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Czechia's LET L-410NG Aircraft Offer to the Philippine Coast Guard

The Philippine Coast Guard currently plays an integral role in enforcing its core mandates, especially in highly heated areas of concern, such as the West Philippine Sea as its patrol vessels does its job in deterring intruding vessels in the area like the Chinese Coast Guard vessels entering the country's Exclusive Economic Zone or the Chinese maritime militia that played a role in this shady scheme called 'gray-zone tactics'.

As the maritime law enforcement agency under the Department of Transportation pursues its own form of modernizing its array of ships and equipment that comes separate to the ones provided to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine Coast Guard's tender for an aircraft comes with a closer ties with a Central European country that has the know-how in aviations-related production that can provide support to the agency's ongoing improvement of its capabilities.

Philippine Coast Guard, PCG,  L-410NG Aircraft PCG, LET L-410NG, PCG Modernization
This is a LET L-410NG aircraft of the Polish Border Guard.
Image Source.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala recently visited the Philippines as part of his state visit from April 16 to 18, 2023, as the first leg of his 10-day tour across Asia that involves other countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan, as part of his efforts of bolstering ties with the said countries as the Czechs are creating a counterbalance on China's dominance in terms of trade that it has a huge market share, attempting to reduce reliance to this Asian regional giant.

In the Philippines, the Czech Prime Minister said that his country considers delivering air assets for the Philippine Coast Guard to use, which can consider as an interesting development within the agency, coming alongside other updates related to the maritime law enforcement agency, such as their proposals of adding more Teresa Magbanua-class Multirole Response Vessels on top of the two vessels of that type already active in Philippine Coast Guard service.

It comes as personalities belong to either of both chambers of the Philippine legislative branch - the House of Representatives and the Senate, are pushing for a legislation that will provide a framework as a way for the Philippine Coast Guard modernizes itself for the better, in a way that it resembles the Revised AFP Modernization Program although this emphasizes more on providing the agency the tools it needs to enforce its mandate in the West Philippine Sea. 

This is on top of already-acquired Philippine Coast Guard vessels such as the Gabriela Silang-class Offshore Patrol Vessels made by France's OCEA and multirole response vessels such as the ones coming from Japan. These in which will help the Philippine Coast Guard increase their patrolling times in this highly contested area, showing that the country have its presence and a way of signaling that areas in the West Philippine Sea, such as the Kalayaan Island Group, are part of the Philippine territory.

For this topic, the discussions will cover areas related to the company that produces the aircraft, along with the research development that made L-410NG the aircraft that it is today, along with other information like the specifications of the aircraft and the number of users that has such aircraft in their operations, as this will give us more understanding with the capabilities and the background of this platform that the Philippine Coast Guard is keen to get upon pushing through.

L-410NG Aircraft, Omnipol, LET Aircraft Industries, Czech Republic, Philippine Air Force
The L-410 family of aircraft is a product by Czech's LET Aircraft Industries.
Image Source.

Currently, the production of L-410 aircraft family lies with the Czech aerospace company LET Aircraft Industries, a subsidiary of the Czech defense and industrial firm Omnipol, the one who has a minority stake in another Czech aerospace company, Aero Vodochody. The latter is the one who produces L-39NG Trainer Jet Aircrafts that has offered at one instance to the Philippine Air Force's basic jet trainer acquisition project.

LET Aircraft Industries only count as Omnipol's very recent acquisition of Czech companies, as they took over control from the Russian firm Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company or UMGC, which bought the company from Aircraft Industries with 51% shares in 2008, and a complete 100% buyout of the company shares five years later in 2013. The sale even took place during the period that Russian companies faced tough sanctions as Russia pours its troops into Ukraine.

While these transfers of corporate ownership and responsibilities over LET Aircraft Industries are recent, its inception as a company traces back far beyond half a century, way back in the year 1936, when an aircraft facility has established on the Czech town of Kunovice as a branch of the Avia aircraft company, a division of another known Czech industrial conglomerate Skoda Works. In its first years up to the end of the Second World War, the Kunovice aircraft facility primarily served more than a repair depot intended for aircraft works of different aircraft, from AVIA-made ones to Luftwaffe war machines.

It was after the Second World War when the Kunovice aircraft facility became a full-pledged factory, whereby it produces aircraft that are primarily licensed copies of aircraft designs coming from aerospace design bureaus in the Soviet Union, specifically the Yakovlev Yak-11 trainer. The aircraft, as it has notably known in the communist-governed Czechoslovakia as the LET C-11 trainer, has produced at least 708 units in the Czech aircraft factory between 1953 and 1956.

LET Aircraft Industries' experience in producing licensed copies of Soviet-designed aircraft helped the company boost its production capability, on top of its production of aircraft designs derived from another Czech aerospace company, Aero Vodochody, and their Aero AE-45 and AE-145 twin-engine aircraft designs. The production experience on the Aero twin-engine aircraft designs paved the way for LET Aircraft Industries to produce its first company-designed aircraft, the LET L-200 Morava.

