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Additional Shaldag-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts for the Philippine Navy?

The Philippine Navy recently received its two Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts-Missile vessels from Israel, whereby these vessels have produced by Israel Shipyards, adding more brand new naval vessels in the fleet service alongside capable vessels like the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, or the ones in the pipeline like the Corvette and Offshore Patrol Vessel Acquisition Projects.

With this, the fleet is now aspiring to have more vessel of such type, even to where it correlates to the country's stance in its Self-Reliance Defense Posture initiative, as the rest of such vessels may get produced in the country, through the Navy's shipyard.

Acero-class FAIC-Ms, Shaldag-class Fast Attack Crafts, Philippine Navy
Philippine Navy has just christened and commissioned two Shaldag-derived vessels known as the Acero-class FAIC-Ms, both produced by Israel Shipyards. (c) Philippine Navy, via Naval News.

The Philippine Navy recently commissioned two of its newest vessels in the fleet, naming the BRP Nestor Acero (PG901) and the BRP Lolinato To-ong (PG902), two out of nine Shaldag V Fast Attack Interdiction Craft-Missile vessels that the fleet, through the Department of National Defense, has ordered from Israel Shipyards, the manufacturer for these vessels.

In a typical Philippine Navy mandate, these vessels may get deployed in areas such as the West Philippine Sea, supporting the Navy's larger vessels in the area, or in the country's southern waters whereby the borders are porous and these fast attack interdiction crafts can augment law enforcement vessels deployed in the area such as those operated by the Philippine Coast Guard.

These two newly gained Shaldag vessels, known in the Philippine Navy as the Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Craft-Missile vessels, are part of the Revised AFP Modernization Program or R.A. 10349, in which the allotted budget for the contract comes at around Php 10 Billion, slated for the country's naval force as part of the Modernization Program's Horizon 2 phase.

This acquisition project comes with the provision of having the first six vessels (including BRP Nestor Acero (PG901) and BRP Lolinato To-ong (PG902)) made in Israel Shipyards's shipbuilding facilities in a port near the City of Haifa, Israel, while the remaining three may get produced in a Philippine Navy shipyard in Cavite as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Self-Reliance Defense Posture initiative or SRDP.

With this, the Philippine Navy is now planning to buy at least 15 more Shaldag-designed Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts to the fleet, in which it has a positive effect not only to the market access of Israel Shipyards to the Philippine defense market, but also to the prospect of the Philippine Armed Forces in its approach of upholding its self-reliance defense initiative as we get it discussed throughout this article.

See related: Knowing the Shaldag-class Fast Patrol Boats (PDA, July 04, 2019)
Israel Navy, Philippine Navy, Shaldag Mk. V FAIC-M
Israel Navy's Shaldag Mk. V Fast Attack Craft. Image obtained from Israel Shipyards website. 

Years ago, we made an article wherein we have provided an insight regarding the shipbuilder and the development of these vessels, along with the number of varying Shaldag designs and the Philippine Navy's Fast Attack Interdiction Craft-Missile Acquisition Project itself that has made this endeavor possible to the point of adding more platform of this type under Self-Reliance Defense Posture.

Regarding the vessel manufacturer, Israel Shipyards is basically one of Israel's many state-owned defense industrial complexes, whereby this one focuses primarily on producing indigenously built vessels for the Israel Navy, in which that includes the Shaldag Mk. V in the images whereby it is also the same type of vessel that the Philippine Navy received under its said Acquisition Project that calls for nine units.

Before the Shaldag Mk. V Fast Attack Interdiction Craft has developed and mass produced by Israel Shipyards, there are at least two more known variants that define the Shaldag family of vessels, of which these are the Shaldag Mk. II Fast Attack Boats and the Shaldag Mk. III/IV Fast Attack Boats, whereby the former has opted by the Israel Navy way back January 2002, whilst the latter is basically what it is, an improved variant of the Shaldag Mk. II with tweaks designed in compliance to the requirements needed by the Israel Navy.

The Fast Attack Interdiction Craft-Missile Acquisition Project has seen as one of those essential programs that may help modernize the Philippine Navy, coming alongside other acquisition projects like the Corvette Acquisition Project and the Offshore Patrol Vessel Acquisition Project, all of which are bagged by the South Korean shipbuilding firm Hyundai Heavy Industries.

Now that we have recalled the details of the previously made article, we may now focus deeply on the information surrounding the Philippine Navy's plan to add more Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts into its fleet, whereby the Israel Shipyards having a better chance of having a deal under this proposal as they already delivered the first two Acero-class (Shaldag) vessels to the Philippine Navy fleet, setting up standards for commonality and ease of securing spare parts and operational/maintenance procedures.

BRP Nestor Acero PG-901, Philippine Navy, Shaldag-class
The lead ship of its class, the BRP Nestor Acero (PG-901). Via Manila Standard.

Adding fifteen (15) more Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Craft-Missile vessels or FAIC-Ms came as the new Philippine Navy Flag Officer-In Command Rear Adm. Toribio Adaci Jr told the reporters during the commissioning rites of both the BRP Nestor Acero (PG-901, image seen above), and its sister-ship BRP Lolinato To-Ong (PG-902) last November 28, 2022.

