The Philippine Fleet (PF) has recently welcomed two additional fast attack interdiction craft (FAIC) platforms, termed the Acero-class gunboats, courtesy of Israel. The acquisition, part of the FAIC Acquisition Project under the Revised AFP Modernization Program Horizon 2, marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing modernization efforts of the Philippine Navy (PN). The delivery of these gunboats via the Kogra Royal cargo ship culminated in their arrival at the Commodore East Posadas Wharf in Cavite City, where they will undergo essential enhancement, maintenance, and training. Designated as PG-906 and PG-907 within the Acero-class patrol vessels of the Fleet’s Littoral Combat Force, these platforms symbolize a substantial reinforcement to the PN’s naval strength.
The recent delivery brings the total count of Acero-class gunboats within the PN’s fleet to six. The initial duo, BRP Nestor Acero (PG-901) and BRP Lolinato To-Ong (PG-902), were received in 2022 and commissioned shortly after. Following suit, BRP Gener Tinangag (PG-903) and BRP Domingo Deluana (PG-905) were delivered in April of the subsequent year and swiftly commissioned into service the following month. The genesis of this procurement traces back to the PN’s requirement, articulated in 2019, for a new class of coastal patrol interdiction craft. These missile-capable vessels, designed on the blueprint of Israel’s Shaldag V patrol boat, aimed to supplant the retired Tomas Batilo-class fast attack crafts. The proposal from Israel Shipyards Ltd. stood out for its prowess as an interdiction craft, outstripping previous vessels utilized by the PN.
The fruition of this endeavor materialized through a Government-to-Government (G2G) deal with Israel, formalized in a contract signed in February 2021. The launch of the pioneer vessel, BRP Nestor Acero (PG-901), in June 2022 set the course for subsequent acquisitions. Notably, Rear Admiral Toribio Acaci highlighted plans to acquire an additional 15 Acero-class/Shaldag Mk. V patrol gunboats in the foreseeable future, emphasizing the strategic importance of these assets. The robust features of the Acero-class gunboats include a formidable armament comprising a bow-mounted Mk.44 Bushmaster II autocannon on a Rafael Typhoon Mk 30-C remote-controlled weapon station, supplemented by two M2HB Browning 12.7 mm/50-cal. heavy machine guns on Rafael Mini Typhoon remote-controlled weapon stations. Additionally, select vessels will integrate a Rafael Typhoon MLS-NLOS missile launcher for Spike-NLOS surface-to-surface missiles, enhancing their offensive capabilities.
Crucially, the Naval Shipbuilding Center, revamped under Israel Shipyard’s contract, stands as a testament to the PN’s revived shipbuilding capacity. Tasked with constructing the remaining Acero-class FAICs, this facility signifies the PN’s commitment to self-reliance in naval asset production, ensuring readiness for future requisitions. The acquisition of these gunboats stands as a testament to the PN’s commitment to fortifying its maritime security. With each addition, the navy takes substantial strides towards safeguarding Philippine waters and asserting its prowess in the region.