Tracking the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization program

8Aug/15Off

A role for seaplanes in the Armed Forces of the Philippines

Seaplanes and flying boats are aircraft with the unique ability to travel to any marine destination, at fixed-wing-aircraft speed, and then land and take-off from water. It is a category of aircraft that is -- theoretically -- well suited to an archipelagic country like the Philippines.

The Philippine Navy's 15-year development plan calls for the acquisition of eight (8) Amphibious Maritime Patrol Aircraft. More recently, the Philippine Air Forces issued a P2.6B invitation to bid for three Search and Rescue seaplanes in November 2013. Both acquisitions, however, are currently on-hold. This suggests that while the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recognizes the value of this category of aircraft, they are not particularly high in the priority list. Which is unfortunate given the unique missions that only they can perform.

In this article, let us explore this category of aircraft, the different sub-categories within, their operational challenges, and the roles they play.

Seaplanes, flying boats, atbp.

The term "seaplane" is often used to describe all planes that take off and land on water. But this really only correctly describes one type of machine.

Seaplanes have floats beneath their aircraft upon which they land on water. The floats serve as their landing gear, and are typically permanently suspended beneath the plane. This aerodynamic penalty is the price paid for marine operation.

Flying boats, on the other-hand, have specially designed fuselages designed to operate in water. This makes for an aerodynamically clean fuselage. Some designs have additional floats on the wings to keep the plane upright in the water, while others have specially designed extensions that serve this purpose.

"Amphibians" are a sub-category of flying boat that land on water exclusively, and only use their landing gear to taxi from water on to land. On paper, this is the type of aircraft that the Philippine Navy is eyeing. Lack of clarity about the Authorized Budget for Contract that will be allocated to the project makes it difficult to predict the outcome of the project.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has operated both seaplanes and flying boats over the years, but have since retired them.

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Cessna Grand Caravan seaplane.
Photo c/0 Air Juan Website
PAF HU-16 Albatross Flying boat

In the early 20th century, when limitations on aircraft endurance necessitated more refueling stops than there were aerodromes, flying boats like the PanAm Clippers were the only way to fly, for example, from San Francisco to Manila. This could be done by way of water landings at Honolulu, Midway, Wake, and Guam. The path they took appears in the map below, taken from the Website clipperflyingboats.com.

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 Photo c/o clipperflyingboats.com

Advances in aviation design have since made it possible to fly previously unimaginable distances without refueling. Today Philippine Airlines regularly flies the San Francisco  to Manila route via direct 13-hour flights.

Since World War II, seaplanes and flying boats have been relegated to specialized roles, and only by a drastically reduced number of countries. Early champions of the aircraft type, the United States and the United Kingdom, have all retired their floatplanes without replacements. Japan, Russia, and Canada are the only remaining players in the military / government flying boat market. Other manufacturers, like Cessna and Dornier, are mainly aimed at the civilian market which focus on light aircraft for niche applications.

The reasons for this decline are multi-faceted and are beyond the scope of this article. But among them are the challenges inherent to this aircraft type.

Operating seaplanes

The book Corsairville: The lost domain of the flying boat by Graham Coster is a travel book that sought the story behind a British flying boat that crashed in the Belgian Congo. As part of that exploration, the author chronicled the changing attitudes towards seaplanes and flying boats. It contained numerous interesting insights into the challenges of operating seaplanes, which could be summarized as follows:

  • Salt vs aluminum
  • Water landings
  • Foreign Object Damage concerns

Salt vs aluminum

Salt water is corrosive. This is obvious to anyone who's been on a ship or frequents the coasts. While marine aluminum is more corrosion resistant than steel (corrosion rate of 1mm/year versus 120mm, see here), corrosion still occurs. This necessitates measures to combat this phenomena.

The following quotes from the book directly reference this issue. Note that "Seaplane" and "Pan-Am Air Bridge" were seaplane operators that the author used for his research into seaplane operations.

A floatplane did little more that dip its toes in on each landing, but at the end of everyday, Seaplane's Cessna had the hose turned on it for an hour and a half.

. . .