This information came as the new Philippine Navy chief stresses the need for additional Fast Attack Interdiction Craft-Missile vessels to meet the Navy's requirements in patrolling the littoral waters, which is clear that this is fully different from the nine units that this naval branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines ordered, of which two aforementioned vessels has already getting delivered and commissioned into service.

It has taken note that the Philippine Navy, in the last three years prior to the delivery of these Shaldag-derived vessels, has decommissioned its old vessels, most of which has served the Second World War before getting turned over to the Philippine fleet for its operations for the rest of its serviceable life prior to its exit from service with no immediate replacements, like with the decommission of BRP Miguel Malvar (PS19) and BRP Magat Salamat (PS20) last 2021.

Like the old World War 2-era vessels that these Acero-class FAIC-Ms replaced, these vessels are likely to get assigned in the Philippine Navy's Littoral Combat Force, which differs from the large combat vessels of the fleet like the Jose Rizal-class Frigates serving the Offshore Combat Force as the said vessels have different mission requirements and the operational requirements that came with it.

Once this proposal pushes through, this may offset some of the recently decommissioned vessels to where the overall numbers of vessels within the Philippine Navy may replenish that other essential vessels may get assigned to other important areas of assignment, like the key combatants of the Philippine Navy getting assigned to an area of water like the West Philippine Sea whilst the Acero-class FAIC-Ms dealing with littoral areas like the porous Sulu Sea area or in areas off the coast of Southern Mindanao.

SPIKE Missile, Israel, Shaldag, Acero-class, Philippine Navy
An Israel-made Spike missile launch from a Typhoon MLS-NLOS missile system installed on the Azerbaijani Coast Guard's Saar 62 offshore patrol vessel. Image: Azerbaijan State Border Service/YouTube, via The Defense Post.

While being small vessels, these Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts - Missile came with a firepower punch, specifically coming with a naval variant of the SPIKE NLOS (Non Line Of Sight) Missile weapons fit, an Israeli-developed guided munitions courtesy of RAFAEL Systems Ltd., the Israeli defense firm that has also provided the SPYDER Ground-Based Air Defense Systems to the Philippine Air Force.

Like the SPIKE NLOS Naval Variant Missile System, RAFAEL Systems also fitted its Typhoon Stabilized Remote-Controlled Weapons System, or RCWS, with the Typhoon RCWS 30-millimeter cannon variant as its main weapon and two (2) lightweight mini-Typhoons being its secondary weaponry, giving sophisticated and highly precision-based firepower that can sufficiently deter littoral threats.

As for the logistical chains surrounding these weapons systems, it may not go as much of a concern in relation to the use of these weapons fitted onboard the Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts-Missile vessels as the SPIKE Missile system are also currently in-use by other naval assets of the Philippine Navy, such as the Multipurpose Attack Craft or MPAC Mk. 3 (in which it uses the SPIKE-ER variant) and the AW-159 Antisubmarine Helicopters that comes with SPIKE-NLOS as one of its primary munitions.

As for the Typhoon Remote-Controlled Weapons System (RCWS), it served as the primary weapons platform for the Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Craft-Missile, with the Typhoon Mk. 30-C variant seems to be apparent that it may get on its way onboard the South Korean-made HDC-3100 Corvettes based on our colleagues in the defense community, albeit it is not a full 100% confirmation yet.

These Israeli-made weaponry found onboard these Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts-Missile gives assurance to the weapons ecosystem that Israel offers, making it a preferable logistical option for the Philippine Navy in securing spare parts and munitions made by an Israeli Defense company like RAFAEL Systems, such as for its Remote Controlled Weapons Systems and missile system solutions.

BRP Nestor Acero, Zamboanga City, Philippines, Philippine Navy
BRP Nestor Acero (PG-901) deployed into the Western Mindanao area, specifically in the regional headquarters in Zamboanga City. (c) Western Mindanao Command

The Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Craft-Missile Vessels purchased by the Philippine Navy are just one of many modernization projects pursued by the Naval Branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in desiring to get more capable and newer vessels in its fleet, in its desire to replace the older World War 2 vessels it once have before it went decommissioned from service.

Augmenting other vessels that the Philippine Navy purchased, like the Offshore Patrol Vessels and additional Pohang-class (BRP Conrado Yap PS-39) class Corvettes, the Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Craft-Missile vessels may go on as one of the primary platforms intended for littoral security and defense, going along other littoral vessels like the Navy's Multipurpose Attack Crafts or MPACs of differing variant it has in service.

Other than the numerical deployment benefits that the acquisition of the Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Craft-Missile vessels brought to the Philippine Navy's overall capabilities, the deal that they have with Israel Shipyards through the Department of National Defense presented an opportunity for getting additional vessels of this type produced in the country, helping the Armed Forces of the Philippines improve its prospects in relation to its SRDP or Self Reliance Defense Posture initiative

If these plans of adding more Shaldag/Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Craft vessels push through, it will both help the Philippine Navy and the country's push for Self Reliance Defense Posture, as this can generate more jobs for the local citizens to get and sustain to feed their families, improving the vibrancy of the country's economy and eventually the experience gathered helps bolster local naval shipbuilding to new heights.

Simply put, the advantages presented in adding these vessels to the Philippine Navy give a promising insight in relation to its boost in capabilities along with the perks that came with it that helps improve the economy, although it is still at the discretion of the decision makers whether that the project is worthy to push through, and the budgetary requirements is available and workable enough for it to materialize smoothly, all for making this aspiration a reality.

