05:55 GMT +319 September 2019
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    A Philippine Navy weaponised AW109 helicopter on board the frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz.

    Philippine Navy Weaponizes Helicopters to Deploy on Frigates

    Philippine Navy
    Asia & Pacific
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    The Philippine Navy is preparing to deploy weaponized versions of its AgustaWestland AW109 helicopter on board its Pilar-class frigates, the Navy's director of public affairs said Wednesday.

    According to Commander Lued Lincuna, the frigates had previously embarked non-weaponized versions of the helicopter for testing, qualification, and crew familiarization, IHS Jane's reported.

    The Navy has three non-weaponized AW109s – delivered in December 2013 – and commissioned two weaponized versions earlier this month.

    "The ships' crew are already familiar with the aircraft and there should not be too many adjustments to take on the armed variants," Lincuna said. He added that the two new aircraft should be fully operational on board the frigates "in the next few weeks," IHS Jane's reported.

    The weaponized versions carry two 12.7 millimeter machine gun pods, each with launchers for three 70 millimeter laser-guided rockets. The aircraft can also be configured to carry a sonobuoy dispenser for anti-submarine warfare operations.

    According to IHS Jane's All the World's Aircraft, the AW109 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206C engines and has a top speed of 154 knots.

    "Once operational, the helicopters will boost the Philippine Navy's maritime surveillance and combat capabilities," Commander Lincuna said.

    The Philippines is among the countries engaged in land disputes in the South China Sea. Beijing has been assertive in staking its claim, building man-made islands that some speculate will house military facilities.

    A Philippine Navy personnel stands in front of an AgustaWestland AW109 helicopter aboard the Philippine Navy vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz.
    © AP Photo / Noel Celis, Pool
    A Philippine Navy personnel stands in front of an AgustaWestland AW109 helicopter aboard the Philippine Navy vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz.

    Philippine military officials have accused China of repeatedly warning Philippine aircraft away from the artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago.

    Earlier this week, Philippine defense officials said the country can only afford a modest military upgrade, despite a proposed 25% increase in defense spending. Even with the budget increase, the government must divide resources between external defense and internal threats.

    land reclamation, territorial claims, frigate, helicopter, Philippine Navy, Spratly archipelago, Southeast Asia, South China Sea, China
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