The Philippines: When renting a relic makes sense:

by Craig Hooper on March 8, 2011

With the impending release of a Hamilton-class high-endurance cutter to the Philippines, the U.S. is doing what it can to help provide the Philippines something–anything–that it can use to show the flag in the increasingly tough waters of the South China Sea.

But does the gifting of the Hamilton Class mean that the U.S. is burdening the Philippines with a balky relic? Will this gift do more harm than good?

Not necessarily.

The Philippines have done an amazing job keeping their Cannon-class Frigate operational–who would have imagined that the World War II veteran (with a U-boat kill to her credit, no less) would still be up and operational for the Balikatan 2010 exercises? That is an amazing feat, and if there is a Navy out there that can keep an older combatant going, it’s the Philippines’ Navy.

With the Hamilton Class set for a block retirement, it may be very wise for the Philippines to step up and become the “recipient” of interest. With the once-extensive U.S. larder of FFG-7s dwindling, becoming a high-demand asset–and a platform coveted by other countries–the Hamiltons seem to be the only class immediately available. essay service So, at a minimum, they’re a gap-filler–if they can only be kept operational, these ships will provide good service as training platforms for a Navy that will need to grow fast.

Aside from training, what can the Hamilton Class offer the Philippines? Well, not much, now. In their current guise, the Hamilton Class ships are little more than big, shiny “Flag-Wavers.” But the Hamilton Class could, with a bit of modernization, become a fine second-string sub-hunter/anti-surface asset.

Remember, the Hamilton Class once bristled with Harpoon missiles, ASW weapons and sensors, so there is some space and extra margins available for new warfare-oriented gadgetry.

Remember, these ships will not need to be long-haul carrier escorts, but short-hop, shoulder-ready sailors.

But some simple, new ships should also get thrown into the mix. First, there is a morale issue–look at the Australian Navy. After fighting to sustain a motley set of over-aged capital ships, morale is rock-bottom. New ships can change that.

Now, this is a bit of a stretch, but injecting new ships into the mix alongside heavy-maintenance platforms might be a good thing. If the importance of regular maintenance can be emphasized–when ship maintainers and operators are forced to grapple with maintenance issues every day–the new ships might (might) reap some extra attention from an establishment eager to avoid the problems they see on the older craft.

Newer craft (a LSV or a brace of combat-ready JHSV) might offer the Philippines a way to better integrate with U.S. and other Asian allies. In particular, a new platform would be a neat way for the Navy to indulge in some cheap risk-reduction as the U.S. Navy mulls employing the JHSV for missions beyond the simple theater transport role. What’s the harm in letting the Philippines Navy experiment with, oh, a hangar-equipped JHSV? Or an amphibious-ready modification? Or an ASW test/training platform?

A new ship helps the U.S. as well. Aside from the raw economic benefit of fabricating an extra JHSV or two, accelerating the adoption of the LCS/JHSV program worldwide holds other benefits. I mean, look. If America is going to project power on the basis of “mission modules”, then it behooves us to get platforms that are ready to accept mission modules out into the world rather, um, quickly. So, with that in mind, a cheap, stripped-down “mission-module” ready JHSV seaframe might be a neat “sweetener” as the Philippines start renting our, well, wrecks.

That, or else the Chinese are going to sweep in, offering Manila a brace of shiny new (albeit less capable) platforms. One only needs to look how Pakistan is promoting their new Chinese frigates over the recent delivery of their new/old FFG-7. So, you policy-people out there….the lesson is this: Don’t underestimate the allure of new stuff.

It’s OK to rent wrecks to needy partners. But let’s make sure these transfers have a little more strategic thought behind them than just, well, a hasty bureaucratic (or budget-driven) effort to clean out old inventory. It makes strategic (and fiscal) sense to do a better job of integrating potential future partners into our evolving national security strategy.

And if that means subsidizing a few extra low-end experiments–cheap utility platforms that will do darn good work even without a fancy “mission module,”–then I say, well, do it. We don’t need to limit ourselves to renting wrecks to all our friends.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Sean O'Mordha December 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Using a Hamilton class cruiser in new book. Can someone tell me what the minimum number of crew would be needed to operate the ship? It has been converted to a research vessel in this story. Tks.


