The Philippines has decided to buy two newly built Italian Maestrale class frigates for $208 million each. Italy has some older Maestrales for sale at a much lower price but the Filipino navy is full of second hand ships, and the government wants some new ones to help persuade China to back off from claiming many shoals and uninhabited islands off the Filipino coast.
The Maestrales are 3,100 ton ships, each armed with four anti-ship missiles, short range anti-aircraft missiles, a 127mm gun, two autocannons for defense against missiles, and eight torpedo tubes. Two helicopters can be carried. These ships are well equipped for anti-submarine operations. Top speed is 59 kilometers an hour and crew size is 225.
The United States recently sold the Philippines two refurbished Hamilton class Coast Guard cutters. The first of these 3,200 ton, ocean going patrol ships will be the flagship of the Philippine Navy, replacing a World War II era destroyer escort. Built in the late 1960s, the Hamiltons has been well maintained but worked hard since they entered service over four decades ago. The Hamiltons are armed with a 76mm gun, two 25mm autocannon, and two Phalanx 20mm anti-missile gun systems. The ship has a top speed of 52 kilometers an hour, endurance of 45 days, and a crew of 167. The Philippines is paying $15 million for each ship, but this will mostly cover the cost of some refurbishment and upgrades that will be done in the United States before the ship is delivered.
For most of the last decade, the Philippines military has been energetically seeking hand-outs and second-hand weapons. One of the poorest nations in the region (largely because of corruption), the armed forces have not had the money to replace aging equipment. While American training efforts have improved the combat effectiveness of army units, especially special operations and infantry units, there has been much less help for the air force and navy. To help out, the U.S. has provided dozens of cheap, or free, second-hand helicopters and aircraft. The navy has received second hand patrol ships from South Korea and the United States.