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The Philippine Coast Guard's Soon to Have Larger Vessels

Since last year, the Philippine Coast Guard is experiencing a renaissance period with more assets coming in as well as more recruits coming to man up those assets for the protection of the country's coastline as well as implementing its duties and responsibilities as they are a civilian organization under the Department of Transportation or DOTr. Hence, it is worthy to witness its ever-growing capabilities that improve this nation's maritime domain awareness.

BRP Tubbataha, the first MMRV of its class that is called
the Parola-class vessels, named after the country's Lighthouses.
Photo credits from its respective owner.

Respective agencies of the government that is keen to implement the respective projects as planned that will help them perform their duties and responsibilities efficiently and effectively. And that means purchasing equipment that in any way provides the tools needed in order to get the job done.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) recently received its latest and the last MMRV purchased from Japan through a Soft Loan. Also, they received smaller vessels such as the Boracay-class Patrol Vessel that was produced from France that is intended for protecting shallow waters, making larger vessels like the Parola-class redesignated to the deeper waters which it is needed like the Sulu Sea. This manages the coast guard to deploy their vessels that cover larger bodies of territorial waters than ever before. This gives them much significance as their organization seeks more vessels, facilities, and the personnel that will man the ship in which this not only improve their capabilities for maritime domain awareness but also this will provide more job opportunities to the citizenry especially the ones that have a background in maritime engineering and/or equivalent in order to feed their families as well as to improve that career path and be successful along the way.

Hence, the organization at present does not put itself limited to their existing vessels such as the MRRVs. In fact, they opt for larger vessels which will be the first for the PCG to operate, making them at par to their peers in the Philippine Navy. We will discuss in detail about these larger hull projects that they aspire to have which is a big plus in the organization as a whole.

Both China and Japan utilized their coast guard vessels in order to patrol
the contested Senkaku islands which are presently claimed by both sides.

It is understandable that the Philippine Coast Guard, just like any other coast guard of various countries, have this role of implementing their respective laws in a way that they are the law enforcers in territorial waters that deter smugglers and illegal movement of people as well as to rescue any that is in distress out of the open waters.

In this article from the Diplomat, it discusses the importance of the roles respective countries' coast guards obtain especially in de-escalating the situation in the contested waters like the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) and the East China Sea where the deployment of these white hulls decreases the likeliness of a shooting conflict rather than deploying Navy vessels that may spark any confrontation in place such as the ones that happened in Scarborough Shoal way back 2012 wherein BRP Gregorio del Pilar was deployed to address the situation on illegal fishing where later on it was reinforced by Chinese ships nearby. 

Such situation like the ones that is happening at the present moment really demands the increase in capability not only for the Coast Guard but also by main military organizations such as the Philippine Navy and the Air Force especially now that the contested disputes may involve deployments and movements of main air, naval and coast guard vessels especially if there are any eventualities and worse case scenarios in place so as to somewhat put a leverage or deterrence on fighting. Not only that, this will improve the country's patrol and maritime domain awareness capabilities in a way that the presence of such platforms shows the eagerness to not giving in to the intimidation that the opposition forces provide in the sea or in any standoff situation. 

With the ten MRRVs that the coast guard obtains at present, along with other existing ships that they obtain will help further give that necessary presence especially if it means protecting the coastline in a subtle way that there is less of a shooting war that main combatant ships of the Navy may give.

So, with the on-going projects of the Coast Guard on more larger platforms, this will address the necessity of patrolling on larger bodies of water in a way that endurance-wise can stay in the sea for days wherein their presence is readily available across the country's territorial waters where they are needed, improving their performance as an organization.

Now, on the on-going offshore vessel projects of the coast guard.

Japan Coast Guard obtains a number of large offshore patrol vessels
or cutters, in which the Philippines may get two brand new hulls
derived from it.

The Japanese in the recent history supplied the Parola-class to the Philippine Coast Guard in which it provided the great boost for the organization in regards to its patrol capabilities in which they can stretch their resources even further, providing presence and support that is needed within the territorial waters. Thus, it enables the implementation of the country's local laws over the surrounding seas it patrols.

