ULSAN, South Korea The acquisition of modern naval platforms, such as the missile frigate, BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), and its sister ship, BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) ongoing efforts to ensure the country's territorial integrity.
This was stressed by AFP Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., when asked by reporters whether the acquisition of these frigates mean that the country is engaging in an arms race in the wake of the ongoing tensions at the West Philippine Sea.
"No, the objective of our ongoing modernization program is to come up with a very credible and world-class AFP that the Filipino people will be proud of. Those (tensions) are just incidental but our overall intention, of course, is to ensure we maintain our territorial integrity and that we are able to represent an armed forces that can be at par with other Armed Forces in other countries," he said in a mixture of Filipino and English during the briefing for the launch of the BRP Jose Rizal.
Madrigal said these ships will be able to support Filipino fishermen engaged in their lawful occupation in the country's territorial waters.
The AFP chief's views were echoed by Philippine Navy flag officer-in-command, Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, who noted the urgent need for the PN to upgrade its new assets due to the country's vast territorial waters.
"There is a saying that if you want to achieve peace, you prepare for war. I attended the International Maritime Security Conference last week in Singapore and we observed that a lot of Navies are modernizing their capabilities," Empedrad said.
He cited as an example the case of Australia, China, and Malaysia who are currently ramping up their naval forces.
"I think there is a need to beef up the PN because we have vast maritime (territories that these countries) and we need to protect it," Empedrad said.
The BRP Jose Rizal was formally launched at the Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea Thursday morning.
The ship, which is expected to be delivered to the Philippines by HHI in September 2020, will be armed with an Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid main gun, an Aselsan SMASH 30mm remote-controlled secondary cannon, anti-submarine torpedoes, and anti-air and ship missiles.
It is also equipped with Hanwha Systems' Naval Shield combat management system (CMS), which integrates all shipboard sensors and weapons and decides which is ideal to deal with any incoming threat.
This system can also detect and track about 4,000 targets and is used in various configurations by the Republic of Korea Navy, Royal Malaysian Navy and the Indonesian Navy.
The Philippines and HHI signed a PHP16-billion contract for two missile-armed frigates, with another PHP2 billion set aside for its weapon systems and munition in October 2016.
PN spokesperson, Capt. Jonathan Zata, said these frigates will help secure the country's maritime chokepoints or primary sea routes used for trade, logistics, and naval operations for all forms of threats.
The steel-cutting for BRP Jose Rizal took place on April 1, 2018 while the same ceremony for BRP Antonio Luna transpired in November that year.
This event officially signified the start of the actual construction of the frigates.
Meanwhile, the keel-laying ceremony for BRP Jose Rizal took place last October as the formal recognition of the start of the ship's construction.
Keel-laying refers to the official start of the construction of any ship and is considered among the four highlights of any surface vessel with the other three being steel-cutting, commissioning, and decommissioning.
"These frigates are built based on the Incheon/FFX-I/HDF-3000-type multi-purpose frigate of the Republic of Korea Navy (RoKN), which offers increased operational performance and enhanced survivability," Zata said.
These are also fully-equipped with surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, launchers and weapon systems for four-dimensional warfare.
The ship measures 351 feet long and 46 feet wide and has a maximum speed of 25 knots and can travel up to 4,500 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 15 knots. It can sustain operational presence for 30 days and is capable of withstanding rough sea conditions up to Sea State 7, which means waves of up to six meters to nine meters high.
"Each frigate has a complement of more than 100 officers and crew. It has a flight deck located at the stern with the ability to handle one maritime helicopter weighing up to 12 tons. Two rigid-hulled inflatable boats will be carried to conduct military and emergency operations at sea," Zata added. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency