MANILA - Seven new combat vessels on Monday joined the fleet of the Philippine Navy, reinforcing government's anti-terrorism operations in the southern Philippines.
Among these are 4 new amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs), designed to be deployed from the decks of larger navy ships and assault any shoreline.
Three multipurpose attack craft (MPACs), built by the Philippine company Propmech Corporation, will be fitted with the Spike-ER missile from Israel, which has an effective range between 400 meters to 8 kilometers. It will also be fitted with mini typhoon .50 caliber machine guns.
“Itong MPAC na ito, it is very ideal for anti-terrorism in the south. Kasi hindi naman ito pwede sa South China Sea kasi malalakas ang alon d'yan. But between islands, island to island, napaka-ideal nito," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
"Mabilis yan at pwedeng panghabol sa mga pirate. 'Yung AAV ganun din."
AAVs run at a speed of 13 kilometer per hour (kph) on water at 72 kph on land. It can mount a 40mm grenade launcher and a caliber .50 machine gun, allowing the gunner to fire at targets as far as 1.5 km away.
A specialized ship, made by South Korean company Hanwa Techwin, will shore the amphibious vessels to give them armored protection at all times.
It may be recalled that during the Marawi siege, armored personnel carriers (APCs) did not have such hull protection, making them vulnerable to rocket propelled grenade launchers. This led the troops to improvise and pad the hulls of their APCs with wooden panels.
“The versatile AAVs not only enhance by and large the ship to shore capability of the Philippine Marine Corps, but can also provide combat firepower in the different types of terrain, as well as protection of our Marine warriors,” said Philippine Navy flag officer-in-command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad.
The 4 AAVs are the second batch of assault vehicles delivered by South Korea. The first four were tested and used during the recent joint US-Philippine military exercises Dagit-pa. They have been deployed to the assault amphibian company of the Philippine Marines.
“With the force mix of 6 AAVs per strategic sea lift vessels, we need an additional 16 AAVs, since we will acquire 2 more strategic sea lift vessels.”
Empedrad also said the Philippine Navy aspires to have its first pair of submarines in less than a decade.
“As early as December last year, we sent personnel to France to train for our submarine acquisition program, which will hopefully help the first deliveries of 2 submarines in 2027,” he said.
Lorenzana, meanwhile, explained the reason behind the early preparation.
“Meron na tayong sumbarine force eh, 'yung organization, pero wala pa silang submarine. We are trying to improve the capabilities to run a submarine, so bago pa lang kunin yung equipment, yung tao alam na nila ang gagawin. Para pagdating noon, we can use them immediately,” he said.