While Japan's shipbuilders provided 10 units of the 44m vessels for effective patrol use, they are also up for the taking especially for a larger, 94-meter cutter or offshore patrol vessel which definitely means a for the Philippine Coast Guard especially in performing their mandate as an organization. 

As part of the Japanese deal on financing the vessels needed for the Philippine Coast Guard (which includes the Parola Class), this unit is also covered where it will be undertaking the same option which is primarily on providing soft loan for these ships' purchase.

The plans for this project calls for the purchase of two 90 meter vessels from Japan with the financial terms and conditions aforementioned (other outlets details the length of the ships as 94 meters). The financing will be made by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency or JICA where this Japanese agency aims for closer cooperation between both nations especially on this endeavor, now that the threats are looming on a rising Chinese power which such move may serve as a countermeasure given that both China and Japan also embroiled on their own disputes over Senkaku Island chain in which China claims as their own, naming it on their own as the Diaoyu Island chains. 

Given that the ships will be made by a shipyard in Japan, the probability for its design is that it will replicate the ones available in the Japanese Coast Guard in the same way that it attributed on the Parola-class multi-role response vessels that are currently in active service. 

The Coast Guard fleet in Japan obtains a wide range of vessels in a number of variants especially for a vessel in which its length stretches at around 90 meters approximate. Once available, it may symbolize as a token of continuous cooperation and bolstering of relations between Japan and the Philippines in the face of a common enemy.

In a statement made last month by the Japanese Deputy Chief of Mission Takehiro Kano while in the country, the two proposed 90 or 94-meter Coast Guard cutters from Japan is at the design stage and will be delivered at some time within two years, approximately at par to the time period the Philippine Navy will receive its missile-armed frigates from South Korea. 

From there, the cutters' commission to the active duty under the Philippine Coast Guard will be serving as the largest ones to be within the service of the organization, enabling them to patrol the country's territorial waters at a length of range and time as mandated where it improves a bit with regard to the country's Maritime Domain Awareness.

The Screengrab of the construction of an OPV-270 ship for the
Philippine Coast Guard. 
Link to the corresponding YouTube channel here.

Philippine Coast Guard's OCEA 24m and Construction of 84m vessels can be seen here.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) recently receives the 24m Boracay-class patrol boats from OCEA France which are really intended for shallow or littoral waters which are closer to the coastline. 

Obtaining such assets definitely decreases the workload for the other large vessels that the PCG already obtains in its inventory such as the Parola-class MMPVs, allowing it to patrol on deeper waters such as the Sulu Sea where it is the area of concern when it comes to various maritime concerns such as smuggling of goods and movement of forces threatening the country's national security.

While this French shipyard builts these small vessels for the Coast Guard's littoral capabilities, their role for improving the performance of the organization through supplying of vessels does not stop there. They are also in the contract of providing two, larger 84m Offshore Patrol Vessels for the PCG to operate wherein it is essential especially for deeper sea patrols as well as for idealistic presence on seas like the country's Exclusive Economic Zone. 

The Offshore Patrol Vessel that the French offer for the Coast Guard and is presently under construction is in the form of OPV 270 Class. For the Philippine Coast Guard, it will be its new flagship with bearing the name of a known Philippine Revolutionary Hero. The vessel will be the future BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8401)This kind of vessel is a multirole offshore patrol ship in which its missions satisfy the needs of the Philippine Coast Guard in terms of protecting and assuring territorial waters along with the integrity of the country's sovereignty as a whole. 

It will be delivered by the shipbuilder to the Philippine Coast Guard by next year, adding it to the roster of vessels that OCEA supplied to the organization since the deliveries of the French-made 24m Boracay-class Patrol Boats which were supplanted through a French loan. Thus, it will be by then the largest vessel that the PCG operates, until a larger offshore patrol vessel will take its place - something that it's in the procurement phase at the present date.

Having such vessel definitely, help the organization perform its mandate in a better way wherein the essence of maritime domain awareness can further provide than what the present ones in the inventory can deliver. Also, this means that they can cover larger areas of water where their presence is needed more in a way that they will complement with the ones in the Philippine Navy in assuring the protection of this nation from threats originating in the sea which poses danger on the country's sovereignty and also its citizen's way of living.

