|Navantia's Avante 1800 corvette design.|
Photo taken from Navantia's product brochure.
Although the news sounds juicy indeed, it is actually nothing more but just another sales pitch by Navantia, similar to the usual news we have locally and to boost company image in light of Spain's declining economy.
It should be noted that the Spanish government and Navantia have been monitoring the PN's modernization efforts for several years now, and this year alone it was reported earlier that Navantia has indeed made offers to the Philippine Navy and Department of National Defense (DND) that include the Avante 1800 patrol vessel and the Athlas 8000 landing platform dock (LPD). MaxDefense believes that the Avante 1800 is a standing offer for possibly several requirements of the PN, which may include Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV), combat corvettes, and frigate. Meanwhile the Athlas 8000 LPD is supposed to be an offering to fill the Multi-role Vessel (MRV) requirement of the PN which is now on-hold in favor of the smaller Strategic Sealift Vessel (SSV).
All these offers do not constitute a sale, but are just to assist the DND and PN in making the guidelines in formulating their required specifications, budget, schedule and probably list of involved proponents. But that is where all this matters. The offers made by specific shipbuilders usually depend on the initial information they receive from the proponent, which is the DND and PN.
|South Korea reportedly offered the Incheon-class frigate to the DND and PN.|
There might be changes in the offer to fit the tight budget the DND allocated.
Take note that South Korea already offered the Incheon-class frigate or its derivative by Hyundai Heavy Industries, while Singapore was also said to have offered a frigate design supposedly the New Generation Frigate design from ST Engineering. Both are full-fledged light frigate designs. But the issue is, why would Navantia offer a patrol vessel / corvette design to the PN when they are planning to purchase frigates?
|ST Engineering's New Generation Frigate (right) is Singapore's offering to the PN Frigate Program, scale model shown at IMDEX Asia 2013. This is based on an enlarged Fearless-class patrol vessel.|
It could only mean two things: either Navantia could only offer the Avante 1800 to fit the budget allocated by the DND, or Navantia is offering the Avante 1800 for another ship requirement of the Philippine Navy.
Looking back on previous announcements, the DND placed its "initial budget" at Php 18 billion for 2 brand-new ships with "frigate capabilities". There are lingering sentiments that this budget is not enough, even to a point that a recent editorial from IHS Jane's Defence Weekly by James Goldrick already indicated that the budget "...cannot be enough to provide sophisticated combatants...". Previous MaxDefense blog regarding the new frigate program provided some of the possible choices that may fit the DND budget, but as the Philippine peso continue to depreciate, the value in Euro or US Dollar decreases and will continue to erode the capabilities that may be included in the ships.
Navantia possibly thought of maximizing the capability to provide "frigate capabilities" but using a smaller, cheaper platform to minimize hull cost. In comparison, Navantia's other Avante family ship class, the Venezuelan POVZEE Guaiqueri-class, is even based on the larger Avante 2200, but does not have heavy weaponry and sophisticated sensors. Navantia could have offered the same platform to the PN but the budget may not be enough for an up-armed Avante 2200.
|Navantia could have offered the larger Avante 2200, which the Venezuelan Guiaqueri-class corvette was based, but it instead offered the smaller Avante 1800. Why?|
Illustration taken from fav-club website.
Another possibility is that the DND and PN are on the lookout for a corvette or offshore patrol vessel design for a separate program that they will push for approval and purchase also within the Aquino administration . Previously the US Navy Sea Systems Command issued a Request for Information (RFI) to manufacturers for a possible Philippine Navy OPV requirement, and specifications released by the USN-SSC makes the Avante 1800 hit the spot. There were old reports in 2010 that the PN is actually looking to purchase up to 4 anti-submarine corvettes with a 2,000-ton displacement, and even in the PN's Desired Force Mix it indicated a requirement for ASW corvettes and OPVs. Initial submissions made by the DND for funding within the first 5 years of the revised AFP Modernization also include at least 2 OPVs. So it's not far-fetched that the Avante 1800 could be for other requirements and not the PN Frigate Program.
But for now, let us take the Avante 1800 offer as just that - an offer that does not mean a sure sale to the PN. MaxDefense will provide updates on the Philippine military modernization scene should relevant information comes in.