Knowing the Philippine Navy AW-159 Antisubmarine Helicopter

The Philippine Navy through the years has several air assets that complement its surface sea vessels where its role is primarily for surveillance purposes as well as to provide support on the capabilities that the sea vessels employed upon. Then, there is an air asset that will be the latest one to join the service branch where it may be considered as the "most sophisticated" military asset that has ever been employed within the organization.

The newest asset of the Philippine Navy, capable of targeting
submarine threats.
Image Source: Hywel Evans, via FighterControl - UK.
Just recently, the newest air assets of the Philippine Navy in the form of Leonardo AW-159 Antisubmarine Helicopters were arrived in the country as part of the procurement process which later on will be accepted to the Naval Organization and to be put on its active service - at least onboard on two of the three Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessels available in the Navy fleet inventory in the meantime while the Jose Rizal-class Frigates are still under construction in South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries Shipyard.

Two antisubmarine helicopters, bearing the numbers 440 and 441, are the new assets that are designed to track and target submarine threats which is a new thing for the Philippine Navy where this is part of the Modernization process that goes across the Armed Forces of the Philippines in which this one is funded under the Horizon 1 and is one of the big-ticket projects within the service branch alongside the South Korean frigates in which the helicopters will be assigned once delivered by the year 2020 and 2021. 

This shows the significance of the whole Armed Forces' aims of enhancing and improving their capabilities through the purchase of newer tools, alongside the building of new facilities, re-organization, and new recruits wherein it aspires to have a minimum credible defense posture with the Philippine Navy focusing it under its Sail Plan.

This discussion will focus on these newly sophisticated assets in which its history of development, innovations, and its service in other Armed Forces will be provided as well as the knowledge of the project that provides these assets for the Philippine Navy to use, a newly-found capability that may get improved later on as more developing details and updates may take place.


Its development traces back to the successes of its predecessor which is the Lynx Antisubmarine Helicopter which is currently in service on several Naval Forces in the world, especially with the British Royal Army and the Royal Navy.

Apparently, the first launch of the earlier variant of the Lynx flew in 1971 and was only introduced seven (7) years later which currently embodies the capabilities within the British Armed Forces. Its capability and performance mean so much to its users where it is still in active service, doing its intended role within the operations of both the British Royal Navy and Army which serves as an inspiration for them to improve it further, resulting in what is to be the development that led to the current end product that is the Leonardo AW-159 Antisubmarine Helicopter that the Philippine Navy bought.

The development of this enhancement of the Westland Lynx Helicopter which led to being the AW-159 started in 1995 when the British decided to replace the older Lynx helicopters they obtain in their inventory. From there, it took 7 years for them to start what was named the "Super Lynx 300" helicopters which are designed at that time to cover the replacement requirements as aforementioned. 

It is worth taking note that at that decade, Italy's Augusta and the United Kingdom's Westland which is the one developed the helicopters merged into what was became the AugustaWestland company (in which this was rebranded in 2016 into what is known now as the Leonardo Helicopters, under the Leonardo Company) who markets the AW-159 to the current date in countries like the Philippines. 

Knowing AgustaWestland, it was also the one who supplied both the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy the AW-109 Light Combat Helicopters where the former utilized their units on participation in conflicts such as the ones in Marawi City way back 2017 and the latter utilizing theirs by having their units assigned onboard the Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessels.

Later on, South Korea decided to procure at least eight units (ref1) of the renowned British-made Antisubmarine helicopter with several found its way to the South Korean Navy Incheon-class Frigates - the ships that the Jose Rizal-class Frigate design was derived upon. It is expected to be complemented by an additional order of 12 units of such type of helicopters, rendering the South Korean fleet of AW-159 Antisubmarine Helicopters up to 20 units which in itself help ease the chain of spare part supplies in the near future for the Philippine Navy.

Now, the country became the latest customer for then AgustaWestland, now Leonardo Helicopters to obtain and soon will operate such type, at the same time being the first ASEAN nation to operate the AW-159 Wildcat Helicopters albeit the Malaysians obtain the earlier variant of Lynx helicopters in the inventory and is also looking for these assets as their future antisubmarine platform, which is also heavily advertised by Leonardo on that country.

One of the Helicopters, bearing the number 440. Image Source.
Courtesy to Paul Carreon who captured this image.
It is worth taking note that as mentioned in this article that the AW-159 Wildcat is a developed platform derived from its predecessor wherein it incorporates newer innovations that came along to the product especially the newer technology that it is fitted within a way that it rendered as a sophisticated antisubmarine helicopter of its own worth.

The helicopter obtains a twin-engined powerplant that makes the platform flying and conducting its operations where it is operated by two people and is capable of carrying 7 to 9 people in a flight. On its antisubmarine role, especially for the Philippine Navy use, the missiles it will be carried is the Rafael SPIKE-NLOS or the Non-Line Of Sight variant of the SPIKE ATGM that was originally designed to destroy tanks. 

This is another variant of the SPIKE where the Philippine Navy utilizes the SPIKE-ER missiles on its MPAC Mk. 3 small crafts that were successfully test-fired by the service branch against a sea target last year. It is worth to take note from there that the organization obtains the SPIKE NLOS missiles on the purpose of getting similar capabilities such as the MPACs on their SPIKE-ER missiles, only this time the angle of attack will be taken from the skies, onboard the AW-159 Antisubmarine Helicopter.

