French defense manufacturer Naval Group has expressed its willingness to assist the Philippine Navy (PN) in transforming Subic Bay in Zambales into a modern naval base capable of conducting submarine operations. Naval Group aims to support the PN in designing and upgrading Agila Subic into a state-of-the-art naval facility. In addition, they will help implement a national support system to ensure the country’s autonomy throughout the submarine force’s maintenance and life cycle. The PN has already designated Subic Bay as the location for its submarine base. Naval Group’s proposals include the construction of docks capable of accommodating multiple submarines and surface ships required to support the growing naval force. They will also establish operation zones for the squadron’s command center, maintenance yards, logistics depots, as well as a Philippine Submarine Force Training Center equipped with classrooms and simulators.
Furthermore, Naval Group plans to support the training of maintenance specialists and establish partnerships with local industries to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and technology for maintenance operations. They will also work towards qualifying a local supply chain. Naval Group is the manufacturer of the Scorpene diesel-electric submarine, which is one of the preferred submarine platforms evaluated by Philippine naval and defense officials in 2019. The opening of Naval Group’s Philippines Office symbolizes the French commitment to supporting the country’s efforts to enhance sovereignty and maritime security capabilities. As part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program, the PN intends to acquire two to three submarines to strengthen its fleet. Defense experts believe that adding submarines to the inventory will not only enhance the PN’s maritime defense capabilities but also contribute to a credible defense posture for the AFP.
The desired force mix for the PN comprises frigates, corvettes, offshore patrol vessels, landing docks, fast attack interdiction craft-missiles (FAIC-Ms), multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC), and amphibious assault vehicles. The plan includes the acquisition of six anti-air frigates, 12 anti-submarine corvettes, three submarines, and other naval assets. This diverse force mix will enable the AFP to achieve a credible defense capability. The acquisition and development of submarine warfare capabilities will equip the Navy to fulfill its primary mandate of territorial defense, security, and stability. Submarines are considered the most effective platforms for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and are invaluable assets for maritime defense. They can carry out tasks such as anti-access/area denial, maritime surveillance, maritime interdiction, and reconnaissance.
Submarines provide deterrence against potential aggressors, enhance the PN’s credibility, elevate the Philippines’ international standing, and earn recognition for the AFP from other armed forces. With their undetectable nature, submarines can patrol the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and swiftly respond to any situation. The presence of operational submarines at sea will be a game-changer for the PN and will significantly impact the assessment and behavior of contenders in the tactical environment.Once acquired, these submarines will be armed with a wide array of weapons, allowing them to infiltrate enemy task forces, target aircraft carriers and landing docks, and deliver decisive blows with a single strike. The budget for the PN’s submarine acquisition program is estimated to be between PHP70 billion to PHP100 billion, which includes the cost of two submarines, their integrated logistics support packages, and initial basing requirements.