MANILA – France’s Naval Group has offered to assist the Philippine Navy (PN) in developing Subic Bay in Zambales into a modern naval base for its submarine operations in the company’s bid to supply its submarines for the service.
“Naval Group will support the PN in designing and retooling the location in Agila Subic to make it a modern naval base. Naval Group will also support the PN in the implementation of its national support system to ensure the country’s full autonomy of use and throughout the maintenance and life cycle of the submarine force,” Naval Group corporate sales director for the Philippines Loïc Beaurepaire said in a presentation to a group of select reporters here July 13.
The Subic Bay submarine base includes plans for docks capable of handling more than two submarines and surface ships needed to support the growth of the force, operation zones for the squadron’s command centre, maintenance yards and logistics depots, and the Philippine Submarine Force Training Centre that includes classrooms and simulators, according to a Philippine News Agency report.
Beaurepaire also said the company will also support the “training of maintenance specialists” along with the development of partnerships with “local industry to transfer our know-how and technology for maintenance operations.” He added that they will also work for the “qualification of a local supply chain.”
Naval Group is the manufacturer of the Scorpene diesel-electric submarine which is included on the list of preferred submarine platforms of the country and was evaluated by naval and defence officials in 2019.
The firm opened its Philippines Office in 2020 symbolising French commitment in supporting the country’s bid to “strengthen its sovereignty and developed its maritime security capacities.”
Under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernisation Programme, the country is planning to acquire two to three submarines to beef up its fleet.
The Navy’s budget for the submarine programme is estimated at between P70 billion to P100 billion (USD 1.3 billion to USD 1.8 billion).This includes two submarines and their integrated logistics support package, along with the initial basing requirements, reports said. The Aguila Subic location was chosen for its deep waters, localisation and access to a civilian shipyard.
The PNA report quoted defence experts saying that having submarines in its inventory will allow the AFP to achieve a credible defence posture aside from enhancing the PN’s maritime defence capabilities. Acquiring submarines is part of the desired force mix of the PN which consists of frigates, corvettes, offshore patrol vessels, landing docks, fast attack interdiction craft-missiles (FAIC-M), along with multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC) and amphibious assault vehicles.
Under this plan, the PN is planning to acquire six anti-air frigates, 12 anti-submarine corvettes, and three submarines along with other naval assets.
This force mix will enable the AFP to achieve a credible defence.
The defence experts said submarines will enhance the country’s maritime defence capability and can effectively carry out anti-access / area denial, maritime surveillance, maritime interdiction, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
“Submarines are undetectable and could be anywhere patrolling around the WPS (West Philippine Sea) to act firmly if necessary. Having an operational submarine at sea will be a game-changer for the PN. Contenders will have to take into consideration the probability of facing a submarine at anytime, anywhere, without any warning, hence will affect their entire assessment of the tactical situation and their behaviour,” they added.
The PNA report quoted the same defence experts as saying that the Philippines could have awarded the winning bidder in the PN submarine acquisition programme in the second quarter 2021 if the COVID-19 pandemic did not break out in March 2020. –adj/mhi/mgm (Pix: Naval Group/PNA)