FEATURE | Philippine Navy deploys to Middle East waters

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 26, 2018) Philippine Navy landing platform dock BRP Davao Del Sur (LD 602) participates in a group sail during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise off the coast of Hawaii, July 26. Twenty-five nations, 46 ships and five submarines, and about 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security of the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez/Released)

January 14, 2020 saw the commencement of a rare long-range deployment by warships of the Philippine Navy (PN), when the patrol ship (former US Coast Guard Hamilton-class cutter) Ramon Alcaraz, and the Indonesian-built landing platform dock Davao el Sur, together set sail for the conflict-plagued Middle East.

The mission of the small PN task group, which has a small force of soldiers embarked, and is reportedly to be forward-based in Oman, is to ensure the safe evacuation of Philippine workers from Iraq, Iran and Lebanon.

The previously notoriously antiquated PN has been radically upgraded over the past decade, and only a handful of its World War II-

Ramon Alcaraz

vintage warships remain in commission. Most have been replaced by a mix of second-hand ships, and newbuild vessels of both indigenous and foreign construction, giving the service viable surface, anti-submarine and amphibious warfare, and offshore aviation support, capabilities

Shortly to form the core of the surface fleet are a pair of new, South Korean-built, HDF-2000 frigates, both due to enter service this year, and the PN is set to invite tenders for a pair of diesel-electric attack submarines in the near future

Analysts anticipate that the service will become a significant player on the international naval scene in the coming years.