“SEA To Provide KRAITSENSE ASW System For A South-Asian Navy’s OPV Program” –Naval News

KRAITSENSE ASW System. Photo credit: SEA

Naval News reports,

“UK-based anti-submarine warfare (ASW) solutions provider SEA has been awarded a contract to supply two of its innovative ASW systems, KraitSense, to a South-East Asian Navy for a new offshore patrol vessel (OPV) programme.”

I found another photo, below, in an earlier report.

KraitSense low profile passive sonar system. SEA picture.

It these systems perform reasonably well; they would be an attractive mobilization option for giving OPVs an ASW role. Even if not equipped with ASW weapons, adding sensors that can be coordinated with other surface and air weapons carriers would be helpful.

The SE Asian Customer?

Artist impression of the future Philippine Navy OPV to be constructed by HHI. HHI image.

Who is the SE Asian country with, “With a vast coastline and high number of islands within their jurisdiction…” Think the Philippines may be most likely.

Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) is building six offshore patrol vessels (OPV) for the Philippine Navy (not their Coast Guard). At about 2400 tons, 94.4 meters (309 ft 9 in) in length, with a speed of 22 knots, they are pretty typical medium sized OPVs, except for one thing, Wikipedia reports that their armament, in addition to 76 and 30 mm guns, includes two sets of triple lightweight anti-submarine torpedo tubes. There is no indication of an ASW sensors. It is reported to have spaces for Multi-Mission Containerized Modules. The flight deck and hangar are sufficient for support of an ASW helicopter and/or UAS.

“Philippine, US, Japanese coast guards carry out anti-terror drill in disputed waters” –Radio Free Asia

GlobalSecurity.Org has a report on a tri-lateral Counter-Terrorism exercise conducted by the US, Japan, and Philippine Coast Guards. This was part of an exercise discussed earlier. The USCGC Stratton was the USCG contingent. The photo above was taken a bit earlier and shows Stratton exercising with vessels from Indonesia and Singapore.

“US, PH, Japan coast guards hold maritime law enforcement training” –The Manila Times

More than 30 participants from the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam joined the Multinational Vessel Boarding Officer Course funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on May 15-26, 2023. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Manila Times reports on a US sponsored, Philippines hosted, boarding officer course that was also extended to officers from other ASEAN partners.

“Through this course, 33 participants from the PCG, Philippine National Police Maritime Group, Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency, Thailand’s Maritime Enforcement Command Center, and Vietnam’s Department of Fisheries enhanced their knowledge of the law of the sea and policy on the use of force.”

Thanks to Paul for bring this to my attention. 

“Philippine Coast Guard Will Hold First-Ever Trilateral Exercise with U.S., Japan” –USNI

BRP Teresa Magbanua, sister ship of BRP Melchora Aquino (MRRV-9702), during sea trials off Japan (Photo: Philippine Coast Guard)

The US Naval Institute News Service reports, beginning 1 June,

“BRP Melchora Aquino (MRRV-9702), BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301), BRP Boracay (FPB-2401) and one 44-meter multi-role response vessel will conduct the exercise with National Security Cutter USGCC Stratton (WMSL-752) and Japanese patrol vessel Akitsushima (PLH-32).”

I will just provide some photos with links to the Wikipedia description of the vessels. Note none of the Philippine Coast Guard vessels have any permanently mounted weapons.

JCG_Akitsushima(PLH-32), 9,300 tons (full load), Port of Kobe, July 9, 2017. Photo credit: Hunini, via Wikipedia.

USCGC Stratton moored in San Diego, California. Photo by BryanGoff

BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301) as it sails home to the Philippines. 3 May 2021. Photo: Philippine CG.

44-meter multi-role response vessel BRP Tubbataha during its delivery to the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine CG PAO photo

BRP Boracay (FPB-2401), 23 October 2018, Philippine CG photo.

