In an interview, Philippine Navy (PN) Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said Tuesday that the deck-landing training for the aircrew of the AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) AW-159 “Wildcat” anti-submarine helicopters and integration to the Jose Rizal-class missile frigates will start once British instructors — whose arrival was halted by the travel ban imposed to counter the spread of the infectious disease — arrive in the country with the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“(We will start) once the (British) instructors arrive for the ‘helops’ (helicopter operations) (phase), which includes deck-landing operations and eventual integration (of the AW-159s to the ship). Also included in their training is the dipping of (the AW-159s) flash sonar and other sensors (in conjunction with the) FF-150,” Bacordo said.
The Navy’s two AW-159s were acquired to complement the Jose Rizal-class frigates’ ASW capabilities. These helicopters that can be armed with rockets, machine guns, missiles, torpedoes, and depth charges and fitted with modern sonar systems for tracking down submarines arrived in May 2019 and were commissioned in June that year. The contract for the helicopters’ munition, mission essential equipment, and integrated logistic support is worth P5.4 billion.