Tag Archives: BRP Ramon Alcaraz

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.

Looks like the PI is keeping the Hamilton in good shape

Below is a local Philippine media production by Annalisa Burgos for YahooSG aboard the Philippine Navy’s flagship Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Gregorio del Pilar (FF15) during the conduct of Cooperation Afloat, Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2016.

As we have mentioned before, the GdP started life as the USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715) in 1967 and was decommissioned in 2011 after 44 years of very hard service to the Coast Guard and transferred to the PN in largely disarmed condition. Since then she has been busy in standoffs with the PLAN in disputed waters.

The vid shows the PN’s new Augusta 109 on her flight deck as well as some good shots of her interior spaces where all the brightwork is especially bright. Topside, there are a few good shots of her Mk 75 and Mk 38 and very little rust is showing through her dark grey scheme.


Welcome Tarlac, an instant island for the South China Sea

BRP Tarlac

The Philippines Navy’s terms her a “Strategic Sealift Vessel”

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 well dock is snug, but can fit two LCUs...

The well dock is snug, but can fit two LCUs…

brp tarlac

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.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz ( PF16 ), formerly the USCGC Dallas, from above. Note the sparse armarment

BRP Ramon Alcaraz ( PF16 ), formerly the USCGC Dallas, from above. Note the sparse armament (big up)

Two Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates of the Philippine Navy during naval exercises with the US Navy [3000 x 1970]

Two Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates of the Philippine Navy during naval exercises with the US Navy. These are the former cutters Hamilton and Dallas. They look unusual in haze gray with big PI naval ensigns, but they do seem to be holding a zig-zag well. [3000 x 1970]

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 submarines,
3 anti-mine vessels,
18 LCUs,
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

PI Wants a Third Hamilton

In the past couple years the Philippine Navy took possession of a pair of recently retired “378” Hamilton class High Endurance Cutters from the USCG. Although over thirty years old, they were far more modern and better equipped than anything afloat under the Philippine flag. They are set up just for offshore patrol however and are armed simply with a 76mm OTO Melara forward mount and a new Mk 38 Mod 2 auto-cannon and soft-kill countermeasures. However the Agusta Westland AW109 Power flown from its deck allows a greatly enhanced patrol area.

A few months ago the Navy passed on getting a third, but now, with China ramping up tensions in the Spratleys, they are reconsidering.

Philippine Navy's BRP Ramon Alcaraz, (formerly the USCGC Dallas, WHEC-716, served 1968-2012)

Philippine Navy’s BRP Ramon Alcaraz, (formerly the USCGC Dallas, WHEC-716, served 1968-2012)

Philippines Gets Cutter With No Guns

The USCGC Dallas had the same combat suite as a modern light Frigate in 1989:

  • 8 Harpoon Antiship missiles that could sink an enemy warship upto 70-miles away
  • 6 Mk32 ASW torpedo Tubes for Mk46 torpedoes capable of sinking anything just short of a Russian Typhoon class SSBN
  • One 76mm OTO Melera multipurpose gun that could be used for low flying aircraft, shore bombardment, anti-ship purposes, or shelling offshore oil platforms (see Operation Preying Mantis)
  • One 20mm CIWS Phalanx system that could shoot down low flying aircraft, helicopters, and anti-ship missiles
  • A collection of 25mm, 12.7mm (Fifty-cal!), and 7.62mm machine-guns for countering small boat attacks.

These ships were so well armed and equipped that they would and often did seamlessly get integrated into US Navy Carrier Battle-groups for operations alongside regular escorts.

Two of these ships, the Hamilton and the Dallas have been decommissioned and passed on to the Philippine Navy, a force that has been getting by with WWII-era minesweepers pressed into service as patrol boats.

Want to know which of the weapons above they are getting?

  • (none of the above)

From the Philippine Star:

US: Weapons not included in warship
By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines – The United States did not give in to a request by the Philippines to include weapons and accessories in the second warship it will provide to the Philippine Navy.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said during an interview over radio dzRH that US Coast Guard ship Dallas would be similar to BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which had been stripped of its weapons system before it was turned over to the Philippines last year.

“Pareho lang ng del Pilar (The same with del Pilar),” Gazmin said when asked whether the US had granted the Philippines’ request to retain the armaments of Dallas.

Earlier, officials asked the US to retain some key features of the Dallas but Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said the request was turned down last May 8.

Among the ship’s features that Pama wanted retained were its close-in weapons system, Bushmaster cannons, air search radars and fire control system.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa and Philippine Fleet commander Rear Admiral Jose Luis Alano will attend the symbolic turnover of the ship on Wednesday (Manila time) at North Charleston, South Carolina.

US Coast Guard ship Dallas will be renamed BRP Ramon Alcaraz, a torpedo boat commanding officer during World War II. Alcaraz retired as a commodore of the Philippine Fleet in 1966 and died in 2009.

“What we are trying to prevent is the commission of transnational crimes that can affect our economy like poaching, piracy and drug trafficking,” AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said.

“Our borders are porous so we have to guard them closely and the acquisition of the long-range cutter will help the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he added.

The Dallas is an all-weather, high-endurance cutter and has features similar to that of Gregorio del Pilar.

The cutter was used mostly for drug and migrant interdiction, law enforcement, search and rescue, living marine resources protection, and defense readiness.

The ship can accommodate up to 180 officers and sailors.