Air Force gets 8 new attack helicopters

Carmela Fonbuena

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These are brand new 3-ton class 8-seater choppers with twin engines that PAF can use to provide close air support to ground forces

BRAND NEW: Italian firm AgustaWestland signs a P3.4-B helicopter deal with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Photo from AgustaWestland

MANILA, Philippines — Italian aircraft manufacturer AgustaWestland has signed a contract with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to supply 8 AW109 Power attack helicopters worth P3.4 billion.

These are brand new 3-ton class 8-seaters with twin engines that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) can use to provide close air support to ground forces. The contract was signed by AFP chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista on October 30.

“These are attack helicopters. We really need them for our internal security operations… against the New People’s Army and other threat groups,” said PAF Vice Commander Major General Raul Dimatatac. 

Deliveries will start next year, according to a statement that AgustaWestland posted on its web site.

The attack helicopters are armed with .50-caliber machine guns and rocket launchers. The P3.4-billion contract also covers the training of the aircrew and maintenance personnel.

The Philippine military is fighting two major rebellions – one by the communist New People’s Army and another by Muslim guerrillas. It’s also burdened by territorial disputes with Southeast Asian neighbors and China.

Complements MG-520

Dimatatac said the new equipment complements the PAF’s existing fleet of MG520 attack helicopters, which saw action in the Zamboanga City crisis. Procured in the ’90s, Dimatatac said only 7 of the total 12 MG520 are currently operational.  (READ: ‘The first to respond, the last to leave’)

“Attack helicopters provide cover for the ground forces allowing them to maneuver. Close air support helps ground troops penetrate areas of operations where there are hardened targets and fortified targets,” Dimatatac explained.

“We are excited. We needed these aircraft yesterday,” he added. 

AgustaWestland also won the P1.3-billion contract supplying the Navy 5 helicopters of the same model except the naval helicopters are unarmed. Three of the 5 naval helicopters will be delivered in December. 

The naval helicopters will work in tandem with navy’s warships Hamilton-class cutters BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz. They will deployed within the country’s exclusive economic zone for maritime security and sovereignty patrols.

“It gives us great pleasure to sign this contract with the Philippine Air Force, further reinforcing the already strong partnership with the Department of National Defense,” said Daniele Romiti, AgustaWestland chief executive officer. —


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