It was originally thought that the contract will be signed before the end of the month, with no less than the Department of National Defense (DND) through its spokesman Arsenio Andolong mentioning about the target schedule. We all know this did not push through.
|This photo was released by HHI as the perspective design of the PN's new frigate. As expected it will have design cues taken from the FFX-3 which was also designed by HHI.|
Photo taken from HHI's website.
For the Big News of the Day:
According to MaxDefense sources, the Frigate Acquisition Project's contract signing ceremonies will be held today, October 24, 2016, at 2:00pm (Philippines time) at the Headquarters, Philippine Navy in Roxas Boulevard, Manila. The program will be attended by DND, AFP, and PN high command officials, HHI executives, and the South Korean ambassador to the Philippines.
It turns out that many even in the Philippine Navy itself is not aware of this event for reasons unknown to us.
The contract signing is an important part of the procurement process as it puts into paper whatever discussions were made in the past, and signifies the order of the Philippine Navy to have HHI build the frigates.
According to HHI, the ships will be based on the company's HDF-3000 frigate design, but with some changes as specified by the Philippine Navy. It won't necessarily be a twin of the Incheon-class frigate of the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN).
Based on the schedules submitted by the Philippine Navy for compliance by the winning shipbuilder, the first ship will be delivered to the Philippine Navy by late 2019, and the second ship by late 2020.
HHI released a computer-generated design of the frigate, and as MaxDefense predicted in the past, it takes a strong cue from the ROKN's FFX-3 frigate which was also designed by HHI.
Weapons and Sensors:
Based on the Bill of Quantities submitted by HHI to the PN during the Submission and Opening of Bid Envelopes (SOBE) during the 2nd stage bidding stage several months ago, the ship will be armed with a 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid main gun, two twin launchers for SSM-700K C-Star anti-ship cruise missiles, two twin Simbad-RC launchers for Mistral short range surface-to-air missiles, two triple trainable torpedo tubes firing Blue Shark lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes, a single MSI Defense Seahawk RCWS with a 30mm gun, at least 4 manually operated M2HB 50-caliber machine guns.
Further discussion about this can be found on our previous blog entry:
"The Philippine Navy's Future Frigate from Hyundai: Discussing the Ship's Design and Some of its Expected Subsystems" - dated September 3, 2016.
|Twin Simbad-RC for Mistral missiles are included in the new frigates.|
Photo taken from MBDA website.
Frigate's CMS and Sensors:
Based on the same BOQ from the SOBE as mentioned earlier, the Philippine Navy's frigate will be installed with a variety of sensors, described as the following:
(note: this applies if PN's Project Management Team did not do changes, or did not allow changes as requested by HHI)
Combat Management System (CMS) - will be TACTICOS Combat Management System from Thales. Among the most proven CMS in the market today, the PN will be benefiting from the TACTICOS' performance for the frigates, and is designed to be able to integrate the weapons systems mentioned above, as well as all the other sensors mentioned below.
A previous blog entry comparing it to the Hanwha Systems Naval Shield CMS can be accessed below:
"Naval Combat Management System - MaxDefense's Choice for the Philippines' New Frigate & Existing Warships" - dated September 27, 2016.
3D Surveillance Radar - the ship will be installed with the NS-100 series dual-axis multi-beam AESA radar also from Thales. The specific model will be the NS-106, which is a very new product considering Singapore was the launch customer for the Littoral Missions Vessel that are just launched lately. Far better than the 2D type which was indicated in the initial technical specifications during the frigate acquisition program's 1st stage.
|The new frigates will be having the NS-106 AESA radars, a far improvement over the 2D system specified in the initial phases of the project.|
Hull Mounted Sonar - Thales' Bluewatcher hull-mounted sonar will be used for the frigates. Although not the best in Thales' line-up, it would be a good start and is mostly used in small surface combatants. MaxDefense prefers the use of the more capable but more expensive and larger Thales KingKlip sonar. The Bluewatcher would be complemented by a towed-array sonar system in the future should the PN continue with its original plan.
Fire Control Radar (FCR) - the ships will have a Thales STIR 1.2 EO Mk. 2 fire control radar to guide the 76mm Oto Melara main gun. It has electronic counter counter measures (ECCM) capability and has a full EO suite with it.
|The STIR 1.2 EO Mk.2 from Thales, the Fire Control Radar chosen for the frigates.|
Photo taken from Thales' website.
Electro-Optical Tracking System (EOTS) - the SAQ-540K from LIGNex1 will guide the Seahawk 30mm gun. This is so far the only Korean-made sensor system offered by HHI based on the BOQ.
Electronic Surveillance Measures (ESM) - so far this is the only softkill EW component on the ship, it will have the Vigile LW from Thales. A lightweight system, it is normally designed for small warships although frigates are also OK with it. But for better capability, MaxDefense believes that the PN should upgrade its ESM system to the Vigile 100 Mk.2 which is similar to those to be used in Malaysia's upcoming Gowind littoral combat ship/frigate.
Missile and Torpedo Decoy Launching and Countermeasures System - Wallop's Super Barricade countermeasures system will be installed on the ships. Two systems will be installed in each ship to defend from both port and starboard sides. The Super Barricade can launch decoys for incoming anti-ship missiles and anti-ship torpedoes.
|The Super Barricade countermeasures system will be a part of the frigate's defensive suit.|
Photo taken from Naval Technology website.
Tactical Data Link - Thales Link Y Mk.2 was chosen to be the ship's tactical data link, comparable to the NATO Link 11 but with enhanced features. The specs also mentioned that the ships should have space to allow a possible installation of air warfare data Link 16 and maritime data Link 22 in the future.