Aside from the LET L-200 Morava, LET Aircraft Industries has also produced the Zlin Z-37 Bumblebee, an economically viable, agricultural-based aircraft designed for farmers to use in applying their crops with pesticides and fertilizers to ensure overall productivity of agricultural produce and contributing to a nation's food security. This comes alongside some of the produce that it manufactures through the years, such as its different variants of glider aircraft like the Z -24 Galanka and LF-109 Pioneer.

Of course, the product line of LET Aircraft Industries will not be complete without the L-410NG twin turboprop commuter airliner, which is precisely the one that the Philippine Coast Guard pursues as it improves its capabilities both in improving its white-hulled fleet and its aviation unit, whereby the idea of having such aircraft in the agency service helps its personnel upholding its mandate not only in terms of search and rescue operations but also in terms of visual surveillance like having overhead flights in the Kalayaan Island Group within the West Philippine Sea.

LET Aircraft Industries, L-410NG, Orenburzhye Airlines, Orenburg Russia
This is a LET L-410 aircraft operating with the Orenburzhye Airlines in Russia.
Image Source.

The aircraft's success today has largely attributed to the fact that it is also in operations in the civilian sector, especially with a significant number of local airlines that serve regional or remote areas in a portion of the country such as Russia's Orenburzhye Airlines (see image above), a regional airline serving the environs of the City of Orenburg. The said Russian city has a regional airport and its geographic location is near the border with the neighboring country of Kazakhstan.

LET L-410 Turbolet's success comes as a byproduct of its continuous development and an increasing number of variants as this discusses throughout the article. The aircraft's origin started in the early 1960s, when the then-Soviet (now Russian) airliner Aeroflot seeks a turboprop replacement for its Antonov An-2 aircraft during the similar period that the LET Aircraft Industries in Czechoslovakia started developing the L-410's predecessor which was the LET L-400 aircraft.

The maiden flight of the first LET L-410 prototype took place on 16 April 1969, and since then delivered around one thousand one hundred (1,100) units, with several of the aircraft delivered still currently in service and the production for these units are still active. One of the first users of the aircraft was the Soviet-era CSA Czechoslovak Airlines in 1971, aside from the orders made by the Soviet airliner Aeroflot for its regional flights on the first few years of the LET L-410's mass production.

Since its maiden flight in 1969, the design of the L-410 produced by LET Aircraft Industries continues to develop into multiple versions, along with the increasing number of users that use the aircraft for short-haul flight operations. Both civilian and military organizations use the aircraft, with the latter notably the Czech Armed Forces, along with the other NATO countries, such as Lithuania, Slovenia, and Slovakia. In the Philippines, it is notably in operations with SkyPasada, a Baguio-based airline company.

The number of both civilian and military entities that use the LET L-410  aircraft speaks volumes regarding the reliability and usage of this aviation platform in their respective operations, particularly in providing an access and a bridge to remote areas in the similar manner that the Philippine Army’s Short SD3-30 (C-23) Sherpa Aircraft does in the Army’s Aviation ‘Hiraya’ Regiment’s line of operations, as having such aircraft may provide an additional boost for the Philippine Coast Guard in an event they opt-in for the aircraft’s purchase.

L-410 NG, LET L-410 Turbolet, Philippine Coast Guard, LET Aircraft Industries
One of the multiple variants within the LET L-410 family is the L-410 NG variant.
Image Source.

The variant that the LET Aircraft Industries is currently offering to the market regarding this specific type of aircraft is the LET L-410 NG variant, which is also the most modernized one being offered to the Philippine Coast Guard for their mandated operations. It got presented before the public in 2015 and comes with modern engines installed onboard the aircraft, plus an improved wing design and additional spaces for luggages that a commercial passenger brings for a travel, or cargo for different equipment in case for the Philippine Coast Guard.

The LET L-410 NG comes as a modernized variant of the L-410 UVP-E20, which itself comes as an advanced variant of the earlier L-410 models, as the UVP-E20 model comes as an inception in 1979 with a fitted retractable undercarriage and accommodation for 17 to 19 passengers and 3 crew onboard. The UVP-E20 variant itself is an improvement over the earlier versions of the LET L-410 Turbolet design and it shows that this type of aircraft received constant support and updates through time.

