The BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF16) continues to undergo refurbishment and refitting at the United States Coast Guard station in Charleston, South Carolina. The vessel, the second high-endurance cutter the Philippines acquired from the United States, is expected to set sail for Manila in March. (Photo by the Office of the Naval Attache, Philippine Embassy)

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The Pentagon has awarded a $1.8 million contract for the purchase of modern weapons systems that would be installed in the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF16), the second high-endurance cutter that the Philippines recently acquired from the United States.

The Philippine Embassy said the purchase and installation of two Mk38 Mod 2 autocanon systems for the Alcarazis part of a $24-million contract the Pentagon recently awarded to the Kentucky-based BAE Systems Land and Armaments Inc.

Capt. Elson Aguilar, Naval Attache at the Office of the Defense and Armed Forces Attache at the Philippine Embassy, said the BAE contract involves the purchase of 21 units of the remotely controlled naval gun systems and spare parts for both the US and Philippine navies.

He said the contract, which is covered under the Foreign Military Sales Program, does not include the weapons system for the sister ship of the Alcaraz, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF15), which will be covered under a separate contract.

The Mk38 Mod 2, which was commissioned by the US Navy following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, was designed to counter high-speed maneuvering surface targets and will be installed in almost all US surface ships by 2015.

The new weapon systems are upgraded versions of the Mk38 M242 Bushmasters that were removed from the vessel prior to its turnover to the Philippines. The remotely controlled chain gun system can fire as many as 180 25m rounds per minute at targets as far as two kilometers.

“The Mk38 Mod 2 will allow the Alcaraz and the Del Pilar to track and fire at targets automatically in both day and night using single shot, low speed or high-speed automatic fire,” Captain Aguilar said, adding that the autocanon can be fired manually if the sensors are damaged or if the vessels lose power.

He said the two Mk38 Mod 2 systems that will be mounted in the Alcaraz and the Del Pilar will complement the existing weapons systems that consist of the MK75 76mm Oto Melara main battery and four M2HB .50 caliber machine guns.

Captain Aguilar said the vessel is presently awaiting the general overhaul of her port main diesel engine and further installation of navigational and electronics equipment.

“The overhaul will take at least 11 weeks once it gets started,” Captain Aguilar said, adding that the vessel’s 14 officers and 74 enlisted personnel headed by Capt. Ernesto O. Baldovino continue to train under the US Coast Guard at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Charleston, South Carolina where the vessel is currently moored.

The 378-foot-long Alcaraz was commissioned in 1968 and served with the US Coast Guard as the USCGC Dallasuntil it was decommissioned and turned over to the Philippines in May. It is being refurbished and refitted at a cost of $15.15 million.

The Alcaraz is the second Hamilton-class cutter that was acquired by the Philippines under the Excess Defense Article and Military Assistance Program. The first, the Del Pilar, was turned over to the Philippine Navy in May 2011.

According to Captain Aguilar, both the Alcaraz and the Del Pilar are capable of conducting patrols for long periods of time and withstanding heavy weather and rough sea conditions.

The Alcaraz was named after Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, a Philippine Navy officer, who distinguished himself during the Second World War when the patrol boat he commanded was credited for shooting down three Japanese aircraft. ###<