Tracking the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization program

5Jun/16Off

PN’s 3rd Del Pilar Class frigate now in Alameda, CA

The Philippine Navy's third Del Pilar Class frigate, the former USCG Cutter Boutwell, is now at Coast Guard Island in Northern California. Originally turned over to the Philippine Navy at its final duty station in San Diego, CA in April of this year, the ship got underway in the evening of June the first, traveled along the California coast, and arrived USCG Base Alameda following day.

The last occasion a PN vessel was at Coast Guard island was in 2011, when BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the first WHEC, was turned over and then stationed at this USCG for the duration of the Filipino crew's training program.

full_aspect  gun
 Full aspect view  The sixth Oto Melara 76mm gun in the fleet
 mizen  fcs
 Mizen mast  Main mast
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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)
6May/12Off

BRP Ramon Alcaraz: The next WHEC

Interaksyon, the news portal of TV5, reports that when the USCGC Dallas will be turned over to the Philippine Navy, it will be renamed the BRP Ramon Alcaraz. The following is an excerpt of the relevant article.

Philippines' second warship to be named Ramon Alcaraz, World War II hero

06-May-12, 1:54 PM | Chichi Conde, InterAksyon.co

CORREGIDOR -- President Benigno Aquino III said the country's second warship will be named after World War II hero Commodore Ramon Alcaraz.

During the 70th commemoration of the Fall of Corregidor on Sunday, Aquino said the best tribute that the country can offer to fallen heroes like Alcaraz is to build a nation capable of protecting itself.

The second Hamilton-class Cutter from the United States Coast Guard is scheduled to arrive in the country within the month.

Alcaraz, during World War II, commanded one of the country's three motor torpedo boats, known as Q-boats.

His Q-112 took down three of the nine Japanese "Zero" fighters before he was captured.

In captivity, Alcaraz headed the prisoner of war camp in Malolos to take care of his fellow POWs.

< Edited >

The following is an excerpt of President Aquino's speech, where he announced the name of the incoming WHEC:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/department-of-national-defense-philippines/pres-benigno-s-aquino-iiis-speech-during-the-commemoration-of-the-70th-year-sinc/382275861811487

< Edited >

As I was reviewing the names of our naval heroes, looking for a proper name for our second Hamilton Class Cutter, I read of a man named Ramon Alcaraz, who was commanding one of our three motor torpedo boats, known as Q-boats. Q-112 Abra, manned by Alcaraz and his crew, took down three of the nine Japanese “Zero” fighters attacking his boat, before being captured. In captivity, Alcaraz became head of the Prisoner of War camp in Malolos, making sure that his fellow POWs were kept hopeful and alive.

Commodore Alcaraz was only one among many skilled men in uniform who have served our country. Many continue to follow in his footsteps; and we are determined to reward their patriotism with equal dedication. For certain, many more Commodore Alcarazes will rise from the ranks of our military. We consider it our duty to ensure that their strength of spirit will be matched by boats, by weapons, and by sufficient training. This is the truest tribute we can offer to those who have laid down their lives: a nation capable of protecting itself; a nation that can say no sacrifice will be wasted.

< Edited >

See the following Timawa.net thread for a discussion about the passing of Admiral Alcaraz: Commanding Officer of Q-112 Abra passes on

Details about the Mosquito Fleet Q-boats can be found on the following Timawa.net discussion: Q-boat reference materials project

29Jan/12Off

Dallas transfer to PH under congressional review

The United States Department of State issued a press release about the recently concluded US-PH Strategic Dialogue that included the following notation about the transfer of the USCGC Dallas to the Philippines:

Toward a Deeper Alliance: United States-Philippines Bilateral Cooperation

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 27, 2012

< Edited >

Defense and Security Cooperation

< Edited >

The United States transferred the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Hamilton, now the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, to the Philippine Navy, supporting Philippine maritime domain awareness. The transfer of a second cutter is pending U.S. Congressional review;

< Edited >

All transfers of defense technology, or any other export of items with military uses, are subject to congressional oversight. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) documentation describes this control as follows:

All sales of defense articles and services are subject to similar technology release approvals, end-use monitoring and retransfer agreements, and congressional review and approval.

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29Jan/12Off

Open house for PF-15

The Philippine Information Agency announced (see here) that the Philippine Navy will conduct an open house for the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) on February 5, 2012 the Puerto Princessa Anchorage Area. The PF-15 arrived in Palawan on the 25th of December, 2011 and has since been patrolling the waters around the KIG.

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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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7Jan/12Off

Shipspotting: USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716)

Coast Guard Island's proximity to a public marina made shipspotting efforts for the USCGC Hamilton relatively easy. Unless the transfer of the USCGC Dallas takes place at the same venue, observation of the transfer at WHEC-176's current home port will present challenges for PN modernization watchers.

