Oliver Hazard Perry Frigates for the Philippine Navy?

Revision History:
* August 15, 2013: Originally posted
* September 15, 2013: Added more information on “Gas Guzzler” section, including direct quote from Coast Guard article and Fuel consumption for OHP and Hamilton ships. Post also re-published

**********

The USS Thach, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class Frigate. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
The USS Thach, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class Frigate. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

A what seemed to be badly translated to English article and a Youtube video of a China Central Television (CCTV, the propaganda mouthpiece of the Chinese government) news item recently featured that the Philippine Navy (PhN) was going to buy 7 used Oliver Hazard Perry (OHP) Class Frigates from the United States.[1][2] Despite the fact that the sources are dubious since they are from China, there are other indications that this could be possible, due to a number of other reasons:

First is that the US Navy (USN) are slowly retiring these ships in favor of their new, more advanced and much more terrifyingly-capable Littoral Combat Ships (LCS)[3], and have been providing these to various allies like Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey. The US has even offered 2 of these to Thailand[4]

Second is that due to China’s belligerent attittude in the South China Sea, it is possible that the US wants to help bolster our defense capability even more. They have already provided the PhN with 2 Hamilton-class Cutters so far, it is possible that the next step will involve providing these ships.

Third is that the USN has a LOT of these ships that they could allocate for distribution to US allies. There are 9 decommissioned ships already set for allocation, and all 18 ships currently in active service are all set to be retired by 2019[4], 6 years from now, so that’s a total of 27 ships in total for allocation. I don’t think that all of the US allies will be able to absorb or accept all of them, hence it is possible some could be offered to us.

‘OHP Class Frigates’
The OHP first served in the USN in the 1970s as specialized Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) or Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) ships in support of the USN’s Carrier fleets. It is one of the most popular and most successful modern ships as eventually 71 were produced and went into active service all over the world in the navies of 10 different countries. At 4,000 tons,[4] it is 33% heavier than our 3,000 ton Gregorio Del Pilar-class (formerly Hamilton-class) Frigates, and heavier than any naval combatant in any South East Asian Navy.

It has a top speed of 29 knots, and a range of over 9,000 km, but for me the best feature about these ships are its so-called “Combat Persistence” for its weight class. In layman’s terms, that means the ability to carry a LOT of missiles for its size. While majority of modern Frigates carry around 8, maybe 12 missiles at most, these OHPs carry a total of FORTY (40).[4] And we’re not talking here about small, lightweight missiles, we’re talking about medium-sized, 500-700 kg missiles like the SM-2 Surface to Air Missile (SAM) and Harpoon Anti-Ship Missile (ASM). These ships truly deserve the term “Guided Missile Frigates”, and belongs to that list of elite class of Frigates in service around the world that can carry dozens upon dozens of mid-sized missiles.

A RIM-67 SM-2ER long-range Surface to Air Missile. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
A RIM-67 SM-2ER long-range Surface to Air Missile. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

On top of that, these OHPs also have a 76mm Gun, 6 Torpedo tubes, a Phalanx Close In Weapons System (CIWS) and up to 2 rotary-winged aircrafts. As you can see, these are bad-ass, heavily armed ships, IF properly armed. I say this because the CURRENT state of these ships in the USN as of 2013 is that ALL of its missiles have been REMOVED due to obsolescence. The USN didn’t bother upgrading them as they are set for retirement anyway. All that are left on each ship are the Guns, Torpedoes, CIWS and Helicopters,[4] so any country getting these ships will have to invest heavily in up-arming them again.

‘Gas-Guzzler’
These ships are fitted exclusively with Gas Turbine (GT) engines, unlike most ships like our Del Pilar Class which use a Combined Diesel Or Gas (CODOG) engines. A CODOG engined ship has the advantage of using the more economical Diesel engine for cruising, and the GT engine to boost its performance in the short term if needed. GT engines are smaller, lighter and provide more power than Diesel engines, and using only high performance GT engines on these OHPs is one reason why it can carry so many missiles. However, at the same time these engines also has one major drawback, and that it has a HIGHER FUEL CONSUMPTION overall compared to Diesel engines.

