While there are several naval projects indicated in the memorandum submitted by the AFP to the AFP Chief of Staff early last month, a project stood out for being something new and was not among those listed in previous shopping lists submitted by the PN since the initial Desired Force Mix presented in 2012.
That project is called "Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessels" of the Philippine Navy. We would refer to this class of ship as "MPPV" on the duration of the blog entry.
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Note and disclaimer: all these, especially the information on the ships themselves, are based only on informal initial information provided to MaxDefense by its different sources from the PN and DND, and other special sources. As of this writing, MaxDefense was informed that the Philippine Navy has yet to form a Defense Acquisition System Assessment Team (DASAT) and a Project Management Team (PMT) for this specific project, and no Request for Information (RFI) has been sent out to shipbuilders, system providers, and integrators as of yet. This blog entry will be overwritten later on as more formal and concrete information becomes available.
The information on the background section, and on the "parallels within the ASEAN region" section are confirmed, and can be vouched by MaxDefense.
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Previously MaxDefense mentioned that there were several versions of the Philippine Navy's shopping list that were released within the AFP, although it was said that only two versions were approved as official. The first was released in 2012, which was called the Desired Force Mix, while the second was the Philippine Navy Capability Upgrade Program released on April 2016. Between 2012 and 2016, there were also draft wish lists made, that were a little different from the two approved lists but were said to be overridden by the April 2016 version.
|The 2012 Desired Force Mix of the Philippine Navy, which was meant to be acquired during the 3 Horizon phases of the AFP Modernization Program.|
Photo taken from Timawa.net forum.
The 2012 Desired Force Mix included a requirement for 18 Offshore Patrol Vessels and 40 Patrol Gunboats in its wish list. These were optimized by the PN to be the bulk of the patrol fleet that are much useful during peacetime and law-enforcement operations while surface combatants like corvettes and frigates are meant more for low to high intensity naval conflicts.
Later versions of the Philippine Navy's wish list did not include both the Offshore Patrol Vessel and Patrol Gunboat requirements, although changes were made on the quantity of other assets included in the DFM list, including the inclusion of new assets like LHA-type vessel, Landing Craft Air Cushioned, and other assets.
The latest version of the wish list, released on April 2016, further made changes to the previously released lists. It still did not include Offshore Patrol Vessels and Patrol Gunboats in it, but a new type of ship called the Littoral Patrol Interdiction Craft (LPIC) was included, which was described by MaxDefense sources from the Philippine Navy to be a ship of similar size and capability as the Cyclone-class inshore patrol vessel currently operated by the PN (BRP Gen. Mariano Alvarez (PS-38)) acquired from the US during the term of Pres. Gloria Arroyo.
Despite being a new wish list, the April 2016 list appears to have been overridden by another wish list, as shown by the Philippine Navy during ADAS 2016 held last September 2016. It appears that during this time, the Philippine Navy was already reformulating their wish list based on the policies set-upon by Pres. Duterte when he came into power a few months back. There is a sudden requirement for an Ocean Patrol Vessel, positioned very much on the centre of the info-graphic poster in the Philippine Navy's stand.
But as of October 2016, the AFP submitted a tentative wish list to the CSAFP, which is more of a general wish list without too much specifics except for those listed, and it included this Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessel project, together with other AFP projects that are of immediate requirement and intended for implementation as early as possible.
The Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessel's Intended Purpose:
It was among the projects presented by the AFP that is, officially, meant to support the government's policy to build a strong interdiction capability to counter the proliferation of narcotics from abroad, and ingress/egress of foreign vessels involved in transnational crime along the country's coastal waters. This is very much in line with Pres. Duterte's policies on war against drugs and terrorism.
Despite these, it is expected that the Philippine Navy will also use them for other purposes, including as a mobile Coast Watch platform that will be connected to the Coast Watch Philippines maritime surveillance system, patrol the country's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as a search and rescue or HADR platform in support of the national government, and be used as additional combat asset should the Philippine Navy finds the need to do so, especially in times of emergencies and war. Even if the current administration does not intend to push these ships for these missions, remember that the ships would probably be in service for the next 30 years, way way after Pres. Duterte's term.
Thus, in simple terms, the ship would be similar to a typical patrol vessel, and the classification would be further identified by its size. A larger ship would enable it to reach greater distances and deeper waters with higher sea states similar to an Offshore Patrol Vessel, nonetheless it can be a typical inshore patrol vessel.
Aside from these duties, the memorandum from the AFP specifically mentioned that these ships are meant to replace the remaining World War II-era warships in the Philippine Navy's inventory, specifically the sole destroyer escort (DE) BRP Rajah Humabon (FF-11), the two Rizal-class minesweeper frigates (MSF), and the six remaining Miguel Malvar-class patrol craft escorts (PCE).
