Tracking the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization program

17May/16Off

Why not turn over the BRP Ang Pangulo to the Philippine Coast Guard?

President-elect Duterte announced in a press conference that he intended to put up the Presidential Yacht, Ang Pangulo (AT-25), for sale. The following is an excerpt from a GMA news report.

DAVAO CITY — Presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said he will put presidential yacht, the BRP Ang Pangulo, up for sale to the highest bidder.

Duterte said this in an interview with reporters at Hotel Elena after meeting with prospective chiefs of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Both President Estrada and President Aquino made similar statements prior to being sworn into office, and for good reason. A "Presidential Yacht" smacks of government excess. A luxury item that a poor country could ill-afford.

But is a yacht really all it can be?

Given how long it takes government to acquire assets through its byzantine procurement process, prudence demands continual exploration of other options for a historical asset that is already in the government's possession. Additional hulls, especially new-build ones, could very well take years to obtain. The AT-25 is already there!!!

 

Suitability of the ship for Coast Guard duties will depend on its internal configuration, the material condition of the ship, as well as its hydrodynamic and sea-keeping performance. However, barring any major issues in these areas of consideration, the following facets of the AT-25's design holds interesting potential for the PCG.

Size matters

A common engagement tactic among protagonists in EEZ conflicts -- from the Cod War of the 60's between Iceland and the UK, and in the West Philippine Sea today -- is ramming. The following video below shows one such between the Chinese and Vietnamese Coast Guard shows how such an engagement can occur. With a displacement of 2,239 tons, the AT-25 -- theoretically -- has sufficient mass to engage in such encounters with all but the largest Chinese Coast Guard vessels.

Unparalleled range

The current largest PCG vessels, the 56-meter Tenix Search and Rescue Vessels, have a range of 2,000 miles at 15 knots. In contrast, the AT-25 has a range of 6,900 miles travelling at identical speed. This makes the AT-25 an interesting platform for long-endurance patrols, or for conducting extended surveillance on Chinese vessels that are anchored within our EEZ.

 interphoto_1396085835
Photo from Interaskyon.com. Chinese Coast Guard vessel anchored off Ayungin shoal

Mobile Coast Guard station

Given its current role as a command and control vessel, which will be taken over by the Tarlac class SSVs, the AT-25 is also well suited to function as a mobile Coast Guard Station. One that can be moved at will, anchored at a troublespot, and have the endurance to stay on station far longer than any existing PCG or BFAR vessels -- all without taking purpose-built SAR vessels away from their normal duties.

Improve its sensor-suite and it could theoretically perform, at the very least, as a Vessel Traffic Management System platform, or a most a radar picket vessel.

The US implemented a similar concept in the Persian Gulf with its Afloat forward staging base-interim concept. The American solution, which is based on the retired LPD USS Ponce, however is at a much grander scale. As shown in the previous section, the Chinese Coast Guard is also performing this function in Ayungin. If the Ayungin station becomes uninhabitable, and a replacement facility remains elusive, AT-25 could theoretically take its place.

RHIB carrier

Coupled with the range advantage described above, the AT-25 is also a potential Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) carrier. RHIBs are essential for conducting Visit, Board, Search, and Siezure (VBSS) operations which are integral to the PCG's Maritime Law Enforcement (MARLEN) mission. The ship has existing davits for the embarkation of motor launches. These davits, however, could theoretically either be modified, or replaced entirely, to launch RHIBs in the same manner as the Del Pilar Class frigates.

davit DSC_7289
 Motor launch on AT-25  RHIB on Del Pilar Class frigate. Photo taken while PF-15 was still in Alameda, CA

Tale of the stats

To get the ball rolling on discussions in this direction, the following is a comparison between it and the largest rescue vessel in the PCG inventory: the 56-meter Tenix Search and Rescue Vessel.

