|MaxDefense earlier believes that the Incheon-class frigate will be the basis of the frigate program, but it is worth checking what will be the final output of this bidding process.|
MaxDefense summarizes the important details of the said 1st-stage bid specifications, with a few edits as shown below (additional commentaries in Italics):
Budget: Php 18 billion for 2 brand-new frigates.
- Anti-Air Warfare (AAW), Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), and Electronic Warfare (EW);
- Extended Maritime Patrol with embarked helicopter;
- Operation on up to Sea State 6
Dimesions: per function of design (depend on bidder's proposed design)
Displacement: per function of design (depend on bidder's proposed design)
Range: 4,500 nautical miles @ 15 knots;
Endurance: 30 days in tropical condition;
Speed: maximum continuous of 25 knots;
Boats Carried: minimum of 2 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats;
- Operation at Sea State 6,
- Non-degradation of warfare mission at Sea State 5;
- Helicopter operation at Sea State 4;
- RHIB operations at Sea State 3
Complement: per function of design (depend on bidder's proposed design), but will have a non-organic crew of 8 officers, 16 enlisted personnel (embarked Task Force/air crew/1 SEAL team.)
Propulsion: minimum of 2 engines with 2 propellers with reduction gear box;
Power Supply: minimum of 3 diesel generators;
Replenishment at Sea Capable.
- minimum 2 navigation radars (X-band and S-band), at least 1 in solid state design, capable of Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA), Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Automatic Tracking Aid (ATA);
- depth sounding set;
- vessel tracking system compatible to Philippine Navy's system
- Standard VHF AM/FM and UHF radios;
- Satelite Communications (SATCOM) system;
- Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system;
- "Fitted for but not with" Tactical Data Link (NATO standard), still to be determined which type, supplied by PN;
- Local Area Network (LAN);
-Connectivity to the PN's Littoral Observation Stations and Maritime Research Information Center.
Sensors, minimum requirement:
- Combat Management System (CMS), readily upgradable;
- Fire Control System integrated to CMS, can track and engage surface, air and missile targets simultaneously;
- Fire Control Radar and/or Electro-Optical targeting system;
- Electronic Support Measures (ESM) with Radio Detection and Finding (RDF);
- 2D air search radar for air surveillance and target acquisition, minimum range of 80nmi, can detect sea-skimming missiles with maximum altitude of 10ft., integrated to ESM and CMS;
- 2D surface search radar, can detect anti-ship missile threats minimum range of 40nmi, integrated to ESM and CMS;
- Passive and Active Sonar system;
- Decoy launcher minimum 6 tubes per side or centrally rotating launcher
Weapons Systems, minimum requirement:
- 76mm gun at forward section with target tracking radar and/or electro-optical target acquisition and fire control computer;
- 1 x stabilized secondary gun;
- 4 x 50-caliber machine guns;
- primary and secondary guns shall be integrated to combat management system;
- 4 x surface-to-surface missile launchers, minimum 50km range, active homing seeker and ECCM capability;
- surface-to-air missile launching system, minimum quadruple launcher, minimum 6km range, IR or semi-active homing seeker, with ECCM and/or IR CCM capability;
- anti-submarine torpedoes, minimum range 2km, minimum depth 500m, with acoustic countermeasures capability, 2 x triple launchers (one on each side);
Flight Capability: Hangar and deck facilities for at least 1 helicopter up to 10-tons.
Helicopter Hangar Dimensions: 14.3m L x 9.5m W x 4.5m H, capable of accepting 10-ton helicopter design;
- minimum 10 rounds each for surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles;
- minimum 6 torpedo rounds and a dummy torpedo;
- minimum 652 rounds assorted 76mm ammunition;
- fragmentation and high explosive rounds for secondary gun;
- minimum 54 rounds for assorted chaffs and decoys;
- minimum of 2 ammunition storage spaces
Aside from the specifications released by the DND, PTV-4 was able to interview the commanding officer of the Philippine Navy's Patrol Force, Commodore Jose Renan Suarez, wherein he pointed out a few of the basic information of the frigate project. He emphasized the availability of a main gun firing 120 rounds per minute, and that the ship would be built to accept numerous upgrades in the future to be relevant and competitive with new threats.
Points for Discussion based on the Information:
There are 2 parameters set on this bidding that must be considered before making conclusions:
First, the project will go through a two-stage bidding, with the initial bid only intended to provide basis of capability of competing bidders to comply with the initial specifications;
Secondly, all specified requirements in this specification by the DND are "minimum requirements", and bidders may propose a better system according to their decision.
Similar to what the DND and PN did for the Strategic Sealift Vessel, the manufacturers are given the free-will to submit a hull design that would fit to the requirements, without being specific on the dimensions and displacement. The range and endurance is acceptable for frigates, although most corvettes and OPVs also have the same capabilities with this regard. The speed appears to be slow as compared to typical frigates which have design speeds between 29 to 32 knots. Most ships with 25 knots maximum are usually offshore patrol vessels or corvettes with an all-diesel propulsion in CODAD or CODOD configuration. The propulsion requirement calls for at least 2 engines, which is standard to most warships, but it did not indicate the propulsion configuration, leaving it open for bidders to propose and if it would incorporate other propulsion systems like gas turbine or electric system.
|No indication that a gas turbine engine is required, although the specifications only allowed for minimum requirements.|
Photo taken from General Electric website.
