes to learning ability anywhere he goes. So when time comes some of these teenagers might end up manning a stealth frigate armed with high tech weaponry.

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    10. Thats is very very true.. It doesnt matter if the PN has no experience handling modern frigates. Just buy them what they need and im sure they can make the most of it.

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  2. Very well said...

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  3. There is no choice but to buy available 2nd hand ships rather waiting for buying a slow progress newest improved warships.

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    1. Buying 2nd hand ships is one thing. Reporting that buying "new Maestrales" is another. There must be improvements in defense reporting from both the press and the military / defense department.

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    2. Well I have a suggestion, why not just negotiate with the Koreans since currently some Incheon-class frigate is slated for commissioning why not ask them to sell it to us? I had worked with the Koreans and frankly for them a sale is a sale. Even if they have to wait for a building of new ships they still have the capability to defend S Korea from anything.

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    3. As far as I know, they did that with the FA-50. But as for the Incheons, it may not be the case because what we want is different from what they are building for the ROKN. Besides, isn't it better if we queue, but ask Korea to give some of their Pohang class corvettes to use and train with for a while?

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  4. Still the Maestrale would be faster to acquire than the brand new.

    Lt. Col Inmoco

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    Replies
    1. Getting Maestrale as an alternative program is one thing, but getting "new Maestrale"is the issue here. There are no "new Maestrale" out there.

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  5. I knew there was something off when they said that they were buying "new" Maestrale's. Going on Max's argument, why would we purchase newly built frigates based with a 70s model technology.

    Thanks for clarifying Max, good article

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  6. Help me out here, I understand why we need to buy lead in fighters and trainer jets before our pilots can fly advanced aircraft, the learning curve must be gradual because small mistakes can crash the aircraft during training.

    Now, why do we need interim frigates? I'm asking to know and not being sarcastic.
    thanks.

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    Replies
    1. MaxDefense did not indicate the need for interim frigayes in this article, but MaxDefense supports the need for interim frigates. Although training our men is one ofn the reasonm, the main reason for it is to immediately fill up the lack of ships in the navy's arsenal and give the navy something to use while new ships are being built. The PN needed those ships yesterday, and the Maestrale even at 30+ years old is far better than any ship the PN has now.

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    2. You know, maybe the Philippines should think outside the box here.

      Sweden was offering 2 Göteborg Class corvettes as freebies to Croatia if Croatia decided to purchase 8 JAS Gripen fighter jets. The deal reportedly fell through because Croatia couldn't come up with the financing.

      Since the Gripen NG likely is the best choice for an air superiority fighter for the Philippines, due to it being an inexpensive 4.5 generation fighter, its low operating costs, and its ability to land on short runways, the Philippines could try and step in and take over the deal offered to Croatia.

      The Göteborgs were commissioned in the early 1990s, are heavily armed, and the Swedish Navy takes good care of their ships, so the PN would not only be getting two ships that would be great for familiarizing their crews with modern weapons systems, but would also have an immediate force-strengthening impact, have very low operating costs(!), and would be in use for a long time as submarine and ship hunters, unlike second-hand ships built in the 1970s.

      And adding 8 Gripens to the 12 FA-50s already being purchased would basically immediately give the Philippines a credible air force.

      Laurence

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    3. Hi Laurence, Why the JAS 39 Gripen? Am just curious. Why not lease some Flankers instead?

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    4. Hi Panzer Rat.

      In my opinion, there are multiple reasons for the JAS Gripen being a better choice than the Sukhoi for the Philippines.

      The Gripen was designed as a fighter to stave off an overpowering air force from the Soviet Union, hence the situation of Sweden/Soviet Union is similar to that of the Philippines/China.

      The Gripen also has the lowest operational cost of any quality fighter, is a true MRF, has a (relatively) low purchase price, has a proven, high level of readiness, has the ability to take off and land on short runways, even highways, and is pretty much interoperable with other NATO systems.

      And Gripen C/D's could be leased until the Gripen NG becomes operable in 2017/2018, giving the PAF pilots time and experience with the aircraft.

      Last but not least, Saab is pretty desperate for new customers, so I'm sure that favorable terms could be secured, like having the 2 Göteborg Class corvettes added as freebies.

      Laurence

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  7. yeah, max is right, Maestrele is built 30 years ago, so it is not new ones rather 2nd hand again..

    DND again change its mind, 1st they are considering the Maestreli and when they are ready to buy it they considered brand new ones from korea due to operational cost.. Now they are said that they would purchase again the Maestreli..

    For me, that decision is better now than buying new ones,, new ones could take time, but the Maestreli is ready to be refurbished and delivered so that the PN could counter china..

    hope they really purchase it,.. it is badly needed by the PN..

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    1. I believe you also misunderstood the article. The DND is still pushing for a new frigate purchase, not going back to the old Maestrale. New frigate designs will be considered according to the participating shipbuilders in the bid.

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  8. Better we ask more powerfull frigate from the US.
    Oliver Hazzard Perry class sound very interesting. Just like GDP and RA, we will get it for free.
    USS Underwood FFG-36, USS Klakring FFG-42, USS Carr FFG-52 and USS Rueben James FFG-57, more than enough to protect WPS. IMHO

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    1. The PH paid for GDP and RA

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    2. Confirmed, the Philippines paid for the 2 Hamiltons, including the training of Filipino crew prior to handover until leaving the US, refurbishing, repair works and modifications, re-painting, replacing the navigation and search radars. In the case of BRP Ramon Alcaraz the engine replacement was also paid by the Philippine government.