BRP Ang Pangulo   56m Tenix SARV
Displacement 2,239 tons  540 tons
Speed 18 knots 24.5 knots
Dimensions 83.84m x 13.01m x 6.4m  56m x 10.55m x 2.5m
Armament 2 single 20mm Oerlikon Mk. 10 AA

2 single 127.7mm MG

 Small arms
Machinery 2 Mitsui-Burmeister & Wain DE 642 VBF 75 diesels

2 props

5,000 bhp

2 x 260 kw Caterpillar 3406 diesels
Range 6,900/15  1,000/24, 2,000/15
Crew 8 officers, 73 enlisted, 48 passengers  8 officers, 30 enlisted, 300 survivors
 3452218463_7c84e5c5e7_o  120l
10Aug/15Off

Landing Craft Utilities (LCU) of the Philippine Navy

Landing Craft Utilities (LCU) are ships designed to transport troops and material to shore without the need for piers and similar facilities. Smaller than ocean-going Landing Ship Tanks (LST), these vessels are currently used for inter-island transport of AFP maneuver units as well as for disaster relief operations. In conventional amphibious operations, both LSTs and LCUs would be used for administrative landings on established beachheads already captured from an enemy. They are not designed for landings under fire.

1016069209
 BRP Benguet, when it was still USN LST 692, with Mk.6 LCU #764 embarked. Photo by Joe Weber c/o navsource.org

The Philippine Navy's use of the term traces its origins to the landing craft it obtained from the US Navy. The USN originally called these vessels "Landing Craft Tank" during World War II, but reclassified them as LCUs in 1956.

The following table compares the four operational classes of LCUs in the Philippine Navy. Data for all vessels were either taken from Janes Fighting Ships 2014-2015 edition or Combat Fleets of the World 15th Edition. Because of a lack of direct information for the South Korean Mulkae class, the entries and photograph here were extrapolated from the LCU 1610 of the US Navy from which the South Korean boats were copied. Capacity information for the BRP Tagbanua, however, was obtained from members of the now defunct Philippine Navy Modernization Office, which oversaw the acquisition and sea trials of the vessel.

ex-USN Mk.6 LCU   ex-ROKN Mulkae LCU   ex-RAN LCH   BRP Tagbanua
DSCF2604_zpsfaf821b9 lcu78_credit  lch 640_ZZZ_022513_2_d
Displacement, tonnes  258 full load  415 full load  517 full load  579 full load
Dimensions, meters  36.3 x 9.96 x 1.02 41.07 x 9.07 x 2.08 44.5 x 10.1 x 2  51.4 x 10 x 1.52
Speed, knots  7  11  10  14
Range, miles  700 @7kt 560 @ 11kt  3,000 @ 10kt  n/a
Complement  12  12  16  n/a
Military lift  136 tons  143 tons  2 x M1A1  200 tons & 200 troops
Inventory BRP Tausug (AT-295)
BRP Bagobo (AT-293)
BRP Subanon (AT-291)
 Un-named LCU BRP Ivatan (AT-298)
BRP Batak (AT-299)
BRP Tagbanua (AT-296)

The bulk of these types of ships in Philippine Navy service consist of second-hand Excess Defense Articles (EDA), obtained from the United States and more recently from Australia and South Korea. Ships from the latter two countries arrived in 2015.

Two LCUs were built locally. One was commissioned into service with all the fan fare befitting a major Philippine manufacturing achievement. The other was quietly accepted under controversial circumstances. This second boat is best discussed in a separate future article, and will be omitted from this discussion.

The oldest ships in the fleet are ex-US Navy Mk.6 LCUs. Three of these World War II-era boats are currently in service: BRP Tausug (AT-295), BRP Bagobo (AT-293), BRP Subanon (AT-291). Though equally old as its sisterships, the BRP Tausug was a relatively new addition to the roster as it was recommissioned from the navy's strategic reserves in 2009.

On the 30th of May, 2015, a Mulkae class LCU from South Korea, that had been donated to the Philippines in June 2014, arrived at the Cavite Naval Yard where it was slated to be refurbished. The Mulkae -- which translates to "fur seal" -- is the South Korean version of the US LCU 1610, of which six were built from 1979 to 1981. The Mulkae donated to the Philippines, designated LCU 78, entered South Korean service in 1981. As of writing the ship's Philippine designation remains unclear.

