Philippine Navy Frigate Acquisition Project Technical Requirements


For the latest news about the new Frigate acquisition, refer to the “Philippine Navy New Frigate Acquisition Timeline“.

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Revised March 18, 2014. See bottom of the page for the complete revision history
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The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15). Photo courtesy of the Naval Open Source Intelligence website
The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15). Photo courtesy of the Naval Open Source Intelligence website

A kind soul finally posted the technical specifications for the 2 new Frigate acquisitions by the Philippine Navy (PhN), showing pages 93 to 113 of the official documents (“Frigate Acquisition Project Technical Specifications“). This bidding is significant because it is the first BRAND NEW ship acquisition by the Philippine Navy of this level and sophistication. Once in service, these ships will be the MOST CAPABLE Ships in the entire history of the PhN, even going all the way back to the formation of the Philippine Republic after World War 2, so all the events we are seeing now related to its acquisition are historic events.

The technical requirements are quite comprehensive, the Navy really knew what they wanted, and tried to be as thorough as possible with it. Let me try to summarize the most important listed requirements as much as possible, presenting it in an easier to read way:

‘Capabilities and Performance’
* Conduct Anti-Air Warfare (AAW), Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Electronic Warfare (EW) Operations
* Able to operate up to Sea State 6 (or maximum wave height of 6 m)
– No degradation of warfare mission at Sea State 5
– Able to conduct helicopter operations at Sea State 4
– Able to conduct Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) operations at Sea State 3
* 4,500 Nautical Mile range at 15 knots cruising speed
* Maximum speed of 25 knots
* 30 days endurance
* Turning radius of no more than 5 ship lengths at maximum speed

‘Construction’
* Twin Rudders
* Designed for 18-42 deg. C Air and Water Temperature, and for prevailing Humidity conditions in the Philippines
* Material is of marine-grade metal
* Withstand flooding on 2 watertight compartments
* 1 mast made out of marine-grade metal
* 2 propulsion engines with counter-rotating propellers

‘Equipment’
* 3 Diesel generators
* Airconditioning on all living spaces, command and control, and ship control areas
* Fresh water and desalination system
* Local Area Network (LAN, for Facebook? :D)
* Medium Frequency (MF) / High Frequency (HF) / Very High Frequency (VHF) / Frequency Modulation (FM) / Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Radios
* Identity Friend or Foe (IFF)
* Tactical Data Link (TDL)

‘Helicopter and RHIB’
* 1 10-ton Helicopter
* Enclosed in a hangar with LWH 14.3×9.5×4.5m dimensions, with allowance for conducting maintainance
* Launch and recover 2 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB) with 10 person each within 10 minutes

‘Navigation’
* 1 X and 1 S band Navigational Radar with 1 radar with Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA), Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Automatic Tracking Aid(ATA)
* Global Positioning System (GPS)
* Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS)
* Depth Sounder
* Magnetic Compass
* Navigation Telex (NAVTEX)

‘Armaments’
* 1 76mm Main Gun with 652 rounds
* 1 Stabilized Gun as CIWS
* 4 .50 cal. Machine Guns
* Surface to Air Missile (SAM) in quadruple launcher, IR or Semi-Active Homing with IR CCM and/or ECCM capabilty. With 6 km range and 10 rounds required
* Surface to Surface Missile (SSM) in 2 double launchers, Subsonic, All-Weather, Fire-and-Forget type with Active Seeker and ECCM capability. With 50 km range and 10 rounds required
* Torpedoes in 2 triple launchers, one on each side of the ship. With 2 km range and at least 500 m depth, able to operate in shallow waters of 22-100 m depth and 100-500 m in deep waters. Total of 7 rounds required

‘Combat Sensors’
* Electro Optics
* Integrated Combat Management System (CMS)
* Fire Control System that can track minimum speed of 30 knots
* Air Search Radar with range and bearing of targets at 80 NM and 10 feet off the surface
* Surface Search Radar with 40 NM range
* Sonar system
* Electronic Warfare (EW) capability

The Oto Melara 76 mm Super Rapid Cannon Turret with “stealth” profile. Photo courtesy of the http://www.kriegsschiffe.privat.t-online.de website