Other variants of the L-410 Turbolet include the following types (via Simple Flying website): 
- L-410: Three prototype aircraft.
- L-410A: 12 aircraft powered with Pratt & Whitney PT6A-27 turboprop engines.
- L-410AB: A version of the plane fitted with four-blade propellers.
- L-410AF: A photo reconnaissance aircraft built for the Hungarian military.
- L-410AF: Aerial photo version supplied to Hungary.
- L-410AS: A variant of five test aircraft intended for the Soviet Union.
- L-410FG: An aerial photography plane based on the L-410UVP.
- L-410M: A second series version of the aircraft fitted with Czech-built Walter M601A engines.
- L-410 UVP: A third series with improved STOL capabilities.
- L-410 UVP-E: A repurposed L-410 equipped with five-blade Avia V510 propellers and additional fuel tanks fitted to the tips of the wings. The L-410 UVP-E20 version belongs to this category.
- L-410T: This is a transport version of the plane with a larger loading hatch
- L 410 NG: A new modernized variant with a longer nose and increased luggage space and also the current one marketed to potential users, including the Philippine Coast Guard.

As with other aircraft produced, there are some variants presented as prototype aircraft, whereby its overall capabilities and specifications have intensively tested into detail, assuring that every feature found on the aircraft is up to the specifications made by several parties that seek interest on the aircraft, one of which was the then-Soviet Union where they get at least five test aircraft as they may use it primarily for research, or for military functions like the L-410 advanced surveillance aircraft for the Hungarian Armed Forces.

With the number of variants presented and the years of continuous upgrade and development that the LET L-410 aircraft received since its first flight in 1969, it shows that the aircraft’s design comes with reliability and an essence of keeping it up to the current times that other prospective potential users of the Philippine Coast Guard sees its potential for its air operations, whether it regards to transport its personnel and equipment, or having visual patrols in contested areas like the West Philippine Sea.

The specifications of the LET L-410 NG Aircraft showcased for the Philippine Coast Guard.
The LET L-410 NG aircraft's basic dimensions and capabilities. 
Via LET Aircraft Industries website.

Additional information includes the weight of the aircraft regarding the following aspects:

Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW): 7,000 kilograms
Maximum Landing Weight: 6,800 kilograms
Maximum Zero Fuel Weight: 6,600 kilograms
Maximum Payload: 2,300 kilograms
Maximum Usable Fuel: 2,254 kilograms

The weight provided shows that the L-410 NG aircraft comes as lighter compared to the NC-212i Light Transport Aircraft of the Philippine Air Force, while having a better fuel capacity that enables it to conduct longer hours of flight and longer range for such a light aircraft, making it ideal for the Philippine Coast Guard’s prospect for maritime patrol operations or for flying longer distances across the country as needed for carrying personnel and equipment.

Speaking of loitering time, the L-410 NG aircraft comes with the Endurance of 10.5 hours or 630 minutes, enabling it to provide time in documenting any situation not only in tracking Chinese maritime militias in the West Philippine Sea but also in matters regarding Philippine maritime domain awareness within territorial waters such as in terms of search and rescue operations on sinking vessels or the extent of damage to the environment incurred by vessels relating to oil spills.

Like any other light aircraft, the LET L-410 NG is capable of takeoff and landing in small runways, whereby it only requires at least 590 meters and 600 meters of runway, respectively, to get its job done. This is essential as areas like the runway in Pag-asa island in the Kalayaan Island Group only come with such limited runway length to accommodate aircraft, serving troops and civilians on the island west of Palawan. In comparison, The NC-212i aircraft comes with both takeoff and landing distance requirements of both 740 meters and 527 meters, respectively.

Another aspect of the LET L-410 NG aircraft to focus on is its overall dimension and size regarding to its length, width, and height, whereby its overall length comes at 49.46 feet, wingspan or overall width of 63.90 feet, and its height from landing gear to the tip of its tail coming at around 19.58 feet. As we convert them to the metric system, this means that the aircraft comes at the overall length of 15.08 meters, wingspan or the aircraft’s overall width of 19.48 meters, and its height from landing gear to the tip of its tail coming at around 5.98 meters.

Comparing this to the Philippine Army’s SD3-30 Sherpa transport aircraft as used by its Army Aviation ‘Hiraya’ Regiment, the LET L-410 NG that the Czechs offering to the Philippine Coast Guard comes smaller, as the Sherpa comes longer at around 17.70 meters, and a wingspan of 22.80 meters, although the L-410 NG aircraft comes taller as the Sherpa only comes with around 5 meters tall, from its landing gear up to the tail. With Sherpa’s size also comes its capability to carry more passengers onboard than the LET L-410 NG, coming with the number of 30 people onboard for the Sherpa 330 variant.

Completing the aircraft’s specifications is the engines currently fitted onboard the LET L-410 NG aircraft, where it comes with GE H85-200 engine, a General Electric-certified product that is currently manufactured by General Electric Aviation Czech Division with turboprop engines being their primary production focus. The turboprop engines have a rate of 850 shaft horsepower (SHP), less than the Honeywell TPE-331-12JR-701C Turboprop engines that power the NC-212i of the Philippine Air Force and the variants of Pratt and Whitney turboprops that run the Sherpa aircraft of the Philippine Army.