Another weapon that may end up fitting the helicopters is the torpedo munitions where it will be provided the capability to shoot down submarine targets after detection which gives its designated name which is an antisubmarine helicopter. 

Aiding the ship in which it will be assigned, these AW-159 Wildcats will drop torpedoes on a detection area in which it will seek and approach the target, achieving the operation in the process by blasting it up and eliminate the likely threat on other vessels at sea especially in the times of war. 

The likely torpedo fitted on the helicopters will be similar to the ones fitted onboard its mother ships which are the Jose Rizal-class Frigates made by the South Korean shipbuilding company that is Hyundai Heavy Industries. 

It is worth taking note that the torpedo offer of the South Korean company to the Philippine Navy frigate project came in the form of K475 Blue Shark Antisubmarine Torpedoes in which recently, have the triple torpedo launchers intended for it fitted onboard the newly-launched BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150)

Hence, it is more likely that these torpedoes from South Korea will be the ones utilized on the AW-159 Antisubmarine Helicopters in such a manner that the South Korean Navy also utilized it on their respective assets. 

To add more to its sophistication, it is the unit in the Philippine Navy that is fitted with Leonardo Seaspray 7400E AESA surface search radar, the advanced one in its arsenal of sensors along with the L3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical/FLIR camera targeting system. 

These components are, by nature, relatively new to the capabilities of the Philippine Navy in the same way as the helicopter's capabilities in its entirety.

Now on the dipping sonar that will serve as its eyes on the water alongside those of its mother ship. This feature is something that an antisubmarine helicopter such as the AW-159 Wildcat may have given that it may provide a more pinpointed position of the target prior to a decision of shooting it up by firing the torpedoes on board the platform. 

The dipping sonar that the Philippine Navy AW-159 will be using is the Thales Flash Dipping Sonar in the same way as the ones being employed to the South Korean Navy AW-159 Antisubmarine Helicopters.

These sensors and weapons fit to provide the insight with regards to its every-sophisticated capability that is something for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to have where like its mother ships coming in the form of Korean-made Jose Rizal-class Frigates, are a significant step on the organization's effort to Modernize its tools for the betterment of the country and its fairly-important national security.

To check more about the specifications of this helicopter, kindly check the table image below.
Click on the image for clearer details. Take note that some of the components,
notably, the Missiles (SPIKE-NLOS) and Torpedoes (K-745 Blue Shark) are different in
the Philippine Navy version. 
Screengrab Source.
The Philippine Navy AW-159 bearing the tail no. 440 in a test run.
Image Courtesy to Allan Sacdalan Concepcion, for Scramble Magazine.
From the planning process down to the procurement processes as prescribed under the Republic Act. 9184 or the Philippine Procurement Law then eventually to its delivery, the Leonardo Helicopters here is shown as being the participating bidder under the Antisubmarine Helicopter Project alongside Indonesia's PT Digantara-Airbus which for two units, but that does not mean it will be a done deal for this company right away as they need to comply with the rules and regulations provided in the procurement process which will validate the transaction as legal and undertaken the procedures well.

These two bidders participated in the Antisubmarine Helicopter Project were competing along head-on in a bit similar way as both Lockheed Martin and SAAB compete to bag the Philippine Air Force Multirole Fighter Jet program. 

The PT Digantara-Airbus joint venture offered their AS-565B Panther Multirole Helicopter which is also capable of anti-submarine as well as its additional roles such as for anti-surface and search-and-rescue operations. Such helicopters are currently in service in countries such as France, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Israel in various military service branches they served upon. 

In 2016, the award for the contract of supplying the two AW-159 Antisubmarine Helicopters was given to Leonardo Helicopters which was then called AugustaWestland at that time.

Three years later, and the helicopters (as provided in the image above) recently delivered to the country in which it may eventually enter the service as the most sophisticated platform that the Philippine Navy obtains where it is worth a symbol that, along with the Frigates that the helicopters will be assigned, later on, shows out the effects of the Modernization Program that the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines has embarked upon with newer capabilities getting introduced in the process.


The procurement process that involves a big-ticket project such as the Antisubmarine helicopter takes time where, in the end, provides the worth of such purchased equipment will be within a certain service branch such as these Leonardo AW-159 Antisubmarine helicopters within the Philippine Navy service.

Now, it has successfully delivered to the country where it is now ready to serve the country once commissioned wherein its role may definitely mean that much for the nation's desire of providing the minimum credible defense posture as an approach for better national security measures. 

From here, it is worthy to be seen with regards to what will come given that from the original setup of the AFP Modernization Program especially on the Navy's Sail Plan, plans call for at least six frigates with also at least six antisubmarine helicopters on board. 

By that sense, the number of units purchased follows the rule of thirds with regards to the role of the ships as either to be deployed on patrol, standby on the port, or in the drydock for preventive maintenance procedures. 

Nevertheless, having two units may provide that stepping stone for the service branch's desire of having an antisubmarine capability in which this area of expertise may get improve later on as the plans for additional resources and manpower may pour upon to help the country's territorial waters more secured, both on the surface and sub-surface levels.


Stranger0001 said...

but missing with countermeasures..

John Mangahas said...

It is an option for future upgrade. The required cables and and switches are already installed and the selection of the appropriate countermeasure is on the pipeline for upgrade

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