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Introduction of the New Miguel Malvar-class Frigate of the Philippine Navy

The HDC-3200 Corvettes, once counted as the HDC-3100 Corvettes of the Philippine Navy's Corvette Acquisition Project, has now unveiled with additional information regarding its current development, with now involving a slip-up about the vessel's name, pennant number, and classification type, of which gives a suggestion on its departure from the project name it initially comes with.

BRP Miguel Malvar FF-06, Philippine Navy, PN, Corvette Acquisition Project, Miguel Malvar-class frigate, HD Hyundai Heavy Industries
The launching of Miguel Malvar (06) took place on 18 June, 2024.
Image Source.

When the first discussion arose regarding the HDC-3100 Corvettes of the HD Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea, as presented to the Philippine Navy's 'Corvette' Acquisition Project, the defense community clearly sees the semblance of the vessels as an improvement of the Jose Rizal-class Frigates or the HDF-2600 design, of which it often comes with a monicker such as the Jose Rizal-class Frigates Flight II, even though that it presented initially as a design for the Philippine Navy Corvette Requirements.

As initially discussed, the classification of the HDC-3100, now eventually renamed to HDC-3200 Corvettes clearly comes as such based on the acquisition project it based on as provided by the Philippine Navy, until an image shared on open-source channels, with a description showing all the badges belonging to the Philippine Navy's Offshore Combat Force or OCF, as part of the unit's 36th Founding Anniversary. The following information unveils the additional details on the HDC/HDF-3200 warships.

In this post shared by Keen Sentinel dated June 4, 2024 on X (formerly Twitter), it unveiled the new names, pennant numbers, and classification of vessels of what it seems to be two (2) brand new Philippine Navy ships, suggesting that it only points to a single acquisition project that has this description, which are the vessels produced under the 'Corvette' Acquisition Project. The new badges that have presented come with the following names: BRP Miguel Malvar (FF-06), and BRP Diego Silang (FF-07)

It highlighted three things from this post, of which, first, the names provided have originated from warships served by the Philippine Navy in the past, which then decommissioned from active duty, only with these names getting reused once more for its use in the newer upcoming vessels in the Offshore Combat Forces' fleet, second is the new pennant numbers provided, which itself is a departure from the numerical sequence of the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, and, of course, the classification of the vessels.

For this topic, the discussion will delve more into the details regarding this development, as it provides a comprehensive detail regarding the names of the vessels and the previous vessels that bear such name, along with other details regarding the change on the pennant number sequencing, the reclassification of the vessels from 'Corvettes' to 'Frigates' based on the badges provided, and this implication to the future naval acquisition projects of the Philippine Navy.

Offshore Patrol Force, Philippine Navy, BRP Miguel Malvar Frigate, BRP Diego Silang Frigate, BRP Miguel Malvar (FF-06), BRP Diego Silang (FF-07), HDC-3200 Corvette, HDF-3200 Frigate
Two (2) new badges presented in the Offshore Patrol Vessel's roster
Image from Octaviano Enterprises, shared by Keen Sentinel on X.

The first thing noticeable from the presented badges is the classification of the new vessels, bearing the 'FF' classification, based on the current naming and classification standards of the Philippine Navy. In contrast, the naming and classification for any future Philippine Navy Corvettes will come with the 'PS', which is similarly go with the Philippine Navy's Offshore Patrol Vessels or OPVs it currently possess, such as the Jacinto-class Patrol Vessels and the Del Pilar-class Patrol Vessels.

In the previous discussion done on this website regarding the difference between a Frigate and a Corvette, the discussion goes in a way that one country's corvette is another country's frigate, and there is no formal distinction on which is which, unless if this comes to the perspective limited to the classification presented by the Philippine Navy whether that ship is a Corvette or a Frigate. It is not surprising for the HDF-3200 to get reclassified as a frigate, given its tonnage and capabilities.

Speaking of tonnage and capabilities, the Jose Rizal-class Frigates do come with the tonnage of at least 2,600 tonnes as it is based from the HDF-2600 design, and its capabilities currently comes with at least four (4) C-Star missile cannisters installed onboard and a future space for an eight (8)-cell Vertical Launching System or VLS. The HDF-3200 Frigates will have sixteen (16)-cell Vertical Launching System with a space for additional VLS suites, and eight (8) C-star missile cannisters from the get go.

As the HDC-3200/HDF-3200 Frigates being heavier and more capable than the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, it might not be that surprising if it gets the 'Frigate' classification eventually, as it likely be the most capable naval assets that the Philippine Navy will get once these vessels entered active service within the Offshore Combat Force, unless otherwise the leadership within the naval service branch purchase more-capable naval assets in the future.

If the planners decide to add more HDC-3200 'Corvettes' in the future under a similarly named acquisition project in the future, it will not be surprising if this gets reclassified into a frigate down the road, if the badges provided comes at its face value as the Philippine Navy leadership at some point might change any of the details presented, from the name of the vessels to the pennant numbers and the reclassification of the vessels.

BRP Miguel Malvar PS19, Offshore Combat Force, Philippine Navy, USS Brattleboro (PCE-852)
The old ship that bears BRP Miguel Malvar (PS19) has already decommissioned from service in 2021.
From Max Montero, X (formerly Twitter).

Reusing the names for new warships upon decommissioning the old ones comes commonly not only within the Philippine Navy, but with other navies as well, as it comes in the history that the service branch reuses the name of the country's national heroes each time there is an acquisition of naval asset takes place. This is the case for the BRP Andres Bonifacio (PF-7), BRP Conrado Yap (PG-840), BRP Tarlac (LT-500), and some other examples that can get added in the list.