(c) 2022 PDA.


Understanding the Specifications of the HHI's Philippine Navy OPV

This acquisition project serves as the third one awarded to the South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries, after the Frigate Acquisition Project of the First Horizon which is now called the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, and the Corvette Acquisition Project, in which its design cues have derived from the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, with its design name being the HDC-3100.

While the offer made by the South Korean shipbuilder is something we've discussed here in Pitz Defense Analysis, there are some variations made to the offer provided to the Philippine Navy that deserve its own discussion, which is the main purpose of this article.

HDP-2400, Philippine Navy, Offshore Patrol Vessel, HHI
Hyundai Heavy Industries' Offshore Patrol Vessel offer to the Philippine Navy, which is an enlarged variant of the HDP-1500, and with increased tonnage. Hyundai Heavy Industries via Image Source.

Before the change in administration took place on June 30, 2022, the Department of National Defense sealed a deal with the South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries for the construction of six (6) Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Philippine Navy when both parties signed the contract that may stipulate the obligations of both the buyer and the seller involved, from delivery dates to the milestone payment schemes.

The allotted budget for the contract or ABC has amounted to Php 30 Billion, which is equivalent to Php 5 Billion per Offshore Patrol Vessel constructed by the South Korean shipbuilder, with the design of the vessels may get derived from the HDP-1500 Offshore Patrol Vessel design of Hyundai Heavy Industries, although there are noticeable changes in the design such as having a stretched hull of around 94.4 meters (see image above).

The stretched hull counts as an improvement over the 81-metered design of the original HDP-1500 Offshore Patrol Vessel offer by Hyundai Heavy Industries, and even better than Austal's 81.7 metered offshore patrol vessel offer, whereby the 94.4 metered vessel may provide additional space for future upgrades at the discretion of the Philippine Navy, with the option of making it formidable by adding weapons subcomponents onboard.

Former Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana said in this report that his office during that time did not allow the Offshore Patrol Vessel Acquisition Project to get dragged on until the next administration, as the Philippine Peso being at the disadvantage against the U.S. Dollar in the exchange rate, whereby it is at US$1.00 - Php 55.00 at the time this article has written, while the Offshore Patrol Vessel deal pegged at US$1.00 - Php 52.00 exchange rate.

Aside from an improvement in the hull design of the Offshore Patrol Vessels, the contract also provides a license for the Philippine Navy to manufacture or build using the design provided for this acquisition project exclusive for the Philippine government to use, which is basically a transfer of technology that may help push the shipbuilding portion of the Self-Reliance Defense Posture or SRDP.

The license or what we call as transfer of technology may help catalyst the push for Self-Reliance Defense Posture, which itself may go as the primary highlight for the Third Horizon of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program, whereby in-production of military hardware, innovation, and multiple transfers of technology are the highlight under this initiative.

Given that there are revisions in the design of the Philippine Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels, along with the clarity of information that has provided in the specifications of what Hyundai Heavy may soon provide for the Offshore Combat Force and the Philippine fleet in its entirety, we will discuss in-depth about the revisions in the design specifications, and also the features plus subcomponents that may find in these warships.

HDP-2400, Infographic, Philippine Navy, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Pitz Defense Analysis
Similar to the first image, a CGI from Hyundai Heavy Industries, now filled with additional information about the OPV's subcomponents, specifications, and dimensions, with data got from other defense outlets.

Pitz Defense Analysis Note: The infographic content provided is not totally complete at the time this article published, as there may be changes taking place in the design or in the subcomponents of the new Offshore Patrol Vessels of the Philippine Navy, whereby the references include the subsystems found onboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, as this makes sense from the logistical and commonality point of view.

Given the infographic above, we can see that there is a significant improvement in the overall design of the Offshore Patrol Vessel design as offered by Hyundai Heavy Industries to the Philippine Navy, as its size are larger than several of the existing warships in the fleet such as the BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39), a Pohang-class Corvette from South Korea, formerly known as the ROKS Chungju (PCC-762).

Having a 94-meter length and 14.3-meter beam dimension, the Offshore Patrol Vessels have sufficient spaces for future upgrades such as a weapons fit for anti-ship missiles and torpedo launchers, making it formidable enough and may get re-categorized as light corvettes, although these things will come at the discretion of the Philippine Navy as an end-user, whether these add-ins are necessary to the ship's capability.

Known subcomponents such as the 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid Main Gun, MBDA Simbad-RC Missile Launchers for Mistral short surface-to-air missiles, and ASELSAN SMASH 30mm Remote-Controlled Weapons System (RCWS) are also available onboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, whereby it made sense from logistical and commonality point of view, giving Philippine Navy personnel an advantage of streamlined maintenance for common spare parts, and on operational use that it does not require taking a learning curve in utilizing these weapons systems.

Also, the ships came with 2 units of long-range acoustic device or LRAD per vessel, whereby it can use as a sound-based weapon that can disable insurgents at sea like pirates from doing threatening things that put harm on the sea lanes, or as a warning for other vessels that approach a naval vessel to change course using its high-decibel sound it emits while avoiding the use of lethal force against any threatening vessel.

With 2,400tons, these Offshore Patrol Vessels may not count as the HDP-1500 design, which only has 1,500tons as originally offered by Hyundai Heavy Industries to the Philippine Navy, but these warships instead may now consider as the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessel design, as the enlarged hull and increased tonnage makes it distinct and different from the HDP-1500 design albeit that the HDP-2400 has clearly derived itself from the HDP-1500 design.

