Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Gift: Philippine Navy Gets AW109 Power Naval Helicopters

On December 18, 2013, the Philippine Navy (PN) commissions its first 3 AgustaWestland AW109 Power multipurpose naval helicopters as part of the AFP 78th Anniversary and Thanksgiving celebrations at AFP's headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. 


Commissioning of AW109 Power naval helicopters with the Philippine Navy on December 18, 2013.
Photo taken from Manila Times Facebook page.


The Naval Helicopter Acquisition Program:
On March 2010, the Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) released an invitation to bid for the procurement of 2 multipurpose helicopters including Intergrated Logistics Support (ILS) and air and ground crew training with an Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC) amounting to Php 850.91 million. Award should have been to PZL Swidnik of Poland for a navalized W-3 Sokol variant, but this was deferred after reports of collusion between PZL Swidnik and a joint group from the Philippine Air Force and Navy was made public.


Taken by CatsMeow@TMW of Timawa defense forum just after it arrived at Camp Aguinaldo for the commissioning ceremonies.

Another attempt was made in 2012 now under the Naval Helicopter Acquisition Program, and the PN planned to embark these helicopters on the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates. The DND decided to negotiate with AgustaWestland for navalized AW109 Power helicopters, and was found to be the single calculated and responsive proponent. With the help of the Italian Ministry of Defense upon their review, the notice of award was provided to AgustaWestland S.p.A. and a contract was signed on December 20, 2012 for 3 helicopters worth Php 1,337,176,584.00 (US$32.544 million), to be financed by the AFP Modernization Program with assistance from the Department of Energy. An option for 2 more is also included in the contract, which was realized later on for a total budget for the 5 helicopters plus ILS for probably less than Php 2.2 billion. Expected delivery is around early 2014.


AW109 Power naval helicopter with the folding rotor kit installed.


An excellent photo of PN AW109 Power with tail no. 432 during one of its tests in Italy.
Photo taken from Airliners.net by Fabrizio Capenti and Malpensa Spotters Group.

The first batch of avionics and maintenance crew were sent to Sesto Calende, Italy for training on May 2013, while the 1st batch of pilots for training were sent to Italy on June 2013 while the last batch were sent on November 2013. The training for different crews vary between 2 to 4 months which will enable them to maintain and operate the helicopters with minimal or no help from AgustaWestland specialists.  

The first 3 helicopters arrived in the Philippines on December 7, 2013, way ahead of schedule, and were assembled at AgustaWestland's facility in Manila. Initial tests were made before the installation of the FLIR and accessories and commissioning rights.


The 3 AW109 Power naval helicopters on display during the AFP's 78th anniversary.
Photo taken from Manila Times Facebook page.

After the commissioning rights, the helicopters will then be used by PN NAG pilots in embarking and disembarking with the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, which would probably take several months or even years to reach proficiency among its rank. The helicopters will also be used to provide the PN with the background and experience to enable it to move up the ladder as it plans to acquire larger ASW-capable helicopters in the next few years.



Naval AW109 Power Features:
The helicopters were classified as "Multipurpose Naval Helicopters" and will be tasked as the embedded air asset of the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates. The choice of the AW109 was in part because of the said frigate's lack of sufficient space to take in larger naval helicopters in its small telescopic hangar. The helicopter could be used for surveillance, search and rescue, over the horizon targeting, insertion of SEAL Team, interdiction, vertical replenishment and utilitarian missions.

The AW109 will be the mainstay aviation asset of the PN's Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates.

The PN's AW109 feature a new exterior naval grey paint scheme different from the standard PN Naval Air Group royal blue. Exterior features that can be easily seen are the rescue winch on the starboard side, emergency flotation devices on the helicopter's sides, and the forward looking infra-red (FLIR) ball turret. 


A PN AW109 Power naval helicopter being tested in Italy.