Two out of Pan-Am Air Bridge's (aka Chalk's Ocean Airways) 5 Mallards needed work . . . That insinuating, continuously destructive, salt again: everyday they had to run fresh water through the airframes, wash down the hull, apply all kinds of preservatives, coat rivet lines and joins with grease. 'For every hour we fly' . . . your going to take 3 to 4 hours of maintenance.

Philippine aircraft operators are no strangers to salt. With a significant portion or all airports and airfields being close to the sea, and salty sea spray, measures to control the build-up of this corrosive substance, ideally, ought to be common place knowledge. However, an aircraft that deliberately makes contact with salt water will require additional attention to ensure longevity.

Water landings

Whereas salt water's effects on the seaplane's airframe presented what amounts to an inconvenience to its maintainers and the organization that operates them, the floatplane's operating environment presents challenges for its pilot.

The book presented insights from a former Sunderland pilot. The Sunderland is a British flying boat shown blow. This particular photo shows an Australian example of the aircraft.

461_Sqn_Sunderland_AWM_P01520

Here are the pilot's thoughts about the idiosyncracies of floatplane flight:

For a take-off, once you were out on the water, everything was variable. 'It won't just sit on the runway -- it'll roll -- so the wings won't stay level: you have to use the ailerons. Then, because of the torque of the engines, it'll swing: you have to use the rudder to keep it straight'. Because the swing was habitually to port, you opened up the port engines first, and built up speed to 50, 60 knots until the flying boat's 5-foot draught was out of the water and the craft was planing on its step . . .

The variability of the landing surface also requires an additional skill for pilots: "reading the water". The following excerpt from the book illustrates this skill, c/o an interview with an Alaskan seaplane pilot.

See those black spots in the water?' They were like scuffmarks, bruise-shadows in the indigo bay. 'That's where the wind is denting the water -- coming down over this mountain and kind of bouncing off it'. Cat's paws was the aviator's nickname for them, because they also looked like a scatter of prints: the sight of them warned you that as you descended below that mountain the gusts could knock you about. Over east in the next bay . . . the water was fish-scaled silver . . . like silver-thread cloth, but said Fred, that fish-scaling was the wind whipping up the water. Try to land near that and both descent and touchdown would be a lot rougher. 'We learn to read the water.'

The Federal Aviation Authority's seaplane manual highlights the conditions that pilots have to "read":

While a land plane pilot can rely on windsocks and indicators adjacent to the runway, a seaplane pilot needs to be able to read wind direction and speed from the water itself. On the other hand, the landplane pilot may be restricted to operating in a certain direction because of the orientation of the runway, while the seaplane pilot can usually choose a takeoff or landing direction directly into the wind.

Even relatively small waves and swell can complicate seaplane operations. Takeoffs on rough water can subject the floats to hard pounding as they strike consecutive wave crests. Operating on the surface in rough conditions exposes the seaplane to forces that can potentially cause damage or, in some cases, overturn the seaplane. When a swell is not aligned with the wind, the pilot must weigh the dangers posed by the swell against limited crosswind capability, as well as pilot experience.

While landing gears provide some level of forgiveness during hard landings, such landings for a flying boat have serious consequences, as shown in this excerpt from Corsairville:

Ken Emmott had once had to swim for it . .  in Southampton Water when his BOAC captain had landed too fast, bounced their Sunderland off the water and cut away a large section of the nose before they sank to the bottom.

The Federal Aviation Authoriy's seaplane manual affirms the plane's sensitivity to hard landings

Because floats are mounted rigidly to the structure of the fuselage, they provide no shock absorbing function, unlike the landing gear of landplanes. While water may seem soft and yielding, damaging forces and shocks can be transmitted directly through the floats and struts to the basic structure of the airplane.

Foreign Object Damage concerns

The unique handling characteristics of seaplanes and flying boats require specialized training and flight experience. But there is one issue that no amount of flight training can completely address: debris.

The FAA seaplane manual offers the following guideline for seaplane landings:

It is usually a good practice to circle the area of intended landing and examine it thoroughly for obstructions such as pilings or floating debris, and to note the direction of movement of any boats that may be in or moving toward the intended landing site. Even if the boats themselves will remain clear of the landing area, look for wakes that could create hazardous swells if they move into the touchdown zone.

Ocular surveys from the air, however, can only go so far. As Iren Dornier and his crew demonstrated spectacularly at an Austrian airshow in Salzkammergut in July 2015.

