Long inactive Philippine Navy frigate returns to service

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The Gregorio Del Pilar (image from USN file)

Posted on September 23, 2022 at 8:24 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

A Philippine Navy (PN) frigate that ran aground four years ago on a disputed shoal in the South China Sea is back in service after extensive repairs.


The PN has announced that its offshore patrol vessel BRP Gregorio Del Pilar was returned to service after undergoing a major overhaul.


The frigate ran aground on a disputed shoal in the South China Sea on August 29, 2018 and has since been decommissioned. An initial dive inspection revealed no damage to the hull, but the starboard propeller was no longer attached to its driveshaft.


The reef, known as Half Moon Shoal or Hasa Hasa, sits at the edge of the Spratly Islands. China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and others have overlapping claims in the region. China operates seven artificial and militarized island bases in the Spratly Range.


The completion of the frigate’s repair was delayed for two years due to difficulties with the supply of parts, including the propeller hub and parts for the repair of the variable-pitch propellers. The COVID-19 pandemic has also complicated repair procedures.


PN spokesman Commander Benjo Negranza said Del Pilar is now ready to set sail after years of efforts to regain operational readiness. The repairs were carried out in dry dock at Subic Bay, Zambales.


“Her propulsion system was successfully restored last August and has completed a series of sea trials and endurance races with satisfactory results. System upgrades have also been made, improving her ability to know of the maritime domain,” he said.


Del Pilar is the lead ship of the Del Pilar-class offshore patrol vessels, which also includes the Ramon Alcaraz and Andres Bonifacio. All three vessels are former United States Coast Guard USCGC Hamilton-class cutters Hamilton, Dallas and Butwell.


The 3,250-ton frigates are 115 meters in length and are powered by conventional Fairbanks-Morse 38TD8-1/8-12 12-cylinder diesel engines and Pratt & Whitney FT4A-6 gas turbines. The Cutters have a top speed of 29 knots and they all retain their original 76mm and 25mm autocannons.


The recommissioning of Del Pilar is a boost for the PN, which has pushed for a bigger budget to invest in more equipment to “deter potential foreign aggressors at sea”, a reference to China’s growing pressure to control the vast waters of the South China Sea.


Last year, the Philippines signed a $487.6 million contract with South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries to acquire two corvettes capable of carrying out anti-ship, anti-submarine and anti-submarine missions. aerial. The 116-meter corvettes would reinforce the PN’s two existing lead warships, the guided-missile frigates Jose Rizal and Antonio Luna, both of which launched in 2019.


Earlier this year, the country also signed a $330 million deal with India’s BrahMos Aerospace for the delivery of three supersonic missile batteries ashore.

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