The BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) Corvette of the Philippine Navy

The Chungju (PCC-762) Pohang class Corvette of the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN). Photo by u/RPBot thru Reddit.

I first wrote about the Philippine Navy’s (PN) acquisition of a Pohang class Corvette from the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) back in June 2014,1 and the news then was that it was expected to the delivered by the end of 2014. Well the “by the end of 2014” stretched out to four years and eight months because the first Pohang Corvette was finally commissioned into service by the PN only in August of this year (2019).2

On a positive note, the very long delay did mean we got a newer ship instead of an older one. The ship that we got was the former Chungju (PCC-762), part of the Flight III Batch of the Pohang Corvettes which was commissioned in 1987 by the ROKN and then retired in 2016.3

‘The BRP Conrado Yap’
The Chungju was renamed by the PN as the BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) after a Philippine Army (PA) Captain who was the most decorated Philippine Serviceman during the Korean War in the early 1950s. Captain Yap died in 1951 and was posthumously awarded the highest medal for Courage in the Philippines, the Medal of Valor due to his heroic actions during the Battle of Yul-dong.4

With a length of 88 m and full displacement of 1,200 tons, the BRP Yap is much smaller than the other two main ships of the PN, the Del Pilar class vessels (115 m long, 3,000 tons weight)5 and the upcoming Jose Rizal class Frigates (107 m long, 2,600 tons weight).6

Below is a comparison of the three ship’s sizes with the original drawings taken from the Shipbucket website:

However, the BRP Yap has a pretty good range of 7,400 km at a Cruising Speed (CS) of 15 knots, just slightly lower than that 8,300 km range of the Jose Rizal Frigates at the same speed. And overall it is quite a formidable ship on its own as we will see below.

’Gun, Ship’
Until the arrival of the Jose Rizal class Frigates starting next year, the BRP Yap will be the most heavily armed active ship of the PN with not just one but two Oto Melara 76 mm Compact cannons as its Main Guns and another two Oto Melara Twin Fast Forty (TFF) cannons as its Secondary Guns.7

In contrast, all of our other ships like the Del Pilar class and Jacinto class vessels only have one Oto Melara 76 mm Compact cannon as their main gun and their secondary guns are of lower caliber than that of the BRP Yap.

The Oto Melara Compact cannon has rate of fire of 80 rounds per minute and has a range of 18.4 km for standard High Explosive (HE) rounds.8 The TFF on the other hand has a rate of fire of 900 rounds per minute and a range of 12.5 km for standard HE rounds.9

These TFFs will be the fastest firing guns in the PN, not even the Jose Rizal Frigates have guns that can fire faster than them. They will only be superseded if and when the PN decides to acquire faster firing Close In Weapons System (CIWS) such as the Mk 15 Phalanx or AK-630M.

Its manufacturer Oto Melara claims that because of its fast firing rate and high accuracy, the TFF can hit an incoming supersonic missile flying in a straight line up to as far as 3 km away.

With all of its main and secondary guns firing at the same time, the BRP Yap will have a total combined rate of fire of 1,960 rounds per minute or 32 rounds per second. Currently no other ship in the PN have this much firepower in terms of modern, automated guns.

’Anti-Sub’
Also until the arrival of the Jose Rizal class Frigates, the BRP Yap will be the only active ship in the PN with full Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capability, meaning not only can it detect and track Submarines, it can also attack them if necessary.

PN vessels used to have this capability before, but over the decades as their submarine detection equipment became obsolete and submarine weapons went beyond their lifespans, no replacement came and thus this capability was lost. It is only now with the arrival of the BRP Yap that it has been regained.

The Del Pilar class ships are going to be fitted with Hull Mounted Sonars (HMS) to detect subs,10 but they have no weapons to attack those subs since they were transferred to us without anti-submarine weapon launchers. Hopefully they will be upgraded with such equipment too, soon.

The Jose Rizal Frigates will be the only other ships in the PN with full ASW capability once they become operational in the next year or so. The BRP Yap is equipped with a PHS-32 HMS to detect and track subs, and the only data I could find of its range is from a game simulation which says that it has a maximum estimated range of 7.4 km.11

’ASW Weapons’
For anti-Submarine weapons, the BRP Yap has two Mark (Mk) 32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes (SVTT) that can be armed with Torpedoes and two Depth Charge Racks (DCR) that can be armed with Mk 9 Depth Charges (DC).