James Kampilan February 22, 2012 at 2:38 pm

It is amazing that in spite of the historical closeness of the American and Filipino people the Philippines are treated 2nd class by the last few administrations since the Americans were booted out of Clark AF base and Subic Naval Base in the early ’90’s. If there is a “BFF” (Best friends forever) of the US, they should not question the commitment of the Filipino people and the Philippines towards the US. Since our first landing in Morrow Bay, CA on October 17,1587, to the Filipino founding of the great cities of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, CA, to the landing of USN Comdr. Leopoldo Albea of the Arleigh Burke destroyer USS Wayne Meyer in Manila a couple of weeks ago (one of the four Filipino American commanders in the US Navy) we have made significant contributions to the American society as a whole.
Ever since the departure of the Americans from the bases, it has been transformed to be a commercial success that no one can imagine.
Today, International Monetary Fund has declared the Philippines as a creditor. PH is a participant in bailing out and giving money (a couple hundred million) to the Greek monetary crisis. Having a healthy savings of 80 B dollars in its coffer, it is no longer the sick man of Asia. HSBC have projected the Philippines to catapult from 43rd place today to #16 most powerful economy by 2050. Leap-frogging countries like Australia and will be as big as Russia. This is without counting the possibility of digging up the gas and oil in the West Philippines Sea that Shell estimate to be as big as Irag reserves. This is in our backyard, within our Exclusive Economic Zone. This is also what China wants. This is what we need to protect.
It is also amazing the the United States, with all its sophisticated weaponry, can only muster a stripped down version (SP-40 and Phalanx taken out) of the 46 year old Hamilton while they use retired Ticonderoga class cruisers as target practice.
The Obama Administration is hesitant to even say yes to a squadron of F-16’s laying around in the bone yards of Arizona desert. They think PH does not have the trained pilots nor the infrastructure to handle sophisticated machinery such as the F-16. FYI we just inaugurated a repair facility for the A-380 (world’s largest commercial plane), one of the only 4 repair stations in the world and are manned by Filipino technicians. Filipino commercial pilots are the most coveted pilots in Asia. Flying the F-16….well, ask US Air force Captain Monessa Catuncan how she flies her the F-16. People can be trained. If the Germans, Singaporeans, Morrocans and Iraqis could be trained in Arizona why can’t the Filipinos?
Is Obama pleasing China? Or afraid to make waves in West Philippine Sea?
My suggestion would be for the US.
1. Give PH the F-16’s, MPA’s, C-27’s and radars. Work out a lease or financing program.
2. Assist PH building a naval base in Ulugan Bay and station your LCS’s there with the ex-Hamiltons to keep an eye on the Chicoms.
3. Train new pilots and naval personnel.
4. Bring in 3,300 US Marines being kicked out of Okinawa and rotate them with other Marines to as to conform within the Visiting Forces Agreement. Station them in Ulugan Bay (80km from Mischief Reef – island stolen by China in the 90’s and PH and US didn’t do a thing!
5 Assist PH in shopping for arms all over the world (they are spending a couple of billion the next few years). In other words, give your excess materials.

And please, do not under estimate the capabilities of the Filipino people. We are your friends and a very good friend at that!


Adroth November 9, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Philippine Navy looking at WHEC-716 for a possible hot transfer


Jon Harris March 26, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Yes, it would be nice if the PN had the culture and resources of, say, South Korea. But, they don’t, and are unlikely to progress anytime soon. Given their particular economic and political realities, a coast guard mission, such has always been their case, is appropriate.


Craig Hooper March 21, 2011 at 12:07 am

Jon- I disagree. The South China Sea merits a tad more than just search, rescue and law enforcement capabilities….but that said, I do agree with you about the age of the vessels–though the Phillippines Navy seems to have a good record keeping old ships operating.


Jon Harris March 20, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I would argue that the HAMILTON is near perfectly suited to the Philippine naval mission, which is really that of a coast guard/law enforcement function. Their navy needs a ship with a gun, to show criminals that they mean business, and a helicopter for the search and rescue function. It is hard to see how the Philippine navy needs much in the way of a combat capability. What threat do they need to counter?

