By Priam Nepomuceno
MANILA – The year 2023 has proven to be a smooth sailing journey for the Philippine Navy’s (PN) modernization program aimed at acquiring state-of-the-art assets that would help protect the country’s vast waters from various threats.
Three years from now, the Navy will have two missile corvettes that would backstop its two Jose Rizal-class guided missile frigates now in service – the BRP Jose Rizal and the BRP Antonio Luna.
This came after the keel laying for the first corvette and the steel cutting rites for the second corvette were held at the Hyundai Heavy Industries Inc. (HHI) shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea on Nov. 22, witnessed by ranking PN officials led by flag officer in command, Vice Adm. Toribio Adaci Jr.
The first missile corvette is scheduled to be delivered by 2025 while the second is in 2026.
“The steel cutting ceremony and the keel laying ceremony of the corvettes signify the start of the production process of the two corvettes. These ships will definitely boost the naval defense capabilities of the PN, adding value to its thrust of becoming a modern and multi-capable Navy,” PN spokesperson Captain Benjo Negranza earlier said.
In naval parlance, steel cutting signifies the start of the construction of the ship while keel laying refers to the building of the ship’s backbone.
The Department of National Defense (DND) signed a PHP 28-billion contract with HHI for the acquisition of two brand-new corvettes for the PN on Dec. 27, 2021.
These missile corvettes are also more heavily armed than their predecessors.
These corvettes would be equipped with state-of-the-art weapons, sensors and systems capable of performing anti-air, anti-surface, and anti-submarine warfare operations.
These missile corvettes can operate independently or work together with other modern warships within a so-called surface action group.
Former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said the agency was able to meet its target of having the PN Corvette Lot 1 Acquisition Project contract signed before the end of 2021 despite the delays caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Israeli missile boats
The Navy is also expecting the completion of its acquisition of nine fast attack interdiction craft (FAIC) platform orders from Israel Shipyards Limited, as two more were delivered to the Philippine Fleet (PF) on Nov. 18.
Once accepted and commissioned into service, the PN will have six FAICs in its inventory.
The two newest FAICs, also known as the Acero-class gunboats, were delivered to the PF through the general cargo ship Kogra Royal and are now at the Commodore East Posadas Wharf in Cavite City for enhancement, maintenance, and training.
The platforms will be commissioned as PG-906 and PG-907 under the Acero-class patrol vessels of the PF Littoral Combat Force.
The delivery is part of the FAIC Acquisition Project of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program Horizon 2 contracted with Israel Shipyards Limited includes a total of nine platforms, and the transfer of technology to bolster the PN shipbuilding capability.
The first two Acero-class gunboats, BRP Nestor Acero (PG-901) and BRP Lolinato To-Ong (PG-902) were delivered in September 2022 and commissioned in November of the same year.
The third and fourth FAICs, BRP Gener Tinangag (PG-903) and BRP Domingo Deluana (PG-905) were delivered in April and commissioned the following month.
The remaining three Acero-class gunboats are expected to be constructed and delivered within the next two years.
Four of the FAICs will be armed with non-line-of-sight missiles with pinpoint accuracy and a range of 25 kilometers while the other five will be armed with Typhoon-mounted 30mm main cannons and .50 caliber heavy machine guns.
The acquisition of the FAICs is among the 2019 projects approved by former president Rodrigo Duterte under the Horizon 2 List of the AFP Modernization Program.
The notice of award for the FAIC-M project, worth around PHP10 billion, was issued on Jan. 5, 2021. (PNA)