Dornier, the pilot, is the grandson of the German Aviation Pioneer Dr. Claude Dornier and has significant investments in the Philippines to include South East Asian Airlines (SEAir) and a flying boat factory at the former Clark AFB in Pampanga, where his company manufactures the S-Ray 007 amphibian. He and his crew had been flying their refurbished World War 2-era DO 24ATT flying boat as part of a round-the-world tour to raise funds for the UNICEF, and were thus experienced flying boat operators. His floatplane credentials and lineage are impressive. That, however, did not make him or his crew them immune to floating debris.

The following photographs show what happens if a flying boat makes contact with unseen floating debris (believed to be a tree trunk) during landing. The object tore a fist-sized hole in the side of the DO 24ATT flying boat, which then took on water. The plane had to be towed to shore. None of the crew were injured.

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dornier4  dornier5
 dornier6  dornier7

Video of the event available below

Given the amount of debris in Philippine water ways, from flood water run-off, garbage thrown off ships, and cast-offs of various marine economic activities, the probability of similar contact is not insignificant

Bodies of water are constantly changing. Even if a seaplane were to take off and land from the same location. The condition of that landing point will never be same as it was when the plane took off from it. What was safe when the pilot left it, might not be so upon return. It is that variability that increases the uncertainty.

Seaplanes alternatives

Arguably, one contributory factor to the decline of the seaplanes and and flying boats was the rise of the helicopter. It replaced the floatplane as the preferred platform for non-aircraft-carrier-based aerial missions. Seaplanes used to perform reconnaissance, liaison, and search and rescue missions from ships large enough to accommodate them.

In World War II, some vessels could launch their planes using catapaults. However to recover them, the ship had to stop to bring the plane back onboard -- a risky and time consuming maneuver. If the sea state around the recovering ship was unfavorable, landing alongside the recovery ship would be impossible.

float-plane-12 floatplane-19
 Catapault launch photo c/o Pacificaviationmuseum.org Seaplane recovery photo c/o Pacificaviationmuseum.org

Helicopters on the other hand could land on ships while underway, and in a broad range of sea states. They could also rescue individuals in the water, without needing to risk the aircraft in a water landing, by hovering above them and lowering a rescue winch.

Long range maritime patrol missions have also been traditional fixtures the flying boat's offerings. The same qualities that made floatplanes the principal means of air travel across the Pacific, also made them the ideal maritime patrol aircraft for their time. Their ability to take off from water meant that they could be based closer to the intended patrol area without needing runways, and could be refueled and re-provisioned by ship.

However advances in aviation technology have given conventional land-based aircraft the range and reliability to perform such missions, all from the safety of a non-variable runway . Furthermore, land-based aircraft do not require the aerodynamic compromises imposed by water landing requirements (e.g., floats and associated struts, etc.) thus improving performance.

Air forces simply no longer needed flying boats for the bulk of their traditional missions. But . . . not all.

Flying boats, and to a large extent seaplanes, retain the advantage of speed over helicopters. Whereas a relatively slow World War II flying boat like a PBY Catalina only flies at 189 mph, the Philippine Navy's newest multipurpose helicopter, the AgustaWestland AW109 only had a maximum cruising speed of 177 mph. That speed advantage is a key differentiator.

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 PAF PBY Catalina photo c/o Francis Neri Albums  AW109 photo c/o Philippine Navy

Justifying the risk

Water take off and landings compound the dangers already inherent in flying. If a helicopter or a conventional plane can do the mission better and safer, then the suitability of a floatplane for that task is debatable. However, there are specific missions that only seaplanes and flying boats are able to perform. These are unique requirements that justify their expense, both in pilot training and additional maintenance for the aircraft, as well as the risk inherent to operating from water.

No place in the Republic of the Philippines better illustrates the potential for floatplane use better than the garrisons in the West Philippine Sea. Among them, the BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as the republic's outpost on Ayungin reef. Because of its proximity to Panganiban Reef, known internationally as Mischief Reef, this ship is on the frontline of the EEZ conflict between the Philippines and the People's Republic of China.