The Mk 32 SVTT has three tubes that can use standard 12.75” or 324 mm diameter Light Weight Torpedoes (LWT) like the K745 Chung Sang Eo (Blue Shark) Torpedo used by the PN’s AW159 Wildcat ASW Helicopters and Jose Rizal class Frigates.

As per its manufacturer Lig Nex1, the K745 has a maximum speed of 45 kts, Cruising Speed of 12 kts, can go to a maximum depth of 500 m and has a maximum running range of 12 km.12

On the other hand, each DCR can hold six Mk 9 Depth Charges that has warheads weighing 91 kg and can sink to maximum depth of 180 m.13 These Depth Charges work by sinking and detonating at a preset depth, hoping that an Submarine is near enough to be damaged or destroyed by the underwater explosion.

The Mk 9 is an old, World War Two (WW2) era weapon though, and the ship needs to literally go above a Submarine for it to work. It makes me wonder if the DCRs could be somehow refitted to a Del Pilar class vessel so it will at least have an anti-Submarine weapon.

’Radars’
The BRP Yap has the SPS-64 Radar which it uses for Navigation and Surface Search (meaning locate objects on the surface of the ocean) which has a maximum theoretical range of 118 km.14

It has another set of radar integrated with its WM-28 Fire Control System (FCS) that can do Search and Tracking of both aerial and surface targets.15

Game simulation data says that the SPS-64 can detect surface targets with a Radar Cross Section (RCS) of 30,000 m^2 at 32 km, the same range for the WM-28 for the same sized target. The WM-28 on the other hand can reportedly detect an aerial target with an RCS of 5 m^2 at 46 km.16

’Misels’
The only reason the Jose Rizal Frigates are more heavily armed than the BRP Yap is because they have missile launchers that will be armed with missiles. As for the Pohang Corvettes, some websites like Naval Technology say that except for the first four Pohang class Corvettes, the rest were armed with four RGM-84 Harpoon Anti-Ship Missiles (AShM) during their service with the ROKN.17

However, other sources like Navypedia say not all including the BRP Yap / Chungju were equipped with the Harpoon,18 and it seems to be the more accurate information as of now so I will be going with that.

But it is definitely possible to install AShMs on the BRP Yap as shown by Vietnam which installed the KCT-15 missile on their Pohang Flight III Corvette, the former Yeosu (PCC-765) of the ROKN. The KCT-15 is a licensed built version by Vietnam of Russia’s Kh-35E Uran missiles, and eight such missiles were installed.19

Websites like Naval Technology also don’t report the Pohang Corvettes as having been armed with Mistral short range Surface to Air Missiles (SAM) when they were with the ROKN, but some sources do, and Vietnam even took it a step further by installing similar 9K38 Igla missiles on at least one of their Pohang ships, the former Gimcheon (PCC-761).20

’No Helicopter’
About the only thing lacking from these Pohang Corvettes (aside from missiles in the case of these Flight III ships) is that they can’t carry Rotary Wing aircraft (or Helicopters), unlike the Del Pilar and Jose Rizal class ships.

A Helicopter with Anti-Surface and Anti-Submarine Sensors and Weapons would’ve helped the BRP Yap become more effective in its combat role.

For example, because of the curvature of the Earth, a helicopter with radar is needed for the BRP Yap to detect, track and attack enemy ships and low flying aerial targets beyond the horizon. Also a helicopter with ASW capability would’ve enabled the BRP Yap hunt down Submarines better.

’More Pohangs?’
PN Flag Officer in Command (FOIC) Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad said in an interview a couple of months ago that they requested for at least two additional Pohang Corvettes from South Korea and reportedly got an informal commitment.21

Recently he said that the PN is hoping that a Pohang Corvette that will be retired at the end of this year (2019) will be allocated to the Philippines.22 I think these Pohangs are great vessels, if we can get more then that would be very much welcome, indeed.

’Parting Shot’
To summarize, the BRP Yap is the most capable ship of the PN for now until the arrival of the missile armed Jose Rizal class Frigates next year. And even after the arrival of those Frigates, it will still have the fastest firing guns of all PN ships until faster firing guns are bought.

I think it is the best ship to be upgraded with missiles, ahead of the Del Pilar class ships since it already has a lot of capability built into it. For that we can look at how the ROKN and Vietnam have installed missiles on these ships, and follow their lead.

So welcome to one of the best ships of the PN, I hope that more will follow.

The BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) Corvette of the Philippine Navy (PN). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

SOURCES:

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