Previously the Philippine Navy high command announced the preference on use of diesel engines or diesel engines in conjunction with a higher output alternative power source for high speed operations. This was the main reason why they rejected earlier offers by the US government for COGAG-configured Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates so it is safe to assume that 2 diesel engines are the minimum. So we could either see a CODOD/CODAD configuration, or CODOG at best depending on what the bidders can offer.
The specifications also included a clause that requires the hull design to be based on a proven design that passed extensive model tests, with emphasis on survivability, being able to withstand damage and flooding in any 2 adjacent watertight compartments. This is very important since the ship will be used for combat operations and high-threat environments. This clause also strongly supports the previous requirements disallowing the AFP to be end-users of unproven designs. This would hurt some of the prospected bidders like ST Engineering which may offer a design that is unproven although derived from a smaller but proven ship's design.
The organic complement appears to be a matter of function of design and automation according to the proposal, but since budget is a major factor, MaxDefense expects the ship to have less automation compared to most recent designs. This would push the number of crew to a higher level, with an estimated crew of around 160 men and women. Non-organic complement includes the aviation crew and pilots (4 pilots, 2 TACCOs, 8 enlisted personnel), a SEAL team for special operations (1 officer and 7 enlisted personnel) and might also include enough accommodations for task force officers (1 senior officer, 1 junior officer, 1 enlisted personnel) indicating that the frigates can be used as task force ships or SEAL insertion platforms.
|A PN SEAL team, together with their RHIB can call the new frigates their home.|
Photo taken from US Navy website.
The navigation requirements appear to be standard, and is somehow available on some of the Philippine Navy's current assets. Same for the communications requirements as well except for the requirement for connectivity to "Littoral Observation Stations", which MaxDefense believes to be the National Coast Watch System. Such system is also currently available with the BRP Gregorio del Pilar. A requirement for a future Data Link is also present, and appears to be "fitted for but not with" due to the absence of such system within the AFP. Upon decision of the AFP which type would be used by the entire armed forces, only then can a Data Link be installed on the ship. Due to the Philippine military's close relationship with the US, it is expected that the Data Link will somehow be an American type, possibly the Link 16.
It is in the weapons and sensors that MaxDefense finds interesting discussion. The minimum requirement calls for a 2-dimensional (2D) air search and surface search radar systems. This appears to be contradictory to what the PN was planning for some time. Previously a released Request for Information (RFI) by the US Navy's Naval Sea Systems Command 2 years ago requires a minimum of a 3D-radar set for a possible PN OPV requirement. Also, 2D-radar sets may not be able to complement most modern anti-aircraft missiles, as the system can only provide bearing and range information but not the elevation. Examples of 2D radar sets that fits the range include Saab's Sea Giraffe LT, Selex's RAN30X/I, and Terma's Scanter 4100 series, which are mostly used for small OPVs or as secondary radar systems for surface combatants.
|A 2D-radar system was specified for the air and surface search radar requirements. Above is the Selex RAN30X/I which appears to meet the requirements.|
Photo taken from Selex Sistemi Integrati website.
The requirement for sonar systems, which only said as capable of active and passive detection modes, remains a mystery due to lack of further information. No specific information if t would be a hull-mounted sonar, a towed array sonar, or both. This would probably be clarified later on as the project matures.
The ship's main gun will be a 76mm type, probably an Oto Melara model due to commonality with current PN systems. Although not in the specifications, the earlier report from Commodore Suarez's interview indicated a 120rpm gun, which is possibly the 76mm Super Rapid version. A secondary gun was also specified, and was designated in the specifications as a "CIWS" but did not mention the capability to shoot down incoming high speed targets like anti-ship missiles or aircraft. MaxDefense believes that the specification meant it be probably like the Mk. 38 Mod. 2 gun planned for the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates to simplify logistics and support.
|A 76mm main gun capable of firing 120 rounds per minute is being considered. Above shows the Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid naval gun.|
Photo taken from naval-technology.com.
An Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) suite appears to be not specified, although ESM and RDF were included in the Electronic Wafare (EW) system. Anti-ship missile and torpedo decoy launchers are also required, and will be integrated to the CMS and EW systems. Further clarification might be made if a full ECM suite is needed, similar to the AN/SLQ-32 used by the US Navy and LIG Nex1's Sonata EW System. MaxDefense places this requirement on top of priorities in the absence of an effective anti-aircraft and CIWS system as active defense against incoming missiles.