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AFP Western Command resupplies this station by sea and by air. These missions are performed on a regular schedule, and the station itself is stocked with supplies to accommodate unexpected delays that, in the past, have doubled the tours of duty of the Marines guarding the ship.

Troop rotations are performed by boat. For Operational Security (OPSEC) reasons, exactly how resupply boats reach the station despite the Chinese blockade will not be discussed here.

Consumables and care packages, on the other hand, can be air dropped to the ship. Items are placed in sacks which are then enclosed in plastic along with bouyancy aids such as styrofoam. These are then dropped in the water beside the the outpost and the resident Philippine Marines simply bring them onboard. See inset on the photo below on the right.

 999642_610321529003252_1266993513_n 11403109_1464861363814813_6684020412641144776_n
 Logistic air drop. Photo c/o Philippine Navy  Philippine Navy islander dropping cargo. Photo c/o Philippine Air Force

To summarize the state of logistic affairs on Ayungin, existing techniques allow for either slow transport of large quantities of personnel and provisions, or rapid delivery of modest quantities of supplies. Neither method, however, can be used for rapid extraction of men or materiel. Which also means that neither method would be suitable for Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions. If AFP personnel on these outposts ever fall seriously ill or are injured, they will be in for a long wait before they can be given proper medical care.

Heli-deck equipped vessels, such as the Del Pilar class frigates, Frank Besson LSVs, even Philippine Coast Guard Tenix boats, could presumably dispatch helicopters to recover a stricken individual from the outpost. Rotary-wing aircraft could fly over any Chinese blockading ships to reach their destinations. But the ships would still have to travel to within helicopter-flying distance to be effective. Furthermore, the medical facilities on these ships are limited -- none are normally equipped for tertiary care. Once the patient is onboard, they would still have to sail at best possible speed to an alternative medical facility.

Seaplanes and flying boats would be the logical choice for the MEDEVAC role, as they are the only aircraft that can embark passengers from WPS outposts, and travel with sufficient speed back to air bases in Palawan, Metro Manila or at the very least to the medical health center on Pag-asa island.

These aircraft could also be used to satisfy the MEDEVAC needs of Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard ships on patrol or remote island communities in other parts of the Philippines. While acquired primarily for a military purpose, it has windfall benefits for the general population.

This is an operational challenge that needs a solution. The defenders of the West Philippine Sea deserve nothing less than the country's best effort in ensuring access to medical treatment within the all-important Golden Hour, during which medical intervention will yield the most benefit. Philippine Navy or Philippine Air Force floatplanes, whichever service gets them first, offer the best means for satisfying this need.

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About this article

The base research for this article was completed in 2006, as part of back-end work for the following thread on the Timawa.net forum: Operating Seaplanes.

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7Jun/15Off

Strategic Sealift Vessels (SSV) on the way

The Philippine Navy's two Strategic Sealift Vessels are now both under construction, with the steel cutting ceremony for the second SSV taking place on the 5th of June. The first vessel had its equivalent ceremony in January and is expected to be launched in November 2015 with full completion by May the following year.

The Strategic Sealift Vessel project is the Aquino administration's implementation of two older Arroyo administration projects:

Strategic Sealift Vessel - this was reportedly crafted by the Center for Naval Leadership and Excellence (CNLE) and originally envisioned to acquire a 2nd-hand civilian Roll-On Roll-Off (RORO) vessel from Japan. Delays in the execution of the project resulted in an aborted attempt as the Japanese vendor choose to sell the prospective vessel to another buyer.

Multi-Role Vessel (MRV) - this project sought to acquire a brand-new Makasaar class Landing Ship Dock directly from South Korea complete with an amphibious assault package and a sophisticated mobile hospital. The following image of a Philippine Navy poster displayed on Navy Day shows what this project sought to acquire as a single project.

mrv
 The original project that was broken up onto different components

The current administration opted to break up the MRV project into multiple components, award the contract to South Korea's partner in Indonesia -- which incidentally had the license rights to the Makasaar class LPD -- and then rename the project to the current SSV title. The latter decision initially created confusion among long-time defense enthusiasts who had been aware of both projects, but were not privy to project decisions.

