For the latest news about the new Frigate acquisition, refer to the “Philippine Navy New Frigate Acquisition Timeline“.
Revised March 18, 2014. See bottom of the page for the complete revision history
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
* 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
* 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
* 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)
* 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
* 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
* 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
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 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. 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), Mistral, Stinger, and Chiron 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”.
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 …
^ People’s Liberation Army Navy Submarine Force, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People’s_Liberation_Army_Navy_Submarine_Force
^ RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIM-116_Rolling_Airframe_Missile
* 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.