MANILA, May 17 (PNA) — Despite the arrival of new ships and other naval assets, there are no plans yet to decommission the BRP Rajah Humabon (PF-11), the Philippine Navy's oldest operational warship.
"As of this time, there are no plans to decommission her yet," PN public affairs office chief Cmdr. Lued Lincuna told the PNA.
As of this writing, the World War II era destroyer-escort has gallantly served the PN for 36 years.
BRP Rajah Humabon is currently assigned to the Manila-Cavite area of operations.
Lincuna said that the engineering, weapons and navigation systems of the ship are still in good conditions.
Sources said that the reluctance of the Navy to decommission its aging vessels can be attributed to its need of more hulls to conducts its various missions.
The PN is now engaged in acquiring newer and more capable ships for its fleet.
In line with this, the Department of National Defense (DND) is bidding out a contract for two missile-armed frigates worth PhP18 billion.
As of this posting, only four shipbuilders have successfully passed the first stage of the bidding for the PhP 18-billion frigate project.
These are Navantia Sepi (RTR Ventures) of Spain, South Korean firms STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. Ltd. and Hyundai Heavy Industries Inc.
These involve the inspection of company eligibility documents.
Three other shipbuilding firms joined the bidding but the DND declared their documents to be deficient.
These companies, identified as Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd. of India, STX France SAm and Thyssenkrupp Marine System, have filed a motion for reconsideration at the DND.
Specifications of these ships include capability to conduct air-to-air warfare (AAW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and electronic warfare (EW).
Aside from this, these naval vessels should be able to do extended maritime patrol with an embarked helicopter and operating up to Sea State 6.
It must also have a range of 4,500 nautical miles at 15 knots, endurance of 30 days in tropical condition, and capable of running up to 25 knots of continuous speed.
Navigation equipment of the two ships, at a minimum, must consist of two navigation radars; GPS; depth sounding set; and vessel tracking system compatible to PN's existing system.
The frigates' weapon system, at a minimum, should consist of a 76-mm gun; stabilized secondary gun; four .50-caliber machine guns; surface-to-surface missile launchers; surface-to-air missile launching system; and anti-submarine torpedoes.
PF-11 BRP Rajah Humabon (photo : US Navy)
Prior to the arrival of the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) in 2011 and BRP Ramon Alcaraz in 2013, the BRP Rajah Humabon together with the three Jacinto-class patrol vessels (formerly the Royal Navy's Peacock class patrol ships) served as the backbone of the PN and acted as its flagship.
BRP Rajah Humabon started life as the US Navy destroyer escort, the USS Atherton (DE-169), in 1943.
She was mostly assigned at the Atlantic theater doing patrols and anti-submarine missions.
The USS Atherton was credited with having destroyed a German U-boat, the U-853 off the coast of Rhode Island, on May 9, 1945.
She served in the Pacific theater in the middle of 1945 until she was decommissioned and placed in reserve on Dec. 10 of the same year.
She was transferred to the Japanese government as JDS Hatsuhi (DE-263) on June 14, 1955.
Together with her sistership JDS Asahi (DE-262), they became one of the first warships of the newly organized Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces.
As newer ships became available to the JMSDF, both ships were decommissioned and returned to the US Navy on June 1975.
After remaining laid-up in Japan, she was transferred to the Philippine government on Sept. 13, 1976 and was sold as excess defense article on Dec. 23, 1978.
She was then renamed as the RPS Rajah Humabon (PS-78), and was towed to South Korea for an extensive refit and modernization in 1979.
Since then, she has remained in service with the PN for 34 years as of this writing, sustained by periodic overhauls and upgrades.
BRP Rajah Humabon is armed with three Mark 22 3"/50 caliber guns, the ship's primary weapons, which has a range of up to 14,600 yards (13,400 meters) and are also capable of being used as limited anti-aircraft weapon.
The guns were directed by a Mark 52 gun fire control system with a Mark 41 rangefinder, but this appears to be non-operational.
She also carries a total of three twin Mark 1 Bofors L/60 40 mm anti-aircraft guns directed individually by Mark 51 gun fire control system, six Mark 4 20 mm Oerlikon cannons, and four M2 Browning .50 caliber machine guns.
The BRP Rajah Humabon is powered by two EMD 16-645E7 turbo-blown diesel engines with a combined power of around 6,140 bhp (4,580 kW) driving two propellers.
The main engines can propel the 1,620-ton (full load) ship at a maximum speed of around 18 knots (33 kilometers per hour).
It has a range of 6,000 nautical miles (11,110 kilometers) at a speed of 14 knots (26 kilometers per hour.
It replaced the original four EMD 16-278A diesel engines during the ship's overhaul in 1996.
The ship is equipped with a Raytheon AN/SPS-64(V)11 short range surface search and navigation radar and a Furuno navigation radar, replacing the SPS-5 surface search radar and the RCA/GE Mark 26 navigation radar.