For the BRP Miguel Malvar, the name has once associated more on the Second World-War era PCE-848 rescue patrol craft USS Brattleboro (PCE-852), a vessel that once served in the United States Navy, then turned over to the South Vietnamese Navy until it has transferred to the Philippine Navy after the remnants of once-existed South Vietnam flee their country after the fall of Saigon to the Northern Vietnamese forces that formed what is now called the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The vessel, since its first entry into service during the final months of the Second World War in 1944 as the USS Brattleboro until it got decommissioned from active duty within the Philippine Navy in December 2021 as the BRP Miguel Malvar, has served at least seventy-seven (77) years, with forty-six (46) years of its serviceable life served primarily to the latter. It defined the fleet condition of the Philippine fleet, which eventually gets better with the entry of newer, more capable naval assets.

Like the successor ship BRP Miguel Malvar (FF-06), the old BRP Miguel Malvar (PS-19) was also the lead ship of its class of ex-PCE-848 rescue patrol craft, of which it compose of other vessels such as the BRP Magat Salamat (PS-20), BRP Sultan Kuldarat (PS-22), BRP Datu Marikudo (PS-23), and several others more not mentioned in this entry. Capabilities wise, there is a huge leap from the old, World War 2-era rescue patrol craft and the modern, multipurpose frigate, especially in size, endurance, and firepower.

In a backstory, its namesake, Miguel Malvar, was a Philippine revolutionary general that both fought against the Spanish and American forces during the revolution for the Philippines and the Philippine-American war that came after it. 

The revolutionary skirmishes that the general have involved inflicted damage to both the colonial forces aforementioned, so much that the legacy of Miguel Malvar as a national hero found its way into the prestige of having his name used on military assets like what the navy has.

At the time this article has published, the BRP Miguel Malvar (FF-06) has already launched into water without fanfare or celebrative atmosphere from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense. 

Instead, the vessel is getting its subcomponents installed onboard, with the most notable one being its Close-In Weapons System or CIWS. Apparently, the CIWS platform resembles that of the Turkish ASELSAN Gokdeniz CIWS.

As the updates of the Miguel Malvar-class Frigates in terms of subcomponents deserve its own discussion, the glimpse of what's to come for the future of the Philippine Navy's upcoming most capable warships is the promising one to date. 

This comes as the next vessel after the BRP Miguel Malvar has also its name once used on a decommissioned Philippine Navy ship, but this time, it referred to what was once the most capable vessels of the fleet before the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

BRP Andres Bonifacio PF-7, BRP Diego Silang PF-9, Philippine Navy, Barnegat-class Seaplane Tender, Miguel Malvar-class frigate
The BRP Andres Bonifacio (PF-7) stands as a sistership of BRP Diego Silang (PF-9), belonging to the once-mighty Andres Bonifacio-class Frigates. 
Image Source.

Like the BRP Miguel Malvar, the name carrying the BRP Diego Silang has also seen its usage from a previous Philippine Navy ship. Notably, its first use is with a Barnegat-class Seaplane Tender, which subsequently became the Andres Bonifacio-class Frigates of the Philippine Navy's yesteryears. 

Having a length of 311'8 feet or 95.04 meters and a beam of 41'1 feet or 12.53 meters, it was among the largest and most advanced naval asset of the Philippine Navy during its time.

BRP Diego Silang (PF-9) was once the USS Bering Strait (AVP-34), of which it has several accolades bearing to its name as it performed during the Second World War, most notably regarding rescuing the crews of B-29 Superfortress bombers that have conducted bombing runs in Japan, most notably in the Capital City of Tokyo. Like the BRP Miguel Malvar (PS-20), the BRP Diego Silang also served in the South Vietnamese Navy as the Tran Quang Khai (HQ-15).

This means that the usage of the name BRP Diego Silang on the Philippine Navy's newest and most sophisticated naval asset to-day simply befits from what it was before as a dedicated Philippine Navy frigate, of which the continuous nomenclature gives a succession that symbolizes the improvement of the fleet in getting the most modern platform it deserves presently. And like the BRP Miguel Malvar, the names used have given to the newest, purpose-built ships that the Philippine Navy has to-date.

Even before it turned-over to a foreign navy like the South Vietnamese Navy and eventually the Philippine Navy, the USS Bering Strait (AVP-34) was a United States Coast Guard vessel, bearing the same name but with nomenclature being the USCGC Bering Strait (WAVP-382), or (WHEC-382). It served the service from December 1948 until its transfer to the South Vietnamese Navy in 1971, then in the Philippine Navy from 1975 to 1985 after the capitulation of South Vietnam to the North Vietnamese forces.

Given the figures, this means that the vessel served most of its life as a United States Coast Guard Cutter for 22 years, while it spend only four (4) years in the South Vietnamese Navy, ten (10) years in the Philippine Navy until decommissioned in 1985, and its short stint during the Second World War as a seaplane tender. 

In context, the ex-USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715), now BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PS-15), has served beyond ten years since its commissioning in 2011 by the time this article has published.

As it was of the BRP Miguel Malvar's namesake, Diego Silang was also a Philippine revolutionary that attempts to overthrow Spanish rule from the country, albeit that the latter's revolutionary action took place way before the actual Philippine revolution of the late 1890s to early 1900s. 

His revolution took place at the time that Spain and Great Britain has involved into the greater conflict called 'The Seven-Years War', when the latter seized Manila in a short amount of time, until it returned to the Spanish at the conclusion of the conflict.

Both the names Miguel Malvar and Diego Silang used on Philippine Navy warships for a second time now, with the new frigates that are once classified as HDC-3100 Corvettes before its current designation carrying the names of Filipino revolutionaries, symbolizing the continuous resolve in securing the country's territorial and exclusive economic zone waters, along with ensuring the national security and interest of the Filipino citizenry coming as a primary and utmost priority.

Miguel Malvar-class Frigates, Philippine Navy, HDC-3200 Corvettes, HDF-3200 Frigates, BRP Miguel Malvar FF-06, BRP Diego Silang FF-07
Updated infographic that reflect the specific subsystems fitted on the Miguel Malvar-class Frigates to date.