For example, in the 1990s, these OHP ships were considered as replacements for the Hamilton/Del Pilar ships we are using now for use with the United States Coast Guard (USCG), and one aspect discussed against it was how the OHP’s lack of a Diesel Engine for cruising results in far greater fuel consumption than the Hamilton/Del Pilar ships. Former US Coast Guardsman and historian William R. Wells II wrote,:

“Although FFG turbine can run at trolling speeds, it is still running a gas turbine engine consuming greater amounts of fuel far greater than diesel engines. Greater consumption is not a large concern for the Navy that has a huge Naval Fuels support system– something the Coast Guard does not.” [5]

Another example is where one theoretical study comparing SIMILAR GT and Diesel engines on ships showed that on average, the total annual fuel cost for GT engines is over 106% more than that of Diesel-electric engines.[6] This is confirmed when you compute for the maximum range of each ship versus its maximum fuel capacity, you will end up with figures that show that the Hamilton ships have 99% better fuel consumption in terms kilometer per metric tonne than the OHP (data for each ship taken at [7][8]):
2013-09-15_Hamilton_vs_OHP_Fuel_Eff

The high fuel consumption is a big disadvantage for a budget-conscious navy such as ours as it means the operating costs will have to be closely scrutinized and considered during the entire operating life of the ship. Having these formidable advanced naval combatants in inventory is not enough, they also will have to be frequently used in order for the crew to GAIN and MAINTAIN combat proficiency with the ship, and this means going on Patrols, Trainings and Naval Exercises. If fuel cost will be a constant concern and hindering these activities, then that could impact the preparedness of this ship for battle.

‘Parting Shot’
I don’t think these ships will be a good fit for the PhN due to its high fuel consumption costs, we just can’t afford it, it is just too high. Even if the US decides to subsidize operation of these ships in our navy, that still will NOT be a satisfactory answer, IN THE LONG RUN. Nobody can predict the future, and with the problems with the US economy right now, who knows if it could worsen, and force cutbacks? If so, then the first casualty will be foreign aid to allies, and then what, are we going to retire these ships early? Also there is the question of Presidential succession: One US President MIGHT have different priorities than the next, hence again things like foreign aid policy could change.

It might be possible to have these ships modified so additional Diesel engines can work in tandem with the GT engines, but the modifications will cost more money, plus the fact that NONE of the 10 countries operating these ships have done it so far, so it would be an experiment and a big risk if it doesn’t perform as expected and/or problems are seen.

Tempting as these ships maybe, but I feel that as they are, I think the Philippines should pass on them if these are offered to us. I think the US should allocate to us more Hamiltons instead, they are better due to their lower operating costs.

The USS Thach, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class Frigate. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
The USS Thach, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class Frigate. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

SOURCES:

[1] U.S. Navy Retired 7 Perry class frigates Philippines For the full purchase, http://www.best-news.us/news-4982308-US-Navy-Retired-7-Perry-class-frigates-Philippines-For-the-full-purchase.html

[2] U.S. Navy Retired Perry class frigates Philippines want to buy 7, http://youtu.be/SUWKrKjFikk

[3] Littoral combat ship, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Littoral_combat_ship

[4] Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Hazard_Perry-class_frigate

[5] RE-Figuring the Figs (FFGs) for the Coast Guard, 1998_RE-Figuring_the_Figs_FFGs_for_the_Coast_Guard

[6] Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines in Cruise Vessel Propulsion, 2000-02-17_Diesel_Engines_and_Gas_Turbines_in_Cruise_Vessel_Propulsion

[7] WHEC 378′ Hamilton class, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/whec-378-specs.htm

[8] The FFG 7 OLIVER HAZARD PERRY – class, http://navysite.de/ffg/ffg7class.htm

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18 thoughts on “Oliver Hazard Perry Frigates for the Philippine Navy?”

  1. Hamiltons are good for patrolling vast expanse of ocean but it cannot go head to head even with the older ships osf the PLA navy. If push comes to shove, we need those Perrys if we are to protect our interest or sovereignty of our sea borders. If the Yanks would offer or donate those ships, I say take ’em and worry about the gas later.