Now that we have an infographic overview of the subsystems found on-board the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels of the Philippine Navy, we will discuss several of these systems in-depth, including the ones that are available onboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigates that are not yet being tackled here in Pitz Defense Analysis website as additional information will provide an insight to the capabilities of these naval vessels.

GOKDENIZ, ASELSAN, OPV, HDP-2400, Philippine Navy, Offshore Patrol Vessel
This is one product that the Turkish weapons company produces, aside from the GOKDENIZ 35mm CIWS.
(c) ASELSAN, via Image Source.

These 30mm Secondary Gun Systems are from a Turkish-based defense company ASELSAN, the same company that produces the 35mm GOKDENIZ Close-In Weapons System or CIWS that the Philippine Navy HDC-3100 Corvettes may now soon be having in the wide array of weapons subcomponents fitted in a ship, and also the one that has similar remotely controlled weapons system or RCWS fitted onboard the Jose Rizal Frigates.

The SMASH Remote-Controlled Weapons System comes with a 30mm Mk. 44 Bushmaster II Auto-cannon as its main firepower component, itself being a weapon that is widely adopted into multiple armies and navies across the world, coming with an impressive rate of 200 rounds per minute, whereby it is being used by several military platforms like the British Royal Navy's Type 23 Frigate through the DS30M Mark 2 Automated Small Caliber Gun.

Like any Mk.44 Bushmaster II weapon mounts, ASELSAN SMASH Remote-Controlled Weapons System benefits to the dual feed system that made the impressive 200 rounds per minute firing possible, while having a stabilized system that enables the controller to fire at a target that poses a threat on the ship without the worry on accuracy that is typically affected by waves of different sea states.

As ASELSAN advertise it in their brochure and we quote, "SMASH is a Remote Controlled Naval Gun System fitted with a 30 mm gun integrated on a stabilized pedestal with independent Electro-Optic Sight and surveillance mode (without aiming the gun)", they depicted that this gun system has a sophisticated feature that can monitor the warship's surroundings in its line of sight even without using the gun turret, making it less noticeable for any vessel in its line of sight that they are being monitored.

Regarding its service within the Philippine Navy, the personnel onboard BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) used its ASELSAN 30mm Remote-Controlled Weapons System in a gunnery exercise, alongside its 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid Main Gun and a 0.50mm machine gun mounts as it aimed its targets deployed by the Royal Canadian Navy Frigate HCMS Winnipeg (FFH-338) at-sea during RIMPAC 2022 exercise.

The gunnery exercises that the BRP Antonio Luna took part during RIMPAC 2022 exercise off the coast of the Hawaiian islands made it one of the best naval vessels as it landed third in the Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) Rodeo, showing the firing accuracy that the crew has while utilizing the ship's weapons system, including the Turkish ASELSAN SMASH 30mm Secondary Gun System.

BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151)'s award in the gunnery exercises and the experiences they have during the at-sea phase of RIMPAC 2022 may help its crew share important skill-sets that may help the people in the Philippine Navy to further hone the use of its key weapons systems onboard their naval vessels sufficiently, whereby accurate operations for the Turkish-developed Remote-Controlled Weapons Systems System are more effective in a skillful hand of a well-trained naval personnel.

MBDA, Mistral, SIMBAD-RC, VL-MICA, Philippine Navy, HDP-2400
Here's what to be the minimal anti-air defense systems of the Offshore Patrol Vessels. (c) MBDA Systems.

While the Jose Rizal-class Frigates got these short anti-air missile mounts as an augmentation measure for both its Fitted For But Not With (FFBNW) components, such as the Close-In Weapons System or CIWS and Vertical Launch System or VLS, the Offshore Patrol Vessels that the Philippine Navy may soon have, may render these platforms as a necessity for its own air defense measures.

It is an understandable thing, given that Offshore Patrol Vessels by design are not more combative, as compared to its Frigate and Corvette counterparts that have typically installed with sophisticated subsystems such as the ones just mentioned, designed to have a descent air defense system that aimed to protect a warship against any incoming airborne threats such as a missile or an incoming unmanned aerial system or aircraft.

The SIMBAD-RC missile launcher installed onboard the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels has designed with the Mistral MANPADS in mind, whereby it can get operated by one or two naval personnel, as it has the range of fire at around 6 kilometers whereas it has an altitude of fire at around 3 kilometers, fitting into its description as a SHORAD or short-range air defense platform.

Unlike the typical Mistral MANPADS or Man-Portable Air Defense Systems that typically came with a single Mistral missiles fit, the SIMBAD-RC missile launcher comes with two Mistral 'fire-and-forget' missiles as what this brochure from MBDA describes it, especially that its sophisticated high-technology tracking system comes as an infrared homing seeker that enables the missiles that are fully automated during flight.

The essentials of a homing seeker make it simple for the operator of the SIMBAD-RC missile launcher to use, as the learning curve is not steep for any assigned naval personnel in taking up a training in operating the VSHORAD or very short air defense system, and as what MBDA brochure describes it once again, that such systems do not require a fire control system similar on what is typically being paired on the 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid Main Gun.

