• Knowing the Philippine Army's BO-105 Helicopters

    These donated helicopters operated by the Philippine Army's Aviation Regiment provides much needed field support, especially on medevac-related evacuation and other logistical concerns.

  • Updates on the PAF's C-130J-30 Super Hercules Aircraft

    The Philippine Air Force, for the first time, sets to have at least three (3) brand new cargo aircraft from Lockheed Martin, which is done through a commercial deal between the two entities.

  • Phil. Army's Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge Project

    This AVLB with a Merkava IV chassis serves as the first platform of such type for the Philippine Army to use, and may set as a reference for the service branch’s future armored vehicle plans and programs later on.

  • Navantia's Submarine Offer to the Philippine Navy

    The Spanish shipbuilder has offered its submarine offer for the Philippine Navy's submarine project. How will it fare compare to its competitors like France's Naval Group and South Korea's Hanwha Ocean?

  • Knowing the AW-109 Helicopter of both PAF and PN

    Both the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy possess this type of helicopter that basically define as a first step towards a more capable Armed Forces, implemented during the First Horizon of the AFP Modernization Program.

  • The Phil. Army's Interest on the FGM-148 Javelin ATGM

    The Philippine Army is improving its firepower capabilities, and it witnessed the performance brought by this anti-tank missile during the Balikatan 2023 Exercises. Now they are considering it for their systems.

  • Know More About Us

    Just kindly click this link to understand more about our resolve of providing knowledge and perspective in relation to the Philippine defense and other related topics or discussions.

The Trilateral Sulu Sea Air Patrols and the Maritime Patrol Capabilities

Three notable Southeast Asian Nations kickstart an activity that aims to protect their porous borders from various eminent threats which include terrorism. And that means stepping up to the capabilities game which will redefine "interoperability".

Defense Ministers of three countries shake hands as the operation
starts. Source
With the primary purpose of strengthening border patrol and relations among these nations, air forces from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines started the Trilateral Air Patrol Operations last October 12, 2017.

The Sulu Sea is notorious for piracy as well as the known transit of terrorists and smuggled goods which these things are a primary cause of concern as it affects trade and security in the area. 

Add to that the threat ISIS poses these days with the Marawi conflict serving as a reason that comes up to this undertaking as well as enhancing the regional ties among these neighbors where all of the parties will benefit in these operations. 

The air patrols in the area will be done by long-range patrol aircraft or any useful assets that are brought in to conduct the operations. In the case of the Philippines, it doesn't have any aircraft that is specifically designed to undertake this operation which may be done by the Defense Department's procurement of Long Range Patrol Aircrafts as part of the Armed Forces' modernization program.

With the lacking of specialized aircraft it needs to carry out for maritime patrol, the Philippine Air Force is opted to use other aircraft especially from the ones intended for transport (see PAF C-130 plane on the first photo) to conduct this operation away from its very purpose. And this goes with the necessity that the slow-moving project shall make up its pace a bit further.

Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Udara (TNI-AU)
CN-235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft. Source: Jet Thrust Images.
Talking about maritime patrol capabilities, both Malaysia and Indonesia have such capabilities to conduct maritime patrol operations especially under this agreement which the Philippines is presently lacking where its LRPA procurement project will surely cover.

The Indonesians through their air force the Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Udara (TNI-AU) obtains the CN-235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft which are considered as cousins of the Philippine Air Force C-295 Medium Lift Aircraft where this was produced under the partnership of Airbus Military and PT Digantara Indonesia.

The Indonesian patrol aircraft contains most of its sensors coming from Thales Airborne Systems especially the airborne maritime situation control system or AMASCOS which it includes the Ocean Master search radar produced by Thales and EADS Deutschland, the Elettronica ALR 733 radar warning receiver, the Chlio thermal imager developed by Thales Optronique, the Gemini navigation computer from Thales (formerly Sextant) Avionics and the AN/ASQ-508 magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) system from CAE. 

Add to that its capabilities to carry Harpoon or Exocet anti-ship missiles as well as two mk46 torpedoes in its three hardpoints under each wing (Air Force Technology). This capability alone shows how capable maritime patrol aircraft Indonesia obtains for operations like this agreed Trilateral Air Patrols.

Malaysia meanwhile like Indonesia also has aircraft specified for maritime operations. Add to that the programs to upgrade such capability that the Royal Malaysian Air Force, also known locally as Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM) presently obtains that are also opted for maritime patrol purposes. 

