12 Februari 2011

Philippines Eyes Wider Acquisition Plan

12 Februari 2011

USCG's Hamilton class cutter (photo : Maltaspotting)

Philippines eyes aged US cutter amid wider acquisition plan
The Philippine Navy (PN) has entered negotiations with the United States with a view to acquiring the first of the US Coast Guard's (USCG's) soon-to-be decommissioned Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters.

The USCG confirmed to Jane's on 11 February that it has offered USCGC Hamilton and that a letter of request had been received from the PN. A formal transfer announcement is expected within two months via the US Foreign Military Sales route; if it proceeds the 378 ft- (115 m-) long vessel will become, by a considerable margin, the largest combatant in PN service.

According to PN officials, the cutter is expected to arrive in Manila in the first half of 2011. It is intended to replace the navy's flagship BRP Raja Humabon , a US-built Cannon-class destroyer escort launched in May 1943 and now one of the world's oldest operational warships.

MRV package in the AFP Day 2010 exhibition (photo : Adroth-Timawa)

However, Hamilton was launched in December 1965 and while a large helicopter-capable patrol vessel will certainly enhance the PN's capabilities, there will be logistic and maintenance issues in sustaining a 3,300-ton platform that has already seen 44 years of service with the USCG.

On 4 February Hamilton arrived at USCG Station Juneau, Alaska, after completing a three-month deployment in the Bering Sea during which its crew conducted 13 boardings and a search-and-rescue mission. Six days later, in his 'State of the Coast Guard 2011' address, USCG Commandant Admiral Bob Papp referred to the "obvious woeful condition" of the Hamilton-class cutters and added: "In my opinion, they cannot be replaced soon enough."

In a speech to the Surface Navy Association in January, Adm Papp noted that the average age of the 12 Hamilton-class cutters in USCG service was now 40 years, compared to 14 years for a US Navy ship. "Maintaining old ships is costly, both in dollars and mission performance," he said. "In FY09 [Fiscal Year 2009] we spent 3.5-times our budgeted maintenance funds to keep our high-endurance cutters operational. Even so, we lost 569 patrol days to engineering casualties - that equates to an astounding one-quarter of the total available patrol days. This is unacceptable."

Makassar class LPD (photo : Bawean Pos)

The USCG plans to decommission four Hamilton-class cutters in FY11: Chase , Rush and Jarvis as well as the lead ship. The class will eventually be replaced by eight new Legend-class National Security Cutters, two of which are already in service.

Meanwhile, media reports in the Philippines have suggested that the PN intends to add seven vessels to its fleet in 2011: three offshore patrol vessels (possibly Hamilton-class cutters), three Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPACs) and a landing craft utility (LCU).

The new MPACs, budgeted at P89 million (USD2.03 million) each, will be a modified version of the three Propmech-supplied but Taiwanese-built 15 m, 45 kt assault craft that were inducted in May 2009 for use by PN special forces.

Propmech is the selected bidder for the Batch 2 MPACs, although a subcontract award for vessel construction has not been announced. Nine additional units may be acquired in due course. In March 2010 the company secured a PHP178 million (USD4 million) prime contract to supply the LCU for delivery in 2011.


Samsung Techwin KAAV7 (image : Samsung Techwin)


Plans also exist to acquire a multi-role vessel (MRV) and associated craft at an estimated cost of about PHP5 billion to be funded on a multi year basis through 2012. The former Arroyo administration selected Daewoo of South Korea to provide the MRV package but the present Aquino government has stalled the deal, citing the need to re-examine contract details.

The MRV package under scrutiny comprises a Makassar-class landing platform dock, two Daesun LCU-23M, four Samsung Techwin KAAV (AAVP7 derivative) armoured amphibious assault vehicles, four 9.8 m rigid-hull inflatable boats, a mobile field hospital, an ambulance, six light trucks and a forklift truck.

Meanwhile, on 4 January the PN inducted another ex-Republic of Korea Navy Sea Dolphin- (Chamsuri-) class fast attack craft. Re-named BRP Emilio S Liwanag (PG 118), it is believed to be a formerly stricken vessel that has been refurbished with new Caterpillar engines (giving a maximum speed of 31 kt) and upgraded electrical systems and auxiliary machinery.


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