After acquiring the warship BRP Ramon Alcaraz the Philippine Navy said a frigate and an anti-submarine helicopter are next on its shopping list.
The Alcaraz that is expected to arrive in the country this year, after successfully testfiring the Oto Melara 76mm artillery, Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Geral Fabic said on Wednesday.
“Everything went well,” Fabic said, adding that the ship’s gas turbine, its main propulsion system, reached a speed of 25 knots without any problem.
The Alcaraz left Charleston, South Carolina on Tuesday with 14 officers and 74 enlisted personnel on board. After she arrives in August, the ship will be dry-docked in Subic for repainting and will be commissioned in September.
Fabic said the Navy’s next acquisition will be an anti-submarine helicopter for the Naval Air Group, which will complement the three Agusta Westland Power 109 helicopters arriving next year.
He said the new acquisition would boost the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare capability.
“These helicopters are just a few among the list of future acquisition for the Navy in order to attain its vision of becoming a strong and credible Navy that our maritime nation can be proud of,” Fabic said.
Earlier, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said the Navy will also purchase a brand new frigate worth at least P18 billion, scuttling an earlier plan to buy two refurbished ships of similar class at P12 billion.
Manalo said the decision would be advantageous to the armed forces in the long run because a brand-new ship would have a smaller maintenance cost.
”We realized that it will be expensive in the long run if we are going to buy second hand. So as much as possible, so long as our budget permits, we will buy a brand new one,” Manalo said.
He said a new frigate costs P18 billion, which is triple the price of a second-hand one, but it would not give the Navy a headache for the next 20 to 30 years.
The Navy is getting top priority in the ongoing modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) owing to the growing tension in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The AFP is also considering acquiring a submarine to further beef up the Navy’s capability.
A submarine, it said, costs billions of dollars, which is almost impossible for the AFP to acquire, considering the funding it receives from the national budget and its list of other priorities.
The study showed that some P500 billion is needed for a desired “mix force” that would equip the Navy with the warfare capabilities that it really needs.
Lt. Cmdr. Nerelito Martinez, former acting chief of fleet staff for plans and programs, said the force mix is a modest list of vessels, craft and aircraft that can provide surface warfare, naval air warfare, undersea warfare and naval special operations capabilities.
He explained the fleet force mix was developed based on operational strategy, strategic defense concepts, tactical concepts, and deployment and sustainment concepts.
In the Philippine Fleet’s its mix force list are three submarines for undersea warfare and deterrence and three mine counter measure vessels for defensive mining in the critical areas to deny enemy entry.
Also on the list are six frigates configured for anti-air warfare, 12 Corvettes primarily designed for anti-submarine warfare, four strategic sealift vessels, 18 landing craft utility, three ocean tugs to tow large units, six yard/fire tugs to provide critical support to the warships in docking/undocking, providing firefighting and salvage services, and providing personnel transfer platforms, 12 coastal patrol interdiction craft, 30 patrol gunboats for territorial and coastal patrol, 42 multi-purpose assault craft, 24 right hull inflatable boats for naval special operations, 18 amphibious maritime patrol aircraft for maritime surveillance, 18 naval helicopters and 18 multi-purpose helicopters.
Martinez noted that majority of the current equipment in the Navy’s inventory were acquired many years back through grants from the US and other allied countries.