UPDATED July 11, 2020; 9:11 a.m.
SUBIC BAY—South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) has offered to bankroll expenses for the full integration of combat management systems (CMS) to Link 16 should there be problems with the two frigates it had built for the Philippine Navy.
Rear Admiral Alberto Carlos, chairman of the technical inspection and acceptance committee for the frigate acquisition project, said HHI gave a guarantee to pay for the costs if the two warships experience trouble with the integration of the CMS with Link 16, once it acquires this capability in the future.
“The South Korean minister of defense confirmed this,” Carlos told reporters on Friday (July 10) on the sidelines of BRP Jose Rizal’s commissioning.
“They gave us a sovereign guarantee to support the guarantee given by the contractor,” he said.
HHI promised in 2017 to make Hanwha Systems’ Naval Shield ICMS compatible with Link 16 by 2019 or before the first Philippine frigate was delivered. But so far, it has yet to officially meet this requirement.
The Philippine government had signed a contract with HHI in 2016 for two multi-role frigates worth P16 billion. The Link 16 compatibility for the CMS was included in the contract requirements.
Link 16 is a military tactical data link network used by the US and allies for a jam-resistant, enhanced monitoring of battlespace operations.
The selection of CMS, described to be the brains of the warships, was one of the contentious issues of the frigate acquisition project. The Navy’s technical working group had pushed for Tacticos of Thales Nederland, which was already Link 16-compatible, over the CMS picked by HHI, Naval Shield ICMS of Hanwha Systems.
While Naval Shield ICMS has yet to be officially certified Link 16 compatible because it still has to undergo standard conformity tests, HHI believes it has already displayed this capability.
Carlos said the Link 16 compatibility with the CMS was tested during the sea acceptance tests in South Korea in February using a compatibility test tool.
“The Philippine Navy does not have the Link 16 yet. The next best thing we can do is to use the compatibility test tool. The test results indicate compatibility with Link 16,” he said.
“For the first frigate, it’s enough for now. We still have the second frigate. If there are more issues we still have more time to resolve them,” he added.
The second frigate being built by HHI, the future BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), is expected to be delivered in the next six months.
Carlos said HHI was “very much committed in ensuring compatibility.”
“This is owing to the fact that they also want to build a solid credential in this area. So they are putting their name and their brand on the line. Add to this their interest in participating in other projects of the Navy,” he said.
In April, HHI president and CEO Yeong Seuk Han wrote to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to say that the HHI had demonstrated compatibility with Link 16 using the Air Defense System Integrator (ADSI) equipment of Ultra Electronics during sea acceptance tests in February 2020.
Korean Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeongdoo also wrote to Lorenzana in the same month, providing guarantee that the ADSI of Ultra Electronics is accredited to conduct Link 16 compatibility tests.
Navy Chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said that any “imperfections” in design requirements of the frigates remained under warranty.
He said should there be “imperfections” between now and the conduct of Rim Pacific 2020, one of the world’s largest naval drills led by the United States set next month, “it is still under the period of warranty.”
Should that happen, Bacordo said “we will report this to the contractor and we will report this to the head of procuring entity” so that the “imperfections will be addressed.”
“To those saying it’s not compatible with Link 16, we should be the one to know being the end user,” the Navy chief said.