Inside, the helicopter features a glass cockpit, a cabin for 2 pilots and 4 passengers (or space for stretchers if needed), and the FLIR control panel on the passenger cabin to be operated by a specialized crew member. The FLIR sensors, made by American firm FLIR Systems, will enable the helicopter crew to see in poor visibility or weather conditions due to the system's use of thermal radiation to create a picture. It can be used for surveillance of humans for target tracking or rescue at sea, target acquisition and tracking, and piloting of helicopter in poor weather condition. At the same time, the helicopter is equipped with a video transmitter that can send live feed video to land or ship bases. 


The FLIR ball turret and one of the emergency flotation devices.
Photo taken from Sandy @ Timawa defense forum.


The helicopter is also equipped with a weather radar, transponders and storm/lighting detection systems, very important features when operating on an open sea. As a navalized helicopter, it is also equipped with a foldable rotor system (a video of the blade folding kit installation can be seen HERE) which will enable it to fit inside the ship's hangar. Other features of the helicopter include the capability to do vertical replenishment (VERTREP), as the helicopter is equipped with a cargo hook on its underbelly, although the capacity of cargo that can be carried might be minimal due to the helicopter's small size. 


One of the PN's AW109 Power naval helicopter after testings, installed with the rescue winch, emergency flotation devices and FLIR ball turret.
Photo taken from Pinoy Aviator's Facebook page.

Another feature that it will be doing in the near future is Over the Horizon Targeting (OTHT) which will enable the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates or any missile-armed ship of the PN to extend the range of its anti-ship missiles beyond the curvature of the earth by using the helicopters as targeting systems. This will be possible when the helicopters are equipped with OTHT targeting radars and a data link that extends the ship's surveillance, tracking and targeting capability and overcome the line of sight concerns of naval vessels. So far the DND and AFP are still determining the data link system that they intend to use for the entire AFP, which is also one of the requirements of the PN's new frigates and refurbishing of the Gregorio del Pilar-class. This feature will be available after an upgrade of these helicopters.


Over the Horizon Targeting (OTHT) enables a naval vessel to extend its "eyes and ears" and use the helicopter's sensors to guide long range anti-ship missiles to its target. This is a planned feature of the AW109 helicopters after installing OTHT tracking and targeting radar.

If the reports are correct, it was reported that the 2 more AW109's arriving early next year will be armed and will have a significant electronic warfare (EW) capabilities, probably an electronic support measures (ESM) system installed. Except for these, it is difficult to know the difference of these 2 helicopters with the earlier 3 units, but MaxDefense believes that the 2 incoming EW capable armed naval helicopters will be the actual units to be assigned with the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16).


A lightweight ESM receiver similar to the Northrop Grumman LR-100 RWR/ESM/ELINT system shown above may be carried by the AW109.
Photo taken from Northrop Grumman website.

Unfortunately the helicopter is too small to be an effective anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter, being unable to carry a dipping sonar, and may even have difficulty in carrying a torpedo. If the helicopter is equipped with a OTHT targeting radar, it may also have difficulty in carrying a long range anti-ship missile. So MaxDefense is skeptical on what kind of armaments that the incoming AW109 naval helicopters can carry.

Nonetheless, the helicopters are a welcome addition to the Philippine Navy's growing capability. Its a good Christmas indeed this year for the men and women of the Philippine Navy, especially those from the Naval Aviation Group. More photos of the helicopter can be seen on MaxDefense @ Facebook's photo albums HERE.

By the way....

Merry Christmas to all MaxDefense readers and supporters!!

45 comments:

  1. Merry Christmas to AFP and to you Sir Max

    :)

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    1. Merry Christmas Sir Max! Thanks for all the info and keep it coming. Thanks :-)

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  2. A short range missile can do like sea Skua? or remotely controlled guns and of course rockets like on the army version? As for the report you posted above the 2, next year is an armed version right?

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    1. There's no point using a short range missile against a ship that has an anti-aircraft missile system that is greater than the range of your anti-ship missile. It means that the enemy ship can shoot you down first before you can even target the ship.