Since the last information has provided to the initial subcomponents of what will be the HDC-3200 Corvette design that is now re-categorized as the Miguel Malvar-class frigate on the previous article entry specifically for this discussion, additional details have now warranted for the infographic shown above to get its necessary update that reflects accordingly to the actual subsystems that the frigates received, based on the data accumulated up to the time this article has published.

First to point out is that there is finally a specific 3D AESA model and is not just simply a product from Israel Aerospace Industries or IAI, whereby the radar provided is the EL/M 2258 ALPHA S-band 3D active electronically scanned array or AESA radar, of which its target detection range is at 200 kilometers for the basic version, and 400 kilometers for the extended version. This enables the frigates to have the capability of scanning the airspace surrounding its position from incoming threats.

Still unchanged is the MBDA VL-MICA anti-air missile system, whereby vertical launch system or VLS suites and missile munitions come in tandem for this capability. The VLS system remains at sixteen (16) cells, with space for added capabilities that the Philippine Navy leadership desires to install onboard the vessels. 

The base variant of the VL-MICA missile system has the maximum range of 20 kilometers, while the improved VL-MICA NG variant has the maximum range twice as that of the base variant, at 40 kilometers.

Another thing to highlight is both the initial and final subcomponent for the Close-In Weapons System or CIWS of the Miguel Malvar-class Frigate is the Turkish ASELSAN GOKDENIZ CIWS, of which the 35mm double-barrel secondary gun serves as a final line of defense for the vessels against upcoming threats. The GOKDENIZ is actually a CIWS variant of the Turkish Korkut self-propelled anti-aircraft gun system, which is not surprising with the platform's size and shape resembling an armored vehicle turret.

One thing to point out from the infographic provided is that while there is a space intended for the towed-array sonar system (TASS) platform for the Miguel Malvar-class frigate's anti-submarine warfare capabilities, the platform itself come as a Fitted For, but Not With or FFBNW item. Therefore, the Philippine Navy is likely to purchase this suite as a separate item upgradable to this class of warship, with acquisition plans slated under the Re-Horizoned 3 Phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

Aside from the newest added capabilities that are relatively new for the Philippine Navy's warship capabilities, the rest may likely come similarly to those of the Jose Rizal-class Frigates already serving in the fleet, such as the SSM-700K C-Star (Haeseong) anti-ship missile system. In context, it is the first time for the Philippine Navy to use the Korean-made anti-ship missile system in a live fire exercise, which took place during the 2024 iteration of the Joint Exercise Balikatan.

With the specifications provided, the Miguel Malvar-class frigate likely count as the most capable Philippine Navy warship in terms of firepower at the time this article has published, although the leadership within the naval service branch and the Department of National Defense has plans in purchasing more-capable naval assets under the Re-Horizon 3 phase, although it remains to see as to the outcome of the plans and programs, along with how does it contribute to the Philippine Navy's fleet improvement process.

BRP Miguel Malvar, Miguel Malvar-class frigate, MMCF, HDC-3100 Corvette, Philippine Navy, HD Hyundai Heavy Industries
Here is an image of the BRP Miguel Malvar (FF-06) frigate in a fitting-out process.
Image Courtesy of LA Bernardino, through image source.

Relating once again to the development of the lead ship of the class, which is BRP Miguel Malvar (FF-06), the image provided above shows the frigate now in a fitting-out process, a sign that it has already launched in the water without the public informed about this significant milestone of the Philippine Navy's "Corvette" Acquisition Project. As this development has mentioned, this sub-topic will deal more with the interesting hull number sequencing of the Miguel Malvar-class Frigates.

As depicted by the presented badges intended to the anniversary of the Philippine Navy's Offshore Combat Force or OCF, the Miguel Malvar-class Frigates will follow the hull number sequencing of FF-06 for the BRP Miguel Malvar and FF-07 for the BRP Diego Silang, a clear departure from the continuity of hull number sequencing started by the Jose Rizal-class Frigates. In context, the BRP Jose Rizal bears the hull number FF-150, followed by BRP Antonio Luna with its hull number FF-151.

The last time that this numerical sequencing has used by the Philippine Navy was with the ex-Barnegat class that became the Andres Bonifacio-class Frigates, with the lead ship BRP Andres Bonifacio bearing the hull number classification of PF-7, which continued until the BRP Francisco Dagohoy that bearing the hull number classification of PF-10. This might come as a sign that the Philippine Navy regards the Miguel Malvar-class Frigates in a manner it once regarded the Andres Bonifacio-class before it.

With the Miguel Malvar-class Frigates being more sophisticated than the Jose Rizal-class Frigates that come before it, there is a hope and an idea that at least four (4) more similarly built frigates get into the Philippine Navy's consideration, as this will comply with the naval service branch's rule of three principles

This principle encompasses the idea that one ship is in maintenance, the other ship returning from operations, and the third ship from port is preparing to conduct its mission-related operations.

As the classification of hull number sequence is clear for the Miguel Malvar-class Frigates, there is a sense in its premise that the Philippine Navy will regard it as the most sophisticated, general-purpose naval asset that the naval service branch have, as it was when the Andres Bonifacio-class Frigates were the largest and advanced Philippine Navy combatant of its time. And with its sophistication, it deserves to get added with desired numbers that ensure full maintenance and operational status it serves to the fleet.

HDC-3200 Corvette, HDF-3200 Frigate, Philippine Navy, HD Hyundai Heavy Industries, HD HHI, Corvette Acquisition Project, Future Frigates of the Philippine Navy
The HDC/HDF-3200 design.
From Wikimedia Commons.

The Philippine Navy is now inching closer into having its newest, most capable vessel in its fleet yet entering the active duty within the Offshore Combat Force, as the service branch now on its way into receiving newly built vessels such as the Miguel Malvar-class frigates produced by South Korea's HD Hyundai Heavy Industries. Going further, most of its subcomponents come as revolutionary, as the Philippine Navy will get its hands on the vessel's sophisticated systems for the first time.

