MANILA, Philippines — Korean shipbuilding giant Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) has launched BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), a missile-capable frigate designed to protect the Philippines’ vast waters including the West Philippine Sea.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana led the Philippine delegation at the ship launch ceremony held Friday at HHI shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea, acting director of Navy public affairs Lcdr. Maria Christina Roxas said in a statement.
The defense chief was joined by Armed Forces chief Gen. Noel Clement, Navy chief Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad, retired Navy chief Vice Adm. Ferdinand Golez, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command Rear Adm. Rommel Jason Galang, the Naval Inspector General Commo. Sean Anthony Villa, Philippine Fleet deputy commander Commo. Wilfredo Burgonio Jr., and Offshore Combat Force commander Capt. Karl Decapia.
Minister of Defense Acquisition of the Republic of Korea Wang Jung-Hong and Vice President/ Owner of HHI Kisun Chung led the Korean delegation.
The BRP Antonio Luna is the second ship of the Jose-Rizal class frigates. The Philippine government signed a deal with HHI for the construction of two frigates for P16 billion in 2016.
The BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), the first of the two frigates, was launched in May this year. It is slated for delivery in April 2020, while the BRP Antonio Luna is expected in September 2020.
“The acquisition of these missile frigates will strengthen the Navy’s capability to safeguard our maritime nation and territorial limits. These two missile capable frigates are tangible manifestations and benchmarks of the PN’s vision of becoming strong and credible by 2020,” Roxas said.
The frigate acquisition project of the Philippine Navy (PN) attracted attention in late 2017 due to the selection of combat management systems (CMS), which is considered as the “brain” of the warships.
Malacañang allegedly intervened in the selection of CMS, prompting the Senate and House of Representatives to investigate into the matter. President Rodrigo Duterte later revealed that he acted on a complaint by HHI.
The Jose Rizal-class frigates were designed based on the Incheon/FFX-I/HDF-3000-type multi-purpose frigate of the Republic of Korea Navy. It will be armed with Oto Melara 76mm super rapid gun and SMASH 30mm remote-controlled established naval gun.
The ships will be fully equipped with surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, launchers and weapon systems for four-dimensional warfare.
Each vessel is capable to carry more than a hundred officers and crew. It also features a flight deck towards the stern with the ability to handle one maritime helicopter weighing up to 12t. A hangar will also be fitted to accommodate the helicopter.
It will also be equipped with two rigid-hulled inflatable boats for military and emergency operations at sea.
The two ships will have a maximum speed of 25 knots, with a range of 4,500 nautical miles at cruising speed of 15 knots. It can sustain an operational presence for 30 days.
The Philippine Navy is looking to acquire two corvettes, six offshore patrol vessels, eight fast attack interdiction craft and two landing docks in the next few years. /kga