Based on this information alone, the future MPPVs are meant to replace ships that are capable of offshore operations, with limited modern combat capability, and has enough endurance as OPVs like these old ships. Despite their classifications, the PN uses these WW2-era ships in a similar fashion as an OPV.
Expected Quantity and Specifications:
Based on the information provided by MaxDefense sources, the Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessel was meant to replace the seven Littoral Patrol Interdiction Craft (LPIC) originally proposed on the April 2016 Capability Upgrade Program wish list of the Philippine Navy.
Also base on the October 2016 AFP memorandum, the PN plans to have somewhere between 6 to 9 ships of this type, and based on earlier count of WW2-era ships, it appears to be a 1:1 replacement.
The ships are expected to be on the same category of the Jacinto-class patrol vessels in service with the PN, but will definitely have better performance, capability, and will meet actual PN requirements rather than adjusting accordingly to the ship.
Dimensions and Features:
The same memorandum mentioned that these ships will have a length in excess of 50 meters, which appears to be on the same range as the Cyclone-class.
Despite the information on the memorandum, MaxDefense sources from the Philippine Navy confirmed that the ships are actually expected to be longer than 50 meters, and will probably range somewhere nearer to 70 to 80 meters in length. No beam (width) and displacement was provided, although a ship of around 70 to 80 meters in length nowadays would translate to at least 900 tons, depending on the features it possess (further discussed on the next paragraphs).
In terms of capability, the ships are to be designed with fast Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) operations in mind. The PN eyes the ships to be capable of carrying a minimum of 2 RHIBs, although preference will be for the ships to be able to carry and operate 4 RHIBs. This capability entails the need for large spaces, and if fast RHIB launching and recovery is a primary requirement, it is expected that the ships will have a stern-mounted ramps, while option to carry additional RHIB means that these would be carried on davits on the port and starboard sides of the superstructure. A ship with these requirements definitely go beyond 50, or even 60 meters in length.
|The French Navy's L'Adroit-class OPV, based on the DCNS Gowind family, has a stern ramp for two 9-meter RHIBs, and could carry two more RHIBs on the superstructure sides.|
Photo taken from Marine Nationale (French Navy)
Aside from RHIBs, the Philippine Navy eyes the MPPVs to have a helicopter deck capable of operating a helicopter of unspecified weight. It is highly possible that the requirement may only be for light helicopters like the Leonardo AW-109E Power already in service with the PN, and for ship-launched UAVs.
But it is also possible that if the platform will be used in HADR operations and support of combat warships in the future, it is also possible that the helicopter deck will be specified for medium helicopters of (10 to 12 tons in full operating weight), similar to the ones specified on the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Dock, and the Philippine Navy's future frigate.
The ship does not require a hangar, which is standard in most OPV designs. The adding of a helicopter deck further increases the chances that the PN MPPV will be at least 80 meters long, similar to the length of the French L'Adroit-class or the Singaporean Independence-class, although an elevated helicopter deck with a stern RHIB ramp below could reduce the length of the ship to around 60-70 meters only.
The ships are expected to be diesel powered, probably powered by four diesel engines with controllable pitch propellers. The preference of the PN of using German-brand diesel engines, like those specified in the Tarlac-class and the PN's future frigate could also be a template for the MPPVs.
Based on information provided to MaxDefense, the ships are also expected to have a maximum speed of somewhere between 20 to 23 knots, which is the standard speeds of an OPV, less than that of combat vessels like frigates or corvettes, but definitely faster than the World War 2 ships it will be replacing.
It is also expected that the ships will have a range of somewhere above 3,000 nautical miles, endurance of at least 2 weeks, and will be capable of operations of up to Sea State 5, while also survivable at least up to Sea State 7.
No mention was made if the ships will be installed with a combat management system (CMS), but it is highly possible that it won't be installed to reduce costs, or a more compact system will be opted as compared to those to be installed on the PN's future frigate.
No mention was also made on what type of radar to be used. It is highly expected to have a navigation and secondary surface search X and S-band radar, as equipped in almost all PN major surface asset. It is highly possible that only a 2D surface and air search radar will be used to reduce cost, instead of a 3D system. It is also expected that the ships will be interconnected to the Coast Watch Philippines system, and will act as a mobile coast watch radar.
It is also expected that the main gun would either have its own fire control radar, or if the gun is less than 76mm in caliber, an Electro-Optical Tracking System (EOTS) similar to those being installed on the Jacinto-class patrol vessels (JCPV) of the PN under the Phase 3A and 3B of its modernization program.
