Philippine frigates progressively advance operational capability
The Philippine Navy (PN) continues to progress the capability of its two Jose Rizal-class frigates, the incoming commander of BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) told Shephard at the recent IMDEX 2023 exhibition in Singapore.
Cpt Clyde Domingo, who will take command of this vessel on 30 May, said that Mistral missiles would be fired from its Simbad-RC launchers for the first time in mid-May.
Furthermore, an AW159 helicopter landed on BRP Antonio Luna at sea for the first time on 29 April, after the frigate departed its home port of Subic Bay en route to Singapore. This was part of AW159 qualifications on this class and, once completed, these helicopters will greatly enhance the frigates’ anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
Because these certifications are ongoing, the frigate instead embarked an AW109E Power for the Singapore visit.
FF-151 was making its maiden visit to Singapore to both attend IMDEX and to participate in the first ever ASEAN-India Maritime Exercise.
A week earlier, sister ship BRP Jose Rizal fired its OTO Melara 76mm Super Rapid naval gun as part of a sinking exercise during Exercise Balikatan.
Domingo added that, when Antonio Luna attended RIMPAC 2022 in Hawaii, it achieved third place out of 19 vessels in a naval gunnery contest.
The two 2,600t frigates are fitted for but not with SAMs for the eight-cell vertical launch system, though Shephardunderstands the VL MICA is preferred.
Nor is a CIWS yet installed. It is unlikely the American Phalanx will be selected due to cost, and it will depend on what CIWS is chosen for the PN’s forthcoming corvettes. It could be Aselsan’s Gokdeniz, but so far this is unconfirmed.
The two Jose Rizal-class vessels built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) are currently at the apex of the PN’s naval capability. However, two new 3,100t corvettes being constructed by HHI will be larger than these frigates and delivered by 2025.
The MH-60R will likely be competing against the AW159 for a future requirement for up to six ASW helicopters to embark aboard modern PN warships.
In video footage recently taken near the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, a China Coast Guard vessel manoeuvred dangerously near a smaller Philippine Coast Guard vessel. When asked about this poor seamanship. Domingo confirmed that such aggressive actions by China were unfortunately a regular occurrence in the area.
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