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  3. Hi Max! Merry Christmas!! Is it possible that the AW 109 LUH would be the one to be purchased for the two hamiltons??? I've visited the Augusta Westland page and there is a post there that the Philippines is buying 8 AW 109 power, the armed version is the LUH, but it is not specified if it can carry torpedoes...

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    1. The 8 AW109 armed helicopters are for the Philippine Air Force, not the Philippine Navy. They are separate orders. The PAF units will be used by the 15th Strike Wing to complement the MD-520MG.

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    2. Nice toys....of different kinds... in short - chopsuey. The most important in defense is effectively sustaining what you have, and the best way is to standardize your equipments. If the PAF cannot maintain two major platforms of C-130 and Hueys; can they manage additional platform?

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  4. Great year end for our AFP... Hope our sea, air and land assets would continue to expand every year...

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  5. Nice, watta good looking asset for AFP, thumbs up, and Merry Christmas to all, Sir Max and Maxdef.

    Btw, OTHT? It looks like offensive type of equipment, is like you equip a cruise missile, hehe, i thought when you equip a ship with anti ship missile you will also equip a radar wth same or more range, this otht is more of hunting purpose, ofcourse for my opinion, .please enlighten me with this technology purposes. .thanks

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    1. OTHT is more like networked sharing of information. What the ship cannot see but aircraft can is shared to bring a complete picture.

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  6. Sir max..the price of these helicopterz are a miniscule cmpare to the billions of pesos being plundered by our rape presetathieves in tongress.i hope u can send these tongresmen hardcopies of max dfense for them to know that the filipinos are not mendicants.we have to gve our afp the best armaments if posible the top of the line hardwares.whew wd due respect bangladesh have alrdy frigates,in fact our two new ordr frigates may even be patternd frm them due to tight bdget of the afp.kawawa tlaga tayu sa mga politico ntn.and mga tongresmen tama ng kurakot.ako nagbbyad ng tax ko sa govnt.185k as of dec 13 of this yr.yan ang na wdhold n sa akin ng opis namin.therefore i hve the rite to dmand to u dear tongresmen na bgyan nyu ng bdget ang afp ntn.were not mendicantsg,and were dmanding this as a tax payer!sir max hehe.nkakahayblad lng to mga suwapang ntng leaders.sir when kerry vstd vietnam last wk,bkit my gve wa na 3 submarines s vietnam?can we not also ask for same.cn u expound on this!mbuhay ang afp persnl.thank u sir max and hppy holidays!!

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  7. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

    So 4 AW109s will be on the 2 frigates. Any idea what will be on the SSVs?
    Thanks :)

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    1. 2 AW109 for the 2 Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, one for each. That's the maximum the ship can carry. The other 3 can be used for many other missions from other future PN ships or from ground base.

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  8. hi sir max. merry x mas, are you in favor? to change a leadership in defense department and are you in favor the sec of defense is a civilian like former sec teodoro aka gibo or norberto gonzales. to fast track all kind of transaction in goverment arsenal. according to united nation once the country or every country upgrading his forces there is a one percent of corruption.

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    1. Sometimes civilian leadership may not have the same attachment to the military, thus not understanding some of the needs of the military. but in the end it depends on the personality of the SecDef if he's really very supportive to the AFP, at the same time very aggressive in pushing for its needs.

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    2. But sometimes, "attachment" is a double-edged sword especially the culture in our country. A former military and academy graduate is less-likely (actually very unlikely) to hold other military personnel accountable for their misdeeds.

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  9. this is our own fault. why the hell do we allow these politiicans knowingly plunder the national treasury? Enrile for example has been known to be an illegal logger, smuggler and mastermind of PDAF anomalies. and yet he was voted in office and yet never been charged. what Sen Santiago have said against Enrile are all true and easy to gather evidences. and yet he may not go to jail at all. the monies stolen by these crooks would have bought AFP 2 squadron of fighter jets and 3 subs and more choppers. think about it. is this how dumb we filipinos are?

