New Philippine Navy frigates to start construction following design review

The Philippine Navy’s troubled frigate acquisition project is set to make headway after the navy’s technical inspection and acceptance committee approved a design review for the two new vessels.

According to Philippine media reports, the design review was approved March 23 while a ceremonial steel cutting to mark the construction start is likely to take place on April 30 in South Korea, where the two ships will be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI).

The contract for frigate construction was awarded to HHI in October 2016. It was initially expected that the first of two ships could be delivered in 2020 but issues with the choice of a combat system supplier delayed the project by six months, possibly pushing the delivery timetable back.

The controversy around the choice of a combat systems supplier even resulted in the ousting of former Philippine Navy chief Vice-Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado. The former head of the Philippine naval forces was dismissed after questioning the previously-signed frigate contract as he insisted Dutch company Thales Tacticos should be selected over South Korea’s Hanwha Systems.

Hanwha Systems was previously known as Hanwha Thales and was renamed after Thales sold its 50 percent stake in the company in July 2016. Mercado’s major concern about Hanwha Systems as the Philippine Navy frigate combat system supplier was the company’s ability to integrate subsystems into the warships.

The new frigates are expected to be a variant on Hyundai’s own HDF-3000 FFX-I multipurpose frigate. According to specifications provided by Hyundai, the design features a length of 107m, a beam of 14m and a hull draught of 4m.

They are designed as a smaller version of the Incheon-class frigate which is already in service with the Republic of Korea Navy.

With a projected range of 4,500 nautical miles range at a cruising speed of 15 knots, the ships are to be operable up to Sea State 5.