The first AW159 Wildcat multi-mission maritime helicopter for the Philippines is now under test in the UK. The rotorcraft was sighted recently at the Leonardo Helicopters facility in Yeovil, Somerset. Photographed yesterday by contributor Kevin Wills, the first of two AW159s for the Philippine Navy wears the UK military test serial ZZ549 and a British roundel. Philippine national markings and the Philippine Naval Air Group insignia have been applied. The aircraft reportedly made its first flight on November 1.
After the Philippine Navy selected the Wildcat as its preferred option for two new anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters, on March 17, 2014 the Department of National Defence (DND) confirmed that 5.4bn pesos ($120.479m) had been approved for the acquisition. A formal contract was finally signed on March 29, 2016, and deliveries were scheduled to take place this year.
Philippine Naval Air Group
Established in 1975, the Philippine Navy’s small air group – Hukbong Dagat ng Pilipinas – operates a fleet of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, all of which are home-based at Danilo Atienza Air Base, in Cavite. As with other branches of the DND, financial constraints have proven to be problematical, with new acquisitions few and far between. As well as the Wildcat, the other notable exception has been the recent procurement of AW109E Power helicopters, the first three of which were delivered in December 2013.
The DND announced on December 27, 2012 that a contract had been signed with AgustaWestland for the acquisition of three AW109E helicopters, with a value of 1.377bn pesos ($32.5m). The type had been selected as the preferred option on November 28, 2012 by the Naval Helicopter Acquisition Project Negotiating Committee.
On March 28, 2013 it was officially confirmed by the manufacturer that the Philippine Navy had signed a contract for the acquisition of the three helicopters, configured for maritime operations, with options also taken on a further two examples. The helicopters were originally due for delivery in early 2014, but actually arrived at Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base ahead of schedule, on December 8, 2013 and were formally accepted into service on December 19. An announcement made by AgustaWestland on February 11, 2014 confirmed that the option for two further helicopters has been converted, and these had been delivered by January 2015. The Power helicopters are used for a wide range of naval missions, including EEZ protection, surface surveillance, SAR and maritime security, operating from both shore bases and a small number of the Navy’s ships.