MANILA—The Philippine Navy (PN) will have more naval assets to patrol the country’s vast maritime domains with the arrival of the BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602), its second strategic sealift vessel (SSV), by May, and two missile-armed MPACs by November.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Eduardo Año, made the statement when asked what efforts are being undertaken to further secure the country’s seas.
This is in the wake of the failed Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) infiltration in Inabanga, Bohol, which resulted in the death of six bandits, including sub-leader Muamar Askali alias “Abu Rami”, and three soldiers and a police officer last April 11.
He added that the second SSV, along with the two MPACs, will provide the Navy more assets to patrol the country’s waters, especially those in Basilan and Sulu, deterring ASG bandits against making similar attacks in the future.
Aside from these ships, additional fast craft and other assets are being earmarked for the Navy, which Año said is the primary beneficiary of the ongoing AFP Modernization Program.
The BRP Davao Del Sur is expected to be delivered by May 17.
As of this posting, the vessel is 98 percent complete.
The BRP Davao Del Sur, launched on Sept. 29 last year, is the sister ship of the BRP Tarlac (LD-601), currently the largest Filipino warship in commission.
The BRP Tarlac, commissioned on June 1 last year, arrived in the Philippines on May 14, 2016 after a five-day journey from PT PAL’s shipyard in Surabaya, Indonesia.
The BRP Davao Del Sur is also a Makassar-class landing platform dock, like her sister ship, the BRP Tarlac.
Its delivery to the Philippines, tentatively scheduled this May, will complete the two-unit SSV procurement project with an approved budget contract of PHP4 billion sourced from the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund.
Just like the BRP Tarlac, the Navy’s latest SSV will serve as a floating command-and-control ship, especially in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and will also serve as a military sealift and transport vessel.
The ship, which has an overall length of 120 meters, breadth of 21 meters, and draft of 5 meters, can carry a payload of 2,800 tons.
She has a cruising speed of 13 knots and maximum speed of 16 knots and a minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles.
The BRP Davao Del Sur can carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters.
Meanwhile, the construction of the country’s first two MPACs, with missile armament provisions, is ongoing at the Propmech Corp. shipyard in Subic Bay, Zambales.
MPAC is short for multi-purpose assault craft, a small, maneuverable and highly fast naval vessel.
This was confirmed by Defense public affairs office chief, Arsenio Andolong, in an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) last April 11.
“They are now being constructed at the Propmech Corp. facility in Subic Bay but we do not yet have the timeline for the sea trials,” he said.
Andolong added that the missile armaments and other weapons of the MPACs will be fitted at a later time.
The Navy earlier said that these MPACs will be delivered by the third quarter of this year.
These MPACs, the so-called Mark IIIs, are far more advanced and capable than the Mark Is and IIs currently in service.
The PN is operating six gun-armed MPACs as of this posting.
They will be armed with the Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.’s Spike ER (extended range) in anti-ship mode, which is capable of penetrating 1,000 mm. (39 inches) of rolled homogeneous armor and has a maximum range of five miles.
The PN’s missile-armed MPACs, three of which are in the pipeline, have a budget of PHP270 million.
The money will be sourced from the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund of 2000.
The contract covers mission essential equipment, which includes day/night electronic navigation systems, communication suites, safety-of-life-at-sea, propulsion system, and seamanship and ship-handling gears.