The Philippine Coast Guard also comes with a handful of Cessna Grand Caravan in its aviations fleet.
An image of the Philippine Coast Guard’s Cessna Grand Caravan Aircraft.
Image Source.

As the Philippine Coast Guard still assesses the LET L-410 NG aircraft presented by the Czech for its operations, the maritime law enforcement agency comes with an active aviations unit with multiple varieties of aircraft, one of those being the Cessna 208 Grand Caravan Aircraft (see image above) as being its mainstay aircraft that serves the organization’s mandate, from transportation of personnel to search and rescue operations, and also with its operations in the West Philippine Sea.

The Cessna 208 Grand Caravan Aircraft that the Philippine Coast Guard recently purchased comes as a replacement for the older and aging Britten-Norman BN-2A Islanders that are licensed-built copies made by Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation for this agency and the Philippine Navy, as they are notable for the production of such aircraft alongside the Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm Bo-105 utility helicopters, of which the Philippine Coast Guard also uses at some period in their operations.

Given the setup of the Philippine Coast Guard and the prospects of its acquisition plans for the likes of LET L-410 NG aircraft, it signifies that while the maritime service branch has a handful of Cessna 208 Grand Caravan in its fleet of aircraft; they treat the ones like the LET L-410 aircraft as a different type of aircraft altogether, as it is more of a platform seen as intended for maritime patrol operations just like its competitor, the Dornier Do-228 offered by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and the Indian Government to the Philippine Coast Guard, though a credit line they also offer.

With the plans of adding more aircraft like the LET L-410 NG for the Philippine Coast Guard, it comes with the promising aspect of complementing the agency’s patrolling vessels, especially in the West Philippine Sea as more white hulls are also in the plans with more Teresa Magbanua-class being sought by the organization. These additional assets now count as essential given the ever-growing tensions with the Chinese aggressiveness as they encroach in the area within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

It remains to be seen regarding the overall implementation of the project that involves the procurement of the likes of the LET L-410 NG, although it is interesting to see the developments surrounding the Philippine Coast Guard’s ongoing pursuit of modernization, both in its white hull fleet and its wide array of aircraft as it helps further their mandate that involves improving the country’s overall Maritime Domain Awareness and ensuring presence and implementation of maritime laws within the country’s waters.

The Philippine Coast Guard currently have at least two H-145 helicopters in its fleet.
Here is an image of a Philippine Coast Guard H-145 helicopter.
Image Source.

The Philippine Coast Guard is undergoing a phase of improving and enhancing its overall patrol and aerial surveillance capabilities, whereby they see the procurement of additional white-hull ocean-going patrol vessels and aircraft as an ever-increasing necessity, as their demand for these equipments went high as tensions intensify over the highly contested areas like the West Philippine Sea, so much that even the key people in the legislative branch aspires to push its modernization.
With the aspirations for modernization of the Philippine Coast Guard pushing through, along with the plans of providing more tools that will uphold their mandate, the Czech support in helping the maritime law enforcement agency improving its capabilities is a welcoming development for us to see, as the Philippine Coast Guard may see benefit from the recent visit of the Czech Prime Minister in the country, whose country is interested in providing the agency some air assets.

This development, once further materialized into fruition, will benefit both the Philippine Coast Guard and Czech’s aviations industry, specifically LET Aircraft Industries itself, as the former gets more aircraft that will help not only in transporting its personnel on areas across the country or in conducting search and rescue operations, but also regarding to its mandate of supporting its vessels in patrolling the West Philippine Sea, as well as surveying areas of concern that poses environmental concerns like oil spills.

As for the latter, the LET Aircraft Industries will gain another potential customer from this deal, giving that opportunity to cement its presence in the country, while securing its own foothold in the country’s aviations market where, aside from the Baguio-based airline SkyPasada, may pave a way for more civilian and government-based deals in the long run within the country shall there be interest on its product, the L-410 NG aircraft.

To sum it up, the LET L-410 NG aircraft presents an opportunity to improve ties between the Philippines and the Czech Republic as a form of an ever-increasing cooperation, in an essence that it provides the Philippine Coast Guard it needs while the potential of getting its other areas of the bilateral relations improve such as in defense, whereby the Czechs provide military hardware in the country such as the Pandur II 6x6 armored vehicles for the wheeled variant of the Sabrah tank and Tatra trucks that carries SPYDER GBADS platforms.

(c) 2023 PDA.

Understanding the United States' Patrol Boat Pledges to the Philippine Navy

The United States government, led by President Joe Biden at the time this article has published, pledges to provide additional military hardware to the Philippines as part of the modernization of alliances between both nations. 

This development comes as the leadership in the United States government reassures their Philippine counterparts that the bilateral defense relations are 'ironclad' and they are committed to support the Philippines to its modernization, on top of the ones funded by the country's annual budget as prescribed by the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

Island-class Patrol Boat Philippines, Ukrainian Navy, Sloviansk-class, Protector-class, US-Philippine Alliance
The United States sets to provide at least Island-class Patrol Boats to the Philippines.
Image Source.

