Hamilton class, the USCG's 3.500 tonnes ship (photo : Orange27)
The Philippine Navy is in the process of acquiring its largest ship: a Hamilton class US Coast Guard cutter.“We are negotiating for the acquisition of a US Coast Guard cutter… through the FMS or Foreign Military Sales," said Navy chief Rear Admiral Alexander Pama on Sunday.
Other details of the impending acquisition, including the price, are still being discussed, Pama said, adding that “it is in the realm of the possibility" that the ship will be acquired this year.
“Right now, we already reached the stage that we already have an understanding, meaning to say we are about to send a formal letter request," he said.
The Hamilton class cutter was the largest class of vessel in the US Coast Guard until replaced by the National Security Cutter.
Pama said the ship, once acquired, will boost the Navy’s capability, particularly in the conduct of patrol in the high seas and in search and rescue operations during disasters. It will also be the first kind in the inventory of the Navy whose modernization is being hampered by lack of funds.
The US Coast Guard introduced 12 Hamilton class cutters in the 1960s. From 1980 to 1992, these vessels were modernized under the Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization, including the upgrading of the mounted gun.
Navy spokesman Capt. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said former Navy chief Rear Admiral Danilo Cortez inspected the cutter ship during a visit to the US last November. Cortez retired early this month and was replaced by Pama.
“I think it’s in the finishing stages," said Bacordo of the negotiations to acquire the ship. “We expect this to be in country maybe by first semester of 2011," he added.
Bacordo said the cutter ship will be the largest vessel in the inventory of the Navy since it is about 380 feet in length. The largest surface combatant ship of the Navy at present is the destroyer escort BRP Rajah Humabon, which is about 308 feet in length.