MANILA -- The Philippine Navy (PN) now has the capability to detect, locate and hunt submarines with the arrival of its two AugustaWestand (now Leonardo) AW-159 "Wildcat" helicopters Tuesday.

This was bared by Navy flag-officer-in-command, Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, on  the sidelines of the send-off ceremonies for the military, police and government contingents tasked to secure the May 13 mid-term elections in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"These helicopters will give the PN the capability to detect and locate submarines due to its sonar capabilities," he said in Filipino.

Empedrad said this is a big leap for the PN, considering that in the past, the Navy does not have the means to detect subsurface threats.

The PN chief said that the sonar capabilities of the AW-159 will be further augmented by the proposed upgrades of the three Del Pilar-class offshore patrol vessels, which include the installation of sonar equipment.

Empedrad said the helicopters will be placed in Navy service shortly after the blessing and commissioning ceremonies in Sangley Point, Cavite this coming May 27, which coincides with the PN's 121st founding anniversary.

These helicopters are to 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.

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 (fours hours and 30 minutes if fitted with auxiliary fuel).

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