June 28, 2023
MANILA — The Philippine Navy has deployed for the first time its enhanced antisubmarine warfare (ASW) capabilities to the West Philippine Sea (WPS), marking a new milestone in its growing combat capabilities.
The missile-armed BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) and AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat helicopter were sent to Palawan province on June 20 — almost two months after the chopper made its maiden landing on the frigate after a series of training exercises, the Western Command (Wescom) said on Tuesday.
Together, these two naval assets can hunt and strike enemy submarines.
“These tandem ASW platforms have been deployed [to] the country’s western border for maritime and sovereignty patrols that ensure effective maritime presence, particularly in the West Philippine Sea,” it said.
“The deployment of FF-151 and AW159 represents a full-mission capable deployment for naval warfare, with the recent inclusion of the AW159 ‘Wildcat’ helicopter completing the warfighting package of FF-151,” it added.
One of the two Wildcat helicopters, which were acquired in 2019 from aerospace and defense firm Leonardo for P5.4 billion to complement the two South Korean-built frigates for antisubmarine warfare missions, first landed on BRP Antonio Luna at sea in April off Corregidor Island. The Antonio Luna is one of the Navy’s most capable warships that was delivered by Hyundai Heavy Industries in 2021.
“With their deployment, these naval assets continue to serve as a critical deterrent to any hostile forces in the region,” the Wescom noted.
It said the combined warfighting capabilities of FF1151 and AW159 “better equip the AFP to defend the country’s sovereignty against any potential threat in its western frontier.”
Last month, the Navy showcased the Wildcat’s ASW capabilities through a demonstration of its Compact FLASH (Folding Light Acoustic System for Helicopters) dipping sonar and BlueShark torpedoes in the presence of President Marcos as part of its pre-anniversary activities.
The Antonio Luna is returning to the jurisdiction of the Western Command after participating in multilateral drills in May.