As the design of the Miguel Malvar-class frigates resembled that of the Jose Rizal-class frigates now serving the Philippine Navy fleet, the vessels, being HDC-3200 in HD Hyundai Heavy Industries' product lineup, come as an improvement over the former, of which it comes as not surprising given that the Jose Rizal-class frigate itself is the end-product of the South Korean shipbuilder's HDF-2600 design, with improvements introduced into what the newest vessels the Philippine Navy has to date.

After the initial reports come out, it came at the confusion of some people regarding the classification of the HDC-3200 Corvettes, of which this originally comes as the Corvette Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy, now bearing the FF designation wherein it counts as a frigate based on the service branch's own naming classification standards. Technicalities aside, as there is a blurry definition of what defines the two, the FF designation provided is clear in how the Philippine Navy categorizes the vessels.

Now that it comes clearer that the new Philippine Navy frigates come with the names BRP Miguel Malvar (FF-06) and BRP Diego Silang (FF-07), it might come as a trend that names from decommissioned vessels likely getting reinstated on the new, upcoming vessels that the naval service branch has in its plans, as the old World War 2-era vessels that the Philippine Navy once have paved the way for the fleet to secure new naval assets, hoping that additional Miguel Malvar-class frigate gets on the planning.

Ending this discussion at the foregoing, the urgent concerns in the country's territorial and exclusive economic zone waters might help provide additional justification not only for the Philippine Navy but also for the other branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to get the plans rolling as the Re-Horizoned 3 phase of the modernization program provides that opportunity to get the more-capable military hardware that each of the branches deserves to get. Si vis pacem, para bellum.

(c) 2024 PDA.

Discussing the Japanese J/TPS-P14ME Mobile Radar of the Philippine Air Force

The discussion of having air defense capabilities always dwells more on static air defense surveillance radar stations, mobile ground-based air defense system batteries that can fire guided munitions against intruding targets, and air interceptors like light fighter trainer aircraft and multirole fighter jets designed to provide air deterrence and eliminate threats outside the confines of the country's ground-based air defense.

In this topic, a single mobile air defense surveillance radar station gets a discussion, whereby it comes as a package deal along with the static air defense surveillance radars that the Philippine Air Force has purchased and as discussed previously here on this website.

J/TPS-P14ME, Philippine Air Force, Mobile Radar, Mitsubishi Electric, PAF, Mitsubishi FUSO Truck
A set of platforms that comprise the J/TPS-P14ME Radar, installed onboard a Mitsubishi Fuso Truck.
Image from the Philippine Air Force, shared through this link.

In the previous discussions provided regarding air defense systems, the topics encompass from prospective fighter aircraft of both multirole and light fighter/trainer roles, if not for ground-based air defense systems and static air surveillance radar stations that can detect intruding threats from afar, covering a significant portion of the country’s air defense. This development adds to the Philippine Air Force’s mechanism of monitoring the country’s Air Defense Identification Zone or ADIZ.

This refers to the recent turn-over of the Mitsubishi Electric’s J/TPS-P14ME mobile radar platform, as depicted on the image as a single battery of units that form this platform, as it comprises a command platform, the radar itself, and a support vehicle. 

All the units, though, come with the Mitsubishi Fuso Canter trucks as the primary chassis of the presented mobile radar platform, as the chassis also comes with other uses in the country’s own civilian trucking industry.

The turn-over took place on April 29, 2024, in the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, of which this comes with an attendance of both the National Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and Japan’s state minister of defense Oniki Makoto. This ceremony depicts a significant improvement in the Philippine Air Force’s detection of its airspace, of which it gives the flexibility of having radar coverage on areas not covered by static air surveillance radar stations, yet.

Mitsubishi Electric’s J/TPS-P14ME comes as an offer packaged with the primary acquisition deal with the Philippine Air Force, of which it primarily focuses more on the J/FPS-3ME static air surveillance radar stations as part of the 2nd phase of implementing the air surveillance coverage, which comes as part of enforcing the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone or PADIZ. The first phase primarily comes with ELM-2288 ER air surveillance radar for the air force’s air defense monitoring duties.

For this topic, the discussion will only cover the technology and other components that form the J/TPS-P14ME mobile radar station, along with the salient features that come with having such a platform as compared to static radar stations deployed across the country. 

As the history of Mitsubishi Electric already discussed in the J/FPS-3ME article as linked here, the rest of the discussion will delve primarily into the specifications of the platform and the choice of the truck chassis as presented in the image above.

J/TPS-P14ME, J/TPS-P14, J/FPS-3ME, J-FPS-3, Mitsubishi Electric, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone, PADIZ, Philippine Air Defense
Mobile, remotely-deployed air surveillance radar stations are just as essential as the more-capable static radar stations such as the J/FPS-3ME radar.
Image Source.

As the Philippine Air Force maintained static radar stations through the years, even before the time that the newer ones from both Israel and Japan have recently entered active duty within the service branch, any idea of mobile radar stations comes relatively new to the organization, in a manner similar to how Spyder Philippines Air Defense System or SPADS from Rafael Systems Ltd come as relatively new air defense capability that enhances the security of the country’s national airspace.

From the functionalities standpoint, both the mobile and static air surveillance radar installations come with a similar purpose of actively monitoring the large portion of the country’s airspace with one significant difference between the two installations mentioned. 

Static air surveillance radars, as its description suggests, come as fixed facilities that usually station in high elevations on areas highly strategic enough to cover the country’s national airspace.

Mobile radar platforms, such as the Mitsubishi Electric J/TPS-P14ME, have the capability of getting deployed into areas that the end user desires to have, of which this is useful in an event of a full-blown conflict where it is likely that strategic and fixed radar facilities getting destroyed, rendering the defense forces blind from any intrusions coming from the sky. Its mobile deployment ensures continuous monitoring of the country’s airspace and ensures full airspace defense, while being deployable everywhere in the country to avoid detection from enemy forces.