One of those aircraft is the Beechcraft Super King Air B200T Maritime Patrol Aircraft that is primarily opted for this job where the Philippines also obtain such aircraft in the form of Leased TC-90 (King Air) from Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). Like the Indonesian MPAs, the Beechcraft B200T that RMAF obtains also contains sensors from Thales Airborne Systems which is the AMASCOS that makes it a better platform than its TC-90 counterparts that only contain Mk. 1 Mod 0 Eyeball as its only sensor.

This may be shown as an indirect challenge for the Philippines to improve its own capabilities wherein having one effective platform to conduct maritime patrol operations is ideal for the country to have where interoperability wise, nations effectively doing their part exchanging information and knowledge that will make this deal an ideal one. Add to that, all nations involved do seem to need C-130 planes just to cover up more areas of the sea than the aircraft being intended.

PC-3 Orions are once considered but were not push through in favor
of newer MPAs. Source
The Department of National Defense released both a Supplemental Bid Bulletin and Initial Technical Specifications dated July 24, 2014, specified as a guideline for the supplier to follow the first stage and the second stage of the bidding. These are for Long Range Patrol Aircraft Project for the Philippine Air Force to have.

Skipping to the present year, this program is plagued with problems that it made it stall that it affects the timelines that have made it much delayed as it is intended where if it was made on time, it may either be the planes getting delivered on its way or maybe already delivered to be on Trilateral Patrols which it may help PAF improved its capabilities and somehow, getting at par to its neighbors by having its own dedicated Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

Just so we know, the latest reports pertain to the bid opening that supposedly opens on September 22, 2017, and there are no updates after that. Apparently, the previous bid before this one was failed due to all suppliers getting disqualified or rather, not getting up to the standards that the bids and awards committee is looking for a Long Range Patrol Aircraft. 

This unfavorable series of events shows worries about the uncertain fate that may bring to this project that affects the capabilities Philippine Air Force may have that aids to the country in surveillance matters like this trilateral patrol. That being said, no updates may not mean that the project in itself is not moving. Rather, the planners may have found a way to resolve this problem that, it may take time but with the hopes that the procurement project will be successful this time.

With this project and several others getting in limbo, perhaps one may get a nice reflection as to how other countries succeed in their modernization program. In that case, China and its leverage over disputed territories at present do take place all thanks to the legacy of Admiral Wu Shengli that overlooks the growing strength of the People's Liberation Army, Navy, and Air Force. 

To take note, some forum starter in that linked reflection shares with our question about the duration of the AFP planners and program managers materializing their respective projects including the Long Range Patrol Aircraft project. This is something to worth ponder upon as the community waits for updates.

One may consider the trilateral exercises to be an indirect challenge for the Armed Forces to further improve the capabilities of the beloved organization whose mandate is to defend the nation, its sovereignty, and national interest. And speaking of capabilities, this is some sort of motivation for the project planners to make the procurement successful in due time upon their efforts.

An artist rendition of SC-130 Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
The Philippines will have Palletized ISR kits for its C-130 planes.
Photo Source
There are other projects aside from the Long Range Patrol Aircraft project that also aims to enhance Maritime Patrol capabilities as the country badly needs it to patrol its waters from above as well as enhancing its mandate.

The United States is providing the Philippine Air Force the Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) palletized ISR kit that can be installed on a C-130 which is the mainstay of the air force's transport fleet. 

This kits, known in the linked Lockheed Martin Presentation as roll-on roll-off Maritime Aircraft will give the transport-oriented C-130s the sensors or the eyes it needs for such kind of maritime operations. Its capabilities are based on the P-3 investment which is primarily on Anti-surface warfare that primarily focuses on surface assets like terrorist fast-crafts. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin also has another platform still based on C-130 but with capabilities against submarines. 

That is, the SC-130J Sea Hercules. With regards to what the Philippine Air Force soon have, the palletized ISR kits for C-130s are a welcome addition for the armed forces to have which it can be fitted on the existing platforms available in the inventory rather than acquiring SC-130J Sea Hercules which there are no plans on acquiring it considering that the practicality for buying newer platforms go to the winning LRPA bidder presuming that they qualified the standards set by the bidding committee.

The kits are a big help to cope with the shortcomings for PAF's maritime patrol capabilities while the LRPA project is still being materialized.

These things are in the hopes that such capabilities may help the authorities effectively patrol the territorial waters especially the disputed West Philippine Sea and the porous Southern Border so that in an event of an incursion taking place in the area, the planners may have the sufficient intelligence and reaction time to their advantage which that may help them came up in a decision clearly.

