Wednesday, Oct 5, 2022

Philippine Navy is interested in purchasing another Hamilton-class cutter for a stop gap measure

Back in March 2021, we mentioned in one of our social media posts  that the Philippine Navy is was offered by the US to transfer ships and boats as..

Back in March 2021, we mentioned in one of our social media posts  that the Philippine Navy is was offered by the US to transfer ships and boats as part of its Military Assistance to the Philippines. 

These offers were among those said to be listed in the US document sent to the Philippine Ambassador to the US Babes Romualdez, which in turn was sent to President Rodrigo Duterte as proof of US commitment to assist the improvement of the Philippines’ defense capabilities.

We previously said that we would not provide further details as requested by sources, but we confirmed in our blog entry released last 05 April 2021 that the Philippine Navy has been offered the Cyclone-class large patrol boats of the US Navy, some of which were already decommissioned by the US Navy recently.

This was later on confirmed by the Philippine Navy’s Flag Officer in Command, Vice Adm. Giovanni Bacordo.

But so far, we have not confirmed the “ships” portion of the offer. These Cyclone-class are covered by the “boats” offer.

Photo credits to Wikipedia.

Ship on offer to the Philippine Navy:

With the Philippine Navy announcing its intent to acquire the Cyclone-class patrol boats, it would be also worth noting that the service actually has an impending scheduled Joint Visual Inspection (JVI) of a larger ship in the US mainland, with the invitation released as early as 2020.

But the inspection was not conducted yet by the Philippine Navy Technical Working Group (TWG) due to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting both countries.

The offer was actually for another Hamilton-class high endurance cutter of the US Coast Guard, the former USCGC Mellon (WHEC-717)

The USCGC Mellon (WHEC-717). Photo credits to Wikipedia.

The former USCG Mellon is the sistership of the Philippine Navy’s three Del Pilar-class patrol frigates, and was decommissioned from the USCGC on 20 August 2020.

It remains the only Hamilton-class ship still with the US government that has not been taken by a new enduser. Previously, it was believed that the ship was offered to the Royal Bahrain Naval Force, but it appears that even as early as 2019, the Bahraini government has already shown less interest in the ship.

The USCGC Mellon (WHEC-717):

The USCGC Mellon is the 3rd Hamilton-class high endurance cutter of the US Coast Guard, completed in February 1967, and commissioned with the US Coast Guard on January 1968.

The USCGC Mellon (WHEC-717) firing a Harpoon anti-ship missile during exercises. Photo credits to Wikipedia.

While it is true that the ship is already old at more than 50 years old, the Philippine Navy itself can attest the capabilities of the ship, with the type remaining as one of the fleet’s most capable ships despite the arrival of new frigates lately.

The USCGC Mellon showing its high sea state capability as it overcomes a swell. Photo credits to original source.

The Philippine Navy requested for a 4th Hamilton-class ship as early as late 2018, after realizing that the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PS-15) will only be ready for service by 2020 after damaging its propellers and propeller shaft assembly in an accident in the West Philippine Sea.

The US made an official offer to the Philippines by 2019, although an invitation was only made to inspect the ship in 2020.

Being an existing operator of the ship class since 2011, it was only logical for the Philippine Navy to take in another ship of the class, which could benefit from the service’s existing supply and maintenance chain for the ships.

Stop Gap Measure:
The Philippine Navy believes that the ship would still be good to use for another 10 years, long enough for the service to be able to obtain a replacement for it as part of its Capability Upgrade Program (CUP).

This means the former USCGC Mellon would only serve as a stop-gap measure while the Philippine Navy tries to build up its fleet after decommissioning World War 2-era ships and delays in its Horizon 2 acquisition plans.

It is also noted that the addition of the former USCGC Mellon would help the Philippine Navy sustain naval operations while its sisterships undergo the Del Pilar-class Upgrade Project which is slated to start later this year.