The Philippines and the United States, at the first half of the year 2023, comes at the fast pace as its alliance under the Mutual Defense Treaty sets to get further enhanced, modernized, and adopt to the current challenges that currently existing in the Indo-Pacific region, especially in dealing with a regional superpower like China that still employs intimidation and salami slicing tactics as a way for this country to achieve its entire grand scheme of things, namely its control over the entire West Philippine Sea area.

First area of development regarding this ever-improving alliance is the introduction of additional military sites allowed under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA, whereby four (4) of these sites has added recently, which are Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan, Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela, Balabac Island in Palawan, and Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan.

Second is the recently concluded Exercise Balikatan 2023, whereby the United States Armed Forces and their Philippine counterparts played a role in conducting various simulation activities that test the interoperability of both countries such as the ones regarding the sinking of a simulated enemy vessel off the coast of Zambales in the West Philippine Sea, as the military forces that took part in the activity take their opportunity in getting the vessel, formerly the BRP Pangasinan, sank in this activity.

Third is the 2+2 ministerial dialogue meeting that took place in the United States capital city of Washington, D.C. in the early weeks of April 2023, whereby the secretaries of defense and foreign affairs from both countries met together, with the joint statement released recognizing the importance of the alliance at this day and age. Add to this is the recognition of giving importance to the needs of the Philippine military, from the $100 Million Foreign Military Financing to the fast-tracking discussions of the Philippines' acquisition plan of getting multirole fighters (giving F-16 Vipers offered by Lockheed Martin the leverage under this project).

Fourth and the most recent one at this point this article has published, was the visit of the Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., to Washington D.C., whereby he met with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden and also together with the leadership of the military, as the current Secretary of Defense in the United States Lloyd Austin and the President of the United States assured the Philippine government that the alliances of both nations is 'ironclad', as the country sets to provide its pledges of transfer to the Philippines.

In the visit made by the Philippine President to the United States, their counterparts in the United States government pledge to transfer three (3) C-130H Hercules cargo aircraft variant, two (2) Marine Protector-class Patrol Boats from the United States Coast Guard, and two (2) Island-class Patrol Boats, still from the United States Coast Guard, of which all the patrol boats mentioned may more likely go to the Philippine Navy.

As these two different classes of patrol boats from the United States count as a new entrant to the Philippine Navy fleet, the pledge of transfer made by the United States, on top of the recently transferred two units of Cyclone-class patrol crafts from the United States Navy (ex-USS Monsoon PC-4 and ex-USS Chinook PC-9), it is interesting to deal in discussing the said two classes of patrol boats from the United States Coast Guard as it comes with its own origin, specification, and capabilities.

Bollinger Shipyards, United States Patrol Boat, Philippine Navy
One of Bollinger shipyard's facilities in New Orleans.
Image Source.

While we have a portion of information regarding the shipbuilder on another article regarding the BRP Mariano Alvarez, it is an interesting fact that all the patrol boats that the United States government pledges to turned over to the Philippine Navy, on top of the additional Cyclone-class patrol vessels that will supplement BRP Mariano Alvarez, are all built by this shipbuilder in the United States named Bollinger Shipyards, which itself is notable in providing such small-sized vessels to both the needs of the United States Navy and Coast Guard.

Summarizing this information, Bollinger Shipyards has 14 shipyards, with 42 dry docks at its disposal, and its main office is headquartered in Lockport, in the state of Louisiana, United States. Since the company’s inception in 1946, it continuously provides both shipbuilding and repair services for main contractors from both government and civilian sectors, ranging from fishing vessels and barges to littoral vessels like the Island-class and Marine protector-class coast guard patrol vessels.

Its current vessel in production for the United States Coast Guard is the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter, the newest class in the line of white-hulled vessels of one of the United States military’s service branches in which it has sought as a replacement for the aging Island-class vessels that two units of it comes as part of the pledge of transfer that the United States government provided to the Philippines, aside from the Marine Protector-class and the C-130H Hercules intended for the Philippine Air Force. 

Aside from replacing the older Island-class 110-foot patrol boats, the Sentinel-class fast response cutter comes with the United States Coast Guard requirements in mind, as these newer vessels came with enhanced capability in hand with its role intended to help the maritime homeland enforcement agency to uphold its mandate in patrolling the coastal zone of the country and facilitated deterrence against suspected drug smugglers into the maritime borders of the United States, aside from search and rescue operations.

Another vessel that Bollinger Shipyards produce is the Navajo-class Towing Salvage and Rescue Ship of the United States Navy, whereby it became a Bollinger Shipyards product after the original shipbuilder who has secured the contract for the ships, namely the Gulf Island Shipyards, sold its entire long-term vessel construction contracts which includes the one that involves the Navajo-class vessels, to Bollinger Shipyards in a deal that increases and enlarge its shipbuilding portfolio.

