THE Department of National Defense has awarded to Finmeccanica Helicopters (formerly AgustaWestland) a $114-million contract for two anti-submarine helicopters, which will be used by the Philippine Navy against external aggression, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo disclosed Wednesday.
Manalo said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Stefano Bortoli, senior vice president for Sales and Strategic Sourcing Development at Finmeccanica Helicopters, a European company based in Rome, signed the contract recently.
He added that the first delivery of AW159 Wildcat, previously known as Future Lynx and Lynx Wildcat, would be in about more a year. He did not disclose the timeframe for the delivery of the second helicopter.
As for the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability, the AW159 carries active dipping sonar (ADS), sonobuoys (sonar and buoy) and torpedoes. For anti-surface warfare, it can be armed with anti-ship missiles, rockets, and guns.
The acquisition of helicopters with ASW capability, Manalo said, was one of the 31 projects President Benigno Aquino III had approved for implementation in July 2015.
“We have a lot of first-times on our modernization. This is timely because you know what is happening in our interest there. Everybody was right: we should have done this a long time ago,” Manalo said, obviously referring to the territorial disputes at the West Philippine Sea.
He disclosed that the aircraft would be stationed aboard the frigates the Philippine government is acquiring. These frigates, he added, would be arriving at almost the same time as the AW159s. The frigates acquisition is already in the post qualification stage.
“If it passed the post qualification, contract formulation will follow, and then implementation),” he explained.
Manalo said the lowest bidder was a shipyard owned by the government of India, but is yet to be declared the winning bidder because there is still processes that would have to be undertaken.
Its facility will have to be checked first, then its legal and financial capability,” he added. “What it submitted is still subject for validation.” FERNAN MARASIGAN