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 SSV-1 steel cutting ceremony SSV-2 steel cutting ceremony

As shared by an Indonesian Timawan with ties to PT PAL, the shipbuilder responsible for the construction of the two vessels, construction of the keel for SSV-1 is well underway. Credit for the following photographs of the SSV-1 keel, and translation of the Indonesian news article, go to the member who goes by the username "Gombaljaya" (or Alberth Minas on the Timawa FB extension)

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As the ships themselves are progressing, so too are other components of the original Multi-Role Vessel package. The contract to supply Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV), which comprise part of the SSVs offensive punch, are slated to be awarded to Samsung Techwin, which will provide the South Korean version of the American AAV7 amtrack.

Discussions about the two SSVs are available on the Timawa.net forum at the following locations:

Strategic Sealift Vessel - 1

Strategic Sealift Vessel - 2

 

22Mar/14Off

A Timawa Facebook extension for submarine warfare in the AFP

Given the current nature of the country's attitude towards defense, and the state of the AFP in general and the PN in particular, it will arguably take a LIFETIME to introduce submarines into the Philippine fleet. By promoting active and factual discussion about both the need and the challenges of establishing a submarine force, this FB group hopes to help shorten this process to at least a one lifetime . . . and not several.

The technical and organizational challenges of operating submarines (where the "pwede na" mentality can actually get people killed) define a goal for operational efficiency that, once met, can have a cascading effect throughout the fleet. The rejuvenating effect of this program upon the Philippine Navy could very well be likened to the effect of the Apollo program had on the US defense R&D program and aerospace industries. That, by itself, makes the program worth pursing for the long-term.

For those who are interested, here is the link to the group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/phsubmarine/

Started on Tuesday. 100 members in five days. Not too shabby 🙂

sub
5Jan/14Off

“Sea denial” vs “Sea Control”

Thanks to a position paper published by Congressman Roilo Golez, the term "area denial" has entered mainstream Philippine social media discussions about tensions with China and territorial threats in the West Philippine Sea. But what exactly is "Sea Denial"? To fully appreciate that mission, one must also understand the super-set mission: "Sea Control".

The following quotations were initially collected for the following discussion on the Timawa.net forum: Sea Control vs Sea Denial: Why small boats aren't enough and provide an easy-to-follow layman's guide to understanding these two concepts.

From an online excerpt of the book The Influence of Sea Power on History: 1600-1783, Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1896 by Mahan, A. T. comes the following concise distinction between control and denial

Sea denial. Sea denial, or commerce-destroying, provides a means for harrying and tiring an enemy. It may be a means to avoid losing a war. It may cause "great individual injury and discontent". But by itself, a sea denial strategy is not a war-winning one. Nor is it a particularly deterring strategy.

Sea Control. Sea control means, fundamentally, the ability to carry your, and your allies', commerce across the seas and to provide the means to project force upon a hostile, distant shore. A sea controller must limit the sea denial capabilities of the enemy. To quote the Prophet again, "... when a question arises of control over distant regions, ... it must ultimately be decided by naval power, ..., which represents the communications that form so prominent a feature in all strategy."

Between the two strategies, sea denial remains the lowest hanging fruit. Expensive capital ships are principal means of exercising Sea Control and is therefore often beyond the resources of most maritime nations. Even China initially started with this strategy as related by Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at ANU. The paper not only points out China's approach, but affirms the limitations of this strategy as explained above by Mahan

The Chinese have long understood that America's sea control in the western Pacific has been the military foundation of its strategic primacy in Asia, and that the US Navy's carriers are the key. They have therefore focused the formidable expansion of their naval and air forces over the past 20 years on trying to deprive the US of sea control by developing their capacity to sink American carriers. In this they appear to have been strikingly successful, to the point that US military leaders now acknowledge that their sea control in the western Pacific is slipping away.

But for China, depriving America of sea control is not the same as acquiring it themselves. Its naval strategy has focused on the much more limited aim that strategists call ''sea denial'': the ability to attack an adversary's ships without being able to stop them attacking yours. These days, sea denial can be achieved without putting ships to sea, because land-based aircraft, long-range missiles and submarines can sink ships much more cost-effectively than other ships can. This is what China has done.

< Edited >

The central fact of modern naval warfare - which the Chinese grasp as well as anyone - is that sea denial is relatively easy to achieve, but control is extremely hard. We seem to be entering an era in which many countries can achieve sea denial where it matters to them most, but none can achieve sea control against any serious adversary.