    1. The Hamiltons would be pretty okay if upgraded similar to USCGC Mellon standard, with Harpoons, Torpedoes, etc. I think the DND has plans to do this, but just not sure when or if those plans will push thru …

  2. The drawbacks against it being a “gas guzzler” needs a second look.

    First, no way will an OHP operate at tempos the USN has; no high speed Aircraft Carrier Battlegroups, no cross ocean sprints and deployments. Arguably, with their current weps and sensor suites, they’re ASW Vessels, with some AD limited to self defense, and ASuW provided by the 76 Oto Melara, and its heli complement providing some possible ASuW with ASMs.

    Probably utilized to maintain presence and provide intro to ASW Ops, drifting to get practice with SURTASS and heli dip triangulation etc.

    Peacetime cruise of 14knots at best.

    And using F76 distillate, which avoids JP5 as fuel, can drive costs down. F76, as a very knowledgeable and trusted source say, can be derived from various sources, diesel being one them.

    At the end of the day, operating tempos matter.

    What I do know is that they’ll consume 3.6x more fuel than a Hamilton on diesels. How putative PN tempos on OHP, which will again, based on current OHP baseline capabilities, will arguably be different from a WHEC, determine actual fuel costs needs to be subjected to further study.

    What it can provide are currently an urgent PN need – more hulls available in reasonably faster time than new builds, after refurb.

    ASW presence. As well as on station presence.

    They’re robust ships, as the Cole and other OHPs show.

    They also provide an unpgradeable platform that would allow the PN a multi-function purpose: consort AAW, ASuW with ASMs, on top of its current ASW config.

    They’ve performed well in pseudo USCG duties in the carribean and pacific coasts.

    And btw, the missile magazines are located forward of the ship. While the gas turbines are smaller than CODOG layouts, its missile loadout ought to have no impact on its engine spaces and vice versa.

    At the end of the day, they remain, like the WHECs, a sought after platform, allowing nations on a shoestring budget to acquire more hulls faster than costly newbuilds.

    At $15 million per WHEC and at $65-70 m per OHP at Alamagir standard refurb work, vs $200m for a new build that arguably will need weapons upgrade and suites upgrade as well, throwing more money into a smaller, not neccesarily more capable PN fleet.

    With a large, porous coast to patrol and defend, and EEZ issues with china, taiwan and others, the math vs new builds and refurb OHPs and WHECs AT THIS TIME is commonsense.

    1. I would rather just up arm the Del Pilar-class ships SIMILAR to USCGC Mellon standards (i.e., Harpoons, RAM, Air-Search Radar, Torpedoes, Sonar, etc.). It is simpler, and cheaper. You would get good Anti-Ship / Submarine capability and decent Air Self-Defense capability.

      Also remember that since you are getting new Air-Search Radars and Sonars, these would at least be newer models, as opposed to the older models available on the OHPs.

      A thus-armed Del Pilar-class would be equivalent to Pakistan’s Alamgir class, but with better fuel efficiency / range / endurance / crew comfort. Much of the OHPs firepower was due to its Mk13 launcher and 40 missiles. Take that away without a suitable replacement, and its just another similar to most ships, but with those more fuel-hungry COGAG system in place …

    2. * RE: Using F76 Distillate instead of JP-5

      – I found an old thesis dated June 2000 doing the other way instead, using JP5 instead of F76 Distillate for logistical purpose. The conclusion then was that switching to JP5 is feasible but more expensive: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA378613

      – AT THAT TIME, JP5 was more expensive than F76. However, now the price difference between the JP5 and F76 is not so big anymore, in fact it is the same. So there won’t be any savings in switching from JP5 to F76: http://www.energy.dla.mil/DLA_finance_energy/Documents/FY%202013%20Standard%20Prices%20%28Effective%20Oct%201,%202012%29.pdf

  3. How good an ASW platform would it be? no SURTASS, so no passive sonar suites; going active with Sonar is akin to radiating radar; you may see the target, but they see you as well.

    Again, qualify fuel hungry; I’ve already stated that they’ll consume 3.66x the fuel a Ham guzzles at 14knots, but would ASW operations and station keeping demand they continually be on the move?

    You’ve got to do better than that.

    True, without the Mk 13, the OHP Lost its AAW and ASuW missile complement, but again, how do you qualify “it’s just another similar to most ships” ?

    Compare it to a WHEC sans FRAM Missile, Torp, Sonar and the CIWS, you’ve got one big gunboat that allows you to practice heli ops, di pa nga ASW nor ASuW.