On the 2nd of July 2015, Philippine Navy personnel arrived in Australia to take possession of two Balikpapan Class Landing Craft Heavy (LCH): HMAS Tarakan and HMAS Brunei. Both ships were commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy in 1973 and will be subject to navigational upgrades before being turned over to the Philippines. While the South Korean LCU's designation remained unclear even after arrival in the Philippines, the names for the two Australian boats have already been announced, BRP Ivatan (AT-298) and BRP Batak (AT-299), while still overseas.

The first of the two new LCUs in the inventory is the BRP Tagbanua (AT-296). This ship is noteworthy, not only because it is not a hand-me-down, but also because it is a Philippine-built ship. It is currently the largest locally-built ship in the Philippine Navy, displacing the previous record holder: the Aguinaldo class patrol gunboats. AT-296 also remains the largest LCU in the fleet, surpassing the Balikpapaan class in both displacement and physical dimensions.

Another noteworthy differentiator for the Tagbanua was that it was designed specifically with the Philippine Navy's intended use for these vessels in mind: inter-island movement of troops and equipment. For this reason, it can transport 200 troops within a passenger compartment, protected from the elements, in addition to carrying 200 tons or cargo.

Growing the force

In 2012, the Philippine Navy published what it called its Desired Force Mix. The mix laid out what the navy perceived as the minimum number of ships it required for various roles. The list identified a need for 18 Landing Craft Utilities. With only six LCUs either in service or due to enter service, there is a significant gap in amphibious capability. With that gap, however, comes opportunity for the Philippine shipbuilding industry.

When the tandem of Propmech and Philippine Iron Construction & Marine Works (PICMW) turned over the BRP Tagbanua to the Philippine Navy in November 2011, they not only proved that the local shipyards could meet military needs, they also demonstrated how widespread qualified shipyards in the country really are.  This shipyard isn't based in any of the usual suspects: Subic Bay, Balamban, Cebu or Batangas which often draw attention for their hosting foreign owned shipyards like Hanjin, Keppel, and Tsuneishi. PICMW calls  Jasaan, Misamis Oriental home. This achievement shows that if the invitation to bid is made, industry players across the nation can respond with indigenous designs optimized for the AFP's needs.

The acquisition project that eventually acquired the BRP Tagbanua had an Authorized Budget for Contract of approximately P190M. That translates to P2.85B worth of construction contracts that could potentially go to local shipyards if all 15 additional LCUs are sourced locally. Domestic manufacture, however, will always be hampered by one key consideration: "Time to deploy".

Buying more EDA ships, like the Mulkae and Balikpapan class, would grow the LCU force faster. Especially when these assets are acquired in the form of a "hot transfer", where the ship to be transferred is never actually decommissioned and simply changes crews. But this mode of acquisition not only deprives local shipyards of manufacturing opportunities, the resulting potpourri of ships also creates logistical issues by introducing a myriad of non-standard equipment. The existing six LCUs, for example, already involve four different engine types. Each of which will require a logistical trail.

Fifteen new locally-built LCUs following a single design would mean standardized equipment, and consequently simplify logistics. However, given how long it took the Tagbanua project to bear fruit, the DND-AFP would need to balance its need to fill the gap as-soon-as-possible, with other concerns to include its goal of supporting local manufacturing industries as part of the Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) program.

Arguably, the way forward for meeting the goals of the Desired Fleet Mix will require a combination of quick EDA acquisitions balanced with domestic production. The key will be in finding that balance, and designating a specific number that the domestic industry must be tasked -- or challenged -- to satisfy.

Discussion:

To discuss this article visit its companion thread on the Timawa.net forum here

Sources:

Janes Fighting Ships 2014 - 2015

US Amphibious Ships and Craft

Combat Fleets of the World, 15th Edition

http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/balikpapanclasslch/

http://www.naval-technology.com/news/newsphilippine-navy-to-receive-two-decommissioned-lch-vessels-from-australia-4532795

http://www.zambotimes.com/archives/news/91808-Australian-donated-LCHs-to-be-commissioned-on-July-23.html

http://ww2lct.org/mk6/mk6main.htm

http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/18/18idx.htm

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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)
ncsc1   1016743_537910236256479_663810838_n
     
Jacinto Class (Philippine Navy photo)   WHEC (Philippine Navy photo)
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.

