04 Juli 2013

Philippines to Buy Two Maestrale Frigates from Italy

04 Juli 2013

Maestrale class frigate (photo : EUNavfor)

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is set to buy two Maestrale-class frigates from Italy, a defense official said Wednesday, as the Asian nation races to upgrade its military amid mounting territorial disputes with China.

The frigates, along with 12 FA-50 fighter aircraft, are the most significant items on the government’s P75-billion ($1.7-billion) military modernization budget over the next five years, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said.

“We are modernizing not because we want to go to war with China,” he told a news conference.

He said the government had a sworn obligation to defend the “West Philippine Sea,” using the government’s preferred term for Philippine-claimed areas in the South China Sea.

“We are not saying that this is part of our preparations to assert our sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea. What we are saying is that we cannot just give them up.”

The frigates would add to two refurbished Hamilton-class cutters formerly used by the US Coast Guard that the Philippines acquired from its US ally to upgrade its ageing navy fleet, which includes some vessels that first saw action in World War II.

Manalo said the navy had already decided to acquire two new Maestrale-class frigates instead of buying used ones from the Italian navy, and had budgeted P18 billion for them.

The Philippines could be ready to tender by the end of the year, he added.

Meanwhile, the government had allotted P18.9 billion to acquire the fighter aircraft, which are built by South Korea, he added.

The modernization budget also provides for building or improving facilities to berth and provide maintenance to the vessels on the military’s shopping list, Manalo said.

President Benigno Aquino vowed Monday to rebuild the air force by 2016.

The Philippines, which has one of the weakest military forces in the region, retired the last of its US-designed F-5 fighters in 2005.


See Also :

Brand-new, not second-hand Maestrale
04 Juli 2013

In January 2012, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin together with the Defense Acquisition System (DAS) team met with Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola to sign a 5-year agreement that was followed by an inspection of the combat-ready defense materiel the government intends to procure such as the Maestrale, a frigate still being used by the Italian Navy.

But, Manalo said, the idea to buy second-hand frigates was dropped after a series of further consultations. “Actually, I was with the Secretary of National Defense when we went to Italy to check the Italian package, the Maestrale. Our talks then was that if your intention is purchase any available frigate that you can immediately use without consideration of the cost, the Maestrale will do. But when we evaluated it, [we learned that] although the ship was still being used by the Italian Navy the ship is due for retirement. I think it is more than 20 years old already and its maintenance cost will be too high,” he said.

As a result, he added, “the senior leaders after evaluating the options decided that instead of buying second hand we might as well acquire brand-new [frigates].”

Also on the list of 24 are rocket launchers for the Philippine Army; radar system support facilities, close-air support, combat utility helicopters, flight simulator, and long range patrol aircraft for the Philippine Air Force; and helicopters, multipurpose attack craft, and base support for the Philippine Navy.


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