‘Others’
* Decoy system with 3 launchers on each side of the ship. 54 rounds required
* Guarantee of availability and supply of spares for 20 years
* Technology transfer to the Philippines thru partnership with a Philippine company for services and parts for continuous and safe operation of the vessel
* A front office in the Philippines for the winning bidder as contact point for buyers to sub-suppliers

‘General Impressions’
The PhN specified a 4,500 NM (8,334 km) range and 30-day endurance, so that would seem to put Navantia’s Avante 1800 (“A Closer Look at the Navantia’s Avante 1800“) automatically out of contention as it only has a 2,600 NM (4,800 km) range and 21-day endurance, which is too bad as the Avante 1800 seems like a pretty good ship. It may still be possible to modify the A1800 to fit the requirements (i.e., remove the Vertical Launch Systems and Towed Sonar equipment to make space and weight for food and fuel, etc.), but we will just have to wait and see what Navantia will do.

A Gun-based Close-In Weapons System (GCIWS) is also required, but it is not specified for missile defense, hence units like the Mk 38 Mod 2[1] being installed on the BRP Ramon Alcaraz for use against lesser targets like fast suicide boats can be used in this bidding. The Mk38 Mod 2 is not recommended for use against missiles, it doesn’t have the firepower or capability to engage very fast moving heavy targets like AShMs. I felt they should’ve specified a GCIWS for use against AShMs as these are better overall.

The Sonar requirement did not specify a towed sonar equipment, which I feel is mandatory to have an effective ASW capability nowadays. This is a particular concern for me, as I feel the biggest danger for our navy will be from China’s around 4 dozen submarines.[2] I don’t know why it was left out, possibly to drive down costs, but if they cannot get it on this bidding, I think they should try and get it later at some time in the future to improve the survivability of these ships against submarines.

Another unusual thing about the requirement is for having only 2 double launchers for the SSMs as opposed to the usual 2 quadruple launchers that is the standard in a vast majority of navies around the world. This is probably another cost-saving measure on the part of the PhN.

‘Low SAM Requirement’
The requirement for SAMs is a bit on the low side, with only a 6 km range and Fire and Forget (FAF) guidance. This means smaller missiles like the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM)[3], Mistral,[4] Stinger,[5] and Chiron[6] missiles could be used which again would drive down the cost of the ships. Among these “qualified” missiles, the RAM is definitely the best as it has the heaviest warhead (11 kg versus the 3 kg warheads of the others), and the heavier the warhead, the better it is in shooting down AShMs.

The other missiles like the Mistral are also good alternatives, I blogged about the Mistral as an alternative for our budget conscious navy (“MANPADS as CIWS for the Philippine Navy“) as better than nothing, if that is all we can afford at the moment. A LOT of other navies around the world are using these Mistrals as CIWS, the French Navy even uses it to protect their aircraft carrier “Charles De Gaulle”.

‘Parting Shot’
My GUESS is that because of the long range and long duration requirement, coupled with the low SAM and Sonar requirements, the manufacturers will likely look at their large Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) line, and then select which one would be upgradeable to fit the PhN’s requirements. After all, if you look at some of the current large OPVs in the market now, you just bolt in a multiple launcher for small SAMs and find space for 4 SSM launchers and voila, you meet the PhN’s requirements.

The SAM and CIWS requirements are minor issues for me, but I feel the lack of towed sonar equipment is a major issue for this technical requirement. However, despite that, I feel happy with the overall specifications of this Frigate Acquisition Project, as more or better capability can always be added later.

It is quite a historic event for the PhN, the most capable ships in its entire history so far. Dates to note down from hereon are the following:
– October 11, 2013 = Pre-Bidding Conference, where the PhN and DND will be addressing concerns from the potential bidders
– October 25, 2013 = First stage of the bidding, where the actual bidding will be done

Good luck to the Philippine Navy, and to the Philippines …

The fully autonomous Mistral Sadral Sextuplet Launcher. Photo courtesy of the Sindramas Forum
The fully autonomous Mistral Sadral Sextuplet Launcher. Photo courtesy of the Sindramas Forum

SOURCES:

^[1] Mk38 Mod 2, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M242_Bushmaster#Mk_38_Mod_2