Complementing the Japanese 90~94 meter cutters, the Philippine Coast Guard will end up having four (4) brand new vessels, all of which being larger than any of the ships currently in service. Hence, obtaining them all will provide a huge, significant boost to the agency's capability and performance in terms of delivering its duties and responsibilities as mandated by law. 

This is the French-made Boracay-class Patrol Craft for the Philippine Coast Guard.
This is the latest addition to the fleet alongside the Japanese-made Parola-class
Courtesy to Asia Policy website for the photo.
The Philippine Coast Guard, alongside key uniformed services within the government like the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, obtains its own share of Modernization efforts where it aims to augment its existing fleet of white hulls with more brand new assets with some will be the largest once in service.

From there, we can see a better organization where they can deliver their duties and responsibilities as mandated by law more efficiently and effectively as these vessels will cover more areas of water that the country needs to be protected in order to ensure the national interests of the country as well as implementing the rules in the sea where it is for the benefit of the citizenry, given that the Philippines in geographical setting is an archipelago, with secures seas being one of the essentials for its growth and development. 

Moreover, this will provide the peaceful presence of this ships where it symbolizes the stance of the country especially in implementing patrols in the name of the nation's sacred sovereignty in the light of Chinese hegemony where they deploy their coast guard and maritime militia just to assert their unjust claim over contested territories such as exemplified on their latest deployment against rehabilitation of Pag-Asa island by Philippine authorities.

So, there shows the essence on the importance of purchasing additional vessels for the Philippine Coast Guard, especially larger ones like the BRP Gabriela Silang from France or the 90-meter Coast Guard cutter from Japan whom among themselves saw an enemy on China. 

This perhaps will pave the way to a better composition of the Philippine Coast Guard fleet where they, together with the Philippine Navy, render service to ensure the security for the country's territorial waters, where from it helps develop the Philippines as a nation given that a secured maritime resources and trade in a country is for the benefit of each individual who aspires economic growth and more secured motherland.

(c) 2019 PDA.

In-Details: Upgrading the Del Pilar-class Frigates

The Philippine Navy obtains three of these ex-United States Coast Guard cutters in the fleet with one on the shipyard for a hull repair and overhaul. While the timeline of that repair takes time after taking significant damages after being grounded on the reefs that are claimed by parties on the West Philippine Sea, there is also the chance for the upgrades to be included so as to make these vessels armed more with sensors and weapons needed for it to perform its duty better. Now, there are more details unraveled about the procurement process that coincides with this project.

BRP Gregorio del Pilar (FF-15) in ASEAN International Fleet Review
that took place in Pattaya Bay Chonburi Thailand two years ago last 2017.
Courtesy to David's World 2011 Flickr.
The Philippine Navy along with other branches under the Armed Forces of the Philippines are on the process of Modernizing their respective forces further as the second year of Horizon 2 is on the roll, with each having their own procurement projects to fund, processed, and awarded to the aspiring contractor that is up to take a job to make a project right.

It was also well-known that we discussed on what it will be with regards to up-arming the Del Pilar-class Frigates which primarily talks about surface weaponry like a Close-in Weapons System or CIWS, radar systems such as the SAAB Sea Giraffe that is supplanted by the United States as well as the idea of anti-ship missiles. Well, there are things that our article didn't discuss where these things, along with the aforementioned, is helpful for the frigates to improve its capability to combat threats.

This is what the recent Supplemental Bid Bulletin from the Department of National Defense Bids and Awards Committee takes out where it primarily pertains to the revisions of technical specifications on various components of the ship's upgrade program especially on the three things such as the Hull Mounted Sonar, the Combat Management System and the Radar Electronic Support Measure or RESM. Other components or items are also included such as the Integrated Logistics Support or ILS, Special Tools and Test Equipment, Onboard Spare, Intermediate Spares, and tools for troubleshooting if there are technical problems while at sea as well as other important matters regarding training, user manuals, maintenance, and warranty.

