Your 1st for Philippine Defense

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Philippine Navy's Pohang-class corvette, and plans to acquire more from South Korea

After MaxDefense posted bits and pieces of information and dropping hints in the past year on the plans to acquire more surplus Pohang-class corvettes from the South Korean government, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana finally confirmed what we have been saying all along - that the Philippine government is indeed negotiating with its South Korean counterparts to transfer at least two (2) more surplus Pohang-class corvettes.

This was confirmed by Sec. Lorenzana during the arrival ceremonies of the Philippine Navy's first Pohang-class corvette, the BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), considered as the Philippine Navy's first purpose-built corvette.

The first Pohang-class corvette of the Philippine Navy, the BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), formerly the ROKS Chungju (PCC-762). Snipped photo originally from the Philippine Navy.

The Introduction of the Pohang-class to the Philippine Navy:

The BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) is the first Pohang-class corvette of the Philippine Navy. It was approved for transfer to the Philippine Navy since 2016, but due to delays and funding issues, the Philippine Navy was only able to start the actual transfer process in 2019.

The ship, formerly known as the ROKS Chungju (PCC-762), is a Pohang-class Flight III corvette formerly used by the Republic of Korea Navy. The Flight III were configured for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), equipped with two Oto Melara 76mm/62 cal. Compact naval guns, two Otobreda twin 40mm L/70 naval guns, two Mk.46 triple torpedo tubes, 2 Mk.9 depth charge racks, and at least four 12.7mm heavy machine guns. It also has a mount for a MBDA Simbad launcher for the Mistral VSHORAD missile system, although the PS-39 do not have the mount as it was taken out by the ROKN before handing over the ship to the PN.

The ROKS Chungju was the replacement provided by the South Korean government after the Philippine Navy rejected the acceptance of another Pohang-class corvette offered to them in 2011, the Flight II corvette formerly known as ROKS Mokpo (PCC-759). The PN rejected the ship after inspections by the PN in 2014 found the ship in very poor condition, and would not be beneficial since many of its subsystems were non-operational and would require a lot of work and money to refurbish.

Meanwhile, when the PN inspection team checked the former ROKS Chungju, many of its subsystems are obsolete but are still in good working condition, and the ship require minimal work to refurbish. The Philippine Navy spent Php250 million to repair, refurbish and fit-out the ship to acceptable standards, although the South Korean government agreed to pay for the drydocking works at STX Shipyard as part of the grant.

The ship was formally handed-over to the Philippine government, and commissioned with the Philippine Navy on 05 August 2019 in Jinhae Naval Base in South Korea.

Three more Flight III ships were built aside from the ROKS Chungju, although all of them were transferred to other countries with two going to Vietnam, and one to Egypt.

Currently, the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) still has fourteen (14) Pohang-class Flight IV and V corvettes that are available for transfer once retired from service.

Aside from the Philippines, some other countries received surplus Pohang-class corvettes from South Korea, including Peru (1 x Flight II), Vietnam (2 x Flight III), and Egypt (1 x Flight III)

More on the Philippine Navy's Pohang-class Corvette Transfer Project can be found on the Resource Page on MaxDefense's AFP Modernizastion Portal:

"Pohang-class Corvette Transfer Project of the Philippine Navy"

Changes from ROKS Chungju to BRP Conrado Yap:

Several items were removed by the ROKN prior to hand-over, including:

* Simbad MANPADS firing station for MBDA Mistral and/or LIGNex1 Chiron VSHORAD missile system;
* Several low frequency radios used for secured communications;

* Beacon distress radio;
* Satellite navigation system;
* ULQ-12(V)1K electronic support measures (ESM) suite;
* Electronic Position Indicator Radio Beacon;
* RFID receiver

Left Photo: BRP Conrado Yap. Right Photo: ROKS Chungju. Color Legend: Red- removed; Orange - changed; Green - added.
Credits to Iohanssen Kamputhaw for the infographic and information.

