The Philippine Navy's Corvette Offer from Turkey

The Philippine Navy is materializing its Modernization program at a full-throttle, in a sense that multiple participants are willing to bet their product designs and offers in a bid that they can secure a deal and make out the best in penetrating the country's military and defense arms market.

This is the story of how a country in the Eastern Mediterranean provided its bet for the Philippine Navy's Corvette Acquisition Project as it competes with the design that has already been proven, and a shipbuilder that already has the experience dealing with the maritime branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Turkish Navy's TCG Burgazada (F-513), an Ada-class
Corvette of the fleet.
Obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Four months ago from the time that this article was published, Turkey's news outlet Daily Sabah, citing a report made by the Philippine News Agency also from that same date, reported the visit of key Philippine Navy contingent led by then-Flag Officer in Command (FOIC) Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo in Turkey's state-owned defense contractor ASFAT or Askeri Fabrika ve Tersane İşletme (Military Factory, and Shipyard Management) under an invitation.

During the visit of the Philippine Navy contingent to the said Turkish defense contractor, it provided an opportunity for ASFAT to showcase its capabilities as part of the greater Turkish defense industrial complex that fully provides the military and defense needs of the Turkish government through its military units from the production of ordnance rounds to the production of warships for its navy.

This move was shown as an attempt of both sides to further strengthen the ties between the Philippines in Turkey, especially with regards to defense-related matters of both countries, as this was first exhibited when the Philippine Air Force, along with the Department of National Defense, decided to award the contract for the Attack Helicopter Acquisition Project to the Turkish Aerospace Industries, the supplier for the T-129 "ATAK" Helicopters.

With this strengthening of ties that both sides wanted to improve, it presented an opportunity for the Turkish state-owned defense company to get its hands on the Philippines' ever-growing military and defense market, as this presents the way for them to grow beyond its borders and for the aspiration of exporting more ships that will cement its customer share in the process.

Take note that ASFAT currently supplies its warships to Pakistan, with the design showing similarities to an Ada-class Corvette design shown in the image above, and is also possibly a design that will be provided for their product offer in the Philippine Navy's Corvette Acquisition Project, in which we will be discussing in detail, along with the story of the Turkish Defense Company and the specification of their current warships.

Screenshot of the company's website.

Based on its corporate information written on its website, ASFAT or Military Factory, and Shipyard Management in English, was just a recent creation of Turkey's Ministry of Defense from three years ago with the aims of exporting its products through a Government-to-Government approach, in the same manner how PITC or the Philippine International Trade Corporation makes a deal in behalf of the Department of National Defense, or how Rosoboronexport does trade in behalf of the Russian Government.

Given this arrangement, ASFAT serves as a middleman in the deals that it has on behalf of the Turkish defense industry to export countries, wherein they have sealed the deal with Pakistan for its own corvette acquisition project months after AFSAT as a company was founded, gaining a customer in its deal that pushes Turkish-made defense products outside the country.

While ASFAT does the deal in securing a contract for Pakistan during those times, the Turkish shipbuilder that overlooks the construction of the project points to the Istanbul Naval Shipyard, with the help of a Defense Engineering Firm Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik ve Ticaret or STM (English for Defense Technologies Engineering and Trade), a firm that was incorporated in 1991, two-decades-long before ASFAT became the Turkish state-owned defense contractor of today.

One of the achievements that STM has made throughout its operation since its inception is the development and eventually, the production of the MILGEM design warships that define vessels that are in service like the Ada-class Corvettes, and the succeeding ones that came with it like the export variant of the MILGEM design produced for the Pakistani Naval Forces.

Securing the contract for the acquisition of Corvettes for the Philippine Navy will be considered an achievement for STM as a planner/systems integrator, Istanbul Naval Shipyard as a shipbuilder, and for ASFAT as a Turkish Defense Contractor, in a sense that they increase their reputation as a reputable arms exporter that showcases the capabilities of the Turkish Military-Industrial Complex in delivering its goods to any country that sees interest in obtaining their locally-produced defense technology.

The outline of Turkey's MiLGEM design, the basis for its Ada-class Corvettes.
Image Source.

The MiLGEM warship design, at a glance, is an important project pursued by the Turkish Armed Forces as it enforced its own version of a Self-Reliant Defense Posture, in a sense that it promotes the design of construction of these warships by the Turkish, in the Turkish shipyards like the Instanbul Naval Shipyard or ones owned by STM, to improve its military defense industries that provide jobs for citizens while catering the needs of the Turkish Armed Forces at the same time.

A concept that will define the MiLGEM warship design started way back in 2006 when the parties involved, particularly the Turkish Government and STM, signed the Agreement on Design Services for Prototype Vessel, Construction of the Platform, and Procurement of Equipment, Materials, and Services, which it gave obligation for the STM to start providing package designs and prototype for what would be the future Turkish-concept warship at that time.