One advantage that the likes of J/TPS-P14ME mobile radar might bring for the Philippine Air Force is that it can go on tandem with the Spyder Ground-based Air Defense System platforms in a single area, enhancing the capability of wide radar coverage to the guided radar system and detection of air defense batteries for its operators to fire surface-to-air missiles against a threat. 

It is also a bonus for the unit to share data with other units through C4ISTAR, such as the country’s air bases, for the deployment of fighter jet interceptors for additional enforcement.

Overall, having a mobile radar system provides additional flexibility for the Philippine Air Force, not only in effectively providing additional air cover in areas of the country’s airspace that requires its operation, but also in putting additional capabilities in enforcing the country’s Air Defense Identification Zone that ensures continuous airspace monitoring operations that shares real-time information with other units. It also provides additional redundancy to the air force’s fixed radar installations in the country.

J/TPS-P14ME, Philippine Air Force, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, JGSDF, PAF, Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone
The radar module of the J/TPS-P14ME can get dismounted from the vehicle platform it comes with.
From Wikimedia Commons.

As the prospective static radar stations provide comprehensive 360-degree scope and coverage of the portion of the Philippine airspace as part of implementing the country's Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone by the Philippine Air Force, the J/TPS-P14ME radar platform possess its capabilities, some of which have already mentioned such as its mobility and immediate deployment in different areas of the country. Another capability it possesses is the one that has depicted in the image above.

The radar module of the J/TPS-P14ME has the capability of getting detached from its mobile platform, which, in this case, for the Philippine Air Force, is the Mitsubishi Fuso Canter truck chassis

This is ideal for temporary base deployment for a unit of the Philippine military to get its air defense in effect, again going in tandem with the service branch's Spyder Ground-based Air Defense Systems from Israel's Rafael Advanced Systems, providing a full secured airspace in an area desired by its end-user.

With this is the mainstay mobile radar of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, or JGSDF, the J/TPS-P14ME sports a design purpose of having a three-dimensional target detection and tracking of targeted aircraft and other types in both medium and high altitudes. Going further, the radar system has an instrumented range of 250 nautical miles (463 km), ensuring extensive surveillance coverage, all thanks to its S-band frequency range needed to attain this feature.

This means that once the J/TPS-P14ME radar module gets deployed off the coast of Palawan, for example, it will have the coverage that goes beyond the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, providing airspace cover for the island from any intruding aircraft from the western part of the country, especially from Chinese-made artificial islands that might have likely have any military aircraft deployed in its area. Its detection range and mobility give this radar platform its own advantage.

Given the details provided regarding the capabilities of the J/TPS-P14ME mobile radar that Mitsubishi Electric has provided to the Philippine Air Force, aside from the static J/FPS-3ME air surveillance radar platforms, it is clear from this point that the air service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines benefit to the same radar technology as the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force. Moving on to the topic, another point of discussion is with the system's continuous development.

J/TPS-P5, J/TPS-P14ME, Philippine Air Force, PAF, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, JGSDF
Before the J/TPS-P14ME, the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force maintains the older J/TPS-P5.
From Wikimedia Commons.

As the Philippine Air Force became the first country aside from Japan that operates the Mitsubishi Electric J/FPS-3ME air surveillance radar platforms deployed across the country, the same goes with the J/TPS-P14ME mobile radar platform, whereby the Philippine Air Force, along with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force or JGSDF, are the ones that currently operate such type of air defense detection suite. The latter comes with different variants of mobile radar platforms in its current use.

One of those is the older J/TPS-P5 mobile radar platform, an S-band air surveillance mobile radar module that was introduced to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in 1971, featuring its capability that uses intra-pulse modulation and a pulse compression rate of 25. 

The J/TPS-P14 replaced the J/TPS-P5 in its introduction in 1988, and became one of the mainstay mobile radar modules of the JGSDF, with its first export prospect being the Philippines, with the Philippine Air Force its first overseas user.

Currently, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force or JGSDF slowly introduces a newer type of mobile radar module that intends to replace the J/TPS-P14 radar, of which this is called the J/TPS-P25 advanced radar module. This X-band 3D surveillance and acquisition radar comes with a four-phased array antenna, an improved development compared to the S-band features that both the J/TPS-P14 and the previous J/TPS-P5 mobile radar platforms have.

As the advancements introduced on the J/TPS-P5 mobile radar platform in both of its radar module and the vehicle it typically comes with, it is likely be that the J/TPS-P14ME radar that both the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the Philippine Air Force operate receives continuous support in the upcoming years, especially that the newer J/TPS-P25 radar has recently entered service in the early 2010s, since Mitsubishi Electric introduced this platform for the use of the Japanese Self-Defence Force.

With the Philippine Air Force having the J/TPS-P14ME radar in its operations, it gives a likely chance that this service branch gets more of this type in any future acquisition projects, if not pursuing the newer J/TPS-P25 as all the purchase prospects still depends on the actual requirements of the Philippine Air Force for its air defense purposes. Still, just having a single system of the J/TPS-P14ME makes the Philippines the first overseas user, and second from Japan itself, that operates this system.

J/TPS-P14ME, J/TPS-P25, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, JGSDF, Philippine Air Force, PAF, Mitsubishi Electric
JGSDF’s J/TPS-P25 mobile radar.
From Wikimedia Commons.

Getting some mobile radar systems alongside highly functional air surveillance radar stations deployed across the country count as a huge win for the country’s implementation of the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone or PADIZ, as it comes alongside the Philippine Air Force’s desire to improve the country’s capability in securing its own airspace. By 2028, the radar coverage will come at around 100%, under the Area Readiness 1 of the PADIZ implementation.

