A major milestone in the forum rebuilding process (see Rebuilding a cyber-institution) has been reached. The Philippine Navy ship database, the single most comprehensive online collection of information about Philippine Navy ships — both past and present — is back.
The return of the database also brings back one of the most, if not THE most, comprehensive photographic record of Philippine Navy vessels currently available on defense social media. Over the years, numerous community shipspotters have sent many photos specifically for use on the original index. These images have found a home in the DefensePH database.
Photos in this collection include this iconic photograph of BRP Andres Bonifacio crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
The thread index currently brings together 145 discussions and is divided into the following sections:
- Decommissioned, strategic reserve, grounded
- Scrapped, sunk, sold, etc.
Visitors to the index are brought to this section first. Threads here draw attention to everything from the largest combat vessels in Philippine Navy history — the Tarlac class Strategic Support Vessels — to lesser known vessels such as the ADFL-1 class Floating Drydock. From the historic Rajah Humabon which saw action in WWII, to the freshly minted Multi-Purpose Assault Crafts which are not only the youngest vessels in the fleet but also among the fastest.
Consistent with practices of other established public naval references, the operational condition of these vessels are not considered in section assignment. Given the average age the fleet, it is understandable that a number may actually not even be able to get underway, or at least get underway safely. Food for thought for avid followers of online databases that tout numbers of ships with no regard for the state of those ships.
Decommissioned, strategic reserve, grounded
These are vessels that remain in the vessel registry but are no longer in active status. Some are eventually destined to be scrapped. Others are kept as part of the strategic reserve and preserved awaiting reactivation at some future date.
Solely for purposes of this index, vessels that were grounded, and then left in place are placed here to acknowledge their unusual circumstances. One such vessel is BRP Lanao del Norte (LT-504) an ex-US LST-542 class Landing Ship Tank (LST) which ran aground off Pagasa. It’s thread shows the progression from what it looked like in US service to its current scrapped state.
BRP Sierra Madre, another LST-542 class vessel that ran aground at Ayungin shoal and currently serves as outpost monitoring Chinese activities in Mischief Reef, is also a prominent feature of this section. The forum discussion for this boat not only shows the most recent, Philippine Navy authorized, imagery of the vessel, but also shows what it looked like when it was still known as USS Harnett County. Given the vessel’s importance to national defense, this thread is updated as often as forum administrators are allowed.
Scrapped, sunk, sold, etc
This section dwells on ships that were once part of the Philippine Navy, but have since been completely taken off the registry. It a historical record of the fleet that was.
Among the ships in this category are several notable vessels that were lost in typhoons:
RPS Datu Kalantiaw (PS-76). An ex-US Cannon class Destroyer Escort which was lost during Typhoon Rubing (Int’l: Clara) while at anchor off Calayan Island on September 22, 1981. A retired PN officer (aldebaran@timawa/defenseph) described it as one of the worst naval tragedies in Philippine Navy history.
RPS Rajah Soliman (D-66). An ex-US Buckley class Destroyer escort lost to Typhoon Dading while at anchor at the Bataan National Shipyard.
The rebuilding process and beyond
The rebuilding process for this thread actually began on September 25, 2016. Fifteen days after the original Timawa forum was unceremoniously shutdown by its owner. The DefensePH forum itself was established on September 22, but thread index rebuilding didn’t start till 3 days after. The ship database was the first such index created as it was one of the lynchpins of the original community.
Although additional ship discussions have been added to the current thread index since the original Timawa equivalent, a number of mysteries from the Timawa thread remain. Ex-US SC-497 Submarine Chaser class in PN service are an example. Research on those outstanding items continue.
While mindful of the Navy’s past, the index also looks to the future. The DND recently issued instructions for the implementation of the contract with Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) — a South Korean shipbuilder — for the construction of a pair of frigates which are meant to be the most capable vessels in the fleet. In acknowledgement of this development, threads for each of these ships, which HHI reportedly refers to as P159 and P160, are all new additions to the index. As the Navy charts its own course to the future, the forum too continues to grow in content and coverage.