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-
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 Most have been replaced by a mix of second-hand ships, and newbuild vessels of both indigenous and foreign construction, giving the service viable surface, anti-submarine and amphibious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.
Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.