On October 20, Philippine state media reported that the Philippine Navy (PN) had completed training with the Mistral 3 surface-to-air missile system (SAM) on BRP Jose Rizal. This involved operational and intermediate maintenance on the missile system and was conducted by PN and MBDA personnel respectively.
According to a previous state media release, the SAMs were delivered via Subic Bay International Airport on October 8. These missiles will serve as the primary anti-air warfare capability of the Jose Rizal-class frigates. They will be carried on board in two Simbad-RC mounts, each with two missiles. With the delivery and completion of training on the Mistral 3, the Jose Rizal-class becomes the first guided-missile frigates in the history of the Philippines.
This news also coincides with the recent delivery of the first non-man portable air-defense system to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). On October 15, Max Defense reported that at least one battery of Rafael’s surface-to-air Python and Derby (SPYDER) has been accepted and delivered to the Philippine Air Force (PAF). Prior to Mistral 3 and SPYDER, the PN and PAF officially had no SAMs. It should be noted that a photo taken during 2018’s DAGIT-PA exercises shows Philippine Army (PA) troops using a Stinger man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS). This photo was the first time that Philippine troops demonstrated a missile-based air defense capability. The system used in the photograph was later confirmed as a dummy unit used for training. Although Max Defense stated that there are actual units in service and that they were obtained during the administration of Fidel V. Ramos.
The delivery of the Mistral 3’s to the Jose Rizal-class will be followed by the delivery of SSM-700K C-STAR anti-ship missiles in March of 2022. This missile will be the main surface strike weapon of these frigates and will be the first anti-ship missile in the history of the AFP. The C-STAR missile is also a mainstay of the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN), with its first deployment on the Incheon-class frigates; the design of which the PN frigates are based on. When C-STAR is delivered, the Jose Rizal-class will have anti-air warfare and surface strike capabilities.
However, the lack of a proper area air defense missile due to the lack of vertical launch system cells as well as the low number of anti-ship missiles carried aboard the class undermines the potential capability of the class. Mistral 3s lack the range to protect areas beyond the ship’s immediate area and are useful only for self-defense. As for the C-STARs, the four missiles per ship provides only half the anti-ship loadout of what is typically carried by similar frigates. Nonetheless, the frigates and their capabilities still represent an important step in the PN’s and the AFP’s modernization. The ships are some of the most capable assets available to the Philippines, with hulls needed to patrol and maintain sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.
Cover header Photo Courtesy of Philippine Navy