Refering to the photo above, the following were among those noted as changes when the ship was delivered to the Philippine Navy (Thanks to one of our naval contributor Iohanssen Kamputhaw for providing these infographic and info):

1. Midship satcom antenna removed;
2. Forward (above bridge) dome-type navigation radar installed;  
3. RHIB crane was changed. New RHIB was also procured;  
4. A secondary S-band was added and mounted on new skeleton tower.  

5. Primary S-band may have also been replaced (if Bid Documents for Lot 2 was followed)

Refurbishing works on the ship prior to official hand-over included the following:

* W6 level overhaul of the MTU main diesel engines;
* W6 level overhaul of the MTU ship diesel generators;
* HF Radio, UHF Base and Handheld Radios;
* Marine and Airband Radios;
* Navigational Equipment

First Purpose-Built Corvette:

The BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) was considered by the Philippine Navy as its first purpose-built corvette, since previous ships identified as corvettes were originally built for a different purpose.

The Rizal-class and Malvar-class patrol vessels, which were previously considered and counted as corvettes by both local and international publications, were actually originally the Auk-class ocean minesweepers and Patrol Craft Escorts (PCE) of the US Navy, respectively. Due to the change in role they received while in service with the Philippine Navy, they were considered as corvettes based on size and weight class. Back when these ships were introduced, the term "offshore patrol vessel" was not yet used to describe navy patrol vessels, and corvettes were usually armed with the same gun complement as these ships.

The Jacinto-class patrol vessels were also considered as patrol vessels by the UK Royal Navy during their service with the Hong Kong Naval Squadron. Being more capable than the Rizal-class and Malvar-class "corvettes", these ships were also classified as corvettes being less capable than corvettes of its time which were equipped with anti-submarine, anti-aircraft, and missiles for surface warfare.

While the BRP Conrado Yap is not armed with missiles, it is considered a corvette, with emphasis of surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare. It was designed to combat North Korean gunboats and small ships by high volume of gunfire from its 76mm and 40mm guns, while also equipped with a hull-mounted sonar, torpedoes and depth charges for rudimentary ASW operations working in tandem with more capable ASW platforms.

A Flight IV Pohang-class corvette.

Training Ship:

The BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39)is also expected to be a training and transition ship for future ship crew of the upcoming Jose Rizal-class frigates, which are expected to start delivery to the Philippine Navy by 2020.

Along with the Del Pilar-class ocean patrol vessels and Jacinto-class offshore patrol vessels, the PS-39 would allow crew members to operate subsystems that are the closest thing that the Philippine Navy has in its fleet to those installed on the new frigates. This is especially true for the hull mounted sonar system, as the PS-39 has the only working ship-mounted ASW sonar in the fleet.

Personnel from the PN's Naval Sea Systems Command led by its chief Rear Adm. Rommel Galang conducts checks on the BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) to orient personnel on the ship's subsystems. Photo taken from the NSSC's Facebook page.

Plans to Acquire 2 More Pohang-class:

Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana confirmed that they are negotiating with the South Korean government for the transfer of two more surplus Pohang-class corvettes to the Philippine Navy. Based on how he mentioned it to the media, it appears that the South Korean government was actually offering to transfer these ships to the Philippines.

But this is not the case.

It was known within the DND and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that the BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) was meant to be a "sweetener" for the acquisition of twelve (12) KAI FA-50PH Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft for the Philippine Air Force (PAF), and eight (8) Hanwha Defense KAAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles for the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC).

Originally, the Philippine Navy already requested for the transfer of another one or two Pohang-class corvettes since 2017 after the contract for the Frigate Acquisition Project was signed in October 2016. Back then, the DND and PN were hoping that the South Korean government will give them the ships as a "sweetener" for buying not just the HDF-2500 frigates from Hyundai Heavy Industries, but also for including several Korean-made defense products like the LIGNex1 SSM-700K C-Star anti-ship missile, and later on the finality to use the Hanwha Systems Naval Shield Integrated Combat Management System (ICMS).

Surprisingly, if the proposal to transfer two more Pohang-class corvettes are indeed being pushed as "sweeteners", having them come before closing a deal means that the Koreans are being safe in making sure a deal is indeed closed first before any promised sweetener can be actually delivered.