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    1. what do you think? are you in favor to bring back the american troops here in our country. to protect our security especially external threat? once the obama and aquino government has finally sign the agreement by next year, according to defense department 2 quarter of 2014 the american will enter his sophisticated weapon. according to article in u.s. 24 f22 raptor will be base in clark and more than a dozen frigates and destroyer of u.s will be part of the list and lastly the xbox the missile shield is part will be base in oyster bay or ulugan bay. its very difficult to chinese navy to counter the american ship, for me i dont like the idea, but let face it in reality we dont have money to buy that kind of armanent or weapons. believe me sir all transaction of defense department all of them is installment, meaning patingi tingi. and let face it we dont have money to buy this kind of stuff. we have a lot of problem in this country. may masabi lang na bago. but congrats to aquino administration, kahit papaano meron sila plano, yung nga lang very minimal, kasi alam nila only japan the us the koreans can defeat the chinise. pero ang importante may plano at nagsisimula na ang upgrade, pero anonymous, kaya pala ng goverment natin mag lagay ng emergency money like the yolanda, imagined my supplementary budget ang govt natin nakagawa ng paraan mkalikum ng 140 billion pesos for rehabilitation sa leyte, pero sa afp token lang. actually dapat ata tau mg thank you the china eh, kumilos agad ang gobyerno natin para sa modernization, oh kailangan muna tayo pasukin ang palawan ng chinise army or navy para kumilos ang senado at congreso na maglagay ng 500 billion pesos or 11 billion us dollars.

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  10. Hi sir Max, Merry Christmas!!! Is the ball turret of AW109 acquired by PN is also capable of laser targeting system? Also, I agree with you that AW109 has some limitation it can carry like torpedo for ASW and AShM for surface warfare. I hope there is a plan to get bigger chopper for that role in the few years.

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  11. Ian,tingin k dapat pmunta n tyu sa cngress.hehe para bang mg rally,voice out lng ntn n dpat tutukan ng govt at dagdgan bdget ng afp.cguro very tmely pg dating ng bdget hearing sa cngress re afp budget,dun tyu pkita ng supurta sa afp.sadly,iilng cngresman lng ang may simpatiya sa bdget ng afp.lalo ngayun ang pgkakaablahan nla pg open ng cngress ay ang judiciary fund.bblikan ng cngres ang supreme court para resbak sa naging htol ng sc na uncnsttional ang pdaf!!kya wlng mangyayari sa atin.hoy mr.congresman tupas,atupagin m ang power barge n nag leak sa 5th district,sa dstrito m,wag k puro venganza.!tama k anonymous.it sems we jst got the govt that is reflective of our culture.tama ka dn kay enrile.kya nga naggcng n dn mga pinoy kta m c jacky enrile d nanalo.despite1 xa s pnka malaking gnastos last electn eh sumimplang xa.he jst got the curse intended for his father.at saka pala mr.fvr,san n budget knita pg benta ng fort bnfacio?mgknu at san npnta ang cnbi m nun n bdget para sa afp mdrnzatn ng pres ka??kyung mga politikung corrupt dami kayung susulitin blang araw sa Dios!

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    1. I agree sa pg increase ng defense budget at sa modernization program ng AFP, my impact nmn sa long term un for foreign or local investment, lalo na sa exploration sa west Philippine sea. Sana lng hindi puro SHOPPING ng arsenal ang project, sna my transfer ng technology and boost our own Research and Development, tpos more incentives sa LOCAL investors, ndi puro foreign company, kya if we look at the top rich people in Philippine, puro intsik, tpos sa top tax payers puro pinoy, .wew

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    2. Ang daming nag-o-offer, kaya lang puro ayaw dito. Wala kasing kikitain kung gagawin dito, kasi ang kikitain ay mapupunta lang sa kaban ng gobyerno as tax. Gusto ng marami ay sa bulsa nila. Totoo iyan....

