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New Navy choppers to be delivered December

FORT SAN FELIPE, Cavite City - The Navy is expected to receive this December three new helicopters that are seen to boost its maritime security capabilities.

Navy chief Vice Adm. Jose Luis Alano said the three helicopters would constitute the first batch of air assets to be delivered by the supplier AugustaWestland S.P.A.

The government is acquiring a total five AW 109 Power helicopters from the Anglo-Italian firm for P1.3 billion.

“We are looking at the acquisition of naval helicopters. The initial batch will be arriving by December this year,” Alano said on the sidelines of the Navy’s anniversary celebration here.

“The helicopters (were acquired through) the proper procurement process,” he added.

In its website, AugustaWestland described the AW 109 as “a versatile aircraft that offers the highest level of benefits for government and military markets, combining optimum performance with cost-effectiveness.”

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The helicopters can be used for maritime security, search and rescue and surface surveillance, among other operations.

The government and AugustaWestland signed the contract for the acquisition of the helicopters last December.

In a recent statement, Vincenzo Alaimo, AgustaWestland’s head of regional sales for Southeast Asia, said the AW 109 would “provide the Philippine Navy with an enhanced maritime operational capability.”

Meanwhile, Alano said they are looking forward to the arrival of a warship they acquired from United States (US) this August.

Alano said the acquisition of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz would provide them with the added capability to enforce Philippine maritime laws.

Officials previously expected the ship to arrive last January but the schedule was pushed back due to the need for repairs and personnel training. The government spent more than P600 million to acquire the vessel.

BRP Alcaraz was acquired from the US Coast Guard and was largely used for law enforcement, drug and migrant interdiction and search and rescue.

BRP Alcaraz can accommodate up to 180 personnel and was named after Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, a Navy officer who commanded a patrol boat during World War II.

It is the second vessel acquired by the Philippines from the US, the first one being BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which was commissioned in December 2011. – Alexis Romero with B. Beltran

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