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Del Pilar-class Frigate Upgrade Project of the Philippine Navy

The Philippine Navy has pursued the upgrade of their Del Pilar-class frigates (DPCF) through different schemes including acquiring subsystems from US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and through its own funding.

This resource page discusses the details of the Del Pilar-class Upgrade Project of the Philippine Navy.

An info-graphic of the Del Pilar-class (Frigate) Upgrade Project as showcased by the Philippine Navy. Photo shared exclusively to MaxDefense by our sources.

Project Summary:

Del Pilar-class (Frigate) Upgrade Project - Sensors

Note: Edited as of 21 August 2023

* End User: Philippine Navy (Offshore Combat Force)

* Quantity: 1 lot for 3 ships

* Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:

Acquisition Mode: Limited Sourced Bidding

* Source of Funding: BCDA Income Remittances

* SARO Release: SARO-BMB-D-19-0008070 dated 25 July 2019 worth Php3,875,727,389.00, released on 26 July 2019.

* Winning Proponent: Hanwha Systems (South Korea)

Product for Delivery: 

   - Hanwha Systems Naval Shield Baseline 2 Integrated Combat Management System;
   - ELAC SONAR Hunter 2.0 Hull-Mounted Sonar;
   - Elbit Elisra Aquamarine NS9300A  Radar-Electronic Support Measures
   - Integration of PN-sourced and existing subsystems

* Contract Price: 

* Difference between ABC and Contract Price: Php235,800,000.00

* Expected Delivery: 825 days from release of NTP, around May 2022.

* First post by MaxDefense:
 02 October 2017

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PNDPCFUpgrade

* Status: Notice of Award (NOA) released in favor of Hanwha Systems on 06 August 2019. SARO released on 26 July 2019. Contract signed and NTP released on 20 November 2019. Works on 1st ship BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16) ongoing as of November 2021, most likely completed as of April 2022.BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PS-15) completed its upgrade works on September 2022. BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS-17) appears to have not started the upgrade works as of February 2023.


The Philippine Navy has long been planning to improve the capabilities of the three Del Pilar-class frigates it acquired from the US government in the last 5 years. Being the most capable surface combatants of the PN, improving their capabilities are among the planned priority projects as part of the AFP Modernization Program.

So far, the PN undertook some minor upgrades including:

Installation of the Coast Watch System Shipboard Command and Control Suite (CWS-SCCS) by GTS in 2013 which was made with US Military Assistance,

Installation of BAE Systems Mk. 38 Mod.2 25mm remote weapon system on BRP Ramon Alcaraz

Installation of BAE Systems Mk.38 Mod.3 25mm remote weapon system on BRP Gregorio del Pilar (as of June 2019)

The most ambitious upgrade project yet will be the Del Pilar-class Frigate (DPCF) Upgrade Project under the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program, which was among the projects approved for implementation as part of the said modernization phase in 2017.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16).

Scope of Works:

There are two parts of work involved in the Del Pilar-class Frigate Upgrade Project:

One involves US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) involving the suppl, deliver and installation of the following items:

* new Saab AN/SPS-77 Sea Giraffe AMB 3D air/surface search radar, 

* a new Identification Friend of Foe (IFF), 

* FLIR SeaFLIR 230 electro-optical/infra-red camera system, and 

* a pair of BAE Systems Mk. 38 Mod.2 or Mod.3 25mm naval gun systems to each ship of the class.

This would be undertaken before the second part, which involves the sensor upgrade of the Del Pilar-class ships, which was tendered under a Limited Sourced Bidding that was won by South Korea's Hanwha Defense Systems. Hanwha will conduct the following scope of works, but are not limited to:

* Supply and Installation of a new Combat Management System (CMS), Hull Mounted Sonar (HMS), and Radar Electronic Support Measures (R-ESM). 

* System Integration of the Proponent (winning bidder) Supplied Equipment with the Government Supplied (Philippine Navy) Equipment, which includes the Saab AN/SPS-77 Sea Giraffe AMB 3D radar, Identification Friend or Foe (IFF), FLIR SeaFLIR 230 EO/IR camera, as well as with existing ship subsystems including navigation, situational awareness, AIS, weapons and guns, countermeasures, and other systems.