The numbers of anti-ship missiles appears to be below the standard mount of similar-sized ships, but the ship would possibly be able to carry up to 8 launchers when necessary as this is the standard number of mounts designed for launching tubes. Requirement is for it to have an active homing seeker and ECCM capability, and a minimum range of 50km. This means missiles like the Boeing Harpoon and MBDA Exocet Blk. III are acceptable, while shorter ranged missiles like MBDA's Marte Mk.2 are out.
|The specifications require a surface-to-surface missile with a minimum range of 50km, with active homing seeker and ECCM capability. Among possible offers may include the MBDA MM40 Exocet Block III anti-ship missile.|
But the surface-to-air missile requirement is the most surprising of all, with a minimum range of only 6.0km, mounted in a quadruple launcher. Such requirement means that the minimum air defense requirement is something similar to the MBDA Mistral IR-homing very short range air defense (VShoRAD) missile mounted on a Tetral quadruple mount. Such missile system is not advisable for modern frigate-sized combat vessels as it lacks the range, thus decreasing the capability to defend itself. It decreases the number of defensive layers of the ship, making it easy for OPFOR aircraft with stand-off weapons to engage the frigate, firing at a distance without expecting any defensive threats. Also, the lack of effective air defense system plus the absence of an anti-missile CIWS makes the ship a sitting duck to missile attacks. But since it is just the minimum requirement, contenders can still propose a better system.
|Above is the Tetral quadruple launcher for the navalized Mistral VSHORAD missile from MBDA. Indonesia's Diponegoro-class (SIGMA) corvettes are armed with such system.|
This project is a 2-stage competitive bidding, and MaxDefense believes that the specifications released by the DND is NOT FINAL for the frigate project. Since the coming bid would only be a first out of two rounds, it will only accept bidders who would pass the requirements and not yet determine the final winner.
In short, the 1st stage bidding's specifications are still bound to change, subject to the offer of accepted bidders that may exceed what was initially specified for the project. They will be given a chance to make use of their capability to provide a product that maximizes the budget allocated. Thus, we cannot make a final conclusion yet based on the information we have, but it is highly possible that the final product would definitely be better.
The current specifications does not point to that of a modern frigate due to the following reasons:
- it lacks enough information for possible "fitted for but not with" requirements should the PN find additional funds to upgrade the ships;
- reduced mobility due to low speed and low power for acceleration;
- it has an insufficient active and passive defensive capability;
- a relatively reduced detection and tracking capability;
- lack of strong anti-aircraft system with enough reach;
- unclear ASW detection capability;
- lack of emphasis on stealth or reduced radar cross section capability.
The DND and PN should give more emphasis on items that will be fixed on the ship permanently or for long term, like the hull design, space considerations, propulsion system, and radar system. MaxDefense believes that the PN should have considered at least a 3D radar system as a minimum requirement, and avoid the need to replace the proposed 2D-radar once a decision to upgrade will be made in the future. Propulsion is another fixed system that needs to be looked into.
The DND and PN appears to have given emphasis on the "fitted for but not with" items, as it seems that the direction is on that path. Although no information was released regarding this matter, it is expected to be clearer in the 2nd stage bidding. Ship size and dimension, and power generation requirements are relevant to this, as the ship must be ready to accept such upgrades when the time comes. This lack on initial capability is the consequence of under-funding the project.
|The 1st-stage bidding specifications of the ship has a light sensors and weapons system suite, and may be comparable to an improved Pattani-class OPV of the RTN, as shown above.|
Photo taken from mdc.idv.tw.
So is the PN Frigate a "Glorified Offshore Patrol Vessel" as many suggest it is?
NO. It is too early to say because of the complicated bidding procedure.
So until the 2nd-stage bidding starts, it is safe to say that everything is bound to change for the better than what was released in the 1st-stage bid specifications.
MaxDefense will be closely monitoring the updates for this project, with the pre-bid conference scheduled this Friday (October 11, 2013), expect several questions to be thrown and answered at the Supplemental Bid Bulletins in the coming days. 1st-stage bid submission is originally scheduled on the October 25, 2013, with the opening to be done on the same day.
For the complete 1st-stage bidding specifications, an open copy was posted here:
For more information the concept of a 2-stage bidding, please see here, starting at page 85:
October 25, 2013:
For those asking, according to the Supplemental Bid Bulletin released by the DND on October 18, 2013, the PN Frigate acquisition program schedule has been moved. Probably due to complexity of the project, there will be a 2nd pre-bid conference on November 11, 2013. The 1st bid submission and opening is also moved, from October 25, 2013 to November 25, 2013. Also be reminded that this is a 2-stage bidding process, so don't expect any winners on the bid opening date yet. For further details on the 2-stage bidding process, read this blog again.
November 21, 2013:
The bid submission and opening of the Philippine Navy Frigate acquisition program was moved from November 25, 2013 to December 4, 2013. This is to provide more time for bidders to formulate their offers. Details are provided on the Supplemental Bid Bulletin released by the DND on November 18, 2013.
December 6, 2013:
UNTV reported that there were 7 companies that submitted a bid for the frigate project. Although there is no indication on the report of which companies submitted a bid, 7 companies is good enough to make the project a competitive one. A copy of the video was posted HERE.