The key take away from White's thesis is the multi-dimensional nature of the strategy. To enable its own sea denial capability, the AFP needs to make investments in the airborne, maritime, and land-based systems listed above. The Philippine Navy currently has an ongoing acquisition project for brand new Frigates with explicit, albeit limited, Anti-Air, Anti-Surface, and Anti-Submarine Warfare capability. The Philippine Army is moving ahead with studies to acquire land-based Anti-Ship Missile systems. The Philippine Air Force is pursuing a variety of patrol and surface attack aircraft projects. All these efforts, as of writing, remain works-in-progress and their successful and timely completion is hardly assured.

While it is very unlikely that the Philippines will ever be able to make significant headway into sea control on its own, a sea-denial build-up will still put it in a better position to keep cadence with its allies. A coalition of countries with individual sea denial capabilities can approach sea control capability more effectively together than they could alone. A concerted effort to deploy sea-control-compatible assets, would also demonstrate the Philippines' willingness to participate in an allied effort at sea control and establish its status as a reliable partner in such an allied effort, even if such assets can only maintain a tenuous presence in our EEZ when viewed in isolation.

27Jul/13Off

GUNNEX for Oto Melara ships

The Philippine Navy scheduled two separate gunnery exercises (GUNNEX) for ships armed with Oto Melara 76mm guns. As per Notice to Mariners (NOTAM) 072-2013, BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35) will conduct an exercise, explicitly for its main weapon, on 24 July 2013 off La Monja Island in Bataan. NOTAM 074-2013, on the other hand, announced a GUNNEX for BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) off the coast of Mariveles, Bataan on the same month.

These low-profile GUNNEXes demonstrate the progress the Philippine Navy has made thus far with this weapon system since its problematic introduction in 1997, with the acceptance of three ex-Royal Navy Peacock Class OPVs, later renamed the "Jacinto Class", into the Philippine Fleet. As related by a scathing paper written for the Joint Command & Staff College of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Navy reportedly struggled to keep the guns of the three Jacinto class ships operational. Because of inadequate preparation, the guns experienced de-rangement a year after entering service, and the navy found to its dismay that it had no personnel with the required expertise to restore the gun to operational status.

To remedy the situation, the service sought assistance from the Australian government which invited the Philippines to send personnel for training. Initially, the PN reportedly sent personnel with Gunner's mate ratings. These trainees, however, eventually found themselves out of their depth since their prior experience had been limited to World War II-era manual gun systems that lacked the sophisticated electronics of the thoroughly modern Oto Melara weapons. It wasn't until the following year, when the navy sent personnel with electronics technician ratings, that the Philippine Fleet began to build relevant maintenance experience. Given this history, the exercises listed above provide encouraging news about the Navy's efforts to improve its lot. The difficulties did not end there however, and the navy struggled with the gun type for years, during which time the OPVs were reportedly conducting patrols with their main armament in a questionable state.

That, however, was then. The GUNNEXes above show how things stand today.  The following video shows the PF-16 conducting gun trials off the coast of Florida during its transit to the Philippines.

The following ships in the Philippine Fleet are currently equipped with this weapon system:

  • BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35)
  • BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36)
  • BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37)
  • BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15)
  • BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16)
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Jacinto Class (Philippine Navy photo)   WHEC (Philippine Navy photo)
9Jul/13Off

What is a “warship”?

There's been a lot of talk about whether or not an ex-US Coast Guard cutter -- like the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, can really be called "warships". Even among individuals responsible for government communication disagreements reported exist.

When looking for internationally accepted definitions, the United Nations is a reasonably good reference. For maritime matters, there is UNCLOS. Article 29 of UNCLOS provides a reasonable definition for what constitutes a warship:

From: http://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/part2.htm

Article 29

Definition of warships

For the purposes of this Convention, "warship" means a ship belonging to the armed forces of a State bearing the external marks distinguishing such ships of its nationality, under the command of an officer duly commissioned by the government of the State and whose name appears in the appropriate service list or its equivalent, and manned by a crew which is under regular armed forces discipline.