The SIMBAD-RC missile launcher itself comes fully automatic, as it can get remotely controlled through a terminal, going similar to the ASELSAN SMASH 30mm Remote-Controlled Weapons Systems or RCWS, making all the weapons systems onboard an HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels automatically operated, minimizing exposure of naval personnel from gunfire.

A simple anti-air defense system as the SIMBAD-RC for Mistral missile system is fairly essential for an Offshore Patrol Vessel that lacks sufficient air defense system as the HDP-2400 design provided by the South Korean shipbuilder to the Philippine Navy, as these simple-to-use systems gives a sufficient cover against minute threats coming from the sky, as these warships has designed to patrol the country's waters.

LRAD, HDP-2400, Philippine Navy
Different models of LRAD Systems.  Image Source.

While the first two subsystems are a common thing within the Philippine Navy, especially that it is also available onboard the Jose Rizal-class Frigate, this one is an entirely unique system found onboard the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels, as this primarily serve as a non-lethal weapon system aimed at warding off other vessels that are within the perimeter of these warships.

This comes handy in dealing with maritime crimes that are rampant in areas such as the ones in Sulu Sea, whereby it counts as a hotspot for kidnapping, ship hijacking, and any other forms of piracy that need to resolve by the country as this hampers the peace and security situation in the area, especially for commercial and fishing vessels that traverse the sea that borders the Philippines and Malaysia.

Talking about piracy, the Long Range Acoustic System or LRAD has credited for warning of pirates in an area off coast of Somalia, as a cruise ship used this nonlethal weapon system that emits a beam of sound that drove these harmful people away from the ship, averting what could be a highly risky situation that the ship, its crew, and the passengers onboard being hostage by Somali pirates.

An LRAD unit works by emitting a beam of sound, sound that is so loud that it is audible for long distances, fully appropriate for the Philippine Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels in communicating to other vessels that are lacking with radio equipment, or sending a warning on other vessels to veer course if it get close to the warships, aside from the mentioned deterrence against piracy and other maritime crimes using the LRAD's unbearable noise emitter.

With a weapon system like a LRAD, this may help the Philippine Navy HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels in conducting operations in such porous waters, as this gives them an additional weapon option, with this one not requiring the use any of its live munitions and weapons subsystems found onboard the ship, and instead use the same in more dire situations that may justify the use of such lethal weapons.

Also, this weapon system adds more to the capability of the Offshore Patrol Vessels in the sense that these ships can effectively patrol other areas of the Philippine archipelago that have little worrying threat from external forces, enabling more capable combatants like the Jose Rizal-class Frigates and the HDC-3100 Corvettes that the Philippine Navy also ordered from South Korea get deploy on areas with more concern such as the West Philippine Sea as China's aggression is always of constant threat in that area.

Simply put, it is welcoming that the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels that the Philippine Navy may get years from now comes with this feature, as this is helpful in areas aforementioned that its concern hampers the peace and security in the country's Sulu and Celebes Sea areas, while assuring that deterring these threats promote economic development that benefit the country in its entirety.

HDP-2400, BRP Teresa Magbanua, PCG, Philippine Coast Guard, PN, Philippine Navy
BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV-9701) is 3.4 meters longer than the HDP-2400 OPVs. (c) binmei.jp, via Reddit.

Comparing to the original HDP-1500 Neo design provided by Hyundai Heavy Industries as part of its Offshore Patrol Vessel portfolio, the HDP-2400 has presented as an improvement in terms of tonnage provided, as well as with its hull size, whereby the length increased by 13.4 meters, while the breadth has increased by at least 1.2 meters, making it larger to afford future upgrades.

In comparison, the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels are in any way larger than the Jacinto-class Patrol Vessels (JCPVs) of the Philippine Navy, whereby these former Peacock-class Patrol Vessels of the British Royal Navy have a length of around 62 meters and breadth of around 10 meters, whilst having a tonnage of only around 712 tons, showing how far the Philippine fleet has improved now with improved warship designs.

Aside from the Jacinto-class Patrol Vessels or JCPVs, the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels are also larger than the BRP Conrado Yap PS-39, a Pohang-class Corvette from South Korea that once served in the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) as ROKS Chungju (PCC-772), whereby it has a length of 88.3 meters, breadth of 10 meters, and a ship displacement of 1,200tons.

Let us take note that the South Koreans are offering an additional Pohang-class Corvette as a freebie under the Offshore Patrol Vessel Acquisition Project, aside from other provisions that include transfer of technology through the licensing of HDP-2400 design for the Philippine government to produce its vessels for domestic use, whereby these offers also helped Hyundai Heavy Industry in bagging the project of producing six Offshore Patrol Vessels to the Philippine Navy, beating competitors like Turkey's ASFAT OPV offer.

If there is something that can visualize about the size of the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels that the Philippine Navy gets in the next couple of years, that would roughly be the Teresa Magbanua-class Multirole Response Vessels or MRRVs that the Philippine Coast Guard currently has in service, a Kunigami-class designed vessel provided by Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co, Ltd through a Japanese ODA Loan.

Originally coming as a 94-meter Multirole Response Vessel for the Philippine Coast Guard, the Teresa Magbanua-class MRRVs came with a length of 96.6 meters and breadth of 11.5 meters, making it longer than the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessels of the Philippine Navy but not that wide enough regarding its breadth, although both vessels are roughly similar in size within the 90-meter bracket despite having the minute differences mentioned.

