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.


Curtis Conway said...

The SAAB 9LV Combat Management System also readily interfaces the Naval Strike Missile, and Mk15 CIWS with little integration effort save cable installation and checkout. The NSM gives teeth to the Del Pilar-class Frigates, and Mk15 CIWS provides greater survivability. The SAAB CMS has towed array sonar that can readily be interfaced.

If the South Korean CMS can do the same, maintaining commonality across the Philippine Navy Fleet, then long-term logistical support cost over time will be less compared to supporting two separate and very different systems.

This is the decision and hopefully the Philippines have cost this all out.

Norman L. Ocampo said...

So until now, the STUPID Koreans are still pushing for their UNPROVEN Hanwha Naval Shield CMS, after they DUPED us on the CMS of the Jose Rizal Class Frigate, we NEVER learned our lessons...STOP dealing with the Koreans if they cannot give us the equipment we prefer, we are the CUSTOMER and they need our money, and UNTIL now where is the another POHANG corvette they promised to donate on us, HOSTAGING again the Philippines, no Corvette deal no POHANG donation?

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