Based on the following references, WHEC-716 is based at the Charleston Marine Support Facility.

http://www.d7publicaffairs.com/external/content/document/586/164869/1/NESU.pdf

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Pier Papa at the Coast Guard Vessel Support Facility Charleston with Coast Guard Cutters Dallas, Gallatin, and Oak, and NOAA ships Ron Brown and Nancy Foster

http://www.moc.noaa.gov/port.htm

The Charleston Marine Support Facility is located on the former Charleston Naval Base and is located with the USCG Naval Engineering Support Unit Charleston, in Charleston, South Carolina. The facility is the home port of the NOAA Ships Ronald H. Brown and Nancy Foster.

The Charleston Marine Facility consists of an 800 square ft. warehouse, a 650 ft. Pier and associated parking. The former naval facilities are of good quality and room exists for an increased NOAA presence in Charleston. The Charleston Marine Support Facility is managed by the Marine Operations Center - Atlantic.

The Charleston Marine Support Facility address is:

Charleston Marine Support Facility
1050 Register Street
Charleston, SC 29405-2421

There is no way to know if the ship below is either the USCGC Dallas or the USCGC Gallatin, which are both stationed in South Carolina. However the Google Earth images below, dated 1989, at least identify the anchorage described above.

 
9Nov/11Off

PN confirms Dallas as next WHEC

 

The Philippine Navy officially acknowledged on its Website that it had sent a Joint Visual Inspection (JVI) team to the US, from October 31 to November 5, to inspect the USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716) in Charleston, North Carolina. This confirms the PN press release shared on the Timawa.net forum on November 7, 2011 at 10:53 PM (US-Pacific time), and subsequently picked up by the Manila Bulletin and the Philippine Star.

The Dallas is a Hamilton class, 378-foot, High Endurance Cutter (WHEC) in service with the US Coast Guard. It was commissioned in 1967, and underwent an extensive Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) conversion in 1994 that gave the ship its current weapon and sensor suite.

Most of the ship's missions have taken place close to the Continental US, performing traditional coast guard duties: search and rescue, anti-narcotics operations, and monitoring of illegal immigrant traffic by sea (e.g., Cuba, Haiti, etc.). However this cutter has also been deployed overseas in support of USN operations. Early in its life, it deployed to Vietnam along with several of her sister ships, to perform sea control functions as well as to provide naval gunfire support off the coast of then-South Vietnam. It has been deployed to the Black Sea on a number of occasions, the first being in 1995 when it became the first USCG cutter to deploy with the US 6th Fleet. In 2008, the Dallas returned to the Black Sea as part of a NATO flotilla that sent to transport humanitarian aid to Georgian port of Batumi at the height of tensions between Russia and the former Soviet republic.

In 2009, the Dallas underwent an 18-month drydock period at Deytens Shipyard in North Carolina where it underwent an extensive refitt (details from the FBO scope of work here). It spent time at the yard along with the USCGC Gallatin. Both ships were reportedly slated to be the first of the Hamilton class ships to be retired, however the expense incurred in aforementioned refit reportedly altered this plan.

The relatively early release of information about the Dallas acquisition is in stark contrast to the PF-15 acquisition, whose existence had been unannounced for more than half of the project's life. Based on early Timawa-community reports, plans to obtain the USCGC Hamilton -- which became the PF-15 -- were reportedly hatched in the closing months of the Arroyo administration. The PF-15's own JVI team reportedly completed it's inspection in November 2010, roughly the same time of year as the Dallas. But the first acknowledgement of the incoming Hamilton did not come till January, and its identity wasn't known till March. In the case of the Dallas, the intent to acquire additional Hamilton class WHECs had been made public in August of this year, and the selected ship identified four months later.

As per the PN press release, the USCGC Dallas will be transferred to the Philippines via a "hot transfer", meaning the ship will be simultaneously decommissioned from the US Coast Guard and accepted by the Philippine Navy without going through a storage process. The transfer is expected in either the first or second quarter of 2012 -- similar to the timeline for the PF-15.

For additional information about PF-15, see here: http://www.timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=28851.0

For Timawa.net/forum discussions about the still un-renamed USCGC Dallas, see here:  http://www.timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=28980.0

Photo below taken from USCGC Dallas ship page: http://www.uscg.mil/lantarea/cgcDallas/history.asp

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19Oct/11Off

More WHECs in 2012 and 2013

Vice Admiral Alexander Pama, in an interview with ABS-CBN (see here), reported that the Philippines is working to acquire two more Hamilton class Weather, High Endurance Cutters (WHEC). Rear Admiral Orwen Cortez, Philippine Navy vice commander, will reportedly be arriving in the US in November to inspect the first of two additional WHECs. The third WHEC is expected in 2013.

