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Philippine navy to buy anti-submarine choppers

Acquisitions to boost operational capabilities and improve rescue time during missions

Gulf News

Manila: Philippine defence officials said two new frigates acquired by the government would be equipped with naval helicopters that can hunt down submarines.

Officials said the government is expecting delivery next year of three new Augusta-Westland AW 109 helicopters equipped with submarine-hunting hardware such as sonar and magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) device and search and rescue hardware.

Capable of flying even during extreme weather conditions, the helicopters are expected to boost the operational capabilities of the Philippine Navy as well as improve response time during search and rescue missions. Likewise, it will give armed forces the ability to detect threats lurking under the sea.

Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the new acquisitions are part of efforts to modernise the armed forces.

It can be recalled that the government accepted the delivery of frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar over two years ago.

Biggest combat vessel

The 115 metres-long Hamilton Class vessel BRP Gregorio del Pilar is the biggest combat vessels in the Philippine fleet and one of the fastest.

Sometime this year, a similar class vessel, the BRP Artemio Ricarte is also expected to join the Philippine fleet while plans are afoot for the purchase of a third and fourth frigate from Italy.

Defence officials said the contract for the purchase of the three helicopters had been signed in December 2012.

According to reports, the new helicopters will not be equipped with torpedoes. Nevertheless, it can extend the ship’s operational radius by working in a “hunter-killer” tandem.

The Philippine military has been slowly but steadily boosting its capabilities. Recently, the Department of National Defence announced that it would acquire 12 new T/A 50 jets from South Korea as part of a $519 million (Dh1.9 billion) package. The new aircraft is expected to enter service with the Philippine Air Force within the year.

Modernisation programme

Earlier, the Philippines accepted delivery of eight Sokol helicopters from Poland’s Swidnik.

In previous years, the country’s military modernisation programme was mainly focused on improving the capabilities of its land-based forces, such as the army and marines. This time around, the government is addressing the capability concerns of its air force and the navy.