2nd Philippine Frigate to be the first Ships in the World with Mk38 Mod 2; ₱12 Billion Italian Maestrale-class frigates in 2013

Frigate for Philippines to be equipped with latest gun

BRP Ramon Alcaraz will have two Mk38 Mod 2 automatic cannon systems

A frigate purchased by the Philippines from the United States will be among the first ships in the world to be equipped with state-of-the art cannon systems.

The Mk38 Mod 2 is designed to counter high-speed maneuvering surface targets and will be installed also in almost all US surface ships by 2015. It was commissioned by the US Navy following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000.

A statement issued by the Philippine Embassy in Washington said the long range cutter, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, will be equipped with two Mk38 Mod 2 automatic cannon systems.

"The Pentagon has awarded a $1.8 million (₱ 74.4million) contract for the purchase of modern weapons systems that would be installed in the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, the second high-endurance cutter that the Philippines recently acquired from the United States," the statement said.

Capt Elson Aguilar, Naval Attache at the Office of the Defense and Armed Forces Attache at the Philippine Embassy, was quoted as saying that acquisition of the 25mm autocannons are part of a $24 million contract with BAE systems for the purchase of 21 units of the remotely controlled naval gun systems and spare parts for both the US and Philippine navies.

The BAE contract involves the purchase of 21 units of the remotely controlled naval gun systems and spare parts for both the US and Philippine navies, according to Capt. Elson Aguilar, Naval Attache at the Office of the Defense and Armed Forces Attache at the Philippine Embassy.

Two 25mm autocannons will be fitted on the BRP Ramon Alcaraz as part of the frigate's air and surface defense system.

The BRP Alcaraz, which is expected to arrive in the Philippines in November 2012, is a sister vessel of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, aa 115 meter-long, 3,250 metric tons Hamilton Class ship. The two vessels are the biggest and among the most modern in the country's fleet. The Del Pilar is equipped with 76mm rapid fire guns aside from the 25mm automatic cannons. Both have helicopter decks.

The Alcaraz will be deployed at a time of tension between the Philippines and China over a group of islands in the South China Sea (West Philippines Sea).

The embassy said the new weapon systems are upgraded versions of the Mk38 M242 Bushmasters (25mm cannons) that were removed from the vessel prior to its turnover to the Philippines. The remotely controlled chain gun system can fire as many as 180 25m rounds per minute at targets as far as two kilometers.

He added that the autocanon can be fired manually if the sensors are damaged or if the vessels lose power.

"The Mk38 Mod 2 will allow the Alcaraz and the Del Pilar to track and fire at targets automatically in both day and night using single shot, low speed or high-speed automatic fire," Aguilar said, adding that the autocannon can be fired manually if the sensors are damaged or if the vessels lose power.

Aguilar said the vessel is presently awaiting the general overhaul of her port main diesel engine and further installation of navigational and electronics equipment.

The Alcaraz is set to undergo a general overhaul of her port main diesel engine and further installation of navigational and electronics equipment, which is expected to take 11 weeks.

According to Aguilar, both the Alcaraz and the Del Pilar are capable of conducting patrols for long periods of time and withstanding heavy weather and rough sea conditions.

The two Mk38 Mod 2 systems will complement the existing weapons system that consists of the Mk75 76-mm Oto Melara main battery and four M2HB .50 caliber machine guns.

The addition of the modern ships to the Philippines fleet will be a big boost for the navy which had long suffered the reputation of being among the most poorly equipped in Southeast Asia.

The weapons system for the BRP Del Pilar (PF15) will be covered under a separate contract, Aguilar said.

The 378-foot-long Alcaraz was commissioned in 1968 and served with the US Coast Guard as the USCGC Dallas until it was decommissioned and turned over to the Philippines in May. It is being refurbished and refitted at a cost of $15.15-M.

It is the second Hamilton-class cutter acquired by the Philippines under the Excess Defense Article and Military Assistance Program.

The first, the Del Pilar, was turned over to the Philippine Navy in May 2011.

The Alcaraz was named after Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, a Philippine Navy officer who distinguished himself during World War II when the patrol boat he commanded was credited for shooting down three Japanese aircraft.

12 Billion Italian Maestrale-class frigates, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weaponry

2  Italian Maestrale-class frigates, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weaponry are set to strengthen the Philippines' maritime defense capabilitiesfor  11.7-billion Maestrale-class frigates , which have anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weaponry.

"These frigates are warships. These have anti-air, sub-surface, they have anti-submarine (capabilities).

The frigates, which were commissioned in the 1980s, are being used by the Italian Navy.

The Philippine Navy is waiting for the approval of contract that is expected to be signed in January 2013.

The ships will then be delivered by November 2013 after they are refurbished.

"These are operational. They are being used by the Italian Navy.

Gulf News, ABS-CBN News

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