THE Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the world’s biggest and probably most prestigious war games scheduled for weeks next month, may fittingly serve as the venue to test whether the country’s newly acquired frigate, BRP Jose Rizal (FF150), is ready to take on its multi-role mission for the Philippine Navy (PN).
The RIMPAC, a multilateral exercise held biennially by the United States, notable in the waters off Hawaii, is usually joined by land, air and sea forces from modern militaries around the world, making it a much sought military event.
Under Covid’s shadow
FOR this year and due to the threat of the Covid-19, it will only be held at sea from August 17 to 30, with 25 navies that have so far been invited to participate, according to RIMPAC officials.
On Wednesday, the South Korean-built BRP Jose Rizal steamed toward Hawaii from Subic Bay’s Alava Wharf, where it was christened and commissioned into service just two weeks earlier, but it will have to drop anchor first in Guam before proceeding to the exercise.
Navy chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said earlier that the RIMPAC would be the first mission for the brand-new frigate, with the exercise determining whether the warship and its officers and men are already ready for the Navy’s multi-dimensional warfare operations.
“THE RIMPAC should bring out defects from the frigate if there is still any,” Bacordo said before the vessel berthed in Subic where it sailed from the shipyard of the Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan, South Korea.
“It will also train its crewmen in anti-submarine warfare and operations,” he added, noting that the US-led war games will involve and cover all aspects of naval operations.
The PN’s participation in the RIMPAC is the second for the country after it first joined the drill in 2018, along with Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Israel, and which saw the exclusion of China, given its tension with the US over the South China Sea.
“This will boost your team training and increase your operational readiness. But all of you need to observe safety protocols. In these challenging times, it is imperative to work together, learn together and be safe together,” Bacordo told the complement of Jose Rizal as he led other officials during the sendoff ceremony on Wednesday.
Contingent on board
THE frigate sailed with the Naval Task Group (NTG) 80.5 onboard and with the embarked AW109 naval helicopter. The NTG 80.5 is led by FF150’s commanding officer Capt. Jerry Garrido Jr. as the concurrent contingent commander, and complemented by “surface, services and support components.”
The PN said the NTG 80.5 contingent underwent “rigorous health and safety protocols” before boarding the frigate in order to ensure their safety amid the contagion.
Two of the frigate’s crewmen had earlier tested positive for the Covid-19, thus forcing the ship to remain where it is moored upon its arrival from South Korea, while other crewmen were checked and rechecked.
The Navy chief said that through the drill, wherein the country’s flag will flutter, the Navy would be able to simulate and “test the capabilities of this newly acquired platform.”
“This will provide FF150 a venue to test the proficiency of personnel as they integrate in a wider range of operations,” Bacordo said.
He prodded the contingent to maximize its training experience so that when it returns home, it will have a “lot to share with the rest of the Navy.”
The Navy considered its participation in the exercise as a demonstration of its commitment in promoting multilateral cooperation, leading to the “strengthening of relationship and cooperation among regional and extra regional navies.”
With the steady arrival of its assets, the Navy has been attending international naval activities and carrying out visits to other navies.
Last year, its Indonesian-built Landing Dock Ship BRP Tarlac (LD601) with the onboard Helicopter Detachment Afloat (HAD) made a port visit to Vladivostok, Russia, and participated in the International Fleet Review on Jeju Island in South Korea.
It has also joined the Kakadu exercise held in Darwin, Australia, in 2018, which was participated in by 27 navies which brought in 23 ships, 21 aircraft and a submarine.
“Our participation in these exercises marks the beginning of a new era of naval operations as we build up our capabilities for modern warfare,” Bacordo said.