The decommissioned US Coast Guard Cutter ‘Boutwell’ has been recommissioned into active service as the Philippine Navy frigate BRP ‘Andres Bonifacio’.
She joins two of her ex-Hamilton-class sisters that were also recommissioned as frigates by the Philippine Navy – BRP ‘Gregorio Del Pilar’ (ex-USCGC ‘Hamilton’) and ‘BRP Ramon Alcaraz’ (ex-USCGC ‘Dallas’).
The 115-metre high-endurance cutter will be fitted with an upgraded surface search and tracking radar and flight support facilities for the navy’s new AgustaWestland AW109 SAR/utility/light attack helicopters, as was the case with her two ex-Hamilton-class sister ships
She will also be fitted with two 20-millimetre Oerlikon cannons and one M242 Bushmaster 25-millimetre chain gun in place of her two M242 Bushmasters and Phalanx 20-millimetre close-in weapon system that were removed prior to her transfer to the Philippines. Her OTO Melara 76-millimetre main gun is the only main component of her original armament not to be removed.
‘Boutwell’ was declared an excess defence article earmarked for transfer to the Philippine Navy after her decommissioning from US Coast Guard service.
The announcement, which also mentioned the eventual transfer of the oceanographic research ship USNS ‘Melville’ to the Philippines, was made by US President Barack Obama at last year’s APEC summit in Manila.
The ship has been renamed after Andres Bonifacio, one of the Philippines’ celebrated military leaders and revolutionary heroes in its war for independence from Spain in the 1890s.
She is the second ship to be named after Bonifacio, the first being the ex-USS ‘Chincoteague’, a World War II-era seaplane tender that served as a frigate with the Philippine Navy from 1976 to 1985.
The ex-‘Boutwell’ has a proud history of service with the US Coast Guard, which also included defensive patrols of Iraqi and Iranian oil terminals during the 2003 Iraq War and various counter-narcotics and counter-smuggling operations.
However, she is perhaps best known for her participation in the successful multi-ship rescue of all 520 passengers and crew of the Holland-America cruise liner ‘Prinsendam’ which was crippled by fire and which later sank in the Gulf of Alaska in October 1980.
Nelson E. Dela Cruz