WITH six Israeli-made fast-attack interdiction craft (FAIC) now in its inventory and with another three expected to be assembled and delivered in the next two years, the Philippine Navy (PN) has grown more capable of defending the country’s littoral waters from hostile encroachment.
Littoral refers to the area near the shore, encompassing the part of a sea, lake, or river that is in close proximity to the shoreline.
The fifth and sixth FAICs, constructed by Israel Shipyards Ltd., were delivered to the PN through general cargo ship Koga Royal on November 18, 2023.
Once commissioned into PN service by late December, PG-906 and PG-907 will be formally known as the BRP Herminigildo Yurong and BRP Laurence Narag.
Philippine Fleet (PF) spokesperson Lt. Giovanni Badidles said the FAICs are now at the Commodore East Posadas Wharf in Cavite City, where they are now undergoing “mandatory enhancement, maintenance, and training prior to commissioning.”
He added that these ships will be under the PF’s Littoral Combat Force and part of the Acero-class patrol gunboat fleet.
The Acero-class gunboats are also known as the Shaldag Mark V of Israel Shipyard Ltd.
These vessels are combat-proven, constructed from aluminum, and are lightweight and fast with a high payload capacity, showcasing exceptional maneuverability and seakeeping capabilities.
It has a high firepower-to-displacement ratio designed to operate in naval security missions and can efficiently protect exclusive economic zones and littoral waters.
The first two Acero-class gunboats, BRP Nestor Acero (PG-901) and BRP Lolinato To-Ong (PG-902), were delivered in September 2022 and commissioned in November of the same year.
The third and fourth FAICs, BRP Gener Tinangag (PG-903) and BRP Domingo Deluana (PG-905), were delivered in April of this year and commissioned a month later.
“Their delivery is part of the FAIC Acquisition Project of the Revised AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) Modernization Program Horizon 2 contracted with Israel Shipyards Ltd., which include a total of nine platforms, and the transfer of technology to bolster the PN’s shipbuilding capability,” according to Badidles.
Deliveries of the FAICs are aimed at reinforcing the country’s littoral/coastal defense with modern fast patrol combat vessels that have proven to be highly reliable in addressing current and emerging threats, and transnational crimes.
Three more FAICs are expected to be constructed and delivered within the next two years.
4 FAICs to be armed with missiles
FOUR of the FAICs will be armed with non-line-of-sight (NLOS) missiles that have pinpoint accuracy, while the other five will be armed with Typhoon-mounted 30mm main cannons and .50-caliber heavy machine guns.
These ships have a displacement of 95 tons, a maximum speed of 40 knots, and a range of 1,000 nautical miles.
“With the FAICs, the PN shall have the capability to defend the key sea lines of communication (SLOCs), such as Mindoro, Balabac, Sibutu and Basilan Straits, against conventional threats. Operating in restricted waters, the FAICs can interdict surface threats and launch NLOS missiles safely using the surrounding littoral areas as maneuver space and cover,” the PN earlier said.
The acquisition of these FAICs is among the 2019 projects approved by former president Rodrigo R. Duterte under the Horizon 2 List of the AFP Modernization Program.
The notice of award for the FAIC project, worth around P10 billion, was issued on January 5, 2021.
The FAICs will be useful in defending vital choke points, key sea lines of communication, and littoral areas of the country where terrorist groups and other lawless elements are operating.
These vessels are expected to replace the force of patrol killer medium (PKM) or medium-sized patrol craft.
Earlier, PN chief Vice Admiral Toribio Adaci Jr. said the “quick intercept capabilities” of the FAIC, which has a top speed of 40 knots, are ideal for “addressing current and emerging security threats.”
This 32-meter high-speed vessel is also equipped with remote stabilized weapon systems.
The FAICs were acquired for P10 billion.
DESPITE its small size, the FAIC can neutralize any target up to 25-32 kilometers with its NLOS missiles.
“It is designed [to be armed with the] NLOS missile [system]; if you recall we have the multipurpose attack craft (MPAC) which is fitted with a missile and has a range of more or less eight kilometers but these Shaldag Mark V, when fitted with [this] missile system, can have a range of approximately 32 kilometers,” Adaci earlier said.
The PN chief was referring to the 12 MPAC units of the Navy, of which six are armed with the Spike-ER surface-to-surface missiles.
Another 15 FAICs are being eyed by the PN to allow the naval service to meet its requirements in “patrolling the seas of the country.”
PN gets upgraded shipyard
MEANWHILE, the PN’s capability to build its own warships, particularly the small and hard-hitting FAICs, received a significant boost when Israel Shipyards Ltd. handed over the documents and keys of a newly refurbished shipyard on February 28, 2023.
Navy spokesperson Captain Benjo Negranza said the upgraded shipyard is located at Naval Station Pascual Ledesma in Cavite City.
Negranza said the documents and keys were transferred by Israel Shipyards Ltd. marketing director, Noam Katsav, as part of the FAIC acquisition project.
“The newly refurbished naval shipyard will facilitate the local construction of the three FAIC vessels, which will form part of the fleet of PN’s Acero-class patrol gunboats,” Negranza said.
He emphasized that this marks a noteworthy milestone for the ship-building capability of the PN, concurrently enhancing the country’s Self-Reliance Defense Posture Program (SRDP), which stands as one of the key components of the Department of National Defense’s current 10-point agenda.
Earlier, Israel Ambassador to the Philippines, Ilan Fluss, said this is part of their knowledge transfer under the FAIC project.
“This is part of knowledge transfer because the idea is that those Shaldags will be partly also assembled here and maintenance will [also] be done here in the Philippines,” he added.
Fluss also said an intensive training was conducted for the Philippine teams in Israel for this project.
He also mentioned that Israel has expressed a keen interest in playing a “major” role in Horizon 3 of the AFP Modernization Program.
During the Horizons 1 and 2 of the program, Israel successfully delivered artillery, howitzers, and armored personnel and mortar carriers to the Philippines.
“We’re looking into the future of the Horizon 3 Modernization Program. And obviously we do hope that Israel will also take a major part in the Horizon,” he added.
Image credits: Photos courtesy of the Philippine Fleet