Note that the article does not consider the vessel's armament. The key criteria are ship ownership and the nature of the crew. So technically speaking, even an unarmed tug is a warship.

 

10May/13Off

Drydocking the Andradas

The Philippine Navy recently issued bid invitation notices for the "Drydocking and other related repair" of two of its Andrada class patrol boats:

Pre-bid conferences for these ships were set on the 3rd and 6th of May respectively. Submission and opening of bid envelopes for both ships were set for the 20th of May.

Prospective bidders were instructed to contact the following PN office:

Office of the PN Bids and Awards Committee Bonifacio Naval Station, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Contact person: LT DOMINGO B SUMAYO JR PN Cel Nr: 0917-587-4882 Tel Nr: 889-1301,815-3420 & 843-4416 local 6341 Email Add: pnbac08@yahoo.com

The Andrada class patrol boats are the Philippine Navy's largest class of patrol boat, numbering twenty-two (22) units, and were built in the early 90s at the Halter Equitable shipyard in New Orleans, Louisana. The class consists of 77-foot and 78-foot versions. The PG-370 and PG-375 are of the 77-foot variety.

Both ships have their respective discussion threads on the Timawa.net forum at the following locations:

PG-370: http://www.timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=16522.0

PG-375: http://www.timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=15946.0

Photo of the PG-370 below, c/o Getty Images.

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11Oct/12Off

Philippine Navy floating drydock to undergo repair

YD-204, a Philippine Navy floating drydock, will undergo a P9.7M maintenance cycle. A bid invitation for the supply of parts and labor registered with PhilGEPS on October 3, 2012. This invitation is due to close on the 23rd of October.

The vessel was also slated to enter into drydock on April and June of 2011. The fate of those efforts, which were valued at P19.5M, and how they relate to this project is unclear as of writing.

A floating drydock is a specialized vessel designed to lift other ships out of the water to facilitate inspections and repair. A photograph of the YD-204 is available on Timawa.net at the following thread.

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11Oct/12Off

BRP Rajah Humabon (PF-11) to go into drydock

The Philippine Navy will be spending P19.1M for drydocking and repair expenses for the BRP Rajah Humabon (PF-11). Re-bidding invitations were posted on PhilGEPS on October the 5th, indicating that an earlier bidding attempt had failed. The current bids (PB-296-PN-12 and PB-295-PN-12) are both due to close on the 23rd of October.

The 69-year old PF-11 (launched in 1943) is the last of the PN's Cannon-class Patrol Frigates, and up until the arrival of the BRP Gergorio del Pilar was the Philippine Navy flagship.

US Navy photo from Balikataan 2009

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26May/12Off

The Philippine Navy’s 15-year development plan

Lt. Commander Nerelito Martinez, Philippine Fleet acting chief of staff for plans and programs, revealed details about the Philippine Navy's 15-year strategic development plan dubbed “Philippine Fleet Desired Force Mix", in a recent Philippine Fleet publication. Several news organs, as the Philippine Star, have since referenced his article their articles on the subject.

The plan calls for the following mix of assets:

  • Six (6) frigates configured for anti-air warfare
  • Twelve (12) corvettes designed for anti-submarine warfare
  • 18 Offshore Patrol Vessels (OVs)
  • Three (3) submarines
  • Three (3) Mine Counter Measure Vessels (MCMVs)
  • Four (4) Strategic Sealift Vessels (SSVs)
  • 18 Landing Craft Utility (LCU)
  • Three (3) Logistics Support/Replenishment Ship (LSS)
  • Three (3) Ocean tugs
  • Six Yard/Fire Tugs
  • 12 Cyclone class Coast Patrol Interdiction Craft (CPIC),
  • 30 Patrol gunboats,
  • 42 Multi-Purpose Assault Craft (MPACs)
  • 24 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs)
  • Eight (8) Amphibious Maritime Patrol Aircraft (AMPA)
  • 18 Naval Helicopters embarked aboard frigates and corvettes
  • Eight (8) Multi-Purpose Helicopters (MPH) [embarked aboard the SSVs]

This list includes two types of vessels that have already been produced in Philippine shipyards: the BRP Tagbanua Landing Craft Utility, and the MPAC Mk.1 and Mk.2. It will be interesting to see what other classes of vessels could potentially be produced locally.