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)
|Jacinto Class (Philippine Navy photo)||WHEC (Philippine Navy photo)|