Such capabilities may help the Philippines later on to be a more effective trilateral partner than it is at present where interoperability among the nations participating will be more significant where each nation's armed forces effectively share their respective capabilities, information and coordination that, if done together will further attain their primary objective like in this case, patrolling the borders of imminent threats like terrorism.

A maritime patrol aircraft with more sensors is something
The Philippines need by the due time.
The Trilateral Sulu Sea Air Patrols are a welcoming deal made by Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia where it will definitely solve the problem that affects these nations made especially on the terrorism threatening to gain influence and territory which it may prevent by foiling it at seas.

The patrols will help these nations further coordinate as well as to enhance the relations between these nations as these actions coincide better opportunities for business growth, better security and improving trade and exchange of cultures considering that Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines are part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN. 

By that matter, as in the case of the Philippines, such coordination and the opportunities it coincides require an effort that includes enhancing the capabilities of its Armed Forces especially the Air Force to work on their mandate like this one that involves maritime patrol missions. 

Good enough, the C-130s that PAF presently have will soon obtain the palletized ISR kits from the United States that are helpful to conduct missions where such kits give transport-oriented C-130s the eyes it needs so that it can clearly detect any threats whenever it sees one. Add to that the LRPA project where, despite the lack of updates, still goes the hope that a bidder complying with the requirements will bag the project and wholeheartedly fulfilling it for the best of capabilities needed for maritime patrol.

With this, it goes with the hopes that security in the southern border will be better than ever that threats will be foiled in due time. And with that comes the hopes that the Philippines will have the capabilities it needs for better maritime patrol operations that its southern neighbors have. These things go the eventuality for a peaceful life with numerous opportunities coming along the way as this may further enhance trade that is for the benefit of all.

Distinctions between a Corvette and a Frigate in a Navy Fleet

Warships have its own distinctions in the fleet varying to its roles as well as the way nations categorize their naval ships. And with different nations categorizing their vessels the way they want, there comes a small distinction between a naval corvette or a frigate where there is a thin line separating these two kinds of warships.

Navantia's Avante 2200 was once tendered as a frigate in the deal
won by Hyundai Heavy Industries, albeit that it served in Venezuelan
Navy as Patrol Vessel or a Corvette once armed further to the teeth.
Photo from Navantia's Flickr account.
Navy ships serving within the fleet have its own duties and responsibilities considering that each vessel is essential for the Naval Group to do its mandate which is primarily to defend the territorial waters from both internal and external elements coming through the sea. They are also to augment the role of the coast guard with that regard with maritime security and domain awareness in mind.

The warships by that detail play different roles in the fleet. One type serves as a patrol vessel for conducting presence in a disputed area or to practice sovereign rights within its area of designation. Another type serves as a logistics vessel where it transports primary military needs ranging from supplies like ammunition and basic needs like food to military equipment like artillery and armored personnel carriers which are needed by ground troops in the battle zone for their mission as well as for humanitarian purposes when calamity strikes. 

And there are types of warships specified for surface/subsurface combat missions that are loaded with weapons designed to destroy other warships as well as the ones lurking underwater such as submarines. Corvettes and Frigates in this case falls under the combatant category which, aside from patrolling like patrol vessels usually do, these ships pack some sheer firepower to eliminate hostile elements seeking to wreak violence within territorial and exclusive economic zone waters.

Talking about corvettes and frigates, it usually made some confusion to the ones who are not keen on defense-related matters where platform size, combat capabilities and roles seem to be similar in nature where it varies as to what the way a navy categorizes them and their primary purposes. This discussion is to seek to understand their distinctions and variations on their roles.

Note: This was meant for educating people that are less knowledgeable which by themselves also wanted to minimize the burden of researching up the search engine just to distinguish these warships. Add to this, the discussion will cover the Philippine Navy’s categorization of the ships as specified in its Sail Plan.

GRSE tenders its Frigate based on INS Kamorta where
in the Indian Navy, it served as an Anti-submarine Corvette.
Credits to the photo owner.
It is worth remembering about the Frigate Acquisition Project that the Department of National Defense initiated in which Hyundai Heavy Industries won and presently facing setbacks that only they can have a say about it. During the bidding, different prospective suppliers presented their products based on designs that were used as corvettes in other navies. One notable example is the Kamorta-class Corvette which was tendered as Frigate in the bid wherein Garden Reach Shipbuilding and Engineering almost won as the lowest bidder but lost to Hyundai due to financing standards as dictated by the Procurement Laws. 