According to MaxDefense sources, among the promises made by Hyundai Heavy Industries to the DND and PN was that they would assist in the transfer of surplus Pohang-class corvettes to the Philippine Navy. So the two ships could be from this commitment.

Remember when MaxDefense posted if there will be a BRP "Fidel Ramos" in the future? That was in reference to the ongoing negotiations to transfer more Pohang-class corvettes to the Philippine Navy, since Pres. Fidel V. Ramos was actually a Korean War veteran as well, and the Philippine Navy is expected to name Pohang-class corvettes it receive after distinguished Filipino soldiers who serviced during the Korean War in the 1950s.

So expect additional Pohang-class corvettes to be named after Korean War heroes or distinguished soldiers or officers.

The BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) is shown here with two other Pohang-class corvettes, most likely recently retired Flight IV ships which can be identified by the different radar dome on the mast (more circular which are found only on Flight IV and V ships of the class). Surprisingly, the Otobrerda 40mm twin gun mount at the B position was removed for both ships, with one even have it replaced with an old 20mm gatling gun mount found only on Chamsuri-class patrol boats. Photo taken from the Philippine Navy website.

Flight IV and V Pohang-class Corvettes:

Since there are no more Flight III Pohang-class corvettes available for transfer to the Philippine Navy or any other navy, it is expected that the South Korean government will be using Flight IV and V ships of the class. The ROKN has started retiring Flight IV ships with the former ROKS Jinhae (PCC-766) already retired from service since December 2017. Another famous Flight IV ship is the ROKS Cheonan (PCC-772) which was sunk by a North Korean submarine on March 2010.

Compared to the Flight III Pohang-class corvette like the BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), the Flight IV and V ships of the class are improved versions and are armed with two twin Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers in addition to the standard weapons of the Flight III.

The Flight IV and V also has the following difference from the Flight III ships:

* Radamec 2400 optronic director instead of the Signaal LIOD;
* Addition of a Marconi 1810 surface search radar replacing the Signal WM-26 fire control radar on the main mast dome;
* Two twin Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers between the rear Otobreda 40mm mount and funnel;
* Installing a Marconi 1802 fire control radar on a pedestal between the two Harpoon ASM launchers.

Above is an infographic on the different Pohang-class variants, with Flight II, III, IV and V shown. Flight I is not actually a Pohang-class corvette so it was not included here. The Pre-upgrade infographic was provided to MaxDefense by 40niner.

Other updates made on the Pohang-class Flight IV and V corvettes by the ROKN in recent years include the following:

* Replacement of the AN/SPS-64 surface search radar with the Radartech SPS-300K surface search radar
* Installation of SLQ-261K torpedo acoustic countermeasures
* Upgrade of the Raytheon AN/SQS-58 hull-mounted sonar
* Installation of SLQ-201K Electric Support Measures suite

While these improvements were made on the Pohang-class Flight IV and V corvettes, MaxDefense does not expect the ROKN to include the SLQ-261K torpedo acoustic countermeasures and the SLQ-201K ESM suite should they transfer the ships to anyone. These are ROKN-only items that they could re-use in other ships, although the SPS-300K radar could be retained as it does not cost too much for them to re-acquire.

The Rule of Three:

The Philippine Navy currently has a rule on ship acquisitions which includes the Rule of Three, which means the organization has to have at least 3 ships of similar class in the fleet.

This is to make sure that there is at least 1 ship of the class available to operate anywhere in the country 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

While it is possible that all three ships of the class can be operational all at the same time, there are times when 1 ship will need to be in service, while the other is being prepared to replace the one that is currently on station.

Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command (FOIC) Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad confirmed this during media interviews during the arrival ceremonies of BRP Conrado Yap last 20 August 2019, wherein he mentioned that even the South Korean government knows that the Philippine Navy usually operate 3 ships of the same class, like in the case of the Del Pilar and Jacinto-class ships.

This gives the PN a reason to indeed ask the South Korean government to allow the transfer (or even sale) of at least two more Pohang-class corvettes, to allow the PN to have at least 3 ships of the class.

The three Jacinto-class patrol vessels. Photo taken from Kalasag Ng Lahi defense page.

