According to a report on 08SEP12 in the Manila Bulletin, a top defense official said the Hamilton-class cutters of the Philippine Navy (PN) will get sophisticated radars and an anti-ship missile system to make the vessels more capable of engaging intruders to Philippine territorial waters.
According to the official, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and the soon-to-arrive BRP Ramon Alcaraz, will be equipped with Harpoon, an anti-ship missile system, and will also be fitted with more sophisticated radars capable of detecting and tracking incoming surface threats and anti-missile and torpedo decoying systems.
The official said the Harpoon is the ideal missile system for Del Pilar and Alcaraz, noting that a sister-ship of the vessels, the USCGC Mellon (WHEC-717), has been fitted with the Harpoon missile launchers and test fired the weapons in January, 1990. Both Del Pilar and Alcaraz were acquired from the United States Coast Guard (USCG).
Del Pilar is currently the biggest ship of the Philippine Navy, while Alcaraz is due to arrive before the end of the year.
“With the Harpoon, we will not be getting an unproven weapon system as the missile has been successfully test fired from the USCGC Mellon,” said the defense official.
He added that the weapons refit might be done in the United States under a government-to-government deal.
As any observer of the South China Sea is concerned, further developments with Philippine naval capabilities should be watched closely as they could create tensions in the region putting pressure on India to intervene. India’s recent decision to continue oil exploration in Vietnam despite Chinese challenges may suggest India is prepared to take greater steps to ensure the security of the region.
(India’s state-owned oil company ONGC Videsh Ltd accepted Vietnamese invitation to explore oil and gas in Blocks 127 and 128 in the South China Sea in October 2011)