    Patrol Presence and EEZ enforcement.

    While an OHP gives you ASW with SURTASS, even if the heli complement turns out to be the same as the Hams, with the space for arguably more missiles in VLS, than a Hams 2 Quad Packs of Harpoons.

    So, a giant gunboat with good station keeping and range, no ASW, platform for shipborne heli ops, vs an ASW frigate with similar station keeping and decent range, and serving as a platform to learn ship borne heli ops and ASW via SURTASS and Sonar suites.

    Where’s the similarity there?

    1. 12th BCT

      * RE: Towed Sonar Array System

      – I did blog about upgrading the Del Pilar class (read my blog here: https://rhk111smilitaryandarmspage.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/upgrading-the-philippine-navys-hamilton-ships/), and I did mention that we could get hull and towed sonar systems as part of the upgrade

      – I-F the US will give us OHPs with A-L-L of their ASW systems (i.e., Hull and Towed Sonar, AN/SQQ-89 Undersea Warfare System, etc.) INTACT, I admit these would be a huge boost to the PhN’s ASW capability

      – I believe the OHPs have the AN/SQR-19 Towed Sonar equipment instead of the SURTASS

      * RE: Fuel Consumption and Ship Comparison

      – I’m just saying that an upgraded Del Pilar with the same Sonar equipment as an OHP would be more viable as it will provide more savings in terms of fuel consumption. What’s the limiting speed for an OHP with the Towed Sonar deployed, a couple of knots? Operating an OHP with its GT engines at that speed has got to consume a lot of fuel, at least for us

      * RE: Mk13 Launcher

      – I’m not sure if an active Mk13 launcher system will be “good” overall. Sure, a lot of navies still use them, but they do have serious disadvantages also, as I think you already know. Non-redundant by nature by virtue of that single launcher, slow firing cycles, AND reportedly very expensive to maintain, among other things. I believe Pakistan’s Alamgir-class OHPs will not be activating their Mk13s, and will just be relying on bolted on Harpoons also.

      **********************

      * You did raise a very good point about the OHP’s ASW capability, though. But still I feel uneasy about our ability to operate and maintain the ship with such high operating costs.

    2. * RE: OHP’s ASW Suite

      – How about this: If we want to get an OHP just for its ASW Suite, then why not just ask the US to just give us the entire ASW Suite (i.e. Hull / Towed Sonar, Submarine Warfare System, etc.) and have these installed on the Del Pilar ships, instead of getting an entire OHP hull along with the ASW Suite?

      – Aside from the ASW Suite, I don’t really see anything else on these OHPs worth getting. Its Mk13 launcher has so many disadvantages, and is expensive to maintain, definitely much inferior to the Vertical Launch Systems that is the standard now.

      – There are so many OHPs, 27 in all, and I don’t think all of the US allies will get them. For those hulls which will be scrapped, just pull out the entire ASW Suite, and transplant them on the Del Pilars.

  4. erratum :

    USS Cole is an Arleigh Burke….I was referring to the USS Stark, the one hit by Exocets.

    Thanks to phichanad of timawa.net/forum

  5. I think it will be better if Phil. invest on new warships rather than buying and refurbishing old ships…the only problem right now is the SLOW acquisition process by the govt. seems like they lack sense of urgency..if only they started purchasing at the start of PNOYS term then a new ship can be delivered at the end of this year or early part of next year.

    1. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to buy refurbished 2nd hand military equipment. Lots of countries, even progressive ones, buy refurbished 2nd hand military equipment. It all depends on the equipment being procured. These Del Pilar-class ships, for example, even if they are old they will still give excellent service for our Navy, and also are the most capable ships in our Navy so far, at least until the new Frigates arrive …

  6. No doubt about it that refurbished equipment is still capable but if we can afford a new equipment why not go for it…..lifespan and maintenance wise new equipment is more beneficial in the long run. Just like buying a new or a second hand car….

  7. What our government needs to do is to make a tie-up with our local private shipping industry in building our own MPACs, Cutters, Corvettes, Frigates & Destroyers instead of procuring brand new or de-commissioned warships from outside sources. It will generate more employment to our countrymen. The Philippines has one of the largest shipbuilding industry in the world and how ironic that we cannot even build our own warships.

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