Given that the Teresa Magbanua-class has considered as the largest vessel that the Philippine Coast Guard has to date, it is nice to see that the Philippine Navy may get more Offshore Patrol Vessels that are almost similar to its hull size, whereby both have the assets in making sure the country's Maritime Domain Awareness is getting more coverage, given the Philippine geography as an archipelagic nation.

HDC-3100, Hyundai Heavy Industries, ADAS 2022, Philippine Navy, Scale Model, Corvette Acquisition Project
A scale model of the HDC-3100 Corvette Design in ADAS 2022. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Philippine Navy's Offshore Patrol Vessel Acquisition Project is just one of the big-ticket projects of the said organization, wherein it comes along with the purpose of improving the capabilities of the Offshore Combat Force, as the whole naval service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is now shifting to modern naval vessels from the old, World War 2 era vessels that it decommissioned recently.

The HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessel design by Hyundai Heavy Industries may serve as another significant development regarding the capabilities of the Philippine Navy as compared to its condition in the early 2000s, whereby the most capable vessels during that time are the former Peacock-class, now Jacinto-class Patrol Vessels from British Royal Navy, with its 76mm Oto Melara Gun being the most sophisticated weaponry during that time.

Having these vessels is still important to the Philippine Navy, as these may provide a significant presence in other areas of the country's vast territorial waters, relieving more capable vessels that are more needed in areas such as the West Philippine Sea, giving an assurance that these waters are safe to traverse by commercial vessels, and for fishing vessels to catch fish as this serves as one among multiple lifelines of the country's food security.

With the size of the HDP-2400 Offshore Patrol Vessel design regarding its hull and tonnage, it has the huge potential for future upgrades, as the space may get any weapons subcomponent that the Philippine Navy has the fullest discretion to install onboard these vessels, ranging from anti-ship missile cannisters for the likes of SSM-700K C-Star Antiship missile, or torpedo launchers for the K-745 Blue Shark Torpedoes, both of which are available onboard other navy ships like the Jose Rizal-class Frigates.

Also, with the licensing agreements that allow the Philippines to build such ships within the country for local use, the South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries help provide a push for the country's Self-Reliance Defense Posture or SRDP, wherein it comes with the sense or revival under the Marcos administration, with improving the local defense industrial complex being one of their primary aims for the defense establishment.

With these developments coming on-hand, it is interesting to see how the Philippine Navy may look like for the next six (6) to eight (8) years from now, given that it may get filled with modern naval hardware as compared to its composition years ago, as the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines is doing in its whole effort to modernize its military hardware and capabilities into the modern age.

Now with Horizon 3 coming on its way, starting in the year 2023, it comes with the hopes and aspirations that the Philippine Navy may not stop into just gaining six units of Offshore Patrol Vessels, and instead adding more units into a sufficient number that are part of the country's effort into having a Minimum Credible Defense Posture, providing necessary deterrence for the country's defense against both internal and external threats that may put harm to the whole nation's sovereignty and national interest.

(c) 2022 PDA.

Additional FA-50PH For the Philippine Air Force?

The Philippine Air Force already possesses a squadron of these sophisticated air assets, which has proven a lot of its performance since it entered service just half a decade ago. Now, there are plans to buy at least another squadron of such aircraft, which some believes to be an alternative to the one of the big ticket acquisition projects of this said service branch.

Two of the twelve (12) FA-50PH that the Philippine Air Force currently has.
Image Source.

The Philippine Air Force is modernizing its squadrons of aircraft under the Flight Plan that it pushes until 2028, in-line with the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program, which has three Horizons for its different branches to accomplish. At the time this article published, the modernization effort is now under Horizon 2, which spans from 2018 to 2022.

Currently, under this horizon, the Philippine Air Force is pushing for at least a squadron of Multirole Fighter Jet under the acquisition program that bears the same name, aiming on having a capability that is a step higher than the Lead-In Fighter Trainers that the FA-50PH of the air branch is currently has in its squadrons of different aircraft. The project's ABC or Allotted Budget for the Contract is at 61.2 Billion Philippine Pesos.

The Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project is currently competing between Lockheed Martin's F-16 Block 70/72 and SAAB's JAS-39 Block C/D, which are both capable fighters aiming to be the backbone of the Philippine Air Force's air interdiction wing as part of its PADIZ implementation. Each has its own sets of problems presented that the Philippine Air Force sees it as an obstacle for the project itself.

For the Lockheed Martin's F-16 Block 70/72 offer, the major problem presented is with the package provided by the United States Government, through a release for the approval of sale in DSCA or the Defense Security Cooperation Agency website. The amount specified for the package pertaining to the F-16s is at US$2.43 Billion or 121.5 Billion Philippine Pesos. 

As for the SAAB's JAS-39 Gripen C/D variant, there is the recent news coming from Sweden that talks about the issues surrounding the sale of the aircraft to the country, pointing more to the Philippines' Human Rights Concerns that there are some groups of people within the Swedish Government that are ill-informed, although there are confirmations that the Philippines is pushing for a deal with the Swedish for these Multirole Fighter Jets.

With these concerns in consideration, we cannot dismiss the possibility that there might be chances that the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project may derail if things will not go to plan, although the chances that the said project will push through is now getting more likely as the government is working to complete and seal the deal within the year 2022 between two competing aerospace companies. 

