Philippine Gov’t Moves Ahead With Plan to Buy Submarines

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Facing escalating pressure from Chinese forces in the Spratly Islands, the government of the Philippines is considering a plan to buy attack submarines, which could be used to defend against China’s navy and irregular forces in the event of open conflict. 

The Philippine Navy has relatively few assets, and its level of preparedness for a high-end fight with China is low: its two most modern frigates are fitted for a full complement of warfighting equipment like missile VLS cells and close-in weapons systems (CIWS) – but do not have them installed, for budgetary reasons. A submarine force would be less vulnerable to China’s powerful surface fleet. For a stealthy sub, the canyons and shoals of the Spratly Islands would provide plenty of places to hide – as the Philippine government is well aware.

The government of the Philippines has been considering a plan to buy submarines for a long time as part of its “third phase” of military modernization. Four foreign nations with advanced diesel-electric sub capabilities have signaled interest in signing a supply contract. French state defense shipbuilder Naval Group and South Korea’s DSME (now Hanwha Ocean) have previously been cited as leading contenders.

Philippine Navy spokesman Commodore Roy Trinidad said Thursday that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had signed off on the plan to buy the first hull, and that more would be on the way. “We may not be a large navy, but we would have a navy that will take care of our territorial rights,” Trinidad said at a press conference. 

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