MaxDefense also believes an Electronic Support Measures (ESM) would also be installed on the MPPVs, basing on the availability of such systems with the JCPVs (yes, those small ships at least have ESM). For commonality with the PN's future frigate, a Thales system like the Vigile LW could also be used.
MaxDefense was informed that the PN intends the MPPVs to be lightly armed, although they would have spaces provided should the PN decide to uparm them later on. Initial information gathered by MaxDefense points that the ships would only be armed with guns. Its primary gun would be a 30 to 40mm remotely-controlled stabilized gun, with secondary 12.7 to 25mm remotely-controlled stabilized guns and manually operated 12.7mm machine guns. The secondary gun caliber size would depend on what the main gun would be, the smaller the main gun, the smaller the secondary gun too.
Take note that this layout seems to be not final yet, as another source mentioned that the PN is also looking at installing at least an Oto Melara 76mm gun as its primary weapon, which was the original gun of choice on previous OPV plans of the PN. It is expected that the PN would stick to existing calibres already in service (20mm, 25mm, 30mm, 40mm, and 76mm) and won't be considering a new caliber (57mm) due to logistics issues.
If the PN decides to stick with the 40mm caliber as the ship's main gun, MaxDefense suggests the use of the newly developed RAPIDSeaGuardian gun from Thales, which, although uses a different ammunition (cased telescopic ammunition) that is different from standard 40mm ammunition used by the PN, can engage conventional naval and slow moving aerial threats, as well as assuming the role of a Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) capable of defending the ship from sea-skimming anti-ship missiles and fast moving attack aircraft. Only issue with this gun is the cost, which is expected to be far more expensive than a standard 30mm or 40mm RCWS mounted gun.
The PN's MPPV are said to be designed to accommodate up-arming plans, but would probably be limited to short range anti-ship and short range defensive anti-aircraft capability if the option is given a go.
The ships could be armed later on with Rafael's Spike-ER or Spike-NLOS, or Thales' LMM short range missiles. Spike-ER and Spike-NLOS are already being put into service with the PN with its MPAC Mk.3 and Leonardo AW-159 Wildcat helicopter, respectively, while upcoming fast interdiction crafts (as discussed briefly in a MaxDefense Facebook wall post in the past). Meanwhile Thales has been offering their LMM missile with the PN's Naval Air Group and Littoral Combat Force for use on the Leonardo AW-109 and littoral surface assets.
Air defense can be provided by Simbad-RC with MBDA's Mistral very short range air defense missiles similar to those to be installed on the PN's future frigates, to provide a limited air defense capability.
Aside from these, there were no confirmation if the ships will be capable of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) with a sonar system and anti-submarine torpedoes, which appears to be a feature available with the future corvettes and frigates only.
MaxDefense sources pointed out that the Philippine Navy is currently looking at designs from Sweden's Saab Kockums with their FLEXPatrol family, Damen of The Netherlands with the different OPV designs (MaxDefense believes the OPV-1400 and OPV-1800), BAE Systems Maritime-Naval Ships with their River-class Batch 2, and KERSHIP of France (joint venture between French shipbuilders DCNS and Piriou) possibly with their OPV-75 design, although MaxDefense believes French offers could be expensive.
So far, no mention was made to MaxDefense if the PN is looking at designs from Asian countries like Singapore or South Korea.
Looking at the possible choices above, it looks like all proponents are new to the Philippine Navy, as none of them were even present when the PN decided to tender its requirement for a future frigate. Damen and DCNS were said to have passed-off the frigate due to lack of confidence that it will push through, although a very slim margin of profit was also another reason due to the very small budget provided for the frigates. Hopefully this time they would be pushing their wares seriously to the PN.
Parallels within the ASEAN Region:
Several ASEAN navies are also embarking on similar littoral patrol vessel programs and it would be interesting to mention and compare them with the PN's Multi-Purpose Patrol Vessel based on the information gathered.
The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) was the first to launch such type of vessel, considered as an Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) which is used to patrol Thailand's vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as well as its littorals in support of smaller surface assets of the RTN.
The RTN's Krabi-class, currently composed of a single active ship and another being constructed in Thailand, have opted to use a modified River-class OPV designed by British shipbuilder BAE Systems Maritime. The ship is 90 meters long, displaces around 2,000 tons, has a high range of 5,500 nautical miles, a maximum speed of 25 knots, and has a helideck for up to a medium-class helicopter. The ship is armed with guns only consisting of an Oto Melara 76mm main gun, two MSI Defence DS30 RCWS-mounted guns, and two manually-operated heavy machine guns. The ship's sensor include a Thales VARIANT lightweight 2D short-medium range surveillance radar which is sufficient enough given the ship's weapons capability.