The thirteen-page Supplemental Bid Bulletin also sets a timeline so as when the submitting and opening of bid envelopes will take place which is on February 19, 2019, at exactly 1000H or 10am in the morning. While such a schedule is being out, it does not necessarily mean that it is already the final one where there may still be changes from the date of this bulletin's publication and the perceived date for bid openings.

In this discussion, we will discuss this supplemental bid bulletin with the basis of other Philippine Navy projects as well as the procurement process within the scope of R.A. 9184 or the Procurement Law. Moreover, let it be known that the budget allocated and certified for this project is slated at Php 1,540,000,000.00, covering the components embodied in the bulletin.

Maintenance stops like this provides the opportunity for the ships
to upgrade.
Here are the details that pertain to how the project flow is done in order to have the three Del Pilar-class ships in the Philippine Navy upgraded to its desired sensors and systems capability as directed on the Supplemental Bid Bulletin.

On the Hull-Mounted SONAR

The ships as suggested may need to undertake the drydock such as the ones depicted above for the BRP Gregorio del Pilar in order for the installation of the Hull-Mounted Sonar to commence, along with the following characteristics needed:
As detailed on the Supplemental Bid Bulletin.
The details depicted are just some of the prerequisites needed in order to attain the necessities when it comes to obtaining the Hull-mounted Sonar platform for anti-submarine operations. As far as it is concerned, the possible supplier to supply this sonar equipment may go to Harris and its Model 997 Hull-mounted sonar. One may ask: How is that so that such equipment is likely to be chosen for this upgrade process? The answer lies to the simplistic fact that this is the specifications for the new frigates from South Korea that is recently categorized as the Jose Rizal-class Frigates as far as hull-mounted sonars are concerned. Aside from this hull-mounted sonar, it is also worthy to discuss so as which Combat Management System it will be for the Del Pilar-class Frigates, given that some reference also came from the Jose Rizal-class Frigates from South Korea, which we may abbreviate it here as the JRPF as in line with the Del Pilar-class Frigates which is abbreviated usually as DCPF.

On the Combat Management System

The specifications provided in the Supplemental Bid Bulletin also give details on the Combat Management System or CMS that is the weapon systems backbone of a fully-armed warship which they aim to install onboard the Del Pilar-class Frigates.

Talking about it, there are two potential candidates so as to which of these systems may find its way over the frigates that were once cutters of the U.S. Coast Guard. These are the SAAB's 9LV Combat Management System and the Hanwha Naval Shield Integrated Combat Management System (ICMS).

One may ask: How come that these two systems may be considered as the ones that have the chance to be fitted on a Philippine Navy Frigate as the Del Pilar-class vessels? To answer this, let us focus first on SAAB's 9LV Combat Management System where the rationale for its consideration comes with the U.S. support of providing a radar system such as the Sea Giraffe AMB given that this platform is also originated from SAAB itself. From there alone, it may go that the 9LV CMS and the Sea Giraffe will surely be compatible with each other wherein it originated from the same manufacturer of these components that may find helpful when integrated on these vessels. As for the Hanwha Naval Shield ICMS meanwhile, this platform is also the preferred Combat Management System for the Jose Rizal-class Frigates that is still in construction by Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea. So, shall this South Korean Combat Management System be chosen to be the preferred tech platform onboard the Del Pilar-class Frigates, then it will not be that much surprising so as this eases the workflow in terms of logistics, compatibility across naval platforms that use the same system as well as personnel training on how to use these combat systems.

So, while there are no finalities about it yet with the bidding process still on the roll, there are still many chances for each and every participating bidder that they may end up bagging the contract, especially to this category. 

In this project, it will be at best for the Philippine Navy and its Technical Working Group to see which is the best suited for the ships aside from two aforementioned Combat Management Systems where the main aim is for the best capabilities that these ships will offer to the fleet.

On the Radar Electronic Support Measure or RESM
An Electronic Support Measure console. Photo Source
Aside from the combat management system and the hull-mounted sonar, the biddings also call for the procurement of radar electronic support measure or RESM which is designed to obtain attributes in relation to SIGINT or Signals Intelligence which are divided to two components -  Electronic Intelligence or ELINT as well as Communications Intelligence or COMINT.

