MM Granatiere (F 585) is one of four ‘Soldati’ Class (Lupo) frigates operated by the Italian Navy, these vessels were originally built for the Iraqi Navy in the 1980s.

Manila is seeking to add a third frigate to the Philippine Navy. According to Peter Paul Galvez, defense spokesman, Manila is planning to acquire new frigates that will be armed with more advanced weaponry than the current vessels provided by the US, including surface-to-air capability. Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said earlier the military wants to acquire additional naval crafts from Italy. The only class of frigate available from Italian navy surplus that has air-defense capability is the Lupo Class patrol frigate ‘Soldati’.

This 2,500 ton vessel is armed with eight Otomat Mk 2 anti-ship missiles, a launcher of Sea Sparrow or Aspid surface to air missiles, two Mk 32 torpedo tubes, two Oto Melara twin 40mm L70 DARDO compact guns (also designed for air defense) and a 127/54 gun turret. It is equipped with a comprehensive array of radars for air defense, surface search, fire control and navigation, sonar, electronic support measures, decoy launchers and acoustic countermeasures. The Philippines are also interested in acquiring a larger vessel, possibly an Italian Navy “Maestrale” class destroyer. This vessel is employed in anti-submarine warfare role, it has a displacement of 3,300 gross register tons and a speed of 33 knots.

The Philippine navy currently operates an ex US Coast Guard Hamilton class 3,250 ton cutter, which went through extensive upgrades and modification for their new mission. One of the vessels, Gregorio del Pilar was converted into a frigate. The vessel is equipped with 76 and 25mm guns, but has no missiles or air defense capability and its sensors are designed primarily for navigation, search and rescue. The second vessel of this class, BRP Ramon Alcaraz is scheduled to enter service in December 2012. In addition, the Philippines Navy still maintains a single Cannon Class escort ship, BRP Rajan Jumabon, after retiring two of its sister ships after long service.

“We are not totally relying on the United States (for) our equipment acquisitions.” Gazmin said, “We are also looking at the possibility of getting some of our equipment from Europe, specifically from Italy, depending on our budget.” he added.

The Philipine Navy also operate 11 corvettes are also in service, but these are less suitable for the long range missions currently required to secure the nation’s interests in the South China Sea.

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