Surface Forces: Philippines Navy Upgrades On The Cheap


July 5, 2013: The Philippines recently announced that the second hand frigate it is receiving from the United States will have anti-submarine capabilities and a helicopter. No details were given, but since the ship in question was never equipped with anti-submarine gear, it appears that the helicopter will be equipped for anti-submarine operations (a dipping sonar and anti-submarine torpedoes). Fitting the frigate with sonar would be much more expensive. In Philippine service the new ship will be known as the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16).  It will arrive in the Philippines in August, be drydocked for a new paint job, and be commissioned into service in September. Before, or after, commissioning the ship will have the new 25mm autocannon installed along with a new fire control radar, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and torpedo decoys.  

Last year the U.S. agreed to transfer two more decommissioned Coast Guard ships to the Philippines. The United States had already "sold" one of these Hamilton class Coast Guard cutters to the Philippines. The Hamiltons are 3,200 ton ocean going patrol ships. The first one delivered to the Philippines will be the flagship of the Philippine Navy, replacing a World War II era destroyer escort.

Built in the late 1960s, the Hamiltons have been well maintained but worked hard since they entered service over four decades ago. The Hamiltons are armed with a 76mm gun, two 25mm autocannon, and two Phalanx 20mm anti-missile gun systems. The two Phalanx systems were removed and the two 25mm autocannon were replaced with newer models.

The ship has a top speed of 52 kilometers an hour, endurance of 45 days, and a crew of 167. The Philippines is paying about $15 million for the ships and this will mostly cover the cost of some refurbishment and upgrades that will be done in the United States before the ships are delivered.

For most of the last decade the Philippines military has been energetically seeking hand-outs and second-hand weapons. One of the poorest nations in the region (largely because of corruption), the armed forces have not had the money to replace aging equipment. While American training efforts have improved the combat effectiveness of army units, especially special operations and infantry units, there has been much less help for the air force and navy. To help out, the U.S. has provided dozens of cheap, or free, second-hand helicopters and aircraft. The navy has received second hand patrol ships from South Korea and the United States.



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