* Integrated Logistics Support package.

U P D A T E S:

10 December 2018:

The Department of National Defense (DND) released the highly-anticipated Invitation to Bid (ITB) for the project, which will be undergoing a Limited Source Bidding, and an Approved Budget for Contract (ABC) worth Php1,540,000,000.00.

The Pre-Bid Conference was scheduled on 12 December 2018, and the deadline for Submission of Bids as well as the Bid Opening date on 28 December 2018.

While MaxDefense did not immediately released information on the invited bidders, the invited ones were actually the following:

1. Saab Group (Sweden)
2. Hanwha Systems (South Korea)
3. Ultra Electronics (UK)


29 December 2018:

MaxDefense received an update, which we posted on Facebook community page, that the scheduled Bid Opening that should take place on 28 December 2018, was postponed. This was after 3 more companies were invited to join the Post-Bid Conference on 12 December 2018.

Based on information we received, among those who were invited were India's Bharat Electronics Ltd., as well as 2 other companies.

The agreement during the Pre-Bid Conference was to move the submission deadline of bid opening date to January 2019, which was later on confirmed as 15 January 2019.


24 January 2019:

A Supplementary Bid Bulletin (SBB) No. 4 was issued by the DND moving the bid submission deadline and bid opening date to 19 February 2019.

No reason was provided on why the scheduled was moved.


25 February 2019:

The Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command, Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad was quoted in an interview with the military-owned radio station DWDD, that the lowest bidder for the DPCF Upgrade Project was a UK-based company. This was posted by MaxDefense on our Facebook community page. This confirms that the bid opening scheduled on 19 February 2019 did push through successfully.

So far, the only UK-based company in our list of invited bidders is Ultra Electronics.

A further check with our sources confirmed that it was Ultra Electronics that was the lowest bidder during the bid opening last January 2019.

Also, it was confirmed by MaxDefense that the only other bidder for the project was South Korea's Hanwha Systems.

Saab Group did not submit a bid, and MaxDefense found out the budget may be too small for them to be able to provide a responsive bid. Also, the it was found out that the Philippine Navy decided to stick to the three original invited bidders other companies invited during the Pre-Bid Conference on December 2018 were also eventually not invited to submit a bid.

Should they get the contract, MaxDefense believes that Ultra Electronics will supply a variant of their OSIRIS Combat Management System, the UltraEagle R-ESM system, and most likely the new Sonar 2150 (S2150) hull mounted sonar.

The consoles of Ultra Electronic's OSIRIS Combat Management System, which is expected to be used by Ultra should they bag the deal. Photo taken from Forcas de Defense website.


03 March 2019:

MaxDefense released a blog entry on the "possible" downgrade of the Del Pilar-class from frigates to offshore patrol vessels due to their lack of capability to meet the standards of being a frigate.

This was due to MaxDefense receiving shoulder taps from navy sources that the Philippine Navy leadership was already on to order the downgrade of the ships. The blog was just a subtle way of saying that it was indeed on its way, unless the Philippine Navy will instead upgrade the ship by installing the necessary subsystems to allow it to meet the specific features of a standard frigate like conducting anti-ship, anti-submarine, and anti-aircraft warfare.

The blog entry can be accessed on the link below:

"The Del Pilar-class Frigates: Upgrade Recommendations to Avoid Reclassification as OPV" - first posted on 03 March 2019


29 March 2019:

MaxDefense confirmed through a post we made on our Facebook community page that the Del Pilar-class frigates were officially downgraded to offshore patrol vessels. Sources confirmed that the downgrade happened in late February 2019, just a few days before MaxDefense posted the blog entry on the possible downgrading plan.

The ships will now be collectively called as the Del Pilar-class offshore patrol vessels, with the following designations:

* BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PS-15), from FF-15;

* BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16), from FF-16;

* BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS-17), from FF-17

There are several discussions made between me and our contributors, and both positive and negative comments emerged.

On a positive side, some of our contributors believe that the Philippine Navy leadership was using this as basis to request for more funds to allow them to acquire either additional brand new frigates on top of those already under construction by Hyundai Heavy Industries, or to fund for the acquisition of used and refurbished frigates from friendly countries.