The acquisition of the J/TPS-P14ME alongside the J/FPS-3ME air surveillance radar from Mitsubishi Electric serve as a testament of an ever-growing bilateral relations between Japan and the Philippines, particularly in areas like national defense and security, as it is timely amidst the growing uncertainty in the Indo-Pacific region. In context, both Japan and the Philippines face aggression and worries from an ever-assertive China, whereby any conflict with this country risks the current order in the region.

Japan’s own-made radar stations set precedent to any future weapons and arms offer that the country might provide to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its entirety, specifically that it already provided several offers for consideration, with some already pushed through for acquisition. One of those pushed through is the Bell 412 EPX Utility Helicopters for the Philippine Air Force, of which it is currently in production by Subaru Corporation that augments its existing Bell 412EP Helicopters in service.

Aside from the Philippine Air Force, the Philippine Army has also likely benefited from this improving security and defense relations between the Philippines and Japan, as this has already shown through the offers and‌ plans that provide the Philippine Army’s Aviation ‘Hiraya’ Regiment with helicopters of various types. Notably, this refers to both the UH-1J Combat Utility Helicopters and the AH-1S Cobra Attack Helicopters, as the Japanese defense doctrine renders these platforms irrelevant.

Describing the entire scope of this topic, the Philippine Air Force benefits in the advancement of its air surveillance radar technology, as it couples with both advanced static radar stations and mobile, readily deployed radar modules, all of which getting the perks that have with the Japanese technology also used by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. 

Japanese radar technology, coupled with Israeli-made ones, helps secure the Philippine airspace from unwanted intruders that might pose a threat to its national security by providing a round-the-clock surveillance to implement such needed air defense mechanisms.

(c) 2024 PDA.

Austal's Guardian-class Patrol Vessel Offer to the Philippine Coast Guard

Additional white-hulled vessels are a necessity now for the Philippine Coast Guard, as the ever-increasing requirements for achieving frequent presence in areas like the West Philippine Sea require the number of vessels employed by the maritime law enforcement agency, let alone deterring any recent aggressions committed by external threats that illegally loitering the country's Exclusive Economic Zone.

With this requirement comes an offer that will help boost the numbers even by a bit, as this involves a pair of patrol vessels from a shipbuilder that the Philippine Coast Guard also eyes its three patrol vessels using its annual budget.

Philippine Coast Guard, Austal, Guardian-class Patrol Vessel, West Philippine Sea
The 40-meter vessel Guardian-class Patrol Vessel comes as one of Austal’s primary shipbuilding products.
Image Source.

China’s growing tensions and assertiveness in the West Philippine Sea, as reports blaring regarding the ever-increasing difficulty of the rotation and replenishment (RORE) mission for the troops of the Philippine Marine Corps assigned onboard the BRP Sierra Madre, comes as a growing concern for the Philippine government and its instrumentalities, as it really puts the country’s capability and resolve in this development. And the role of the Philippine Coast Guard plays a more essential role in this measure.

With the Philippine Coast Guard now having an increased responsibility to increase the country’s presence in the West Philippine Sea, along with its other roles like its usual escorting duties during the rotation and replenishment missions and survey missions, the operations presented serve as an impetus for the maritime law enforcement agency to purchase additional vessels that will add the badly needed numbers that is needed to deter the aggression and to improve the country’s resolve.

Previously, Pitz Defense Analysis discussed the planned acquisition of at least five (5) Teresa Magbanua-class Multirole Response Vessels or MRRVs from Japan, of which this has pushed through on the latter part of the year 2023 with the approval from the National Economic Development Authority or NEDA

Adding it further, the source of funds for this endeavor comes through the Official Development Assistance or ODA loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency or JICA.

Subsequently, another proposal for additional white hulls for the Philippine Coast Guard also comes with the provisions and details provided in the 2024 General Appropriations Act, whereby a budgetary item gets highlighted for the acquisition of three (3) offshore patrol vessels from a shipbuilder like Austal, an Australian-based shipbuilding company with facilities in Balamban, Cebu. In context, this shipbuilder at one point marketed their offshore patrol vessels to the Philippine Navy, but lost eventually to HD Hyundai Heavy Industries.

Aside from the three (3) offshore patrol vessels that the Philippine Coast Guard seeks that may likely get awarded to the Cebu-based, Australian-owned shipbuilder, another piece of information coming up from the reports provided that the maritime law enforcement agency shows interest in purchasing at least two (2) units of the Guardian-class Patrol Boats, the same units that the Australian government provided to Pacific island countries as part of its Pacific Maritime Security Program.

If all the projects, plans, and programs pushed through without obstacles along the way, this means that the Philippine Coast Guard sets to have at least ten (10) units added in its growing fleet of white-hulled vessels, and the trend of increasing orders for new vessels will only go higher from here. 

Also, to take note, most of the vessels mentioned come with a minimum of 80 meters long, something that the Guardian-class is lacking in terms of size, as it only comes with half a length of its hull.

While the Guardian class patrol vessel comes smaller to the larger vessels that the Philippine Coast Guard sets to get that has the areas like the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine (Benham) Rise in mind, the acquisition for the aforementioned vessel comes as a worthy discussion, as the following details in this article will delve deep into the design development of the vessel, while providing additional info on its specifications and the Pacific Maritime Security Program whereby Australia provide these vessels as grants.

Guardian-class patrol vessels, Austal, Henderson, Western Australia, Philippine Coast Guard, Pacific Maritime Security Program
Three Guardian-class vessels moored in the Austal Shipyard’s Henderson facility in Australia.
Retrieved via Wikimedia Commons.

The design prospects into what became the Guardian-class Patrol Vessel started with the Australian government’s issuance of tender for at least twenty-one (21) 40-meter vessels under the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (PPBR) program, of which it aims to replace the aging Pacific-class Patrol Vessels that is long served the Royal Australian Navy. These vessels, decommissioned from the Australian naval fleet, have since transferred to other countries in the Pacific that also receive the Guardian-class.

According to the marketing webpage by Austal shipbuilding dedicated to the 40-meter Guardian-class patrol boats, the vessel’s design basis is from a proven platform that has originally developed to the Australian Customs Service, now called the Australian Border Force. 