While the Bollinger Shipyards secured the contract and other facilities that the Gulf Island Shipyards turned over as they exited the shipbuilding market, another contract of the Navajo-class Towing Salvage and Rescue ship has awarded to Austal Shipyards USA, whereby the United States Navy exercised its option to add two more vessels for such type for its fleet as it meets the specifications as required the end-user, while the construction of the vessels starts at the latter part of 2023 and first half of 2024, with a delivery timeline slated by year 2025.

Bollinger Shipyards’ production of both old and new vessels serves not only as an integral part of improving the present capabilities of both the United States Navy and the United States Coast Guard, but it has also contributed indirectly to the development of maritime security capabilities of other countries like the Philippines, as the United States government provides transfer of military hardware like the Cyclone-class and the two classes of former United States Coast Guard patrol boats that the Philippine Navy sets to receive.

Georgia Coast Guard, Philippine Navy, Island-class Patrol Boats, United States Coast Guard
The Georgian Coast Guard also operates some Island-class patrol boats from the United States.
Image Source.

Before the patrol vessels even replaced by the newer Sentinel-class fast response cutter built by the same shipyard as the Island-class, the Island-class patrol vessels themselves count as one of the mainstay white-hulled platform of the United States Coast Guard, in the same manner with its other mainstay vessels that go beyond littoral waters as the Hamilton-class High Endurance Cutters, even before it has replaced by the newer Legend-class cutters.

Like the Sentinel-class that the United States Coast Guard bought as part of its ongoing modernization and replacement for the aging Island-class patrol boats, these Island-class patrol boats came as an idea in the early 1980s as it intends to replace the older Point-class cutter and Cape-class cutters that have served within this maritime law enforcement organization, as the design requirements of the United States Coast Guard comes with‌ its mandate in mind, alongside search and rescue operations.

In early 1984, the United States Coast Guard started a program that would give inception of what we all know today as the Island-class patrol boats, whereby 16 initial units were first awarded first to Marine Power and Equipment Company. Except that the same contract ended up getting awarded again later to Bollinger Shipyards, after the first award was voided by a United States district court, with procurement irregularities being the cause. It took Bollinger at least two years before the first vessel, USCGC Farallon (WPB-1301), entered active service in February 1986.

Its tremendous success prompts the United States Coast Guard, through the United States Navy, to buy more 16 units of the Island-class patrol boats under the Department of Defense Augmentation Appropriation, followed by 5 more units as part of the United States’ anti-drug campaigns through a newly passed legislation, and the overall production of the Island-class patrol boats ended up with 12 final bulk orders, totaling the overall number of produced Island-class patrol boats to 49 units, at its maximum.

Several of the Island-class patrol boats that Bollinger shipyards produced and previously owned by the United States Coast Guard have since then granted to other countries, such as in both Eastern European countries of Georgia, whereby they have the ex-Staten Island and ex-Jefferson Island, now re-baptized as Ochamchire and Dioskuria, and Ukraine, whereby they receive at least five units from the United States, now renamed as the Sloviansk-class patrol boats of the Ukrainian Navy.

Another notable potential user of the Island-class patrol boats, aside from the Philippine Navy itself, is the Mediterranean country of Greece with its Hellenic Navy, wherein they are slated to receive at least four (4) units of the Island-class, while such ships may undertake some upgrade processes prior to its entry into Hellenic Naval fleet service. Adding up to the roster of users of the Island-class patrol boats is the Central American country of Costa Rica, as they also get a pair of such ships from the United States government, intended for operations within the Costa Rican Coast Guard.

Once approved, the Philippine Navy will join the said aforementioned users regarding to the number of end-users for the Island-class patrol boats, and from thereon, it comes with the possibility that the United States government may grant additional such class of patrol vessels later on, but that remains to be seen as the Philippine Navy may also possess additional patrol boats of its own, such as the Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts that are derived from Shaldag Mk. V crafts of the Israel Shipyards Ltd.

Island-class patrol boats specifications
Detailed specifications of the Island-class patrol boats.
Image Source.

For those who rely on the metric system as a way of measuring things, just like here in the Philippines, let us take note that the Overall length of the Island-class patrol boats of the United States Coast Guard comes with the length of 33.53 meters, a beam of at least 6.40 meters, and a draft of 2.23 meters, which is befitting for a patrol boat that is slightly smaller than the Philippine Coast Guard’s Ilocos-class patrol boats, which on another note comes at around 35 meters long and 6.7 meters beam designed and produced by Tenix, an Australian defense firm.

Another comparison that the Island-class patrols can go with is the Philippine Navy’s newly bought Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts, Shaldag Mk. V-derived vessels that are designed by Israel Shipyards Ltd., and has dimensions almost similar to the Island-class patrol boats offered by the United States government under the recent arrangement, such as having an overall length of 32.65 meters, a beam of 6.20 meters, and has a lighter displacement of 95 tons and having twice the maximum speed, which is at around 40+knots.

