Hard luck Hamilton

The flagship of the Philippine Navy since 2011, the frigate Gregorio Del Pilar (FF15), has spent part of the past week hard aground hear Half Moon Shoal (Hasa-Hasa Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea. An embarrassing dilemma for a fleet short of vessels and trying to flex in the area to keep the much larger Chinese fleet on their toes.

Del Pilar hit aground last Wednesday night while on a routine patrol. As you can tell, the shelf comes up fast there

Gratefully, she has reportedly remained intact and has been refloated off the shoal. Her props and/or shafts are probably hamburger, though, which is bad for a 40-year-old ship with an increasingly thinning hull. She is reportedly being escorted back to Subic for inspection.

Still, its a better fate that was suffered by the minehunter USS Guardian (MCM-5), which ran aground on Tubbataha Reef in the PI in 2013.

Guardian couldn’t be saved and was instead scrapped in place.

These things happen, especially in the huge archipelago that sometimes isn’t as well-charted as the rest of the world. Heck, the Chinese themselves had a frigate The (Dongguan) run aground on the same shoal in 2012.

If Del Pilar looks familiar, she is, of course, the former US Coast Guard cutter Hamilton (WHEC-715), class leader of the “378” or “Secretary” series high endurance cutters commissioned in 1967.

Two of her sisters, USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719), and USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716), also serve in the Philippines. Perhaps they will get a fourth in coming months (Mellon and Midgett are still in operation with the USCG) and then be able to keep the old Hamilton as a spare parts/training ship if she can’t be made whole again.

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