3 brand-new naval choppers commissioned to AFP service
MANILA, Philippines- Three brand-new naval helicopters seen to boost the country’s military patrol and territorial defense were commissioned to military service on Thursday.
Blessing and commissioning rites were held at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Thanksgiving Day at Camp Aguinaldo, with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin as guest of honor. It was also attended by AFP chief General Emmanuel Bautista and other high-ranking officers.
The choppers were also given their tail numbers – PNH (Philippine Navy Helicopters) 430, 431 and 432.
Three of the five Agusta Westland (AW109) choppers arrived early this month. Two more are expected to arrive next year. All the five choppers are worth P1.33 billion and is part of the military’s capability upgrade program.
“This will be a great help because our ships -BRP Gregorio del Pilar and Ramon Alcaraz will have helicopters aboard so it will extend the coverage of our patrol. And if there is an emergency they have something to use,” Bautista told reporters.
Two batches of pilots and crew underwent six months training in Italy for the choppers. The choppers are ready for deployment but more pilots would undergo training. They will be likely deployed to the two biggest warships — BRP Gregorio del Pilar and Ramon Alcaraz.
The naval choppers are capable of “wide range” missions such as economic zone protection, surface surveillance, search and rescue and maritime security. The contract includes initial logistics support and training for aircrew and maintenance personnel.
It has maritime air surveillance/downlink capability and could support Marines and special operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime interdiction and aeromedical evacuation, among others.
President Benigno Aquino III will inspect the three helicopters and a new Sikorsky Air Ambulance and other equipment on display during the anniversary program on Friday.
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