By MG Mahmud
MANILA/ULSAN: The first of two South Korean-built frigates of the Philippine Navy, Jose Rizal (FF 150), is now underway heading south for her home port of Subic Bay where she will later be officially commissioned into service.
The departure of the country’s first new-built frigate was announced by the Navy following the sail off ceremony held at the Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea, on May 18, attended by officials from the Philippine Navy (PN), HHI’s Special and Naval Shipbuilding Division and Hanwha Systems.
During the low-key ceremony, representatives from HHI and Hanwha Systems also donated COVID-19 relief supplies comprising personal protection equipment for the PN to be brought along onboard the ship which were received by the Defence and Armed Forces Attaché to Republic of Korea, Captain Armil M Angeles. The South Korean Navy’s Pohang-class corvette Seongnam took part in the event, escorting the Philippine frigate to open sea.
The shipbuilder said that it succeeded in delivering the vessel four months earlier than the originally scheduled delivery date of September this year, despite coronavirus-related restrictions imposed at the shipyard. “We are honored to have demonstrated our excellent naval ship design and construction capabilities by delivering BRP Jose Rizal four months early,” said HHI Senior Executive Vice President Nam Sang-hoon.
The Philippine Navy said that during the sail off ceremony, representatives from HHI and Hanwha Systems also donated Covid-19 relief medical supplies for the Navy which is being brought back home onboard the warship.
The frigate, to be officially named after the Philippine national hero in the revolution against Spanish colonialists in the 1800s, is expected to arrive at the anchorage area in Subic, Zambales, on May 23 where its crew will undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine before the warship’s technical inspection and an acceptance ceremony, the statement said.
The arrival of the frigate will give the Navy its “first ever” multi-mission ship capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and electronic warfare operations.
The 2,600 tonne frigate has successfully undergone sea trials and sea acceptance test late last year through early this year. It is also the first purpose-built frigate of the service, as its major warships were mostly transferred from other navies and reclassified as frigates such as the Hamilton–class Coast Guard cutters gifted by the United States
A Philippine News Agency report said that besides the Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid Gun, the ships will be also be armed with an Aselsan SMASH 30mm remote-controlled secondary cannon, anti-submarine torpedoes and anti-air and ship missiles. It is also equipped with Hanwha Systems’ Naval Shield combat management system (CMS), which integrates all shipboard sensors and weapons.
A modified derivative of HDF-3000 frigate design known as HDF-2600, the ships measure 107.5 metres (352. Feet) long with a beam of 13.8 metres (45 feet) and have a maximum speed of 25 knots. With a range of up to 4,500 nautical miles (8,330 km) at a cruising speed of 15 knots, it can sustain operational presence for 30 days. It is also capable to withstand rough sea conditions up to Sea State 7.
Each frigate has a crew of more than 100 personnel and has a flight deck located at the stern with the ability to operate one maritime helicopter weighing up to 12 tonnes. It carries two rigid-hulled inflatable boats to conduct naval and emergency operations at sea,
It was reported that the Philippine government and HHI on Oct 24, 2016 signed a PHP16-billion contract for two frigates with another PHP2 billion set aside for its weapon systems and munitions. The BRP Jose Rizal was launched at HHI’s Ulsan shipyard May 23 last year while its sister ship, BRP Antonio Luna, had its keel laid also on the same day and later launched November last year.
Since the delivery of the first Korean-built frigate ROKS Ulsan in the 1980s, HHI has played a key role in the modernisation of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy designing major warships. The shipbuilder has since expanded its service to worldwide navies with affordable and cost effective hulls. HHI is expected to deliver HMNZS Aotearoa, a 26,000-tonne logistics support vessel of the Royal New Zealand Navy, in June 2020.