BUSAN, South Korea -- The Philippine Navy (PN) is planning to acquire 25 to 30 warships of various types within the next five to 10 years as part of its efforts to augment its fleet.
"We have plans to acquire 25 to 30 in the next five to 10 years. (This) includes corvettes, OPVs (offshore patrol vessels), and even submarines," PN flag officer-in-command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad told reporters shortly after the keel-laying ceremony for the second missile frigate, BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), at Dock 4 of Hyundai Heavy Industries' (HHI) shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea on Thursday.
The BRP Antonio Luna is the sister ship of the BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), the PN's missile frigate, which was formally launched in the same facility also on Thursday.
Empedrad said these projects are open to all shipbuilding firms with naval construction capabilities worldwide.
"I think there is a need to beef up the PN because we have vast maritime (territories) and we need to protect it," the PN chief said.
The BRP Jose Rizal, which is scheduled for delivery in 2020, and the BRP Antonio Luna, which will be delivered in 2021, will be armed with an Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid main gun, an Aselsan SMASH 30mm remote-controlled secondary cannon, anti-submarine torpedoes and anti-air and ship missiles along with sensors and surveillance systems capable of detecting and neutralizing air, surface, and sub-surface threats.
The BRP Jose Rizal is also equipped with Hanwha Systems' Naval Shield combat management system (CMS), which integrates all shipboard sensors and weapons and decides on the ideal way to deal with any incoming threat.
It can also detect and track about 4,000 targets and is used in various configurations by the Republic of Korea Navy, the Royal Malaysian Navy, and the Indonesian Navy.
Encrypted tactical data systems
Hanwha Systems also developed a tactical data link system for the two ships called "Link P", which will be exclusively used by the two missile frigates.
This was bared by Hanwha Systems Overseas Business Support manager Samsoo Kim after a tour of their facility early this week.
He added that it can communicate with other similar tactical data link systems and has a 32-digit key code encryption to ensure data security.
"There is 32-digit key code for encrypting ('Link P') and we will give this freedom (to the PN) to change the key code. Normally the password has 10 digits. Hacking of this password takes a million years. That's the theory. Thirty-two digits is a very long password (the) PH Navy can randomly put in this system," Kim said.
The Philippines and HHI signed a PHP16-billion contract for two missile-armed frigates. A total of PHP2 billion was also set aside for its weapon systems and munition in October 2016.
PN spokesperson Capt. Jonathan Zata earlier said these frigates will help secure the country's maritime chokepoints or primary sea routes used for trade, logistics, and naval operations for all forms of threats.
Steel-cutting for BRP Jose Rizal took place in April 1, 2018 while the same ceremony for BRP Antonio Luna transpired in November the same year.
This event officially signified the start of the actual construction of the frigates.
Meanwhile, the keel-laying ceremony for BRP Jose Rizal took place last October as the formal recognition of the start of the ship’s construction.
Keel-laying refers to the official start of the construction of any ship and is considered among the four highlights of any surface vessel with the other three being steel-cutting, commissioning, and decommissioning.
"These frigates are built based on the Incheon/FFX-I/HDF-3000-type multi-purpose frigate of the Republic of Korea Navy (RoKN), which offers increased operational performance and enhanced survivability," Zata said.
The ship measures 351 feet long and 46 feet wide and has a maximum speed of 25 knots. It can travel up to 4,500 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 15 knots and can sustain operational presence for 30 days. It is also capable of withstanding rough sea conditions up to Sea State 7, which means waves of up to six to nine meters high.
"Each frigate has a complement of more than 100 officers and crew. It has a flight deck located at the stern with the ability to handle one maritime helicopter weighing up to 12 tons. Two rigid-hulled inflatable boats will be carried to conduct military and emergency operations at sea," Zata added. (PNA)