Wednesday, June 29, 2011

PH Navy pilots board US warship for training

By Abigail Kwok
Interaksyon, Wednesday, June 29, 2011

PUERTO PRINCESA, Palawan -- Philippine Navy pilots boarded early on Wednesday morning a US warship docked off Sulu Sea, for training by American pilots in a joint exercise that entered its second day and is seen as heightening tensions arising from China’s warning to the United States to refrain from taking sides among claimants in the South China Sea, which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

US pilots on the USS Howard were very pleased with how Philippine soldiers performed during the exercise.

"They're very eager, very knowledgeable," said Lt. Commander Ron Martin, one of the US pilots.

The USS Howard is one of the three United States Navy warships docked here for the 11-day joint naval exercises with the Philippine Navy off Sulu Sea. Packed with anti-sub and anti-air capabilities, the USS Howard is definitely a force to reckon with, a stark contrast to the ageing naval warships of the Philippines.

Several journalists got a chance to tour the USS Howard, named after Medal of Honor awardee Gunnery Sergeant Jimmie Howard.

The US destroyer is the 33rd Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the US Navy. It was commissioned only last October 20, 2001 and is docked in San Diego, California. The ship has over 200 crew members, including a few of Filipino descent.

The SH-60 Seahawk

On the flight deck of the US destroyer are two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters with anti-submarine capabilities. These can detect foreign submarines in the ocean through sound waves and acoustics and, once detected, they relay this information to the headquarters.

"Each submarine of each country has its own unique sound wave and we are able to detect that," Martin said.

The helicopters only have the ability to detect and not to destroy. Towards the tail of the helicopter, a magnetic detecting system is attached and can be unlatched up to 180 feet, which is mainly used to detect submarines. While these helicopters do not have an air defense capability, they have a built-in infrared system, self-defense maneuver system, and flair.

The USS Howard also has an Mk-45 5"/62 caliber lightweight gun, two Mk-41 VLS for Standard missiles and Tomahawk missiles, two 20mm Phalanx CIWS, two Mk-32 triple torpedo tubes for Mk-50 and Mk-46 torpedoes.

Philippines needs bulking up

The USS Howard is just one of the many US warships, something which the Philippines' own military sorely lacks. But while equipment and armament are definitely major issues to be addressed, the Philippine Navy believes it can make up for this through training and information sharing.

"It is our humble submission that ours is a military establishment that does not measure its vitality and its strength in terms of arms alone. Whatever deficiencies we may have in our equipment and supplies, it is our sheer resolve that we shall make up for such deficiencies through training," said Commodore Edgardo Tamayo of the Naval Forces West during the opening ceremonies of the joint naval exercises, called CARAT.

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