2nd High Endurance Warship BRP Alcaraz left South Carolina Monday Arriving the Philippines

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) docked at Charleston, North Carolina. Credit: US Coast Guard

Cuisia to BRP Ramon Alcaraz crew: We are for peace but be prepared to defend Philippine territory

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – As the newest Philippine warship makes its way to the Philippines from Charleston, South Carolina, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. told the officers and crew of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz that the Philippines will exert all efforts to ease the tension in the West Philippine Sea, but is also ready to defend it, if needed.

"To be able to make sure the BRP Alcaraz will be properly managed, I think you had a very extensive training, I'm sure the Filipino people are eagerly waiting," Cuisia said.

On the eve of its departure to the Philippines, Cuisia visited the vessel and congratulated its officers and crew for a job well done.

For about a year, the BRP Alcaraz underwent a $15.6 million retrofitting and extended refurbishment while its officers and crew underwent training with the US Navy.

Formerly known as USCGC Dallas, the BRP Alcaraz is the second Weather High-Endurance Cutter the Philippines has acquired from the US government.

The 378-foot warship and its 88 Filipino officers and crew will be joining its sister ship, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, which was also acquired from the US Navy in 2011.

"I want to take this opportunity to thank the US Government and the US Coast Guard," Cuisia said.

The Philippine envoy also said that the name of the newest warship comes with great responsibility. World War II hero, Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, was credited for downing three enemy planes during the Japanese invasion and for having a distinguished record during his service to the Philippines.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz left South Carolina on Monday morning (June 10, 2013) and is expected to arrive in the Philippines in the first week of August.

What's onboard?

Frigate for Philippines is equipped with latest gun.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz is fitted now with 2 Mk38 Mod 2 automatic cannon systems as among the first ships in the world to be equipped with state-of-the art cannon systems.

The Mk38 Mod 2 is designed to counter high-speed maneuvering surface targets and will be installed also in almost all US surface ships by 2015. It was commissioned by the US Navy following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000.

"The Pentagon has awarded a $1.8 million ( 74.4million) contract for the purchase of modern weapons systems which are installed now in the BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Capt Elson Aguilar, Naval Attache at the Office of the Defense and Armed Forces Attache at the Philippine Embassy, was quoted as saying last year that that acquisition of the 25mm autocannons are part of a $24 million contract with BAE systems for the purchase of 21 units of the remotely controlled naval gun systems and spare parts for both the US and Philippine navies.

Two 25mm autocannons fitted on the BRP Ramon Alcaraz as part of the frigate's air and surface defense system. The remotely controlled chain gun system can fire as many as 180 25m rounds per minute at targets as far as two kilometers.

He added that the autocanon can be fired manually if the sensors are damaged or if the vessels lose power.

"The Mk38 Mod 2 will allow the Alcaraz and the Del Pilar to track and fire at targets automatically in both day and night using single shot, low speed or high-speed automatic fire," Aguilar said, adding that the autocannon can be fired manually if the sensors are damaged or if the vessels lose power.

The two Mk38 Mod 2 systems will complement the existing weapons system that consists of the Mk75 76-mm Oto Melara main battery and four M2HB .50 caliber machine guns.

The addition of the modern ships to the Philippines fleet will be a big boost for the navy which had long suffered the reputation of being among the most poorly equipped in Southeast Asia.

It is the second Hamilton-class cutter acquired by the Philippines under the Excess Defense Article and Military Assistance Program.

The first, the Del Pilar, was turned over to the Philippine Navy in May 2011.

With report from ABS-CBN News and Gulf News

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