The Philippines Navy having learned the hard lesson from the bitter naval stand off at Scarborough Shoal with China has agreed to buy two Maestrale class frigate formerly operated by the Italian Navy.
These two frigates are more capable compared to the recently delivered frigates obtained from the US Coast Guard namely BRP Gregorio Del Pillar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Should everything goes well, a contract could be signed on January 2013 and the first of which could be delivered on November that very same year.
The Maestrale class frigate was built by Fincantieri, the very same shipyard that built the Laksmana class corvette for the RMN. Although being built as ASuW frigate, it is also capable of Anti Air and Anti Surface operation. The frigates could carry Aspide SAM similar to those operated by the RMN.
What makes them more attractive to the Philippines compared to the US supplied frigates is that these two vessels will come with their weapons as well as their spares. Having said that however, they were of 1980′s design in which the lead ship of the class was launched in 1982.
Although the Maestrale is capable of carrying two AB-212 helicopters which are currently being gradually phased out and replaced by the more modern NH-90 in the Italian Navy’s service, there has been no indication that they were also part of the frigates’ purchase deal.
In other development, there has been a possibility that the purchase of 10 Eurocopter Fennec helicopters, configured into attack variant could be finalised this month. A few weeks ago, there has been talks circulating on the Philippines considering South African made attack helicopters which could probably be the Denel Rooivalk. Nevertheless, no new production Rooivalk has been rolled out for years now, except for the 16 earlier Rooivalk which are operated by SAAF.
The Italian had also offered attack helicopters to the Philippines. AgustaWestland for example is well known for various attack and armed helicopter such as the AW-129 Mangusta, AW-109 and AW-119. A Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) variant known as the A-109LUH armed with 70mm FFAR rockets is currently in service with the Malaysian Army Aviation unit or PUTD.