The range presented for the Island-class patrol boats that have offered to the Philippine Navy from the United States government comes at between 1,853 miles seen on the document image and 3,900 miles based on a recent information that the basis comes with some upgraded Island-class that the United States Coast Guard did under its Deepwater Project. Converting to the metric system that the Philippines also uses, it means that the range the Island-class patrol boats possessed comes at between 1,610.22 nautical miles or 2,982.11 kilometers to 3,389.01 nautical miles or 6,276.44 kilometers maximum range.

This means that while the Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts comes with a similar size and better speeds than the Island-class patrol boats have, what the latter has in advantage comes in terms of its overall range, as the Shaldag Mk. V design that the Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts of the Philippine Navy currently possess only comes with a maximum range of 1,000 nautical miles, at 12 knots cruising speed of the vessel, which is two to three times less than this type of vessel pledged by the United States government.

On another note, the Island-class patrol boat’s replacement, the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter, comes with a length of 46.93 meters and a beam of 7.74 meters, basically making it larger than the Island-class patrol boats in terms of size and slightly larger than the Philippine Coast Guard’s 44-meter Parola-class Multirole Response Vessels that patrol crucial areas like the West Philippine Sea. With size comes the increase of crew designated onboard, as a single Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter comes with at least 22 crew onboard, as opposed to the Island-class patrol boat’s capacity of 18 crew.

Given the specifications provided, one can really say that the Island-class patrol boats come decently, especially regarding to littoral area of operations as it augments the Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts of the Philippine Navy, adding the number of active vessels that can conduct increased maritime presence and patrol operations in territorial waters alongside their counterparts in the Philippine Coast Guard while lessening the stress for more capable vessels that are needed in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone waters.

As the idea of adding more Island-class patrol boats to the Philippine Navy may not be that far later on, depending on the decisions of the higher leadership citing logistical standpoints, another pair of vessels from different class offered by the United States through its pledge may come with similar prospects eventually, providing more naval assets intended for littoral patrols. Coming on to the next part of this discussion is the Marine Protector-class Patrol Boat.

Marine Protector-class Philippine Navy, Protector-class Philippine Navy, United States Coast Guard, PN,
Armed Forces of Malta’s Protector-class Coastal Patrol Boats, a derivative of the Marine Protector-class of the United States Coast Guard.
Via Wikimedia Commons

The Marine Protector-class patrol boats of the United States Coast Guard come as a smaller vessel compared to the Island-class patrol boats also offered by the United States government as part of its pledge to the Philippine government, although like its larger peers the Marine Protector-class comes with many units at hand, and comes with a similar pipeline that it may get replaced eventually with the aforementioned Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters.

Like the Island-class patrol boats that have come along with these smaller Marine Protector-class vessels, it comes as a replacement and an improvement over the Point-class vessels, which are far smaller than what the Marine Protector-class already is, while its capabilities came with sea-keeping abilities, enhanced habitability for its crew onboard and environmental law compliance in mind as it comes with the United States Coast Guard’s mandate in mind in deterring drug interdiction and conducting search and rescue operations.

Before the idea of having two of the Marine Protector-class patrol boats handed over to the Philippine Navy as part of the pledge made by the United States came to mind, the United States Coast Guard has already handed over several vessels under this type to other countries, one of which being Uruguay, where they received three Marine protector-class vessels namely the USCGC Albacore, USCGC Cochito, and USCGC Gannet, as the transferred has made through Excess Defense Articles.

The first 50-unit order set by the United States Coast Guard for the Marine Protector-class patrol boats made by Bollinger Shipyards, the one who produced the Island-class and Cyclone-class patrol crafts as mentioned before in this article, took place in 1998, making the first-commissioned vessels of this type a decade younger than the Island-class patrol boats that have first conceptualized in the mid-1980s, and since then increased into the  73-unit fleet it comprises at its peak before any foreign military transfers took place.

Aside from the 73 units of Marine Protector-class vessels that the United States Coast Guard currently has in its inventory, another thing to take note is Malta’s patrol vessels, also named as Protector-class patrol boats, although this comes as separate from the United States Coast Guard orders and bought by the country of Malta as brand new using the United States Securities Aid Act of 2000. Like the Marine Protector-class patrol boats, Malta’s P51 and P52  patrol boats are products of Bollinger Shipyards from the United States.

The Maltese Protector-class Coastal Patrol Boats played a role in their maritime patrol operations, especially in dealing with the influx of migrants coming from Africa, especially from the country of Tunisia, whereby these people risk their lives traversing the Mediterranean Sea, hoping that they can find a new way of life in the prosperous continent of Europe. This comes on top of its other duties within the Armed Forces of Malta, such as search and rescue operations and fisheries enforcement, defending their coastal waters in the process.

