Welcome Tarlac, an instant island for the South China Sea
The Phillipines Navy’s newst (and actually new construction!) vessel docked at Pier 13 of the Manila South Harbor last week, BRP Tarlac (LD-601), built by PT PAL (Persero) in Indonesia. She is based on Indonesia’s Makassar-class LPDs which in turn are an offshoot of the successful South Korean-designed Tanjung Dalpele.
The new 11,500-ton vessel has a complement of 121 officers and enlisted personnel. She can carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two LCUs and three helicopters. Tarlac is slow (16 knots) but can remain at sea for a month and travel almost 10,000nm. She is one of the most powerfully armed ships in the fleet, with a 76mm OTO, twin 25mm chain guns, and numerous .50 cals.
The Philippines is looking to get at least four of these LPDs and earlier this month took possession of the former U.S. Navy’s USNS Melville (T-AGOR-14) which is now the research vessel BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702), a first for the country.
Previous to that they have acquired three retired 50~ year old Hamilton-class Coast Guard Cutters: the Philippine Navy flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15)— which started life as the USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715)— BRP Ramon Alcaraz (ex-Dallas) and the as yet to be renamed ex-Boutwell.The budget LPDs are part of an ambitious naval plan that includes:
6 frigates for anti-air warfare, (Perhaps these will be the Hamiltons, though they need to be up-armed if so)
12 corvettes for anti-submarine warfare,
18 offshore patrol vessels,
3 anti-mine vessels,
3 logistics ships,
12 coastal interdiction patrol boats,
30 patrol gunboats,
42 multi-purpose assault craft (that can be equipped with torpedoes and missiles).
8 amphibious maritime patrol aircraft,
18 naval helicopters, (the navy recently acquired 3 AgustaWestland AW109E Powers)
8 multi-purpose helicopters