Both the ELINT and the COMINT are considered types of electronic support measures coming with their own respective detection roles with the aims of early detection and assessment of potential threats. 

ELINT is oriented more to the detection of radar emissions from enemy vessels ranging from surveillance, fire control, or missile guidance where its detection or interception comes with analysis so as enemy ship's whereabouts or activities that can serve as an effective early warning system to give time for those on board to prepare shall the enemy vessel's combat or missile guidance radar is emitted that may pose the threat on the main vessel and its crew on board. 

COMINT meanwhile is more on communications intercept intended to assess and analyze the movements and intentions of the opposing forces as this may relay to the main command and control component which may help reinforce important decisions that may change the course of the conflict.

As far as the Supplemental Bid Bulletin is concerned, its technical specifications call that the RESM shall be integrated with the Combat Management System with open system architecture and can be upgraded in the future (0.5 ~ 40 GHz) shall the Philippine Navy chooses to do so. Also, other details include a library of 10,000 units of threats and the capability to detect 400 different targets as a bare minimum. It means that it shall detect a wide range of different radar electronic components from various vessels ranging from navigation to combat guidance radar so as to serve its purpose to alarm the ones onboard on the impending threat as well as the courses of action that shall be done in order to mitigate it. Also, this will help the ships improve their capability in gathering data especially if it involves the Communications Intelligence portion of the equation. 

From there, the ships may provide the whole image of the combat or patrol zone wherein movements, intentions, and threats can be detected and resolved accordingly.

On Other Requirements as Written in the Supplemental Bid Bulletin

Aside from the three main components aforementioned that will comprise of what it will be the upgraded capabilities of the Philippine Navy's Del Pilar-class Frigates, there are also other items as depicted in the Supplemental Bid Bulletin that is also as essential in terms of fully covering the necessity of this upgrade in line to the ship's performance.

These following items consist of these components: The ILS or the Integrated Logistics Support where it means providing the spare parts and other support in terms of maintaining these systems; Special Tools and Test Equipment (STTE) where it is useful in various maintenance levels is related to the ship's operations, onboard spare parts, and intermediate spares and tools for troubleshooting during patrol operations or missions as well as other items or components regarding the training on the usage of these new features on the ship, life cycle costing program, quality assurance, and warranty for these components.

These things are as essential where it ensures the effectiveness and operability of the components as the time passes by. From thereon, this will help lengthen the service life of these components along with the ship itself where it will continue to serve the Armed Forces of the Philippines, especially the Philippine Navy for the years to come.

This is how essential the role Del Pilar-class Frigates have in
The West Philippine Sea wherein having the upgrades it needs
helps improve its capability to perform and deliver its duty.
Link to the original photo.
The upgrades as supplanted in the bid bulletin are part of the efforts of the Philippine Navy to modernize its fleet, along with that of other branches within the Armed Forces of the Philippines especially now on the Second Horizon.

These ships will be armed to its eyes and teeth where it currently seeks the procurement of sensors and data link system along with its logistics and after-support components wherein this will provide the capability for these vessels to detect subsurface components such as submarines with the hull-mounted sonar it seeks as well as the radar electronic support measure components which in its entirety will be fitted in a Combat Management System that can communicate with other units in the combat environment about the activities that the opposing forces made. From here, it makes the performance of the ships in doing its duties and responsibilities in active service more effective and efficient in a way that their capabilities will complement the upcoming projects of the Philippine Navy such as the Jose Rizal-class Frigates from South Korea that will be delivered a year or two from now, the Offshore Patrol Vessel program that is on the proposal stage, and the Corvette Acquisition Program which is slated within the Horizon timeline which is at the present date until the year 2022.

Once the contract is signed and the goods, as well as services, are delivered to the end-user by the contractor as stipulated in the terms supplanted by the bidding specifications, it may improve the ships further that the aim is to satisfy the capability needed in order to carry out patrols where the threats are looming around and the vessels are needed such as the one depicted above. Overall, all of these things will be worth the effort on Modernizing the Armed Forces in a way that ensures the safety and welfare of the country's National Sovereignty and its interest that the citizens will benefit after all.




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