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  9. I agree that the User. Manalo mix-up "Maestrele" & Frigate, I'm sure that Italy would not built a new Maestrele just for PN, but PN in my opinion should revert on buying 2nd Hand Frigates and gain experience first from these frigates them buy new ones because operating new & expensive frigate with inexperience crew can result in catastrophe. unless the the Supplier of the new frigate is willing to lease one of its frigates for PN to train while waiting for the ship to be completed but I doubt this will happen.

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  10. I was actually waiting for your article on this maestrale mix-up and I am happy you came out with the clarificationI expected from you. It is about time the press in this country be knowledgeable on defense matters- weapons, technology, etc- demand even that there are people in each publication who will read up and be up to date in these matters; this goes as well for the DND. The whole country cannot be this dumb.
    Maybe in the same vein may I what jets are we getti g fromS Korea-TA-50 or the
    Fa-50, or even the T-50. The press is not reliable on this and the DND has not categorically specified which- in much the same way nobody has clarified when the press reports on helicopters- they were reporting 'attack' helicopters and then we are told we are expectiing the Augusta 109 which is not an attack helicopter...
    Can we be updated on the spyder air defense?
    Also could you comment on the ffg:
    -instead of 2 frigates can we buy one Absalon frigate and one Skjold missile boat?
    You must be aware of the capabillities of the Absalon
    - is it possible to equip the navy (or air force) with a squadron of Harrier II jump jets- these are fearsome weapo. Systems that may serve us well into the 2020s, so they say
    Thank you

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    1. Hi and thanks for the support. For your questions:
      1. The PAF is getting FA-50. 12 units confirmed, and our OWN sources (not taken from another defense-related page/forum online as they arrogantly say and believe) confirms that options ARE BEING CONSIDERED by the Philippine government to get additional units under a separate contract depending on funding availability.
      2. The PAF's "attack helicopter" requirement is not really for attack helicopter like the Apache, but more like an armed scout/battle taxi like the Kiowa. The AgustaWestland AW-109 was previously named by DND as their preferred model although this is not yet final as bidding and awarding has not commenced.
      3. No update on the SAM system yet. Stay tuned.
      4. An Absalom class costs more than the budget allocated by the DND for 2 "frigates". More so if you add a missile boat.
      5. Harriers are highly unlikely. Costly to have, operate, and will finish the navy's budget. Check my previous blog (http://maxdefense.blogspot.sg/2013/06/seriously-principe-de-asturias-for.html)

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  11. Buying/Leasing used equipment is only good for the commercial industry where max profit is the main objective. But for National Defense where you actually entrust not just your life but of your family's you would want the best that you can afford (not buy). Emphasis on "afford" because it includes maintenance, training and all other costs after purchase. "buying is a one time expense thing"

    Am I wrong to believe that one brand new ship could out-perform two 1970s ships with all other conditions equal, like crew skills and ship class?

    -frustrated realist

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    1. Buying or leasing used equipment has been proven by many countries like Chile and Singapore to provide exceptional capability if properly planned and executed. They can also act as force multipliers when used with other newer assets.

      One brand new ship may have capabilities that a 30 year old ship may not have. But it can still be vulnerable even against a single missile armed patrol boat.

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    2. Buying or leasing used equipment has been proven by many countries like Chile and Singapore to provide exceptional capability if properly planned and executed. They can also act as force multipliers when used with other newer assets.

      One brand new ship may have capabilities that a 30 year old ship may not have. But it can still be vulnerable even against a single old missile armed patrol boat.

      Delete
  12. May God bless the Philippines to counter the greedy and abusive china.GO GO GO GO GO PHILIPPINE NAVY

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  13. "So to clarify everything, MaxDefense is confident to inform everyone that the Philippine Navy will be buying brand new frigates, and will not be Maestrale-class ships." But this basically just the opinion of this blogsite. Has this been confirmed by DND?

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    1. Without looking at my opinion above, think again if how a new Maestrale-class frigate can be attainable.
      - Is the design still being made by Fincantieri? Is the design still up-to-date?
      - Do you really think Fincantieri will peddle a "new Maestrale 35-year old design" at this point in time?
      - Don't you think if Fincantieri will be selling a frigate design, they will use a 21st century design?

      Sometimes a little bit of common sense is important. If you can ask Lamborghini to sell again now a brand new 1972 Miura, then probably I will stop this blog.

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    2. If you meant is if the PN would be getting new frigates, then better check this, already posted in MaxDefense@Facebook several days ago. This comes from DND:

      http://www.dnd.gov.ph/transparency/procurement/DND_BAC/Invitation_to_bid/ITB-Acquisition%20of%20new%20frigates%20PN.pdf

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    3. Well, thanks for your reply (though sounds a little bit sarcastic to me). I was not undermining your opinion anyway. But still, it is an opinion deducted from your 3 logical premises above. It is of a common sense also (and a better one) for one to ask and know if this really has been confirmed by DND itself since they are the buying party. Otherwise, all are just "sabi-sabi" however logical they may sound.

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    4. It's just like this: it is already a given that the government will be buying new frigates, so have solved 1 of the questions arising. If new, then it's definitely not Maestrale, why?

      You see, Maestrale-class frigate design was born in the early 1970s, warship technology has already advanced so much to what it is now. Even if the Italians will be selling a brand new ship based on the Maestrale, it is logical that the Philippine Navy won't bite since you can buy something technologically better for the same price. Not only is the ship design old, but most of its systems are already out of production, some of the manufacturers have even closed shop already.

      Mr. Manalo has already done the same mistake of misidentifying military assets in the past, so for those who know, they already understand. Mr. Manalo is not a navy guy, so it's normal for him to miss out on naval lingo and terminology. If you really do not take the reasons above, the best you can do is wait for the official announcement of what are being offered by bidders.

      Let's make it simple: let's say I'm buying a car, specifically a Toyota. Do you think Toyota will sell me a 1975 Corolla when they already have a 2014 Corolla Altis in the showroom?

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