The Philippine Navy (PN) is set to open the bidding of 2 brand new Frigates worth P18 Billion (USD 418 million), and although no specific timeline has been put forward, it is hoped that it will happen within the year. So far only Spain’s Navantia has publicly stated that they intend to join the bidding to offer their Avante 1800 (A1800) Corvette. Also, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) of South Korea as early as last year had talks with the Department of National Defense (DND) on the possibility of them joining any new Frigate bidding thru their Incheon-class Frigates.
I have prepared a table below comparing some of the important statisctics regarding these 2 candidates, and comparing them also to the BRP Ramon Alcaraz we have right now. Sources of these statistics can be seen at the “Sources” section at the end of the page.
* Air Defense:
- Here the Avante has the advantage as its vertical launchers for Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) can accommodate various medium-range SAMs, like the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) the Spanish Navy uses. The Incheon does have a redundant gun (Phalanx) AND missile-based (Rolling Airframe Missile or RAM) Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), but these are for short-range air defense only. The ESSM has around 456% more range than the RAM (9km versus 50km).
* Anti-Ship/Land Attack:
- The Incheon can carry more 4 more missiles and their launchers as is. Even if the PN will not use Cruise Missiles, these can be allocated for Anti Ship Missiles (ASMs) instead, increasing its ASMs by 66% to 12
- The Incheon’s gun has a much higher caliber, 106% larger, and can hit targets 50% farther, although it has a 112% slower rate of fire than the A1800′s gun.
* Size, Speed and Range:
- The Incheon offers 20% more speed and 66% more range than the A1800.
- The Incheon is also a huge 71% heavier and 27% longer than the A1800 in terms of physical size
As we can see, gallant though is Navantia’s offer maybe, but it is beaten in almost all parameters by the Incheon. Hence, its a no brainer that if the Incheon can be bought by the same budget, then it will be the one that should be bought.
However, what bothers me is why Navantia is offering such a small and inferior ship for that budget range? One way to interpret this is that Spain’s labor and other costs are so high compared to an Asian country like South Korea (Sokor) that it cannot compete anymore in terms of price. But the thing is that Sokor is not really an impoverished Asian country, it is in fact one of the most developed countries in Asia, hence in terms of costs I don’t think the gap between them and Europe is really that great.
Another way to interpret this is that the PN’s budget for a brand new ship will is only enough for these smaller ships similar to what Navantia is offering rather than ships of the size and capability of an Incheon-class Frigate. Remember that HHI has not formally announced they are joining the bid and with what model yet, hence it is possible that HHI may not even join the bid, or that they may do so with a smaller or lighter ship or variant.
Also of note is how the Hamilton matches up well with the Incheon in terms of performance. It has about the same speed, and more than twice the range. The only thing it lacks is a stealth profile, typical since it is an older ship from the 60s. If upgraded to USCGC Mellon standards, it should be pretty respectable Frigate for our PN.
We’ll have to wait for the other bidders who will come forward in the next couple of months, if there will be any other bidders. The the type of ships these other bidders will enter will reflect on whether Navantia’s offer is really overpriced for its size and capability, or if it is just right. Hopefully we can also make more comparisons and see which ship will have the advantage, at least on paper, and I am looking forward to that.
 Navy to open bidding for brand new warships, http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/07/31/1035141/navy-open-bidding-brand-new-warships
 Navantia ha presentado a Filipinas el sofisticado patrullero Avante 1800 para optar al concurso que convocará a final de año, http://www.elconfidencialdigital.com/defensa/085893/navantia-ha-presentado-a-filipinas-el-sofisticado-patrullero-avante-1800-para-optar-al-concurso-que-convocara-a-final-de-ano
 South Korea Offers Incheon-Class-Frigate to Philippines, http://asitimes.blogspot.com/2013/03/south-korea-offers-incheon-class.html
 Avante 1800 Corvette rev. 01, 2013-08-04_Avante_1800_Corvette_rev_01
 BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRP_Ramon_Alcaraz_%28PF-16%29
 Incheon-class frigate, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incheon-class_frigate
 RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIM-116_Rolling_Airframe_Missile
 RIM-162 ESSM, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIM-162_ESSM
 Upgrading the Philippine Navy’s Hamilton Ships, http://rhk111smilitaryandarmspage.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/upgrading-the-philippine-navys-hamilton-ships/