First New PHILIPPINE NAVY MISSILE FRIGATE Launched in SOUTH KOREA

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It is a something of an old and worn-out tale to say that when the Philippines was newly independent from the United States, it boasted one of the most-efficiently equipped armed forces in Southeast Asia, with plenty of leftover hand-down armaments and military vessels in use. Over the decades however, the rest of the nations in the region have caught up and improved their capacities while that of the Philippines has stagnated. Overseas acquisitions of new equipment for the armed forces tend to be fraught with controversy as well. That applies to the new warship being built for the Navy in South Korea, though its recent launch might prove inspiring.

Inquirer.net reports that the BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), the first frigate of the Philippine Navy that has missiles as its primary armaments, was launched on Thursday, May 23, at the shipyard of Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) in Ulsan, South Korea. The occasion was witnessed by officials from the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Navy. BRP Jose Rizal will also be the class ship of the Navy’s new Jose Rizal frigate line, with another vessel, to be called BRP Antonio Luna, having its keel newly-laid at the HHI yards.

Measuring 107 meters long, the Jose Rizal will be the first Philippine Navy warship with a contemporarily modern design. Its missiles can be launched at targets in the water, land, air, and even underwater. Its shape is of the current trend with stealth-conducive contour to less its radar visibility in the water, backed by an electronic warfare capability. It is a refit of the South Korean frigate design Incheon/FFX-I/HDF-3000. Both Jose Rizal and Antonio Luna were ordered by the Navy from HHI back in 2016, with a total budget of $16 billion for the two.

However, like almost all dealings to modernize the armed forces, the South Korean-made frigates had their own little controversy. Originally their combat management system (CMS) was to be provided from the Netherlands. But in 2017 Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had Navy Chief V-Adm. Joseph Mercado, a proponent of the Dutch CMS, removed from his post. At the same time, HHI contracted a fellow South Korean firm offering its own system for the Jose Rizal frigates. President Duterte said he signed off on Hanwha Naval Shield being installed on the ships following a formal complaint from Hyundai Heavy Industries about potential incompatibility with Netherland’s Thales Tacticos.

The new Navy frigates are to have an over-100-man crew, missile batteries, super-rapid gun and remote-controlled naval cannon. They will also each carry UK-made AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat helicopters, both already delivered. BRP Jose Rizal will be delivered to the Philippines in 2020, while BRP Antonio Luna will wait until 2021.

Image courtesy of GMA Network

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