Given the possibility, it is nice to present an additional to the Multirole Fighter Jet Program as the government is keen on pushing it through, with an idea of adding more FA-50PH that the Philippine Air Force already has in its fleet of aircraft being in the pipeline in achieving a High-Low mix of aircraft serving the Air Force's 5th Fighter Wing for implementing the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone or PADIZ.

Three FA-50PHs are in formation as they conduct a flyby for the country's 124th Independence Day Anniversary. (Joey O. Razon, Philippine News Agency)

Back to this article from the Philippine News Agency website, there were no specified details on how many units of the FA-50PH that the Philippine Air Force desires to add on its inventory of Lead-In Fighter Trainers or LIFT aircraft, although the original proposal for Surface Attack Aircraft/Lead-In Fighter Trainer aircraft under the original AFP Modernization Project (R.A. 7898) came with an idea of having at least 24 units for such type of aircraft in inventory.

Take note that for the Philippine Air Force, a single squadron of jets equates to have at least 12 units of aircraft in order to satisfy this requirement, so the original proposal under the Republic Act 7898 of the 1995 Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program should have at least two squadrons of such aircraft in its inventory, which in this case, is the FA-50PH that the air force currently has, with a single squadron currently in active service.

This means that following the said plans and proposals, the Philippine Air Force may need at least an additional 12 units of FA-50PH from South Korea's prime aerospace company 'Korea Aerospace Industries' or KAI in order to satisfy this requirement, which goes back to the article mentioned that PAF chief Lt. Gen. Connor Anthony Canlas Sr. said in his interview with the media on Monday about the proposal.

Other than that, the article mentioned Korea Aerospace Industries' plans to upgrade the capability of the FA-50s it currently produces, especially to increase its fuel capacity that increases its range especially on long-range operations and loitering time patrolling the airspace, while doing the same thing to its weapons carrying capacity, which makes it more formidable than it was when the Philippine Air Force first bought it from the South Korean aerospace company.

The said upgrade refers to the FA-50 Block 20 program started by Korea Aerospace Industries, which aims to improve capabilities of the aircraft, especially from the ones just mentioned regarding its carrying capacity, in what they aim to have fighter jet solution that is less expensive and seen as an alternative to multirole fighter jets like the F-16 Block 70 and JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D. See related article here.

The upgrade pushed by Korea Aerospace Industries makes sense, especially that the number of users of the T-50 Golden Eagle family has increased through time, with fellow countries in Southeast Asia like Indonesia and Thailand use them as fighter trainer aircraft for pilots in these said countries, given that they have the Multirole Fighter aircraft such as F-16 Falcon.

This consideration may become more relevant as more countries may get onboard the purchase of the Korean-made aircraft that has the same DNA as the Lockheed Martin F-16 Multirole Fighter and the South Korea's indigenous KF-21 Boramae 4.5th Generation Fighter Jet, which has started its first flight tests recently in a South Korean Air Force base in the southern city of Sacheon, in cooperation with South Korea's DAPA.

Poland is one country that recently signed a deal for FA-50s from South Korea's Korean Aerospace Industries or KAI. Image Source.

The FA-50 Light Combat Fighter Trainer jets of the Korean Aerospace Industries recently came with an interesting twist, especially regarding its customers that are currently having them in their respective inventories or in obtaining such type of jets, whereby they recently struck a deal with an Eastern European country and also a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO, the first one since the jet's inception.

The country we are referring to is the Eastern European country of Poland, in which its inventory currently has F-16 Falcon, aside from others such as the F-35 Lightning II Fighter Jets that the country ordered and its legendary Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29 Fighter jets that the Polish Air Force has the intention of replacing on, as these aircraft are increasingly difficult to maintain as spare parts became scarce.

Poland's contract process South Korea comes alongside the additional acquisition of at nearly a thousand (1,000) units of K2 Main Battle Tanks, whereby 180 units of it will produce in South Korea while the rest, at around 800 units, will get produced in Polish weapons factories at the second phase of the deal starting 2026, effectively giving the Polish Armed Forces the largest acquisition deal to date regarding armored units.

This deal does not cease here, as Poland also has an acquisition deal involving K9 Thunder Self-Propelled Howitzer by Hanwha Defense, in which 648 pieces of such military hardware have ordered by the aforementioned Eastern European country, benefiting both Poland and South Korea in the process as the former now fielding more weapons than ever and the latter getting significant gains at the sales point of view.

Effectively, additional sales for the FA-50 fighter trainer jets help increase the source of spare parts needed in maintenance that ensures that such platforms are operational, especially in the likes of the Philippine Air Force that currently has at least 12 of such FA-50 LIFTs in its inventory, as well as the prospects of getting an improved variant of the jets (Blocks 10 and 20) like what the Polish FA-50s may get along the way.

Speaking of the FA-50PL, the Block 10 comes with the British IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) Mark XIIA Mod 5/S, whilst the Block 20 comes with an AESA or airborne electronically scanned array radar, Sniper targeting pod, and Link 16 Datalink that makes it more of a capable fighter than the ones that the Philippine Air Force currently fielding, making the idea of adding more FA-50s a viable option on its own.

This makes sense as the leadership within the Philippine Air Force expressed its interest in having at least 24 FA-50 Lead-in Fighter Trainer Jets in its inventory, whilst keeping an assertion on finalizing the decision for the acquisition of Multirole Fighter Jets, which is an entirely separate acquisition project of the Philippine Air Force that is now competing between F-16 Block 70/72 and JAS-39 Gripen C/D jets.