^[2] People’s Liberation Army Navy Submarine Force, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People’s_Liberation_Army_Navy_Submarine_Force

^[3] RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIM-116_Rolling_Airframe_Missile

^[4] Mistral missile, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mistral_missile

^[5] Stinger missile, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIM-92_Stinger

^[6] Chiron missile, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiron_(missile)

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Revision History:
* October 10, 2013: Originally posted
* October 11, 2013: Cleaned/improved some of the grammar, and clarified that “Facebook” comment in case some people start taking it seriously
* December 28, 2013: Added “News Updates” section
* March 18, 2014: Removed “News Updates” section, added link to “Frigate Acquisition Timeline” instead; Revised captioning and updated Footnotes to the latest standard.
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18 thoughts on “Philippine Navy Frigate Acquisition Project Technical Requirements”

  1. Seriously, the 76mm Gun is a peashooter for a general purpose gun (AA, Sh-Sh and SB or what do they really intended the gun for?) compared to the 127mm like the one used on the FFX (incheon-class frigate). As for China in case of war, we may encounter more ships and missile rather than aircrafts. The RIM-116 is a good choice for anti-AShM

    1. Sorry, but I disagree. The 76 mm is a good compromise between explosive power and rate of fire, making it an ideal General Purpose gun. Which is why the Oto Melara 76 mm gun has a virtual monopoly naval guns as it is present in a vast majority of ships now in service around the world.

      As for firepower, I suggest you try to watch the National Geographic Channel’s “Sinking a Destroyer”, which is a documentary about the Sinking Exercise (Sinkex) of the HMCS Huron. It was only after they used the 76 mm gun that it started to list and sink. Here’s the trailer … http://vimeo.com/10755730

      1. Yes the 76mm does have a good ROF but if you want to shoot for yourself you may want your enemy dead for good, I watched the documentary you suggested but it was already battered with earlier guns before the 76 and I counted multiple rounds also before the ship started listing, the 127 should be at least better in firepower at least by logic. The ship would sink faster.

        Anyway I don’t want to start an argument here, the 76mm is good for fast and maneuverable warfare and the 127mm is for slugging out, but PN’s has their own choice.

      2. Well, just a note that while the Huron was battered by earlier guns, none of them made the Huron start listing and sinking like the 76 mm cannon did.

        One other advantage of the 76 mm is that 5 of our ships are already using it, the 3 Jacinto-class ships and 2 Del Pilar-class ships, so it would be easier for the PhN in terms of logistics and support to have the same guns for all of its major ship assets …

  2. Sir, what is the maximum/minimum range for SSM’s and SAM’s? 6 km is kinda short compared to standard missile frigate nowadays. Anyway, good choice though and I agree with you on the towed SONAR’s.

    1. For SSMs like the RGM-84 Harpoon, for example, its around 140 km.

      Yes, the 6 km minimum range is a bit low and usually means CIWS missiles like the Mistral or RAM. The USN, for example, is switching to the ESSM as minimum SAM defense against supersonic AShMs, and it has a range of around 50 km …

      1. Okay, thank you sir. I am not convinced that the 6km range is suitable for the PN. The Mk mod alone is 16000km maximum.

    1. Sorry, not even remotely possible, as the weight of 1 Oto Melara 76 mm Super Rapid turret is about the same weight of the entire Scorpion Light Tank …

  3. My top choices will be Incheon Class and Austal Combat Littoral Ships, because it will be built in Philippine shipyards (Batangas and Cebu respectively) thus decreasing the total cost and they will not encounter budgetary problems. Third one is the Incheon Class with mostly Israeli made sensors.

  4. The multirole frigate acquisition cost is expensive when you want to meet the deterrence capability specifically if you consider the threat in naval warfare.

    We just not look on subsurface capability of our ships, we also look now on the hypersonic missile threats, cyber warfare threats, assymetric threats using swarm tactics, electronic warfare threats and mine warfare threats.

    1. That swarm tactic will not work for us, for obvious reason is “swarming” means you need many, we don’t have a budget for “many”. And it will take a long while, years even to acquire a number of fleet to be able to swarm. Besides for this to work you need a mixed assets to cover one another in case of other threats such as aircraft and submarine threats. What we need is what the AFP is already doing, a desired mixed force.

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