Navy marks 121st year with activation of major capabilities

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The Philippine Navy (PN) celebrated its 121st founding anniversary on Monday with the introduction of two new capabilities — the commissioning of its first two AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) AW-159 anti-submarine helicopters and activation of the first four Hanwha Techwin amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs).

Philippine Navy photo

“For today’s (Monday) ceremony we blessed (and commissioned) two major capabilities of PN. First is the two anti-submarine warfare helicopters, (the) AW-159s (which) we acquired from Leonardo, UK. The two helos are equipped with modern sonar capability that can detect submarines underneath (the water and) armed with torpedos and missiles that can destroy submarines and big surface vessels and can perform search-and-rescue operations in the most challenging maritime environment,” said PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad.

The AW-159s arrived in the country last May 7 and will be based on the two missile-armed frigates Hyundai Heavy Industries is constructing in South Korea.

These aircraft were acquired for PHP5.4 billion, including the munition, mission essential equipment and integrated logistic support.

The AW-159 (previously called the Future Lynx and Lynx Wildcat) is an improved version of the Westland Super Lynx military helicopter. The helicopter has been ordered for the Royal Navy and British Army.

It is capable of speeds of 291 km/h (181 mph), range of 777 km (483 miles), ferry range of 963 km (598 miles) and an endurance of one and-a-half hours (four hours and 30 minutes if fitted with auxiliary fuel).

The AW-159s can also be armed with rockets, machine guns, missiles, torpedoes and depth charges.

Second is the four AVVs, which will be used by the Philippine Marine Corps in amphibious operations and can be launched by the PN’s strategic sealift vessels and landing ships.

Empedrad said these AAVs can be launched from our amphibious vessels 1.5 nautical miles or three kilometers away from the shorelines and can sail at sea with a speed of 10 to 16 kilometers an hour.

“The Marines can now perform amphibious operations which speed, surprise, better firepower and maximum firepower,” the PN chief stressed.

The four AAVs, part of the total of eight acquired for PHP2.42 billion from Hanwha Techwin, arrived in the Philippines via commercial ship in the first week of May.

The AAVs will be used by the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) and will be based aboard the two strategic sealift vessels, the BRP Tarlac (LD-601) and BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602), boosting the ships’ “limited sea-basing capabilities”.

These vehicles are armed with .50 caliber machine guns, 40mm grenade launchers and smoke launchers.

Aside from this new equipment, the PN on Monday also deployed five newly-repaired and operational ships which include two Jacinto-Class Patrol Vessels (JCPVs) those weapons have been upgraded, Empedrad said.

“The two JCPVs are now capable to provide massive and accurate gunfire support to protect our ground forces and our marines from enemy fires during encounters and amphibious landing,” he added. PNA