Upon researching, the origins of the Guardian-class patrol boat’s design traces back to the Australian Customs Service’s Bay-class Patrol Boats made by the said shipbuilder, serving the organization from 1990s to 2010s until replaced by the Cape-class vessels.

Regarding the comparison to the design of the Bay-class patrol boats and the Guardian-class patrol vessels offered to the Philippine Coast Guard, the latter comes as a modernized design that has design attributes derived from the former, especially with the almost-similar sizes and structures like the bridge. 

Going further, the Cape-class patrol vessels come with a longer hull with a design reminiscent of the Bay-class patrol boats it replaces, designed accordingly to fit Australian Border Force vessel requirements.

The tender for twenty-one (21) 40-meter vessels under the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (PBBR) program started in March 2015 by the Australian government, in which Austal got selected as the preferred bidder of this program a year and a month later, in April 2016. The construction of the vessels under this project that will supplement patrol vessels in the recipient Pacific nation takes place in Austal’s shipbuilding facility in Henderson, Western Australia (see image above).

It took another year and three months for the first Guardian-class patrol vessel to have a milestone of keel-laying phase taking place in July 2017, of which it got launched ten months later in May 2018, with its first recipient being Papua New Guinea

The second vessel, this time intended for the Pacific islander country of Tuvalu launched in November 2018. For the Philippine Coast Guard’s case, if it pushes through, it will add the total number of Guardian-class patrol vessels ordered to at least twenty-three (23) units.

The first twenty-one (21) orders before the actual acquisition plan laid by the Philippine Coast Guard for two (2) Guardian-class patrol boats has an advantage of its own from the logistical point of view, as multiple Pacific island countries actively uses this platform to patrol their respective territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone waters as part of Australia’s initiative to have a secured region of dotted Pacific island countries. This might even give an impetus for the PCG to purchase more vessels of such type later on.

With the full scope of the historical development on its inception and eventual fruition of patrol vessel production with Pacific countries and Australia’s desire of securing its neighborhood in mind, the next portion to discuss delves into the specifications and other features of the 40-meter Guardian-class Patrol Vessel, of which the details going further into comparison with other vessels currently serving in the Philippine Coast Guard such as the 44-meter Parola-class Multirole Response Vessels or MRRVs.

Guardian-class Patrol Boat, Philippine Coast Guard, Austal Shipbuilding, Australia, Henderson Facility
Here are the features and specifications integrated in a Guardian-class Patrol Vessel.
From Austal shipbuilding's own brochure.

Discussions regarding a certain platform that is in the planning among the service branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or those belonging to maritime law enforcement agencies like the Philippine Coast Guard are not complete without discussing the specifications of the platform presented. At a glance, the Guardian-class Patrol Vessels come shorter than the mainstay Parola-class Multirole Response Vessels or MRRVs that the agency currently operates.

Going into the details, the size dimension of the Austal-built patrol vessel measures at 39.5 meters (rounded off to 40 meters), and an eight (8) meter beam. Its size comes with the vessel’s performance, whereby its maximum speed tops at 20 knots and can reach a maximum range of 3,000 nautical miles at the sailing speed of 12 knots. The propulsion that made the said performance possible is driven by two (2) Caterpillar 3516C engines that generate 2,000bkW at 1,600 rpm.

The vessel can accommodate at least twenty-three (23) Philippine Coast Guard crew onboard, of which this means that the maritime law enforcement agency requires at least forty-six (46) personnel overall to operate the pair of vessels once it entered active service, as the aforementioned crew requires undertaking any trainings and drills that refers to the operation and functionalities of the vessels. The small crew number is applicable primarily to small maritime agencies of the Pacific island countries.

Guardian-class Patrol Vessel’s hull space and weight reservation can accommodate a 30mm main gun or a .50-caliber machine gun mounts on the vessel’s port and starboard sides, although things may limit only to the machine gun mounts, as with the Philippine Coast Guard’s function comes less than a combatant like the Philippine Navy and more of a maritime law enforcement agency under the Department of Transportation during peacetime although it gets included to the Department of National Defense during wartime.

Like any other vessels presented, the Guardian-class Patrol Vessel also comes with a feature that fits primarily to the requirements of each maritime agency of the respective Pacific islander nations that are the recipient of these vessels. 

One of those features found onboard the vessels is the SOLAS-certified and approved fast-rescue Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boats or RHIBS, appropriate for interdiction and rescue operation objectives of the Philippine Coast Guard, shall the vessels get considered.

Completing the specifications are the communication and sensor suites found onboard the vessels, which comprise the usual necessities onboard a vessel such as VHF/DSC radios, VHF Airband Radio, UHF Military Radio, Inmarsat C, Satcom, HF and UHF Radio Direction Finders for communications, while the sensors comprise the usual navigational needs, such as the X-Band Radar, Electronic Chart System, DGPS, Gyrocompass, Autopilot, and Depth Sounder.

Based on the foregoing details, the vessel will come appropriately to the mission requirements and core mandates of the Philippine Coast Guard, while providing the badly needed numbers that the said maritime law enforcement agency needs in ensuring the country’s maritime domain awareness, aside from providing an added presence in the country’s territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters such as the ones in the West Philippine Sea.

Philippine Coast Guard, Austal, OPV 83, 2024 Budget, PCG
The 2024 national budget includes the 83-meter offshore patrol vessel from Austal.
Image from Austal.

The Guardian-class Patrol Vessels are not the only offer that Austal has with the Philippine Coast Guard, as the agency also has another type of vessel in mind that it looks for its plan of expanding its fleet further, contemplating the existing platforms like the Gabriela Silang-class Offshore Patrol Vessels and the Teresa Magbanua-class Multirole Response Vessels. These Philippine Coast Guard vessels mentioned come at par or slightly better in terms of size, while having similar offshore patrol capabilities.