Potential Problems on Acquiring 2 More Pohang-class Corvettes:
It should be remembered that it took 2 years for the Philippine Navy to make a Horizon 2 Priority Project like the Pohang-class Corvette Transfer Project turn from funding request, pre-procurement, procurement phase, and completion. The main reason why the BRP Conrado Yap only arrived in August 2019 when it other countries took possession of the their granted corvettes later than the Philippines but were able to bring it home to their respective countries quickly.

Since there is no budget allocation within Horizon 2 Phase Priority Projects to cover the costs related to the transfer of two more Pohang-class corvettes, it means the Philippine Navy will have to resort to including it in the 2nd List of Horizon 2 Phase Projects that is still being formed by the AFP and PN.

Another faster option is to consider it as an emergency procurement and for the Philippine Navy, with assistance from the DND, to go straight to Pres. Duterte to request for funding. All the president has to do is ask the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to find ways to fund the transfer, which would most likely cost between Php500-600 million depending on the ship's condition.

Possibly More Pohang-class Corvettes in the Future?

Aside from the two additional ships being negotiated by the DND and PN with their South Korean counterparts, it is highly possible that the Philippine Navy may acquire more Pohang-class corvettes in the future.

This was also highlighted by PN FOIC Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad, who mentioned to reporters last 20 August 2019 that aside from the commitment to provide 2 more Pohang-class corvettes, he also asked the Koreans if they can provide more and, we quote, "there was a positive response".

With more Pohang-class corvettes on the way to retirement in the next few years, it is not impossible for the Philippine Navy to receive more, considering a sweetener for the two new corvettes reported earlier as being planned to be awarded to South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries. 

Despite old, these ships are obviously far more capable than the World War 2 era warships still used by the Philippine Navy.

MaxDefense hopes that three more Pohang-class corvettes to form another squadron can be acquired.

South Korea still has more than a dozen Pohang-class corvettes that could be provided or transferred to other countries like the Philippines. Chances are, the Philippine Navy could get more on top of the two already being negotiated. Credits to original sources of the photos.

Wait, What "Corvette Squadron"?

Just to add a new development in the Philippine Navy:

Last June 2019, PN FOIC Vice Adm. Empedrad proposed for the creation of squadrons within the Philippine Fleet, which means ships would be formed into squadrons of two or three ships, similar to what other countries have in their fleets. An example of regional navies that do this is the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), and the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN).

Example, if the PN has three Pohang-class corvettes, it means all three could be lumped together to form an "Anti-Submarine Warfare Corvette Squadron". Since the Jacinto-class and Del Pilar-class already have three ships each, it is expected that all the Jacinto-class patrol vessels would be lumped into a single squadron. The same is true for all Del Pilar-class ocean patrol vessels.

Three Pohang-class corvettes of the ROKN, most likely forming a squadron.

Another possibility is mixing one or two types or classes of ships to form a TEMPORARY or task force squadron, which is already being done by the Philippine Navy for some time. Example, a Jose Rizal-class frigate can be paired with a Jacinto-class patrol vessel and a Del Pilar-class ocean patrol vessel to form a squadron of different capabilities. Or a Jacinto-class patrol vessel can be paired with two Tomas Batilo-class fast attack crafts. Normally this is the case in the ROKN, wherein a more capable ship is paired with less capable ones to form a patrol squadron.

An example of a mixed ship squadron, this one showing a Flight III Pohang-class paired with a Gomdoksuri-class large patrol boat and a Chamsuri-class fast patrol boat. 

It remains to be seen if this would be approved by the General Headquarters, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and be implemented soon.

If yes, this further increases the reason why the acquisition of two more Pohang-class corvettes is inevitable and should be pursued.


  1. Add SONAR and anti submarine torpedoes to the Del Pilar Class Patrol Ships and the PN will have four anti submarine ships.

  2. If PN have the fund, they might as well replace those 40mm guns with phalanx and/or RAM/SeaRAM for much better survivability against air/missile attacks

    1. They can instead install RTN 20X fire control Radar upgrade those 40mm into the Dardo CIWS


Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Air Force Modernization Projects