72773970

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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22Jan/12Off

PF-15 to perform naval gunfire test

BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15), the Philippine Navy flagship, will perform a naval gunfire test on the 24th and 25th of January, west of Tubbataha Reef, Palawan. Details are available on the following Notice to Mariners (NOTAM):

Notice To Mariners No. 009-2012
Notice is hereby given to all mariners and other parties concerned that:

1.Reference: Philippine Navy Radio Message Cite NOCB-0112-075

2.The Philippine Navy Vessel PF15 will conduct Naval Gun Test Firing on 24-25
January, 2012 from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. at vicinity 35 Nautical Miles West of
Tubbataha Reef, Palawan

< Edited >

3.In this connection, all ships/watercrafts transiting the vicinity of the
abovementioned areas are advised to take necessary precautionary measures.

4.The cooperation of all concerned in effecting widest dissemination of this
information is requested.

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13Jan/12Off

Update: CUP Phase 2 projects

The Philippine Star published the following figures and delivery dates for the indicated CUP Phase 2 projects. An older PIA article, however, stated that the total number of rocket launchers was "335"

Project Quantity Value Expected delivery date
Multi-purpose rocket launcher 335 P37,440,000.00 October 2012
81mm mortar with ammunition 100 units w/ 2,000 rounds P190,320,000.00 August 2012
Multi-Purpose Assault Craft (MPAC) Lot 2 3 P268,990,000.00 November 2012
6Jan/12Off

Navy 2012 drydock cycle begins

The Philippine Navy drydock cycle for 2012 started on the first week of January as the service published P49M worth of bid invitations.

 Ship  Authorized Budget for Contract  Details
BRP Magat Salamat (PS 20) PHP 24,500,000.00
Reference Number 1700736
Procuring Entity AFP - BIDS AND AWARDS COMMITTEE
Solicitation Number GHQ BAC1-PB-003-PN-11
Trade Agreement Implementing Rules and Regulations
Procurement Mode Public Bidding
Classification Goods
Category General Repair and Maintenance Services
Delivery Period 75 Day/s
BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS 37) PHP 9,500,000.00
Reference Number 1700727
Procuring Entity AFP - BIDS AND AWARDS COMMITTEE
Solicitation Number GHQ BAC1-PB-002-PN-11
Trade Agreement Implementing Rules and Regulations
Procurement Mode Public Bidding
Classification Goods
Category General Repair and Maintenance Services
Delivery Period 75 Day/s
BRP Pangasinan (PS31) PHP 15,000,000.00
Reference Number 1700706
Procuring Entity AFP - BIDS AND AWARDS COMMITTEE
Solicitation Number GHQ BAC1-PB-001-PN-11
Trade Agreement Implementing Rules and Regulations
Procurement Mode Public Bidding
Classification Goods
Category General Repair and Maintenance Services
Delivery Period 75 Day/s
PHP 49,000,000.00

BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37) is a Jacinto class Offshore Patrol Vessel. She and her sisterships are ex-Royal Navy boats that used to be part of the British Hong Kong squadron before the colony's return to China. For discussions and photos of this ship, see here.

BRP Pangasinan (PS-31) and BRP Magat Salamat (PS-20) are WWII vintage, ex US Navy Patrol Craft Escorts. For photos and discussions about PS-31, see here and here for PS20.

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24Dec/11Off

PG-118 and PG-390 rescue cargo vessel

Two Philippine Navy vessels on search retrieval operations for Typhoon Sendong victims rescued a cargo ship that caught fire off Misamis Oriental. Sun Star – Zamboanga reported that the fire broke out on the M/V Foxbat at 3:15 p.m. Thursday while it was anchored northwest of Lugait Point.

BRP Emilio Liwanag (PG-118), a Tomas Batillo class gun boat, and the BRP Jose Loor (PG-390), an Andrada class patrol boat, both responded to the M/V Foxbat’s distress call. The fire, which is believed to have been caused by faulty electrical wiring, was brought under control after 3 hours.

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