Tuesday, October 30. 2012
MANILA Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin Monday said the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), due to arrive next February, is a more capable naval craft compared to its sister ship, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15).
"Commander-in-Chief Pacific Command Admiral Samuel Locklear III assured me that the ship (BRP Ramon Alcaraz) will be ready for transfer by February 2013," he added.
The DND chief said Locklear gave him this assurance during their meeting in Hawaii early this month.
"(It) will be a better conditioned water craft than the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar," Gazmin added.
The BRP Ramon Alcaraz will be equipped with two Mk38 Mod 2 25 mm auto-cannon systems.
This is aside from the general overhaul of a port main diesel engine installation of navigational and electronics equipment, including a new fire control radar.
Gazmin said the additional refinements to the ship is an off-shoot to criticism made by some quarters that the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar is too lightly-armed.
The US Defense Department earlier awarded a USD1.8- million contract to the Kentucky-based BAE Systems Land and Armaments Inc. for the purchase of modern weapons systems to be installed in the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, the second high-endurance cutter that the Philippines recently acquired from the United States.
The Philippine embassy in Washington reported to the Dept. of Foreign Affairs that the purchase and installation of two Mk38 Mod 2 auto-canon systems for the Alcaraz is part of a USD24-million contract the Pentagon awarded to the firm.
Capt. Elson Aguilar, Naval Attaché at the Philippine embassy, said the BAE contract involves the purchase of 21 units of the remotely controlled naval gun systems and spare parts for both the US and Philippine navies.
Aguilar said the contract is covered under the Foreign Military Sales Program and does not include the weapons system for the sister ship of the Alcaraz, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF15), covered under a separate contract.
The Mk38 Mod 2, commissioned by the US Navy following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, was designed to counter high-speed maneuvering surface targets and will be installed in almost all US surface ships by 2015.
The new weapons systems are upgraded versions of the Mk38 M242 Bushmasters that were removed from the vessel prior to its turnover to the Philippines.
The remotely controlled chain gun system can fire as many as 180 25m rounds per minute at targets as far as two kilometers.
The Mk38 Mod 2 will allow the Alcaraz and the Del Pilar to track and fire at targets automatically in both day and night using single shot, low speed or high-speed automatic fire, Aguilar said, adding that the auto-canon can be fired manually if the sensors are damaged or if the vessels lose power.
He said the two Mk38 Mod 2 systems to be mounted in the Alcaraz and Del Pilar will complement its existing weapons systems that consist of the MK75 76mm Oto Melara main battery and four M2HB .50 caliber machine guns. (PNA)