The Aquino administration is spending P500 million ($11.12 million) in taxpayers’ money to upgrade a Philippine Naval Base in Ulugan Bay in Palawan Sea, which will serve as one of the US Marine’s command posts to monitor developments in the hotly-contested West Philippine Sea.
On Friday, Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic said the military would build a P500-million ($11.2 million) port at Ulugan Bay, the Philippine military base in Palawan that is nearest to the Spratly Islands. The upgraded naval base would be visited by Aquino on May 20, the 116th anniversary of the Philippine Navy.
The Navy said the mini-naval base in Ulugan Bay would host two refurbished American Coast Guard frigates that regularly patrols the West Philippine Sea.
Kidd brings the same Arleigh-Burke Class capabilities as Pinckney with its two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters which are designed for search and rescue, as well as anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, surveillance, communications relay, naval gunfire support and logistics support.
The helicopters can fly a maximum of 180 knots with a ceiling of 13,000 ft., have a maximum range of 245 nautical miles and the capability to conduct searches at night using its Forward Looking Infra-red (FLIR) camera. Kidd, like Pinckney, was conducting training and maritime security operations in international waters in the South China Sea before being sent to assist.
The US Navy still has one maritime patrol aircraft, a P-3C Orion from the Grey Knights of Patrol Squadron 46 (VP-46), on station flying from Subang Jaya, Malaysia.
Flight MH370, carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers, including 154 Chinese, left Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing and lost contact with air traffic control Saturday while passing through the Ho Chi Minh air traffic control area.
Not only did Warramunga’s crew swap platforms into Arunta, the Fleet Commander, Rear Admiral Tim Barrett, was also on hand to present the Australia Cup to Arunta’s ships company, who will act as custodians for the award that was earned by Warramunga for their achievements in 2013.
The Australia Cup is awarded annually to the Fleet Unit that has achieved the highest standard of Marine Engineering efficiency and serviceability and is the most prestigious annual engineering honour bestowed on a Major Fleet Unit. This is the third time Warramunga’s Marine Engineering department has received the coveted award, having previously held the trophy in 2006 and 2008.
Commanding Officer, Commander David Tietzel, reflected on Warramunga’s training philosophy and the courage displayed by the ships crew through the significant challenges faced in 2013, as the catalysts for Warramunga’s achievements.
“It was fitting that we received the award together as two ships and one ship’s company,” he said.
The two ships, Warramunga and Arunta, share historical significance in the Royal Australian Navy, taking their names from Tribal Class destroyers that served in WWII. The historical context was not lost on Commander Tietzel.
“The scenario of the two ships being tied together evoked a resemblance of the handovers of WWII, where the ships handed over fuel, ammunition and stores before one was repaired from battle as the other proceeded to battle,” he said.
With upgrade work nearing completion, Arunta is the second Anzac class frigate to go through the Anti-Ship Missile Defence (ASMD) upgrade. The ASMD upgrade provides a significant enhancement in capability for the Royal Australian Navy. The project has equipped Arunta with new forward and aft masts, fitted with leading-edge Phased Array Radar and other sensor systems; all controlled utilising a new state-of-the-art Combat Management System and an advanced Operations Room.
Arunta’s new crew were challenged to love her as they previously lovedWarramunga. Referring to the crew transition, Commander Tietzel said “as we re-energise her (Arunta), we breathe back into her the very life that she so rightly deserves and we make her the warship she is, rather than a lump of steel owned by the dockyard.”
On the day, the ships company were emboldened to wear the ships patch with pride and breathe life back into the ship in a manner that honours the ships motto ‘Conquer or Die.’
With the crew now attached, Arunta is well and truly alive and ready for the challenges ahead.