The computer generated image (CGI) provided by Hyundai clearly shows the stealthy features incorporated by HHI to the frigate design, with cues coming in from the FFX-3 frigate of the ROKN which HHI also designed. It looks far more modern than the original HDF-3000 design used on the ROKN's Incheon-class frigate, with cleaner superstructure and less clutter, and a reduced smokestack due to the absence of a gas turbine engine found on the Incheon-class.
Based on the dimensions provided by HHI, it appears that the ship will have a displacement of around 2,600 tons, length of 107 meters, and beam of 12 meters, and a top speed of 25 knots, with a range of 4,500 nautical miles @ 15 knots speed. As specified in the past, the ship will be powered in a CODAD configuration.
Another design comment is the uncovered deck near the smokestack which exposes the missile launchers, RHIBs and torpedo launchers, and also reduces stealth characteristics on that portion of the ship. This could be added in the final design, while MaxDefense prefers the torpedo launcher to be placed at a lower deck level, hidden in an openable deck enclosure.
The photo also suggests that the Simbad to be used by the PN will be the Remote Controlled (RC) version. The missile launcher are found on the roof deck of the bridge, but MaxDefense's concerns is on the reloading of the missiles. While it is expected to be done manually, carrying it over to the roof through an access from the bridge is an awkward way of doing it. The photo also clearly shows the NS-100 series 3D surveillance radar.
|The twin Simbad-RC launchers, the X and S-band navigation radar antennas, the STIR 1.2 EO Mk.2 fire control radar, and the NS-106 3D surveillance radar are clearly shown on this part of the ship.|
Photo snapped from HHI's original CGI.
On the rear part of the ship, the single MSI Defense Seahawk 30mm secondary gun appears to be position too high, considering that its purpose is to defend the ship from incoming small surface targets like fast boats and minor targets. Its very high position may not allow its gun to hit targets closer to the ship, and that position is better suited for the future anti-ship missile CIWS like Phalanx, Goalkeeper, or RAM / SeaRAM.
MaxDefense believes that it would best for the ship to have two Seahawk 30mm guns, one each on port and starboard side, probably positioned lower at the midships, near the current position of the triple trainable torpedo tubes. But this requires the open midship section to be longer, affecting the ship's overall length.
|The position of the secondary gun atop the hangar seems too high and too centered, that it may have difficulty hitting targets closer to the ship due to the guns limited negative elevation,|
Photo snapped from HHI's original CGI.
And with HHI using the MSI Defense Seahawk gun mount, MaxDefense suggests to the Philippine Navy to consider arming the guns with the Thales LMM missile, which the Seahawk SIGMA has the ability to install on the gun mount itself. This increases the capability of the ship to defend from numerous "swarm" attack of small boats at longer distances with higher accuracy than the gun itself. Considering that Thales is already onboard with the sensors and CMS, acquiring the LMM might not be difficult to make.
|The MSI Defense Seahawk SIGMA can mount LMM missile launchers on its side, which allows the gun to engage swarm attacks at longer distances than the gun itself. MaxDefense suggests the use of this system.|
Photo taken from MSI Defense website.
While MaxDefense prefers a larger design, probably the same dimensions as the Incheon-class (114 meters length, 14 meters beam), this could take toll on the ship's performance, considering that the maximum speed is already at the low side except if they increase the power of the diesel engines which are also larger in dimensions and heavier in weight.
While the CGI is probably closer to the final design, MaxDefense will be waiting for the final design to be completed, as it is expected that the PN would provide some more inputs, and probably improve on the design and features of the ship. Although this could translate to cost increases, that could be done as a variation order for the project.
Also, remember that the PN still has a change of more than Php 200 million pesos, the difference between the ABC worth Php 16 billion, and HHI's offer worth Php 15.744 billion. MaxDefense expects the PN to use that amount to further improve the ship, like for example, adding a second secondary gun for both ships, or increasing the ship's size.
Positive Effects of Contract Signing:
Aside from confirming the order for the frigate, the contract signing is actually a bigger event that shows the seriousness of the Philippine Navy in its modernization drive.
The contract amount might be small compared to the frigate project of its peers in the region, but the point that finally the Philippines was able to push for a new build warship will definitely entice the global defense industry to look at the Philippines again. The frigates are just one of many expected new-build naval projects that the Philippine Navy will be undertaking in the years ahead.
Among those expected to take notice are European shipbuilders, who, except for Spain's Navantia and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) of Germany, are mostly absent during the Frigate acquisition project. This includes Damen of Netherlands, DCNS of France, Leonardo of Italy, and BAE Systems of the UK. According to MaxDefense sources, these shipbuilders skipped the frigate bidding due to their disbelief that the project will push through, and if it does, the profit will be too low.
Now that Pres. Duterte has announced his rejection to the tender system in acquiring defense materiel for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, it won't be a fight of who's the cheapest anymore, but on who can provide a good balance of capability and pricing.
|The Philippine Navy has several other naval projects coming up in the next few years, and the signing of the frigate contract shows to the world that the PN is ready to acquire modern new systems from the global market.|
Photo taken from TKMS' website.
After the contract signing, we will be awaiting for the Opening of Letter of Credit, and the submission of the Notice to Proceed by the DND/PN to HHI. These are also important for HHI, as the Letter of Credit gives them assurance that funding will be provided upon meeting delivery or schedule conditions, while the Notice to Proceed is the document stating that HHI can formally proceed with the project, and will be the basis of the construction and delivery schedule.
These are expected to be provided within this year, at best. MaxDefense will definitely post updates regarding the availability of these two important documents that will push the project forward. Good luck to both the Philippine Navy and Hyundai Heavy Industries for this very important project for the Filipino people.