by Philippine News Agency | Jan 19, 2020
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy’s first missile-capable frigate, the future BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), is moving closer to join the naval fleet.
Outgoing Navy chief Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad, who will retire in early February, said that they are in the “final stage” on evaluating if the upcoming warship has met the requirements in the contract.
“Actually tapos na ‘yung sea trial ng ship at sea. Na-test na nila lahat and then okay na. There is some fine-tuning in the weapons systems,” he said.
(Actually we’re done with the sea trials. They have tested everything and it’s done.)
Tactical Data Link 16
But it remains to be seen whether or not the combat management systems (CMS) or the “brains” of the ship is finally compatible with Tactical Data Link (TDL) 16, a military network used by NATO and allied forces to exchange data in real time.
The Department of National Defense and Armed Forces of the Philippines are aiming that its various platforms would be set up with TDL 16.
Empedrad’s predecessor, Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado, was sacked from his post by the DND for supposedly insisting on a certain brand of CMS preferred by the Navy.
The Philippines Navy’s Technical Working Group and Project Management Team had selected Tacticos Thales for the CMS, which met their requirement of TDL 16 compatibility.
HHI recommended two brands of CMS for the Philippine warships — Tacticos Thales and Hanwha Systems. It first offered Tacticos Thales to the Navy, but later suggested to use Naval Shield of Hanwha Systems, which was not yet compatible with TDL 16.
Hanwha Systems previously committed itself to developing the TDL 16 compatibility by 2019. But in May last year, Hanwha said it would only be possible by 2020 because of the issues between Korean armed forces and US requirements.
Empedrad, who assumed the post as Navy chief in late December 2017 after the controversy on the frigate project broke out, said he has yet to receive an update on the TDL 16 compatibility with the CMS of the frigate.
“The issue on the CMS with HHI and Hanwha okay naman na…Mukha namang walang problema,” the Navy chief said.
(The issue on the CMS with HHI and Hanwha is going well… It appears that there are no problems.)
“I think meron pang hindi pa fully completed ‘yung integration ng CMS sa lahat ng weapons system. Ang CMS kasi i-integrate niya kasi lahat ng systems ng barko and that has yet to be completed. I-integrate niya ang radars guns, missiles, torpedoes,” he said.
(I think the CMS is not yet fully integrated with the entire weapons system. The CMS needs to be integrated with all the systems of the ship and that has yet to be completed. It will integrate the radars, guns, missiles, torpedoes.)
“Once these are all integrated, it will be inspected by the TIAC (Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee),” he added.
A senior officer privy to the frigate acquisition project said the BRP Jose Rizal should be compatible with TDL 16 during the next round of sea acceptance tests in February.
“HHI and Hanwha are confident that they can prove compatibility (with TDL 16) during sea trials in February,” he said.
The warship is expected to be delivered to the Philippines by April or May this year. Empedrad said the final inspection would be conducted by the TIAC once it is delivered to Subic Bay.
Once it has passed the evaluation of the TIAC, only then it would be commissioned by the Navy.
Empedrad said they will send some of their personnel to South Korea this first quarter to undergo training in one of Korea Navy’s Incheon-class frigates.
A retired rear admiral of the Korea Navy will command the ship when it sails to Subic Bay for delivery.
“Pagdating sa Subic saka lang pwede i-man ng Navy personnel… From there saka natin i-test kung tumatakbo yung barko with an all-Filipino crew,” the Navy chief said.
(Our Navy personnel can only man the ship once it arrives in Subic. From there, we will test if the ship will operate with an all-Filipino crew.)
The second ship being built by HHI, the BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), is slated for a September 2020 delivery.