The first WHEC, the former USCGC Hamilton, now the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) was turned over to the Philippine Navy in April of this year.

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2Sep/110

Re-arming the BRP Gregorio del Pilar

The following is an excerpt from an ongoing discussion about armament options for the PF-15. This was written by this blog's owner.  This discussion can be found here:

http://www.timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=28716.msg285987#msg285987

===== ~~~ =====

It would make sense to rationalize these weapons suggestions by matching them with specific objectives. Once that is accomplished, we can actually classify these suggestions into interim, mid-term, and even long term systems.

IMHO, the following categories make sense:

  • Point defense - these would defend the PF-15 against asymmetric threats (e.g., terrorists on small boats that intend to mount a USS Cole-type attack)
  • Sub-surface engagements - for defense against submarines, mines, et. al.
  • Surface engagements - for defense against hostile ships, boats, et. al. that use more conventional naval combat weapons and tactics
  • Air defense - defense against aircraft and ASMs

Point defense

If we go by how the PF-11 is armed, these would arguably be .50 cal machine guns, and 20mm Oerlikons on the bow, stern, and amidships. If available, 25mm chainguns, like what some Andradas have, could also be employed.

Presumably, these are minimum requirements for the PF-15 to operate in our pirate infested waters (imagine the scandal of having pirates board . . . and God forbid take over . . . the PN flagship). So these could probably be installed during this 30-day dry-dock period, and would likely be retained moving forward.

Sub-surface engagements

Given the time available, we probably won't see this on the PF-15's first sortie and will have to wait for a future upgrade program.

However, as horge astutely points out, the PF-15 can actually acquire this capability before that above-mentioned upgrade . . . if we choose the right helicopter:

http://www.timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=28024.0

While the embarked helicopter will be an integral part of the PF-15's suite of capabilities, it is actually a separate acquisition and can lend PF-15 action options that it wouldn't have by itself . . . till an upgrade program . . . and presumably after the other two WHECs arrive to temporarily relieve it of patrol duties.

Future options for ship-board weapons options may include Mk.46 torpedoes on deck launchers. But that would probably depend on where the sonar suite will eventually be mounted. Will the future upgrade include the reattachment of the sonar dome on the bow? Will ASW capability be reserved entirely for an ASW-capable helicopter that can both detect and engage targets independently?

No data in this regard yet. Only time will tell.

Surface engagements

At this point, the main surface-target engagement weapon is the Oto Melara 76mm in tandem with the Mk.92 FCS (See here).

The space vacated by the CIWS on the fantail, however, could be leveraged to beef-up this capability.

In the short term, the main gun could be supplemented by a 40mm Bofors. This is a quick win, and while we do not have official confirmation that it would indeed be done, there is historical precedent for this action -- as Manokski pointed out with past WHECs -- and is quite doable given the availability of guns in the inventory. This gun would also provide the PF-15 with a limited daylight-only air defense capability.

Medium term, the MSI gun with Spike missiles, IMHO, would make sense. Although the gun at the start of the thread falls in the same category as the MSI gun, already-existing training and logistical support for the MSI system makes it the logical choice. This adds eyes-in-the-back as well as a modest punch that is at least at par, if not greater, than what can be done with 76mm shells.

Long term . . . we could be looking at missiles in the Harpoon, Hae-sung, or Gabriel class, along with upgrades to the Mk. 92 FCS to allow for more than just gun-only operation (assuming that hasn't already been done).

Caveat: No data available about whether or not the Hae-sung or Gabriel can work with the Mk. 92 FCS.

On the Mellon missiles was mounted behind the 76mm gun. Presumably the same could be done for our WHECs. Once mounted, the fantail space could be turned over to another function (see below)

Like the sub-surface engagement systems . . . the right helicopter could jump start this capability.

Air defense

As mentioned earlier, the addition of the 40mm Bofors would provide a limited capability that could be added immediately. This system, however, would be inadequate for modern threats and would have to be replaced sooner than later. For now . . . it would be better than nothing.

If the long-term option above is ever taken, and the MSI RCWS, or its equivalent, is judged to be redundant in light of the embarkation of true ASMs, the stern weapons station could be freed up for an alternative air defense system.

The replacement system would depend on a variety of factors, from how the PN intends to deploy the PF-15, to what additional sensors are added to the ship. Something like an EADS TRS-3D, for example, would arguably extend the range at which we could detect targets and thus give us the option to go beyond Mistrals and similar IR-based systems. Upgrades to the Mk.92 FCS would also play a factor.

 

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