It should be noted that BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PS-15) and BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS-17) are both in dry dock for different reasons, thus affecting fleet availability.

In the longer term and if the Philippine Navy decides to retain the ship despite new ships already available, the platform becomes a force multiplier for the service, as it can still conduct patrol missions or even be used for training purposes similar to how other navies make use of older ships for training cadets and new seamen.

BRP Andres Bonifacio (L) and BRP Gregorio del Pilar (R) on drydock for repairs and maintenance works. Photo credits to community member sharing to MaxDefense PH.

Why Old Hamilton-class ships again?:

To those asking, so why not get something much younger, much modern warships like the Oliver Hazard Perry-class or the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), rather than old Hamilton-class ships with not much firepower and combat capability?

First of, the US has been offering the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates to the Philippine Navy for more than 20 years now since the late 1990s, with MaxDefense PH even reporting that the US made its offer again during the RIMPAC 2020 exercises in Hawaii. 

USCGC Mellon (WHEC-717) with Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG-49) during an exercise in Indonesia in 2010. Photo credits to DVIDS.

But it appears that the Philippine Navy is uninterested in the ships due to its lack of a diesel engine and its utilization of gas turbine engines which are most costly to operate than diesel engine-powered ships.

In short, it was PN's decision to skip on Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates.

A GE LM2500 marine gas turbine engine. Despite the PN having this type of engine, ships without diesel engines remain as the PN's "kryptonite" up to this day. Photo credits to original source.

Secondly, while the US Navy is planning to retire the first batches of the Freedom-class and Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships, it has not done so yet.

Also, there are fears from the Philippine Navy leaders and planners that they would cost a lot not just to acquire (despite expected to be offer for cheap), but could be expensive to sustain and maintain due to its complicated systems.

But based on previous information we received from sources, the Philippine Navy is indeed expected to receive an offer for either of the LCS classes under US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) of Excess Defense Articles.

The Freedom-class LCS. Photo credits to Wikipedia.

Cyclone-class littoral patrol vessels:

In the meantime, the Philippine Navy appears to be gunning to acquire several Cyclone-class littoral patrol vessels from the US Navy, with PN FOIC Vice Adm. Bacordo even confirming that there is an outstanding offer from the US government under its Excess Defense Article (EDA) program, and that they are waiting for the official approval from the State Department on the authority to transfer the ships to the Philippines.

Also being waited are the approval on the PN’s request for Price & Availability (P&A) which would allow the PN to prepare for the planning and programming of the acquisition, including preparing the costs for its transfer.

Cyclone-class littoral patrol vessels of the US Navy. Photo credits to Wikipedia.

The FOIC has mentioned at least twice that the PN wanted to get at least 5 units, which will allow them to have a total of 6 including the BRP Gen. Mariano Alvarez (PS-38) already with them since 2004. 

But there is also possibility that the PN may get more, but that would depend on the avaiaibility of ships for transfer from the US government, as well as results of inspections that make it acceptable for the PN to receive them, as well as financial capability of the Philippine government to pay for them.

The Philippine Navy's sole Cyclone-class patrol vessel BRP Gen. Mariano Alvarez. Photo credits to Peter @ Flickr.

The acquisition of these additional ships would also allow the Philippine Navy to bridge the gap left by retiring older littoral patrol ships like the Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo-class, and also allow them to retire old remaining ships like the Kagitingan-class.


In the end, while the Philippine Navy goes for old ships again, they are replacing much older ships that were retired or in need for immediate retirement. 

Also, these are only stop gap measures considering the PN already has a program to acquire new combat and patrol vessels as part of their modernization efforts.

These old ships may stay with the PN fleet beyond the arrival of new ships, but that is not something bad especially if the PN can afford their sustainment.

First release: 30 April 2021
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines


By: max montero[email protected]
Title: Philippine Navy interested in acquiring another Hamilton-class cutter as stop gap measure
Sourced From:
Published Date: Fri, 30 Apr 2021 02:19:00 +0000

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