Navy to commission anti-submarine helicopters, amphibious assault vehicles

The commissioning and blessing ceremonies for the Philippine Navy’s (PN) first two anti-submarine helicopters, the AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) AW-159 “Wildcat” and four amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs) will formally take place at Naval Base Heracleo Alano, Sangley Point, Cavite on June 17.

This was bared by Navy spokesperson Captain Jonathan Zata when sought for updates on the status of the two aircraft and AAVs Friday.

“The AW-159s are still undergoing TIAC (Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee) evaluations but inspections are (on) schedule for the commissioning and blessing during the 121st PN anniversary this June 17,” he said in Filipino.

Meanwhile, the AAVs are also in similar status, Zata added. The PN’s 121st anniversary was earlier scheduled for May 27 but this was moved to June 17 to accommodate the schedule of the Commander-in-Chief, President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who is the event’s guest-of-honor.

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 its 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, which was being used by 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 (fours 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.

Meanwhile, the four AAVs, eight of which were 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 use 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 machineguns, 40mm grenade launchers and smoke launchers.

“The PMC is essentially an amphibious ready force and part of our doctrine is that they can be embarked in our landing docks. Part of the doctrine is the so-called ‘limited sea basing’, which means that a battalion of Marines is always on board, at any one time, ready for any possible exigencies,” Zata earlier said.