That vessel mentioned is the OPV-83 vessel design, the offshore patrol vessel that comes reminiscent to the original offshore patrol vessel offer primarily intended to the Philippine Navy’s acquisition project of that similar name, until they stopped pursuing Austal given the increased pricing of the vessels as compared to the contract, which prompt the decision-makers to settle and choose the HD Hyundai Heavy Industries’ HDP-2200+ (formerly HDP-2400) offshore patrol vessel design.

This design, originally made by Austal for the Philippine Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessel Acquisition Project, is likely now on its way to fit into the Philippine Coast Guard’s own requirements for additional vessels as the provisions for the maritime service branch under the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA) specifically includes the acquisition of three (3) Coast Guard vessels, of which statements from the Senate at the end of the year 2023 provided an idea that the project will go to Austal’s shipyard in Balamban, Cebu.

Going to the details specifications of the patrol vessel design, Austal’s OPV-83 design, or Offshore Patrol 83 as described in its document linked here, it has an overall length of 83.4 meters and waterline length of 79.2 meters, while having a beam of 13.3 meters and hull depth of 6.5 meters and draft of 4 meters. Its communication and sensor suites come similar to the ones provided for the Guardian-class patrol vessels, and have accommodation for 52 personnel (berth), with space for 20 more onboard.

The armaments of the offshore patrol vessel design come reminiscent of the original offer Austal made for the Philippine Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessel Acquisition Project, whereby it has a 76mm main gun (Oto Melara Super Rapid Gun), 25mm Remote Weapons System (RWS), and extra space intended for machine gun mounts. For the Philippine Coast Guard, the 76mm main gun might likely get removed, with the RWS and machine gun mounts remaining, plus installation of water cannons onboard.

This offshore patrol vessel design also sports a helipad for the Philippine Coast Guard helicopters such as the Airbus H145 helicopter to land and takeoff, with the capacity of catering helicopters with a maximum weight of at least ten (10) tons. 

However, the design lacks a helicopter hangar onboard, something that is available in both the current and upcoming units of Teresa Magbanua-class Multirole Response Vessels (MRRVs) and the BRP Gabriela Silang offshore patrol vessel.

Completing this, the Offshore Patrol 83 (OPV-83) vessel design from Austal comes with a performance speed of 22 knots at 85% MCR or Maximum Continuous Rating of the 2x Caterpillar C280-16 main engines that operate the vessel’s propulsion system. 

Aside from the speed, the vessel’s range can reach 3,500 nautical miles, achievable with a cruising speed of at least twelve (12) knots, or at least an extra 500 nautical miles range compared to the pair of 40-meter Guardian-class Patrol Vessels offered to the agency.

BRP Teresa Magbanua, BRP Cabra, Teresa Magbanua-class Multirole Response Vessels, Parola-class Multirole Response Vessels, MRRVs, Philippine Coast Guard, PCG, West Philippine Sea, WPS, Escoda Shoal
Here is the image of BRP Teresa Magbanua mooring in Escoda Shoal near the West Philippine Sea as captured by Chinese crew for more than a month now, much to the disappointment of the Chinese vessels in the area.

Considerations on acquiring at least a pair of Guardian-class Patrol Vessels from Austal, on top of its planned acquisition of at least three (3) Offshore Patrol 83 designed vessels from this Australian shipbuilder, helps increase the badly needed number that the Philippine Coast Guard needs in asserting its presence not only in its territorial waters but also in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone and in areas of heated tensions such as the ones in the West Philippine Sea area.

In the image provided above, as ironically reported by Chinese authorities, it has proven that by just deploying a large Philippine Coast Guard vessel in a West Philippine Sea feature such as the Escoda Shoal already give the maritime law agency the much-needed presence that the Philippines need to have in a feature within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Going further, the Philippine Coast Guard’s limited number of vessels might hamper its capability in patrolling other areas.

If all the plans push through, the Philippine Coast Guard might get at least five (5) patrol vessels from Austal, with the Australian shipbuilder benefiting on the contract for the construction of the patrol vessels, alleviating its financial concerns even further

This comes as companies are wrestling over the ownership of the shipbuilding company, with South Korea’s Hanwha Ocean, the one that offers KSS-III Submarines to the Philippine Navy, as among the assertive ones.

On the other note, the Philippine Coast Guard has another project relating to the additional five (5) Teresa Magbanua-class Multirole Response Vesselsadditional five (5) Teresa Magbanua-class Multirole Response Vessels, whereby this Japanese loan-funded project will help boost the number of the maritime law enforcement agency’s large-sized vessels. This will help the agency rotate its vessels in long-term mooring operations in areas like the West Philippine Sea, alleviating the ones like the BRP Teresa Magbanua from that type of deployment.

Since its inception, the 40-meter Guardian-class Patrol Vessels prove as an essential platform that provides added maritime security to the Pacific Islander countries, as part of Australia’s commitment in ensuring added security in the Indo-Pacific region, on top of its commitments with other countries like the Philippines regarding national security. The idea of providing this type of vessel for Philippine Coast Guard’s patrol use provides an extra mileage to this level of bilateral commitment.

As many Pacific Islander countries operate this type of patrol vessel from Austal, logistical requirements will not be much of a concern, as there are multiple sources of spare parts for this to cover up, not to mention that the Australian government has a commitment to provide additional support for the maritime security requirements of these countries that include replacing its vessels with the newer Guardian-class, something that the Philippine Coast Guard might benefit down the road.

Overall, the Philippine Coast Guard’s push for further modernizing its fleet of white-hulled vessels, including any potential patrol vessel prospects from Austal, helps increase the much needed numbers it needs in ensuring its presence in the country’s territorial waters, while maximizing its capabilities mechanism relating to maritime domain awareness that secures the country’s coastline by enforcing the country’s laws and provide support for the country’s resolve for territorial integrity like in the West Philippine Sea.

(c) 2024 PDA.





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