MANILA – The Philippine Navy (PN) has deployed two of its more modern and capable assets, the missile and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigate BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) and its partner AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) AW-159 "Wildcat" helicopter, to beef up the capabilities of the Western Command (Wescom) based in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the Wescom said these two anti-submarine assets have recently arrived in its area of responsibility.
"These two tandem ASW platforms have been deployed on the country’s western border for maritime and sovereignty patrols that ensure effective maritime presence, particularly, in the West Philippine Sea (WPS)," it added.
The post did not say when the frigate and helicopter arrived at the Wescom area for security reasons.
Wescom said the deployment of the BRP Antonio Luna and the "Wildcat" anti-submarine helicopter represents a full-mission deployment for the PN.
It also added that inclusion of the AW-159 also beefed up the warfighting package of BRP Antonio Luna.
"The tandem platforms engage in different tests and training activities while patrolling the WPS," Wescom stressed.
It added that the presence of these modern naval and air assets in Wescom's joint operational area ensures the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP)'s readiness and commitment to defending the country's maritime interests against any potential threats.
"The deployment of these warfighting assets is a necessary step to protect the nation's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The FF-151 and AW-159 crews have also been working together to ensure maximum readiness during any eventualities," Wescom pointed out.
It also said that the deployment of these assets serve as a critical deterrent to any hostile forces in the region.
"The combined warfighting capabilities of FF-151 and AW-159 better equip the AFP to defend the country's sovereignty against any potential threat in its western frontier," Wescom pointed out.
An AW-159 landing made its first landing on the flight deck of BRP Antonio Luna while the ship was underway off Corregidor Island last April 27.
"On the morning of 27 April 2023, the Philippine Navy achieved another significant milestone in its development of anti-submarine warfare capability as the PN AW-159 Mk220 'Wildcat' helicopter, with tail number NH-441, successfully conducted its first deck landing aboard BRP Antonio Luna, an ASW guided missile frigate, while underway at vicinity 30 nautical miles southwest of Corregidor Island," a post on the BRP Antonio Luna's Facebook page said.
This achievement demonstrates the growing capability and readiness of the Navy's crews and platforms as a team for ASW operations.
"Both the JRCFs (Jose Rizal Class Frigates) and the PN Wildcats were products of the 1st Horizon Projects under the Revised AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) Modernization Program, which were delivered and commissioned into the service in 2020/2021 and 2019, respectively. The JRCFs were built by Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea while the PN ‘Wildcats’ was built by Leonardo Helicopter Limited UK (LHUK)," the post further said.
The PN's "Wildcat" aircrew are still undergoing the contracted in-country training with LHUK while the JRCFs are being used in the various operational areas of the country.
The AW-159s, which the PN has two, were acquired to increase the ASW capabilities of the JRCFs.
"The PN through the Naval Air Wing and Offshore Combat Force are taking steps to complete the integration of these game-changer assets in order to be deployed together in securing our maritime domain," the BRP Antonio Luna said.
It added that these initiatives are a great contribution to fulfilling the Navy’s vision of becoming a modern, multi-capable naval force responsive to our maritime nation's defense and development.
Meanwhile, Wescom spokesperson Commander Ariel Joseph Coloma, in a separate interview, said these two ASW assets arrived in their area last week.
He added that these assets are now conducting patrols in the WPS.
Coloma also said the deployment of these naval assets aims to fulfill maritime patrol requirements in the WPS. (PNA)