Navy ship detects US sub off Palawan
The Philippine Navy’s newly acquired antisubmarine vessel has detected a US submarine passing underwater off Palawan while it was on patrol last year, Navy flag officer in command Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad said on Wednesday.
“For the first time, the BRP Conrado Yap was able to detect a submarine under it while (it was) sailing somewhere in Palawan,” Empedrad said in an interview with reporters at the Bonifacio naval station in Taguig City.
The BRP Conrado Yap, a Pohang-class corvette, was commissioned only in August last year after it was turned over to the Philippine Navy by its South Korean counterpart.
The Navy official said the incident happened in November last year while the Navy vessel was conducting a “show the flag” mission, which is undertaken by a naval ship to identify itself and establish its presence in an area by displaying its flag.
If the waters around the archipelago were drained, one may find at least 50 submarines surrounding us, Empedrad said.
A retired naval officer, who declined to be named, said that the protocol for submarines was for them to surface when conducting innocent passage through a country’s territorial waters.
“If it is innocent passage, the submarine should surface. If they pass through (our waters) submerged, that is questionable. Why are (they) being sneaky?”
The US submarine, he said, committed a violation if it (was) submerged within the country’s 12-nautical-mile territorial waters.
Empedrad said the Navy expects by November two AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat helicopters that are capable of detecting, hunting and destroying submarines intruding in the country’s waters.
He said he expects the Navy’s full antisubmarine warfare capability to be completed this year with the delivery of torpedoes and missiles, as well as the training of helicopter pilots.
The first batch of South Korean Blue Shark lightweight torpedoes, the AW159 helicopters’ primary weapons, arrived in the country in July last year.
The Wildcats, which were commissioned by the Navy on June 17, 2019, can also be fitted with rockets, machine guns and depth charges, as well as a modern sonar system for detecting submarines.
Modern Israeli boats
Empedrad said the Navy was also considering more modern Israeli boats to replace its eight patrol killer medium fleet, medium-sized naval patrol craft currently being used in maritime interdiction operations.
President Rodrigo Duterte has approved in principle the P10-billion procurement project for the Israeli Shipyard Ltd.-manufactured Shaldag-class boats, he said.
Once acquired, the patrol boats would be armed with nonline-of-sight missiles, which have pinpoint accuracy and a range of 25 kilometers. The boats are being eyed to defend the key sea lines of communication, including Balabac, Mindoro, Basilan and Sibutu Strait, Empedrad said.