MaxDefense previously mentioned that there was a sudden return of interest in checking the retired Maestrale-class frigates of the Italian Navy, of which 3 units are said to be possibly available for sale to friendly navies.

On a negative note, it was collectively believed that the Philippine Navy might not have realized that there were two paths available for the Del Pilar-class ships, either to downgrade it as OPVs (which was the route taken), or to push for the upgrade of the ships and give them the capabilities needed to be classified as frigates. 


01 April 2019:

MaxDefense received confirmation from sources that Ultra Electronics was disqualified from the project after failing to pass the Post Qualification Inspection (PQI) by the Philippine Navy's Technical Working Group.

No specific reason was provided, although MaxDefense sources mentioned that Ultra Electronics may have had problems with exporting its offered Hull Mounted Sonar for the project.

It is also quite surprising for Ultra Electronics to fail the PQI for other reasons like documentation or financial capability, since it was only recent that they passed the PQI for the Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel (JCPV) Phase 3B Combat Systems Upgrade Project which was awarded to them.


03 April 2019:

With Ultra Electronics out of the project, the only remaining company that can be evaluated is South Korea's Hanwha Systems, the same company doing the sensor system integration and supply of Combat Management System for the Jose Rizal-class frigates being built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI).

Based on information received by MaxDefense from sources, Hanwha Systems passed the Post Qualification Inspection (PQI) for the Del Pilar-class (Frigate) Upgrade Project, thus they are expected to receive a Notice of Award (NOA) from the DND anytime soon.

Should Hanwha win the tender, MaxDefense expects them to supply the same Naval Shield Baseline 2 Combat Management System that they are supplying for the Jose Rizal-class frigates.

MaxDefense also received that they would probably also using the same R-ESM system made by Israel's Elta Systems, although it was mentioned to me that a different Hull Mounted Sonar would be used, and will not be the Harris 997 that will be installed on the Jose Rizal-class.

MaxDefense would provide updates on these later on.

The expected console design of the Hanwha Systems Naval Shield Baseline 2 Combat Management System, as shown during MADEX 2017 in Busan South Korea. Photo taken from Navy Recognition.


13 June 2019:

A meeting was called by the DND Bids and Awards Committee (DND-BAC), attended by members of the Philippine Navy's Defense Acquisition System Assessment Team (DASAT), and representatives from Ultra Electronics and Hanwha Defense Systems.

Based on Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana's decision on the protest made by Ultra Electronics, the decision to disqualify Ultra Electronics was supported, and the BAC was advised to proceed to the next phase of procurement.

The PN Technical Working Group recommended to the DND-BAC that a Notice of Award (NOA) be released in favor of the compliant bidder Hanwha Defense Systems.

With Hanwha decided to be the winning bidder, its just a matter of time before a Notice of Award (NOA) will be released, most likely within the month.


14 June 2019:

Based on the above decision by the DND to go with Hanwha Systems: MaxDefense believes that Hanwha Defense Systems will supply the Hanwha Naval Shield Integrated Combat Management System, most likely in Baseline 2 variant due to cost issues, and because Baseline 3 appears to still be in development although already in its advanced stages.

MaxDefense was also informed that the Hull-mounted Sonar (HMS) being offered by Hanwha is not the same as the one being installed on the Jose RIzal-class frigates (Harris Model 997). Instead, MaxDefense was told that the sonar is the Wartsila ELAC Hunter hull mouted sonar. This information needs to be further confirmed though.

While Germany-based Wartsila ELAC Nautik appears to be new in the sonar system business, it appears that Wartsila took over the business from American technology giant L3 Technologies (then called L-3 Communications).

We are still confirming the R-ESM system to be used by Hanwha, although there is a strong possibility that it would either be the Israeli-made Elbit Elisra Aquamarine NS9300A similar to those for installation on the Jose Rizal-class, or a South Korean system.

These are the actual console panel and computer control unit of the Hanwha Naval Shield Integrated CMS Baseline 2 for the BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), as shown to the media during its product presentation and testing. Photo taken from Inquirer.net.