US Sends a “Warning” to China Against Targeting the Philippine Coast Guard

CRASH AVERTED This photo taken on April 23, 2023 shows BRP Malapascua (right) maneuvering as a Chinese coast guard ship cuts its path at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands. AFP PHOTO

A Reuters report, “U.S. issues guidelines on defending Philippines from South China Sea attack” indicates the US would consider an attack on the Philippine Coast Guard grounds for invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and the Philippines.

There was more to it than that, but certainly the recent confrontations between the Philippine CG and China CG and maritime militia must have prompted this clarification.

Perhaps less obvious, is that, apparently, it would also activate the treaty if a US Coast Guard vessel were attacked in the South China Sea.

“The guidelines said the bilateral treaty commitments would be invoked if either is attacked specifically in the South China Sea and also if coast guard vessels were the target.”

“Philippine Coast Guard Set For Personnel Boost” –Naval News

BRP Teresa Magbanua during sea trials off Japan (Photo: Philippine Coast Guard)

Naval News reports,

“The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is set to receive an additional 4,000 personnel this year, in order to reach a total of 30,000 by year-end.”

Some things to note:

That is almost 75% the size of the US Coast Guard, while the Philippine EEZ is less than 20% of the US.

The Philippine Coast Guard will be considerably larger than the Philippine Navy which has 24,500 active-duty members including 8,300 Marines.

BRP Batangas (SARV-004) in between USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750) and BRP Kalanggaman (FPB-2404) in an Exericse held in 2019. For many years, the Australian San Juan and Ilocos Norte vessels were the only major patrol assets in PCG service.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer John Masson)

Until 2020 the Philippine Coast Guard had no large patrol cutters. Their largest ships were two buoy tenders including the former USCGC Redbud, first commissioned in 1944. In fact, they mark the founding of their Coast Guard Fleet only as of 2007.

Beginning in 2020 the Philippine Coast Guard has obtained their first large patrol cutter, the 83 meter BRP Gabriela Silang. In 2022 they obtained two Japanese built 97 meter cutters of the Teresa Magbanua-class (see lead photo). They hope to get many more.

This build-up is obviously in response to Chinese intrusions into the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

It appears the Philippine Coast Guard still has no weapons larger than .50 caliber machine guns. It will be interesting to see if this changes.

“Philippines Says China Ship Used Laser Against Coast Guard” –Real Clear Defense

RealClearDefense reports,

 “The Philippines on Monday accused a Chinese coast guard ship of hitting a Philippine coast guard vessel with a military-grade laser and temporarily blinding some of its crew in the disputed South China Sea, calling it a “blatant” violation of Manila’s sovereign rights.”

The incident occurred near Second Thomas Shoal, as the Philippine cutter BRP Malapascua was escorting a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre, a Philippine LST deliberately, permanently grounded on Second Thomas Shoal. (Video here). Apparently the resupply effort was turned back.

Philippine CG statement on the incident here.

None of the Philippine Coast Guard cutters seem to be armed with anything larger than a .50 cal. machine gun, so they are at a disadvantage in facing down a large China CG cutter armed with a 76 mm gun, like the one in the photo above.

Philippines Standing Up to China? Joint Patrols?

Philippine Navy frigate BRP Andrés Bonifacio (FF 17), the former USCGC Boutwell, participates in a group sail during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise off the coast of Hawaii, July 26, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Arthurgwain Marquez)

A couple of recent reports seem to indicate the Philippines is becoming more aggressive in the protection of their EEZ.

Marine Link reports, “Philippines Coast Guard Boosts South China Sea Presence.”

“The Philippine Coast Guard has stepped up its presence in the disputed South China Sea by deploying additional vessels and conducting more sorties and overflights to protect maritime territory and the country’s fishermen, its chief said on Monday.”

gCaptain reports, “Philippine Navy Says China Tailed Its Warship.”

“The navy’s BRP Andres Bonifacio was conducting a patrol and search mission on Feb. 1 when it was monitored and tailed by the Chinese vessels near the reef, which is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, said Armand Balilo, a spokesman for the coast guard. The militia boats “even conducted an intercept course,” he added.”