Compared to the Philippine Navy requirement, this is actually the closest one, but the Thai OPV may be larger, and is more capable than what the PN is looking for.
The small Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) prides itself of having four capable offshore patrol vessels with offensive capabilities in its fleet, called the Darussalam-class, which were made by German shipbuilder Lurssen Wherft. The ships 80 metes long, displaces in excess of 1,600 tons, has a maximum range of 7,500 nautical miles, an endurance of 21 days, and have a maximum speed of 22 knots. It is equipped with a Terma Scanter 4100 2D surveillance radars, and are armed with a Bofors 57mm gun, two Oerlikon 20mm guns, a two twin MBDA Exocet MM40 Block 3 anti-ship missile system.
These ships, being the most capable in the Brunei fleet, were standard OPVs armed with anti-ship missiles to provide the punch they need due to the absence of other ships that could provide such capability. Without the missiles, they are actually close to the PN requirement.
The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) recently signed for four Littoral Missions Ships (LMS) with China, which will be a new class of patrol vessels that are included in their "15 to 5" Transformation Programme which calls for the reduction of the RMN's fleet from 15 different ship classes, to only 5 by . Two of the ships will be built in China, while 2 will be built in Malaysia. 18 LMS are actually eyed by the RMN, thus it is highly possible that the RMN will be constructing more Chinese-designed LMS in local shipyards as funding becomes available. The LMS is slated to initially replace the Laksamana-class corvettes, and other smaller patrol boats in the near future. The CGI provided by the RMN shows that it looks similar to the Bangladeshi Durjoy-class patrol vessels sold by China recently.
The RMN's LMS has so far no been described much but it was said that the requirement is for it to be armed with guns only, but will be wired for missile systems if deemed necessary.
|A CGI of the Malaysian LMS68 ship as provided by the Royal Malaysian Navy.|
Photo taken from MalaysaDefense blog page.
The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) has launched their Independence-class Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV), a class of 8 new ships that are meant to replace their Fearless-class patrol vessels. The LMVs were designed jointly by Saab Kockums and ST Marine, together with the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), are is slotted below the Victory-class missile corvettes in terms of size and capability.
Based on information provided by the RSN, the Independence-class will be 80 meters long, displace around 1,250 tons, has a maximum speed in excess of 27 knots, a maximum range of 3,500 nautical miles, and endurance of around 14 days. It is armed with a 76mm Oto Melara gun, probably reused from the Fearless-class, an air defense capability with 12 MBDA VL-Mica anti-aircraft missiles launched from a VLS, It will also be armed with two Oto Melara Hitrole 12.7mm RCWS-mounted guns, a Rafael Typhoon 25mm RCWS-mounted gun, a helicopter landing pad for medium helicopters (probably SH-60 Seahawk category), a RHB fast launch and recovery system, and a Thales NS-106 3D surveillance radar similar to ones to be installed on the Philippine Navy's future frigate.
In a nutshell, the RSN's Independence-class is the maximum level in this category, with high-level weapons and sensors system despite just being a patrol vessel. The Philippine Navy requirement for MPPV is definitely slotted below this class, and would be less capable, but far cheaper than the Singaporean model. Based on the specs of the ship, "littoral" appears to just be a term but in fact the ship can be used to patrol on deep water far away from the Singapore mainland.
|The Independence-class Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV) of the Republic of Singapore Navy.|
Photo from RSN.
Being a Horizon 2 project, it is expected that the PN might only come up with a program to start this project by 2017 or even 2018, that is a big IF the PN does not change its shopping wish list again. It normally takes a year or two for a project to be conceptualized, and probably a year or two to tender. If DASAT and PMT are not yet made, then it means the concept is probably only in its early stages, so are the information we have above.
But if the Duterte administration allows the PN to forego the tender system as stipulated by RA 9184, then an award of the project can be made earlier than usual, probably as early as late 2018. If that happens, the first ship of the class could be in service within 2020, almost the same time as the new frigates ordered from HHI.
As far as MaxDefense sources confirmed, this project is said to be among the urgent once since the ships it would replace are nearing 80 years old (gasp!) by then, and they don't have the intention to put them to work any longer.
Until then, MaxDefense will be updating its readers of this project as more information becomes available. Hopefully as early as first half of 2017 we could be getting more confirmed information, considering that many of the PN staff involved in planning this project was in EuroNaval 2016 a few weeks ago, already talking to some of the eyed shipbuilders not just for this project, but also for the expected corvette project. And as far as I was told, many of them were also in Indonesia to attend the massive IndoDefense 2016 defense exhibition to do information gathering.