MANILA, Philippines – Three brand-new choppers were commissioned to the Philippine Navy on Thursday, December 19, and are now ready to patrol the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea), where the Philippines is engaged in territorial disputes with several countries including China.
The AW109E Power naval helicopters were acquired to work in tandem with 2 recently acquired warships in patrolling the country's maritime territory. BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz have helidecks for shipborne helicopter operations, allowing the Philippine Navy to patrol wider areas at sea.
The choppers are equipped with a capability for surveillance, which can transmit directly to the ship.
"They will increase the navy's ability to have a larger coverage of maritime surveillance and to cover a larger area. The seas are so vast and to ensure that we are able to cover it on the fastest part of time, these helicopters willl be able to do that," said Navy chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is shifting its focus from insurgency to territorial defense. The warships and the naval choppers are among the assets acquired to boost the country's maritime surveillance. Alcaraz was commissioned only in November. (WATCH: Maiden voyage of PH's most capable warship)
President Benigno Aquino III is scheduled to inspect the choppers on Friday, December 20, during the 78th founding anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Each chopper can carry 2 pilots and 6 passengers. Its capabilities include:
The navy is expecting 2 more AW109 Power helicopters next year. Italian aircraft manufacturer AgustaWestland won the P1.33-billion contract to supply the 5 choppers.
The same manufacturer recently won a P3.4-billion contract to supply the Philippine Air Force 8 attack helicopters. It is the same model as the naval helicopters except that these are armed. (READ: Air Force gets 8 new attack helicopters)
Aquino will also inspect on Friday other military assets on display.