That the Philippine Navy is sending one of its largest ships (painted gray), the former USCGC  Boutwell, to confront Chinese trespassing is, I believe, a change from their previous policy.

Since the US and the Philippines have agreed to resume joint patrols, I would not be surprised to see a US Coast Guard cutter backstopping a Philippine CG cutter as it boards and perhaps seizes a Chinese fishing vessel. There are certainly plenty of them that are violating Philippine law.

“US gov’t pledges more capacity-building programs for PCG” –Manila Bulletin

Certainly this will involve more “capacity building” and possibly more equipment transfers, but, perhaps more importantly, the US is sharing intelligence with the Philippines and other SE Asian nations to enhance maritime domain awareness.

I hope this will be another step toward a law enforcement alliance, a “Combined Maritime Security Task Force, Pacific,” perhaps following the model of the “Combined Maritime Force” in SW Asia.

Thanks to Xavier Ng for bringing this to my attention. 

“HHI To Build Six New OPVs For The Philippine Navy” –Naval News

Philippine Navy OPV to be built by HHI in S. Korea. HHI image.

Naval News reports,

Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) signed a contract with the Philippine Department of National Defense on June 27th to construct six units of new build 2,400 ton Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) worth USD 573 million.

They provide this description,

The Philippine Navy OPV has a displacement of 2,400 tons, a length of 94.4 meters, a width of 14.3 meters, a maximum speed of 22 knots, a cruising speed of 15 knots, a range of 5,500 nautical miles and will be built at HHI’s Ulsan shipyard until 2028. The vessel is to be equipped with a 76mm main gun, two 30mm secondary guns, a helideck capable of operating a helicopter and unmanned aerial vehicles.

That is 310 ft in length, 47 ft beam. In terms of displacement they will be a third larger than the Bear class 270 foot WMECs.

Looking at the artist concept, I see only one 30mm, but I also see fire monitors on the corners fo the hangar roof and decoy launchers between the bridge and funnels. There seems to be considerable open space under the flight deck. There may be provision for a stern launch ramp.

Also, the illustration shows the ships equipped with a pair of Simbad-RC for short range Mistral fire-and-forget, IR homing Missiles, mounted on either side of the hangar roof between the funnels and the 30mm. Inclusion on this class appears likely and logical because the system was also included on the BRPJose Rizal class frigates built for the Philippine Navy by HHI. This system is also reported to be effective against small high speed surface craft.

A Simbad-RC with Mistral Missiles on the BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) Frigate of the Philippine Navy (PN)

The helicopter depicted in the illustration is a Westland Wildcat AW159. The Philippine Navy recently aquired two of these and will presumably add more to their fleet as more flight decks join the Navy. With a max take off weight of 13,228 lb it is larger than an MH-65 but considerably smaller than an MH-60. This aircraft can have both an Anti-Submarine and an Anti-Surface capability. It appears unlikely the ships themselves will have either a ASW mission or capability as built. The Wildcat can launch light weight torpedoes and reportedly the S. Korean and Philippine aircraft can launch Spike NLOS. This is a 70 kg (150 lb) anti-surface missile with man-in-the-loop guidance and a claimed maximum range of 25 km (16 mi). The range may actually be considerably greater. From Wikipedia,

“In 2020 the US Army announced its intention to procure Spike NLOS missiles to be mounted on Apache helicopters. A test was conducted in March 2021 where an AH-64E fired a Spike NLOS at a target 32 km (20 mi) away and scored a direct hit.

“In June 2022, Rafael unveiled the Spike NLOS 6th generation with range increased to 50 km (31 mi), a salvo feature which can launch up to four missiles at a time, and the ability to hand over control after firing to another platform. It also has a Target Image Acquisition capability that can prioritize important targets for strike…”

These ships could considerally strengthen the Philippines’ hand in dealing with Chinese gray zone operations, if the Philippines could get over their apparenent reticence in using their Navy to police their EEZ. Maybe they could just paint them white and add law enforcement stripes while still labeling them Philippine Navy and let embarked Philippine Coast Guard ride-alongs do actual law enforcement.