This notable mixup may be confusing at first, but it gets clarified when details are presented especially on the specifications that the end-user like in this case, the Philippine Navy, is looking for a Frigate or in a Corvette. And speaking of the end-user, it definitely seems like it takes all the lessons taken from the mistakes in the Frigate Acquisition Project where as far as prospective Corvettes of Horizon 2 are concerned (If the budget requested for it is approved), it may get more capable than what Hyundai offered for FAP where a swap of roles from Frigates to Corvettes and vice versa may get happened in due time. Take note, it is still liquid, but it may happen in due time.

With interchangeability of classification of vessels varying as to how the Navy names them, these are influenced by factors such as tonnage, roles, politics, and the most essential of all, it's mission profile.


For in-depth on differentiating things out, here is an article from CIMSEC written by Chuck Hill.

One nation's frigate is another nation's corvette. There really is no formal distinction. That would really depend on the end-user though. That goes the explanation as to why Kamorta corvettes are being tendered in a frigate project which also goes with Navantia's Avante 2200.

Summarizing the CIMSEC article, a frigate is a league a bit higher than the corvette, and size and displacement really don't matter on this one. The distinction between the two classifications for small warships is thin where only the end-user designates them as such. 

Different nations have different measurements as to classifying their warships and, basically speaking, a warship only armed with medium caliber gun and heavy machine guns become more of an Offshore Patrol Vessel. 

Goes to say, mission profile weighs heavy in determining the difference on the ships where displacement, roles, size, capabilities, and at several times politics influencing such distinction of its own worth.

Given these details, these are simply measurements that serve as a guide for any Navy where they still are the ones who will determine as to how they classify the naval assets they obtain where, with their best knowledge, determine the fleet set up just like the way Philippine Navy wants it in their Sail Plan under the AFP Modernization Program.

This is the Philippine Navy Capability Upgrade Program that calls for 12 corvettes
and 6 frigates. Plans such as this are liquid and may change from
time to time.
Now it is understandable that it is upon the discretion of the end-user such as the Philippine Navy as to how they will categorize the ship they obtain in the fleet. Notwithstanding, the Navy's Desired Force Mix identifies the distinction between its Navy Frigate and Corvette.

Frigates by this nature will be the guided-missile ones where the roles will be more on 
anti-air and anti-surface mission profiles while the corvettes will be emphasized more on anti-submarine roles. 

Add to that the Del Pilar-class Frigates which are formerly Hamilton Cutters of the US Coast Guard presently categorized as Patrol Frigates until these ships will be upgrading its sensors as well as being armed with anti-surface weapons which it will become more capable than the downgraded ships Hyundai offered. 

Also to add, numerous World War 2-era vessels are still within the Navy and they are classified as corvettes like the Miguel Malvar-class which these ships will be replaced by more modern and more sophisticated ones as part of the Modernization Program. 

The Navy has their own specifications or requirements looking on a corvette or a frigate where they will never encounter any issues if these are met upon, taking the lessons from the Frigate Acquisition Project.

Speaking of roles, the way Philippine Navy categorizes them goes hand in hand with Chuck Hill's CIMSEC entry which mission profiles define more of the ship's classification rather than displacement and size. 

Add to that, the Navy's Desired Force Mix sets as a guide aside from the factors aforementioned as well as the lessons from previous deals which defines their standards that in turn defines the distinction between corvettes and frigates.

This was originally the Hyundai Heavy Industries' offer to the
Philippine Navy before the scale-down. Add to that, it's
capabilities will be surpassed by that of upcoming Corvette
and Frigate Projects which have doubled contract price per unit.
Photo from Hyundai. Labeling by both MaxDefense and Pitz Defense Analysis
Distinctions between a corvette and a frigate vary from different navies of the world and the way they classified it as such where it is their call to do it so. The same also applies to other ships such as destroyers and cruisers which there are different interpretations and categorizations per nation.

Narrowing it down under the Philippine Navy's context through its Desired Force Mix, a corvette and a frigate are specified on their mission roles which, capabilities-wise, can be swapped and get interchangeable upon their discretion depending on what they see as fit on the naval assets they obtain. Add to that displacement, capabilities, size and at times political factors may influence the categorization of the ships.

Both of these combatants are essential things that define a Navy fleet where it is on their mandate to defend the maritime waters from various threats that may happen at any time. And with the Modernization Program being on the roll with Horizon 2 coming next year, it will be exciting to see what to unveil especially on the upcoming projects that go side-to-side with the progress the country is undertaking.




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