MANILA – The acquisition of anti-submarine vessels must be paired with helicopters with similar abilities to maximize their capabilities, the Philippine Navy (PN) said on Monday.
PN chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo made this response when asked on whether the Navy are planning to acquire additional units of AugustaWestland (now Leonardo) AW-159 "Wildcat" anti-submarine helicopters which are now in the naval inventory.
"The plan to acquire additional AW-159s is connected to the plan to acquire more platforms or more ships (with anti-submarine warfare capabilities). If you notice, we will be having two 'Jose Rizal' class frigates, (FF)150) and (FF) 151, that's the reason why we have two AW- 159s. Once our plan to acquire two additional corvettes (are finalized), then we will also procure two additional AW-159s," Bacordo said in a mixture of English and Filipino during a virtual presser.
Bacordo added that the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities of both the AW-159s and two Jose Rizal-class frigates are "further strengthened" once they operate in tandem.
He said this is why there is a need to procure additional ASW helicopters once the corvette project pushes through.
The two corvettes with ASW capabilities are scheduled for the procurement of Horizon 2 of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.
Earlier, the PN chief said the major weapons system of the PN's AW-159 "Wildcat" anti-submarine helicopters are now "in-country".
"Both the Spike-NLOS (non-line of sight) missiles and the BlueShark anti-submarine torpedoes are already 'in-country'," he added.
Bacordo said deliveries of the weapons were completed during the "fourth quarter" of last year. Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd made Spike NLOS missile will give the AW-159s a capability to engage hostile vessels beyond visual range.
While the South Korean-made LIG Nex1 "Blue Shark" lightweight torpedoes will serve as the helicopters' anti-submarine weapon and are capable of shallow and deepwater operations and can run off to speeds of 45 knots.
And once the pilots and aircrew of the AW-159s are fully trained, Bacordo said he expects these personnel to train on the use of these weapons to gain proficiency in their handling.
The helicopters arrived in May 2019 and were commissioned in June of the same year.
The contract for the helicopters' munition, mission essential equipment, and integrated logistic support is worth PHP5.4 billion. (PNA)