Category Archives: Gregorio Del Pilar Frigate

Upgrading the Philippine Navy’s Hamilton Ships

Revised January 24, 2014. See bottom of the page for the complete revision history

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As of this writing, the 2nd Hamilton-class Cutter (the BRP Ramon Alcaraz) acquired by the Philippine Navy (PhN) has finally arrived on Philippine shores, with the first one having arrived in 2011 (the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar). They are capable ships, the largest and heaviest armed ships in the history of the PhN, but for me they will still need to be upgraded by acquiring new equipment and weapons for them to be able to serve well in defending the Philippines’ territories at sea.

‘USCGC Mellon as Blueprint’

The USCGC Mellon with full weapons. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
The USCGC Mellon with full weapons. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

I think the PN will have to look at the USCGC Mellon as guide or blueprint for upgrading these ships. What happened was that starting in the 1980s, all Hamilton-class ships underwent a “Fleet Rehabilitation And Modernization (FRAM)” programme, and initially the programme sought to include better capabilities for these ships like Anti-Submarine and Anti-Ship warfare, and also Air-Defense.

This was at the height of the Cold War with Russia, and the US Navy (USN) felt that these ships needed these capabilities for them to better protect against sea-borne attacks on US soil. The Mellon was the first ship to get the FRAM upgrade, and ended up with the following capabilities and equipment:[1]
– Air Defense: Air Search Radar, Close In Weapons System (CIWS)
– Anti-Ship Capability: Surface Search and Navigation Radar, 25mm and 76mm Autocannons, 8 Harpoon Anti-Ship Missiles (AShMs)
– Anti-Submarine Warfare: Hull-mounted Sonar, 6 Torpedo Tubes
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Defending the Philippine Navy’s Hamilton-Cutter Purchases

(Updated September 26, 2015. See bottom of the page for the complete revision history)

The PF-15 BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, the lead ship of the Del Pilar class of ships of the Philippine Navy. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The PF-15 BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, the lead ship of the Del Pilar class of ships of the Philippine Navy. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Along with the praise, there has been SOME criticism also about the Philippine Navy’s purchase of the Hamilton-class Cutters from the US. Most of the criticism centers around the fact that these are old, 1960s era ships that were sold to us as second hand, and also that as warships they don’t have the equipment and weapons to stand toe-to-toe with China’s war vessels. I do agree with the second observation as these cutters only have limited sensors and their main armaments are only the 76mm guns, which is a bit lacking in this day and age of missile technology. However, these Hamiltons do have some good qualities also, which I shall try to enumerate below.

‘Fantastic Bargain’
The first thing about these Hamilton-cutters are that at around 3,000 tons[1], they are the HEAVIEST armed Warship the Philippines has ever had. True, there are Landing Ship Transports (LSTs) or other logistical vessels that are way heavier than the Hamiltons, but if you are talking about armed warships with at least heavy guns, then nothing beats these Hamiltons in the Philippine Navy’s history. [2][3]
Continue reading Defending the Philippine Navy’s Hamilton-Cutter Purchases