(PNA photo by Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – The newly-delivered Acero-class gunboats, also known as the fast attack interdiction craft-missiles (FAIC-Ms), will give the Philippine Navy (PN) the capability to address transnational crimes in the country's territorial waters.

"These fast patrol craft will significantly strengthen the PN in addressing challenges in the maritime realm that include law violations like illegal fishing, foreign vessels' intrusion, smuggling and armed robbery at sea; and transnational maritime threats like piracy, drug smuggling and human trafficking," it said in a statement over the weekend.

With two FAIC-Ms now delivered and seven more to arrive within the next two years, the PN said its capability to conduct "fast interception, rapid attack, deliver precision fire and missile strike" has been greatly enhanced.

The PN said the FAIC-Ms can perform as a mothership when employed as a task group along with two or more multi-purpose attack craft (MPACs) when conducting swarm tactics.

Christened last Sept. 6 were the BRP Nestor Acero (PG-901) and BRP Lolinato To-Ong (PG-902), the first two out of nine vessels acquired from the Israel Shipyards Ltd. for PHP10 billion.

Earlier, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro, said these new ships will greatly enhance the capability of the PN to protect the country's national territory and interests.

The PN's FAIC-Ms are based on Israel's Shaldag Mark V class-patrol boats. Three more are slated to be delivered this year while the remaining four units will be constructed at the PN shipyard in Naval Station Pascual Ledesma, Cavite City.

Former PN chief, Vice Adm. Adeluis Bordado, said these new FAIC-M vessels are designed to enhance the Navy’s capability in addressing threats within the country's "unique archipelagic composition" and protect its maritime interests in a rapid and precise manner.

These 32-meter high-speed vessels are equipped with quick intercept ability, remote stabilized weapons, and short-range missiles that are capable to deliver precision strikes against larger hostiles and high-value targets on land and sea.

Four of the FAIC-Ms will be armed with non-line-of-sight (NLOS) missiles with pinpoint accuracy and a range of 25 kilometers while the remainder will be armed with machine guns and light automatic cannons.

The acquisition of nine FAIC-M units is among the 2019 projects approved by former President Rodrigo Duterte under the Horizon 2 List of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

The notice of award for the FAIC-M project, worth around PHP10 billion, was issued on Jan. 5 last year.

These are expected to replace the force of patrol killer medium (PKM) or medium-sized patrol craft.

Once deliveries of the FAIC-Ms are completed, these vessels can interdict surface threats and launch non-line-of-sight missiles safely using the surrounding littoral areas as maneuver space and cover. (PNA)