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The Philippine government has begun preparations to acquire three more decommissioned Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Balikpapan-class heavy landing craft (LCH) vessels.

In his annual state of the nation address delivered on 27 July in Quezon City, President Benigno Aquino reiterated his administration’s intention to acquire the vessels and said that necessary paperwork for the procurement processes is moving ahead.

However, no concrete timeline was given in regards to the acquisition, according to the Philippine Department of Defense (DND).

The LCHs, formerly known as HMAS Wewak (L 130), HMAS Balikpapan (L 126) and HMAS Betano (L 133), were retired by Australia in December 2012. The vessels were inducted into RAN service between 1973 and 1974 as well as three other ships in class – HMAS Brunei (L 127), HMAS Labuan (L 128), and HMAS Tarakan (L 129).

Labuan was gifted to the Papua New Guinea Defense Force Maritime Element while Tarakan and Brunei were donated to the Philippine government and recommissioned as BRP Ivatan (AT-298) and BRP Batak (AT-299) respectively on 23 July. The vessels are now in Philippine waters and are in service.

The Balikpapan-class vessels underwent a life-of-type extension (LOTE) between 2000 and 2002 in an effort to extend their operational effectiveness by eight years in the RAN. These include the replacement of the LCHs’ water-distilling plant with a reverse osmosis plant and installation of a new sewage-treatment plant and oily water separator.

Prior to turnover to the Philippines, the landing crafts underwent modernization and upgrades. Spare parts for the fleets were included as well.

It is not known currently if the remaining Balikpapan fleets will undergo the same refurbishing before being turned over, should the deal be sealed.

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