The age of the HAMILTONs might be an bigger issue than acknowledged. I know of a guy who served on the HAMILTON in the eighties, and the crew referred to her as “Hotel Hamilton”, as they were often stuck in port due to breakdowns.


Rex Dgrey March 16, 2011 at 3:59 am

as a Filipino I would love to see this ship floating around my country under the Philippine Flag


Stoker Cliff March 15, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Regarding the Trinidad and Tobago OPVs, according to press reports the Trinidad and Tobago Government cancelled the contract with BAE Systems citing combat system failures and delivery delays as principal reasons.
For reference:,132335.html


Tom Meyer March 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm


Sorry, I had not seen your discussion previously. Thanks for the links.

I would have doubts about incorporating 3 uniques vessels within the current constraints the USCG is operating under. Just a thought.


Chuck Hill March 9, 2011 at 11:45 am

We had some discussion of the Coast Guard taking over the Port of Spain ships here:

and here:

They don’t have a hanger but they do have a relatively spacious flight deck

Considering how small many of the islands in contention are, and OPV in the APD (destroyer transport) role with a couple of rigid hull inflatables and a helo transporting a couple of platoons of infantry may be all the amphib required.

In fact I half suspect we will wake up one morning and find the Chinese have landed tiny garrisons all over the South China Sea using the fleet of patrol ships they are currently building (30 in the next 5 years). These ships will become common sights in the disputed areas and no one will think it strange they are are there. Each should be able to carry a company of soldiers for short periods.


A.J. Heredia March 9, 2011 at 11:24 am

Speaking as an observer of RPN (Republic othe Phillippines Navy) affairs, the current strategy of the US in the region is domestic security and home defense bolster only. Granted, there should be some long-term consideration of what asset types are allocated where and certainly the Aquino government would not turn down any turnover of ships that meet budget targets. But the real need that brings the most bang for the buck now is logistical support ships that can deliver a mix of troops, helos and cargo to anywhere in the peninsulas, especially in shallow water areas with no established port or landing facilities. Let’s face it, if the PLAN decided to bring their assets to bear anywhere in their projected “string of pearls” region, the AFP at the best would be a speed bump. In lower intensity conflicts, smaller patrol assets capable of long loiter times would better serve the type of confrontations such as the recent incursion. OPVs are a big investment; not sure it’s sustainable given the necessary and expensive technical and logIstical tail needed to keep them up and running.


Craig Hooper March 8, 2011 at 10:15 pm

I think Trinidad and Tobago is trying to cut the budget–and I think BAE was a little slow delivering the vessels–but then again I have not studied the issue.

Probably plenty of patrol craft markets–but since these were built in the UK, the British government likely will have some input on where they end up…


Tom Meyer March 8, 2011 at 6:43 pm

BAE actually still owns the Port of Spain OPV’s.

The transaction appears to have been a direct contract between T&T and BAE.

No reason was ever clearly outlined as to why T&T deferred delivery. I will assume the OPV’s are available for someone from the USN or USCG (or perhaps the State Dept) to examine and consider.

The interesting thing is they be available for cheap. If T&T can offer no legitimate reason for cancelling the contract – i.e. performance, then they are out the money! I have seen cost projections of $150M for the ships (total?).

They are nice but lack any aviation capability.

In addition, my recollection is the Philippine Navy operates 1 or more patrol vessels which were previously operated by the RN out of Hong Kong. This might lend itself to ease of transition & training – as I would guess the new OPV’s were created with heavy influence from the RN.


Craig Hooper March 8, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Oooh, that might be darned interesting. Wonder who owns them or would be responsible for selling them, though. The UK, right? If so, I don’t see the US bailing BAE out of a jam without concessions–or some kind of complex multilateral trade involving the Bay Class, Aussies and maybe an extra LCS. In other words, probably not gonna happen.

But what about using the patrol boats for Falklands and/or Gibraltar?


Tom Meyer March 8, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Wonder if the US could find the $$’s necessary to purchase the 3 Port of Spain Class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) built by BAE Systems Surface Ships for the Trinidad & Tobago Coast Guard has now deferred delivery of? May be available for relatively few $$’s!!!


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