MANILA – The Philippine Navy (PN) would rather acquire the newly-decommissioned Cyclone-class patrol vessels than obtain another Hamilton-class cutter from the United States, its chief said Monday.
"On our naval operating concept, having three Hamilton-class cutters (in service) is okay. But what we need is the Cyclone-class, between the (USCGC) Mellon and several Cyclone-class, we will go for the Cyclone-class, as it is needed more right now," Vice Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said in an interview.
Bacordo made this remark when asked if the PN is looking to acquire the United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Mellon that was decommissioned by the USCG in August last year.
The three Hamilton-class cutters operated by the PN are now called the Del Pilar-class offshore patrol vessels.
These ships are the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PS-15) which was acquired in 2011, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16) in 2013; and BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS-17) in 2017.
He said the need to acquire Cyclone-class patrol vessels was due to the decommissioning of the PN's World War II legacy ships.
"We decommissioned several World War II vessels, that is part of Secretary of National Defense's (Delfin Lorenzana) guidance, that is also part of my guidance in order to modernize the mindset of the Navy, So we need platforms like the Cyclone-class patrol vessels (to replace them)," he added.
He said it is likely that the US Navy will give a positive response to the PN's request to acquire the newly-retired Cyclone-class patrol vessels.
"Yes, because we have monitored that several of the Cyclone-class patrol vessels (they have retired) are just mothballed," he added.
The acquisition of additional Cyclone units, which the PN initially requested five, is dependent on the assessment of the Joint Visual Inspection (JVI) team that will be checking the vessels, Bacordo said.
"It also depends on the JVI. Even if, let's say that there are 10 ships available, if our team would assess that some of the vessels would be too expensive to maintain, we will only get the best available units," he added.
Also, the PN chief said they will request their US counterpart to retain the armaments of these ships if possible.
Once acquired, these vessels will be used to beef up the PN's Littoral Combat Force.
"We have manifested our interest with JUSMAG (Joint US Military Assistance Group) and US INDOPACOM (Indo-Pacific Command)," Bacordo earlier said.
At present, the PN has one Cyclone-class patrol vessel in its service. This is the BRP General Mariano Alvarez (PS-38), formerly the USS Cyclone, which was transferred to the PN in 2004.
The Cyclone-class patrol ships are a class of US Navy coastal patrol boats consisting of some 14 ships.
These vessels weigh around 328.5 long tons and have a length of 179 feet, a beam of 25 feet, and a draft of 7.5 feet. Their maximum speed is placed at 35 knots and they have a range of between 2,000 to 2,500 nautical miles.
Cyclone-class patrol vessels are armed with two 25mm autocannons and several high-powered machine guns. (PNA)