The Wartsila ELAC Hunter hull-mounted sonar, which appears to be a new product from Wartsila but may have been already developed beforehand by another company, L-3 Communications, as ELAC Nautik used to be one of their companies. Photos taken from Wartsila's website.


16 June 2019:

As posted by MaxDefense in its community social media page:

With BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PS-15) now sitting in Subic Bay waiting for parts, the Philippine Navy together with US Navy Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and International Fleet Support Program Office (PMS 326) made use of the ship's downtime to start some of the upgrade works on the ship.

The first upgrade works involved the installation of the BAE Systems Mk.38 Mod.3 25mm gun systems, which MaxDefense has previously reported to have been delivered to the Philippine Navy for quite sometime.

The installation works happened in early June 2019. One could easily guess what the PN-NAVSEA PMS326 would do next.

Take note that this is separate from the ongoing DPCF Upgrade Project under the Horizon 2 phase, which is being prepared for awarding to Hanwha Systems within June or July 2019.

Installation of the BAE Systems Mk.38 Mod.3 25mm naval gun system for BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PS-15) in Subic by PN and USN NAVSEA. Photos exclusively shared to MaxDefense by a source.


29 July 2019:

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) for the Philippine Navy's Del Pilar-class Frigate Upgrade Project together with 2 other projects for a total worth of Php3,875,727,389.00.

The project would support the Notice of Award (NOA) released by the Department of National Defense (DND) in favor of Hanwha Systems.

With this, MaxDefense expects the Contract Signing between the DND and Hanwha Defense Systems to happen very soon, since the funding to support the project has now been made available by the Philippine government.

The SARO list for 2019 can be accessed from the DBM's website. A shortcut to the page can be accessed by clicking HERE.

Hanwha Systems of South Korea is expected to sign a contract with the DND to upgrade the Del Pilar-class patrol vessels and integrate new and existing sensors. Photo taken from Hanwha Systems' website.

23 August 2019:

The DND has released the Notice of Award on 06 August 2019 in favor of Hanwha Systems Co. Ltd. of South Korea. The same company integrating the sensons and supplying the Combat Management System for the Jose Rizal-class frigates

As expected based on the SARO funds release for the project, the contract value is Php1,304,200,000.00.

MaxDefense will discuss the product offerings in the near future, most likely in a separate blog entry.

Photo from DND website.


12 December 2019:

The DND has signed the contract with Hanwha Systems on 20 November 2019. At the same time, the DND has 
released the Notice to Proceed (NTP) for the project on 20 November 2019, and Hanwha Systems' representative received the document on 21 November 2019. This marks the start of the countdown to the delivery deadline.

Copy of the NTP from DND, taken from PhilGEPS.

Based on the Contract, it appears that our earlier information is correct regarding the model of hull-mounted sonar (HMS) and Radar-Electronic Support Measures (R-ESM) to be used for the Del Pilar-class.

A Post Qualification Inspection (PQI) was indeed made with Wartsila ELAC Nautic GmbH in Kiel, Germany, while another PQI was held in Tel Aviv, Israel on an undisclosed company. It would be remembered that the Philippine Navy's Jose Rizal-class frigates are also equipped with an R-ESM system sourced from Elbit-Elisra.

Thus, this is what MaxDefense expects the ship would have:

   - Hanwha Systems Naval Shield Baseline 2.xx Integrated Combat Management System;
   - Wartsila ELAC Nautic Hunter Hull-Mounted Sonar;
   - Elbit Elisra Aquamarine NS9300A  Radar-Electronic Support Measures

In addition, the contract also includes integration of PN-sourced and existing subsystems by Hanwha Systems.


16 December 2021:

Interesting photos posted on the Defense of the Republic of the Philippines page involving one of the Del Pilar-class frigates, presumed to be BRP Ramon Alcaraz  (PS-16).

First photo, likely taken from Google Earth, shows the ship having scaffoldings on both its masts while docked in Subic.

Second photo, appears to be taken from afar, shows the Saab AN/SPS-77 Sea Giraffe AMB air/surface search radar installed on the same ship, specifically on the 2nd mast where the AN/SPS-40 radar used to be positioned before removed by the Americans.

