Friday, September 24, 2021

Domondon: Naval superiority

Open Season

THE Philippines is an archipelago, and in the definition of a national territory provided by the 1987 Constitution, it is stated, "The national territory comprises the Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction, consisting of its terrestrial, fluvial, and aerial domains, including its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, the insular shelves, and other submarine areas. The waters around, between, and connecting the islands of the archipelago, regardless of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the Philippines." If you look closely at the definition of our national territory it mentions waters, fluvial, territorial sea, seabed, subsoil, insular shelves, other submarine areas, and waters around and between islands that are part of internal waters.

It's quite plain then that our country for the most part comprises water whether of the external type or the internal one. It must also stand to reason and in fact logical that our military strength should be focused on the rehabilitation and upgrade of our naval capabilities so that we can cover and exercise our sovereignty over a bigger part of our national territory.

But sadly this has not happened. And for the longest time.

It was only during the past administration of former president Benigno Aquino III and now under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte where an uptick in interest in naval equipment, both in the acquisition and utilization, was somehow realized. By the Philippine Navy's (PN) own account the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has currently 114 ships in its inventory consisting of Frigates, Corvettes, Offshore Patrol Vessels, coastal patrol vessels, Coastal patrol craft, amphibious warfare ships, and auxiliary ships. Sadly and again for the longest time, no one from previous administrations had ever considered acquiring submarines for the country, so that apart from having naval superiority on the surface of our territorial waters we could at least have the capability to patrol and surveil what is underneath it or underwater.

At this time, we are hearing some good news that the defense department of the government headed by secretary Delfin Lorenzana is already seriously considering the acquisition of a submarine for the AFP and a news item that recently came out showed that a French shipbuilder called the Naval Group will open an office in Manila next year in order to firm up its intention to supply the country with its first submarine. A search on the internet revealed that the said Naval Group is formerly known as Direction des Constructions Navales or DCNS and is according to Wikipedia, "a global and major French defense contractor and an industrial group that specialized in naval-based defense platform and the marine renewable energy."

While there are many classes and types of submarines our country, well as far as Defense Secretary Lorenzana and the AFP are concerned, is interested and inclined to buy Scorpene diesel-electric submarine which is manufactured by said Naval Group.

Now, what exactly is the Scorpene submarine? What are its attributes? Well again with the help of the internet we find that "the Scorpène-class submarines are a class of diesel-electric attack submarines jointly developed by the French Direction des Constructions Navales (DCNS) and the Spanish company Navantia, and now by Naval Group. It features diesel propulsion and additional air-independent propulsion," it has a speed of 20 knots (37 km/h submerged) and 12 knots (22 km/h surfaced), it has a range of 6,500 nautical miles (12,000 km) at 8 knots (surfaced) or 550 nautical miles (1,020 km) at 5 knots (submerged). Its length of time underwater is 40 days (compact), 50 days (normal), and 50 + 21 days when using the air-independent. propulsion (AIP). It has a naval complement of 31 personnel and for armament, it can be outfitted with 6 x 533 mm (21 inches) torpedo tubes for 18 heavyweight torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, or in place of torpedoes 30 mines. Very serious firepower that can be used from beneath our territorial or perhaps even within our internal waters.

The submarine is an underwater capability that we cannot do without. While it took a long time for the government to realize the potential for having naval superiority beneath the waters the purchase and ownership of the very first submarine for the country is a unique and singular achievement for any administration and will leave a legacy in terms of military strength and capability.

Even only as a deterrent having a submarine will go a long way in notifying our neighbors in Asia that the country stands prepared for any eventuality be it any kind of foreign aggression or intrusion that would undermine our sovereignty and freedom as a democratic state.


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