South Korean FA-50s dropping unguided munitions. Image Source.

One thing that the chief of the Philippine Air Force said in this interview in relation to the plans of adding more advanced variants of FA-50PH in their inventory, especially for its sub-units like the 5th Fighter Wing to use, is that these South Korean-made lead-in fighter trainer jets have an "almost multi-role" capability, whereby it can conduct air-to-ground operations, as well as it can conduct air-to-air operations.

While it has the capability that may mimic the Multirole Fighter Jets, the Philippine Air Force is seeking advanced dedicated multirole fighters like the F-16 Block 70/72 and the JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D of Lockheed Martin and SAAB, respectively, clearly showing that these light combat jets have intended for pilots to train and familiarize a system that may get introduced later on, through a separate acquisition project.

This comes similarly with Poland, wherein they opt to buy FA-50s for its air force, as the FA-50s they purchased from South Korea has similarities with the F-16 Fighting Falcons that the Polish Air Force already has in its inventory, and the upcoming F-35 Lightning II Fighter Jets the Polish Armed Forces purchased from Lockheed Martin, as the first units ordered may get delivered on the first batches by the year 2024.

Speaking of the capabilities that the Philippine Air Force FA-50PH Lead-In Fighter Trainers possess, these said light fighter trainer jets have used in an actual conflict such as the 2018 Marawi siege, whereby it has coined by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Gen. Carlito Galvez as a 'game-changer' when the exchange of gunfire between the government forces and the radical group took place, providing that highly needed close air support to the troops on the ground.

Aside from utilizing the FA-50s in an actual conflict such as the 2018 Marawi siege, the Philippine Air Force also used them in conducting bilateral exercises with the United States Air Force, such as the Bilateral Air Contingent Exchange-Philippines (BACE-P), whereby these lead-in fighter trainers, along with the pilots onboard are going head-on with the modern F-16s that their U.S. counterparts brought along.

Add to this is the desire of the current Marcos administration to keep on pushing and pursuing the Modernization of the Philippine Armed Forces under the Republic Act 10349 that has started by his two predecessors, especially that he expressed his support on equipping the Philippine Air Force with the "state-of-the-art" fighter jets, of which the FA-50PHs counts as under this category alongside Multirole Fighter Jets awaiting award to the preferable bidder.

Hence, the possibility of the plans for acquiring additional FA-50PH for the Philippine Air Force is not that far, with newer variants providing additional capabilities for this branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to do, albeit not enough for it to be considered as an alternative of the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, whereby this program is still ongoing at the time this article's publishing.

FA-50PH of the Philippine Air Force taking off from an airbase. (c) PAF, via Image Source.

The Philippine Air Force, along with other service branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, such as the Philippine Army and the Philippine Navy, are working and pursuing in all of their effort to push the desire of further Modernizing the capabilities of each mentioned, ranging from reorganizing their respective their sub-units to the acquisition of large ticket military assets like the FA-50PH Lead-in Fighter Trainer.

Speaking of the FA-50PH of the Philippine Air Force, it marked as the jet that helped the organization returning to the jet age, after a decade that the last of the F-5 A/B has decommissioned from service in 2005, whereby it served the 5th Fighter Wing for 40 years, when it was first entered service in 1965 and has served as the primary platform for the Blue Diamond aerobatic team.

Currently, the Philippine Air Force has at least 12 units of FA-50PH, whereby it comprises as a single squadron by this service branch, with their current desire to add at least 12 more units, or another squadron of FA-50PH that came as an advanced variant that the Korean Aerospace Industries or KAI currently markets to different countries, with Poland, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, being its latest customer.

Apparently, with Poland, one reason they opt the South Korean made FA-50s for replenishing their inventory of fighter aircraft after decommissioning their MiG-29s is the increasing waiting orders for the F-16 Viper Block 70/72 Multirole Fighter Jet that could have been to increase the number of the existing F-16s Poland currently have, a concern also shared by the planners within the Philippine Air Force when they talk about the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project, itself an entirely different project than the one about additional FA-50s.

Despite the long queues, Lockheed Martin and the United States government are still pitching their F-16 Block 70/72 offer to the Philippine Air Force, as it competes with the JAS-39 Gripen C/D Multirole Fighter Jet from Swedish Aerospace Manufacturer SAAB, whereby there is an argument that both the F-16 Fighter Jets and the FA-50s that the Philippine Air Force currently has shared commonalities on its ecosystem.

And to take note, the Philippine Air Force are both pursuing for a Multirole Fighter Jet and additional FA-50s on its inventory, with each having 12 units or what is to be equivalent to a single squadron within the air service branch, whereby the former may serve as a dedicated platform that secure the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone or PADIZ, while the latter primarily serve as a training platform, doubling as a light combat aircraft, a force multiplier to the Multirole Fighter Jet.

In the end, it would be at the discretion of the leadership within the Philippine Air Force, together with those within the Department of National Defense, whether the acquisition plan to purchase more FA-50PH may push through, as the government may get to prepare to what the Third Horizon may bring by year 2023, with itself coming with larger big ticket projects intended for the improvement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its overall capabilities until the year 2028.

(c) 2022 PDA.




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