Sunday, January 23, 2011

Navy buying used US cutter

By Donna Pazzibugan
The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Monday, 24 January 2011

The Philippine Navy is seeking to acquire a secondhand ship from the United States Coast Guard to upgrade its antiquated fleet.

Navy Flag Officer in Command Rear Admiral Alexander Pama said they were in talks with the US government to acquire a Hamilton class cutter, the largest ship in the US Coast Guard Fleet next to its polar icebreakers.

"We are actively discussing with the US Government the possible acquisition of a Hamilton-class cutter," Pama told reporters.

He said they had their eye on a high-endurance cutter to significantly boost country's capability to patrol its vast waters.

"We need this to boost security in our exclusive economic zone," he said.

The Hamilton-class cutter, at 115 meters, would be the biggest ship in the Philippine Navy fleet which consists of donated World War II era ships with an average age of 65 years.

The normal operating life span of a sea vessel is 30 years.

Pamadid not give the cost of acquisition, saying negotiations were ongoing.

But he said the Navy might shoulder the cost of repairs and training to operate the ship.

"We are in the stage where there is an understanding. We are about to send formal letter request," he said.

Former Navy flag officer in command Rear Admiral Danilo Cortez, who retired on Jan. 4 inspected the vessel they planne dto acquire by November, according to Navy spokesperson.

Capt. Giovanni Bacordo also said they expected the ship to be in the country within the first half of the year.

The vessel will replace the Navy's flagship BRP Raja Humabon, a Cannon-class destroyer escort which is probably one of the world's oldest war ships, the Navy said.

The Hamilton-class cutter is equiped with a rectractable hangar, helicopter flight deck and a close-in weapon system. It's powered by a dual engine or gas turbines.

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