Three more “Balikpapan” class LCHs (landing craft heavies) are scheduled to arrive and be commissioned in Philippine Navy (PN) service by the first quarter of 2016. These ships are the HMAS Balikpapan, HMAS Wewak and HMAS Betano. The Royal Australian Navy decommissioned these LCHs in November 2014.

The three are sisters to BRP Ivatan (formerly HMAS Tarakan) and BRP Batak (ex-HMAS Brunei) which were commissioned into PN service last Aug. 10. LCHs are an extremely versatile vessel, capable of moving large amounts of cargo, personnel and equipment from larger ships to shore.

Sources said that the three ships were acquired at their respective “salvage value” which is 10 to 15 percent of the actual value of the LCHs. They will be refurbished before re-entering service.

The acquisitions of the remaining Balikpapan ships still in Australia were earlier confirmed from Philippine Navy sources, and by the Philippine President Benigno Aquino III himself.

Other Balikpapan ships, the HMAS Labuan, Salamaua and Buna are under operation of the Papua New Guinea Defense Forces.