This shows that upgrade works have begun on the Del Pilar-class frigates, with Hanwha Systems undertaking the project after winning the Del Pilar-class Frigate (DPCF) Upgrade Project of the Philippine Navy, which is part of the Horizon 2 phase of the RAFPMP.

Aside from supplying and integrating a new CMS, HMS and ESM, Hanwha is also tasked to install and integrate the US-supplied AN/SPS-77 radar and SeaFLIR EOTS on all 3 ships.

Credits to Fritz Bosshard (top) and Ali Hamza Abdul (above) for the photos, originally posted at the DRP's Facebook page.


06 May 2022:

Latest undated photos posted by Philippine Armed Forces Unofficial II shows the first ship that underwent the upgrade works, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16) already equipped with the AN/SPS-77 Sea Giraffe AMB air/surface search 3D radar system, and while its too small to see, it appears that the ESM and SeaFLIR camera has been installed too.

Not visible from the external photos would be the hull-mounted sonar and Combat Management System, which are also expected to be already installed.

With the ship already seen here at sea, most likely undergoing tests, it is probably safe to say that upgrade works on BRP Ramon Alcaraz is almost done, and Hanwha Systems could be preparing to conduct the upgrade works on the next ship, most likely BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS-17).

Photo credits to Philippine Armed Forces Unofficial II.


18 September 2022:

The Philippine Navy’s Del Pilar-class patrol vessel BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PS-15) is officially back in service after 4 years of repair and upgrade works.

She will be deployed in the West Philippine Sea to conduct maritime patrols.

Note the new Saab AN/SPS-77 Sea Giraffe 3D air/surface search radar on its 2nd mast. It is expected that the ship already has a new SeaFLIR forward looking infrared sensor, new hull mounted sonar, and new radar electronic support measures (R-ESM) as well.

It appears that the repair works have been completed first as the ship was ready to sail as of March 2022, but only returned to the fleet on September 2022. Back in March, it was noted that the ship is not yet equipped with the upgrades which support our arguement.

Photo credits to Philippine Navy through Inquirer.net.


10 February 2023:

The BRP Andres Bonifacio appears to be actively patrolling the West Philippine Sea lately, with US thinktanks monitoring its presence and "cat-and-mouse" game with China Coast Guard and Chinese Maritime Militia ships near the Kalayaan Island Group.

The Philippine Navy has not posted any new photos of the ship but as of late 2022, it still did not have the upgraded equipment it was suppose to have. And the ship has been busy since then, and this makes us believe that the ship has not yet undertaken its upgrade works.

It remains to be seen when the ship would be back in Naval Operating Base Subic where we expected the upgrade works to be conducted.


21 August 2023:

German company ELAC SONAR has confirmed that it completed the sea acceptance tests of the Hunter 2.0 hull-mounted sonars installed on one of the Del Pilar-class frigates of the Philippine Navy.

With this, the other 2 ships of the class will receive their ELEC Hunter 2.0 hull-mounted sonar in the next 12 months.

It would be remembered that MaxDefense Philippines reported a few years ago that South Korea's Hanwha Systems will ve installing ELAC Hunter hull-mounted sonar, when ELAC was still part of Wartsila Group, for the Del Pilar-class frigates as part of the Del Pilar-class Frigate Upgrade Project of the Philippine Navy.

The Hunter 2.0 will be integrated to the Hanwha Systems Naval Shield Intergrated Combat Management System installed on the frigates.

The ELAC Hunter 2.0 is the 3rd hull-mounted sonar model operated by the Philippine Navy after the L3 Harris Model 997 found on the Jose Rizal-class frigates, and the Raytheon AN-SQS-58 found on the Pohang-class corvettes.

It remains to be seen if the Philippine Navy would arm the patrol frigates with anti-submarine torpedoes. Incidentally, Germany's ELAC SONAR and preferred British torpedo launcher supplier System Engineering & Assessment (SEA) which supplied torpedo launchers for the Jose Rizal-class frigates and upcoming HDC-3100 corvettes are both part of COHORT PLC Group.

Photo credits to ELEC SONAR.

First edit and release: 03 April 2019
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines / Philippine Defense Resource.

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