The Marine Protector-class patrol boats offered by the United States government in their pledge present an opportunity for the Philippine Navy to get more vessels of such type at their discretion later on, as this option will help improve not only with the number of vessels that the naval branch uses but also increases the efficiency in terms of logistics chain as bulk purchases of spare parts ensures the effectiveness of its routine maintenance as part of its continuous operational prospects throughout its serviceable life.

Marine Protector-class Patrol Boats, Philippines, Philippine Navy, United States Government
This is one of the Marine Protector-class patrol boats of the United States Coast Guard.
Image Source.

The Marine Protector-class patrol boats come with the following dimensions, with a length of  26.52 meters, beam or width of 5.91 meters, draught of 1.71 meters, and a displacement of 102 tons. It has a maximum range of 900 nautical miles, making it capable of going beyond its littoral capabilities, sufficiently conducting patrols in contested areas like the West Philippine Sea whenever needed. 10 personnel is the maximum number of crew that the Marine Protector-class patrol boats are capable of.

Its size comes smaller than both the Island-class patrol boats and the Shaldag Mk. V-based Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts, although these vessels are larger than the Philippine Navy’s fleet of Multipurpose Assault Crafts or MPACs, a joint project by the Philippine local marine firm Propmech, together with the Taiwanese firm Lung Teh. The fleet of multipurpose attack craft produced for the Philippine Navy comes with a length of 15 meters, a beam of 4.76 meters, and a draft of 0.92 meters.

There is also the correlation between the size of both the Marine Protector-class patrol vessels and the aforementioned Multipurpose Assault Crafts or MPACs, especially regarding to each of the vessel’s overall performance, whereby the former comes with a speed of 25 knots and the range of 900 nautical miles, while the latter comes at the speed of 40 knots and while only having a limited range of 650 kilometers or 350.97 nautical miles in overall range.

As seen in the image provided, a Marine Protector-class patrol boat comes with armaments, specifically two units of 0.50 caliber (12.7mm) Browning M2 Heavy Machine Guns, a type of weaponry available within the Armed Forces of the Philippines and have currently widely used by multiple armed forces across the world, including the United States military. Speaking of Browning M2 Heavy Machine Guns, there is a prototype development in collaboration between the Philippine Navy and the Department of Science and Technology or DOST regarding an automated gun mount using the said heavy machine gun, with the project named “Project Buhawi”.

Another thing to consider regarding the specifications that define the Marine Protector-class patrol boats of the United States Coast Guard is that the United States government pledged to the Philippines is the displacement of the vessels, whereby this vessel comes with at least 102 tons, being lighter than both the full-load and half-load displacement of the Island-class patrol vessels of 165 tons and 141 tons, respectively, while being heavier than the likes of the Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts.

C-130H, Philippine Air Force, United States Government, Transfer, Grant, Pledge
C-130H variants came as another asset pledged by the United States government for transfer, aside from the two pairs of patrol boats of different types.
(c) Bruce Leibowitz, Flickr

The pledge made by the United States to transfer pairs of both Island-class and Marine Protector-class patrol boats to the Philippine Navy presents an opportunity that will help increase the number of ships on its fleet, coming alongside other littoral vessels that the naval branch of the Philippine Armed Forces have such as the Shaldag Mk. V-designed Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Craft-Missiles and Multipurpose Assault Crafts or MPACs.

This comes on top of at least three (3) C-130H Hercules that will surely improve the overall airlifting capabilities of the Philippine Air Force, considering that this comes separately from the air service branch’s procurement of brand new C-130J-30 Super Hercules from Lockheed Martin, also comes with at least three (3) units wherein once pushing through, gives a boost of at least six air-lifters for the Philippine military in transporting both troops and equipment.

The pledged transfers comes as just one of multiple gestures that gives a signal for an improved bilateral defense relations that both the United States and the Philippines have as of recent, and there comes with the possibility that more cooperation between parties and deals may come along the way through time as the ongoing tensions made by a regional power like China in the region intensifies such as the aggression it has with Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

Once the transfer pushes through, it will be the first time for the Philippine Navy to have and operate these types of patrol boats, as it may give the leadership within the defense establishment to increase the numbers of both Island-class and Marine Protector-class patrol boats as the ones currently serving the United States Coast Guard are slowly getting replaced by the newer and more-capable Sentinel-class patrol boats, with its production focused on a shipbuilder like Bollinger Shipyards.

To sum it up, it is a welcoming development that the United States provides these military hardwares as a token of support to the Philippine Armed Forces’ modernization, although that does not mean overly relying on the alliance in order to get it done. As the Philippine Navy also set its upcoming orders of Acero-class Fast Attack Interdiction Crafts produced in-house in their facility in Cavite Yard, perhaps that approach may consider as a better one, while the U.S. transfers of Island-class and Marine Protector-class patrol boats only come as a bonus for the desires of investing into national defense.

(c) 2023 PDA.




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