A prototype ship was built in 2007, wherein it was commissioned to the Turkish Navy four years later in 2011, wherein it bears the name TCG Heybeliada (F-511), the first of what will be known as the Ada-class Corvettes of the Turkish Navy, of which four were built in the fleet, naming the TCG Büyükada (F-512)TCG Burgazada (F-513), and the TCG Kınalıada (F-514), along with the TCG Heybeliada as mentioned, forming the warships that symbolize the resurgence of the Turkish naval shipbuilding industry.

Aside from the Ada-class Corvettes, another design that was derived from the MiLGEM warship design is the STM's Istanbul-class Frigates (or I-class Frigates as written on its website), which are basically an enlarged variant of the Ada-class that may also possibly be offered as the candidate for the Philippine Navy's Corvette Acquisition Project other than the Ada-class Corvette.

The development of design, construction of warships, and integration of its systems are a breakthrough for Turkey as it pursues its military and defense industries, in a sense that they are aspiring to export it to countries like the Philippines and establish as one of the reputable sources of military hardware that any other country can aspire to transact, at a push of improving the country's economy under this industrial sector.

The full specifications of a MiLGEM Block 1 - Ada-class Corvettes of the Turkish Navy.
(c) Naval Analyses.

Referencing the infographic image provided by a warship-oriented website Naval Analyses, the Ada-class Corvettes of the Turkish Navy came with their locally-made subcomponents, preferably those produced by ASELSAN, which is an Ankara-based Turkish defense corporation that also provided some of the subcomponents for the Philippine Navy's Jose Rizal-class Frigates such as its SMASH 30mm gun system.

Take note also that their design came with an Oto Melara Super Rapid Gun mount, which is also a common sight on board the ships in service within the Philippine Navy from the older Del Pilar-class and Jacinto-class Offshore Patrol Vessels to the recently-procured ones like the BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), a Pohang-class Corvette acquired from South Korea and the fully-discussed Jose Rizal-class Frigates.

Speaking of the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, or the improved variant that the Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) offered to the Philippine Navy as a competition for the Corvette Acquisition Project, both came with a Vertical Launch System or VLS installed onboard the vessel between the main cannon and the bridge superstructure, which is something that is not seen in the MiLGEM Block 1 Ada-class Corvettes of the Turkish Navy (while this is available on the modified Ada-class variant that ASFAT offered to the Pakistani Navy, which is also the one that they offer to the Philippine Navy).

In the Philippine Navy's case, they will be offered a modified variant of the Ada-class Corvette similar to the one offered to the Pakistani Navy with a Vertical Launch System (VLS) subcomponent installed onboard the ship, alongside other weaponry fitted onboard such as its anti-ship missile batteries and the other mentioned cannon and gun systems that came along with the warship unit, plus the Istanbul-class Frigates are presented as an optional candidate for the project.

To complete this up, let it be noted that the Istanbul-class Frigates came with 113.2 meters in length while keeping the same meters in the beam as the Ada-class Corvettes while having a displacement of 3,000 tons, almost as similar as the HDC-3100 offered by Hyundai Heavy Industries, only that both of the vessels mentioned came with a maximum speed of 29+knots, faster than what the South Korean shipbuilder has provided with its ships for the Philippine Navy.

The Ada-class Corvette variant (image above) was offered to the Pakistani Navy. Image Source.

The Philippine Navy is still materializing its Corvette Acquisition Project, with the preferences more likely to stick with the South Koreans and their HDC-3100 warship design, which in itself is an improved variant of the HDF-2600 that in itself served as a basis for the Hyundai Heavy Industries to produce the Jose Rizal-class Frigates that the Philippine Navy currently has in its inventory.

That, however, is not yet certain and final at the time this article was published as there may still be changed in the preferences of the decision-makers, in a sense that ASFAT is still betting on the chances that they secure this acquisition project from the Philippine Navy, adding the roster of Turkish-made weaponry provided to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, along with the T-129 ATAK Helicopters of the Turkish Aerospace Industries or TAI.

As the Philippine Navy contingent managed to visit Turkey, especially the main Headquarters of ASFAT in the capital city of Ankara, the Turkish defense contractor has provided an opportunity to showcase their offers before the contingent in the hopes that their bid will be chosen for the Corvette Acquisition Project, in a sense that this will enable them to deal with the Philippine Armed Forces in the long term, especially that they have provisions of producing the ships in the country.

Also, ASFAT's MiLGEM warship offer presents an opportunity of improving defense-related ties between Turkey and the Philippines, as this posture strengthens the bond of both the supplier and the buyer, promoting confidence that a successful deal may happen and with it came the trust that the supplier will provide the needs of the buyer, basing the latter's requirements.

With ASFAT's aspirations came clear, it will be at the discretion of the Philippine Navy in choosing the best candidate design presented for its Corvette Acquisition Project, as this came at a price tag far more expensive than the ones allotted for the first Frigate Acquisition Project, which is pegged at Php 28 Billion, now with the buyer's aim that the chosen proponent of the project will provide the goods that are worth the price.

(c) 2021 PDA.

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