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  12. Max as i see in the dscusns.it all boils to1 thing,BUDGET.now dnt get me wrong.but what if a private sector voluntarily lead sourcing of funds!say 1b US $ and turn it over to phil govt for a govt to govt neg in purchasing a brand new frigate?the internal audit may not be able to dip their noses unto the funds since same are privately source!i know that a private entity is estopped to acquire assets for nat dfense since its wdin the domain of the nat.gov.,but the questn is if the fund cme frm the private sector and say its given to ph gov for mil asset acquisition,will it stil undrgo the same proces of bidding?thank u

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  13. The only thing the AgustaWestland AW109 Power multipurpose naval helicopter is good for is something that the US Coast Guard has called the MH-65 Dolphin. It's only good for Scout/Recon, ISR helicopter. It has no offensive capability that is similar to the NFH-90 or the MH-60R. which is why what PN got is a helicopter that can only do Scout, Recon ISR, Rescue helicopter. It shows that they really, really need someone to school them on what's proper for defending your country.

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    1. Nicky, I thought you're from the USCG? Didn't they tell you that the Hamilton-class ' hangar is too small to fit a marinized Eurocopter Dauphin (Dolphin), more so a navalized version (with nose mounted search radar) and only the AW109 can fit the ship's hangar? That's the reason why they chose that helicopter because it can fit the hangar. Ever wonder why the USCG Dolphins never go inside the Hamilton-class hangar?

      With regards to ASW, there is a separate program for them, probably a 10-ton class like the Seahawk MH-60R, or smaller like the AgustaWestland Wildcat, which will be assigned to the new frigates. That's the reason why one of the requirements is for the new frigates to be able to accomodate a 10-ton class helicopter.

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    2. Sir Max, whatz ur take of recent statement of PN on getting the 3rd Hamilton Class...tnx...Meri Xmas Po

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    3. Hi Arnie, the PN should have decided on this a long time ago. Nigeria and now Bangladesh are fighting to get these ships as well. The only WHEC for decommissioning in 2014, USCGC Gallatin, is already allocated for the Nigerians. So the PN will have to wait again for another WHEC for decommissioning. By late 2014 the US government should have already finalized a decision which cuter would be for retirement for 2015.

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    4. I'm from the USCG and the MH-65 Dolphin can fit in the hangar of the Hamilton light frigates. I have seen them fit in the hangars of the Hamilton cutters, Famous class cutters, Polar class Icebreaker cutters. It can be done and have been done on several occision.

      As far as getting the remaining WHEC's now would be a good time for the Philippines to talk to the US Coast Guard. As the USCG get's more money for the NSC, they will retire the WHEC's for every NSC they get. I know that as the FRC's come online, the USCG is looking to retire the 110 Island class Patrol Boats. The same as the WMEC's as well such as the 210's & 270's. The WHMEC's for the PN can be their Corvettes & the 110's Island class patrol boats can be their Patrol boats.

      I know that HII has proposed making the NSC into a patrol frigate based on the National security cutter design. It would be a stretched NSC that would have all the frigate weapons and systems.

      As for getting the Perry's, I highly doubt that PN can afford the operating and Maintenance budget for Perry class frigate. Though Thailand & Mexico have been offered Perry class frigates, and they have 3 years to respond before the deal expires. Though in reality, Taiwan will wind up getting all the remaining Perry's. What the Philippines need to do is show the US that they are trustworthy and can clean up their corruption.

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    5. Nicky, got reconfirmation from somebody with direct experience with the Hamilton-class. The HH-65 Dolphin used by the USCG can fit the hangar, but that's it. When the helicopter is inside, there's not enough space to do work on the helicopter. If the helicopter is the Dolphin's naval ASW variant, the helicopter won't fit the hangar due to the enlarged size of the naval ASW variant as it is longer and wider. Thus the USCG "specifically recommended" the AW109 to the Philippine Navy.

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    6. Dude, I have sailed on the Hamilton cutters and know they can fit the HH-65 Dolphin in the hangar of the Hamilton Cutters. Even the US Coast Guard's Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron has been known to use the MH-68A Stingray on the 378, 210 and 270 cutters. Now the MH-65 is the only cutter based Helicopter and can fit inside of the Hamilton class cutter, Polar class cutter, USCGC Healy and 270 WMEC Famous class Cutters.

      With the MH-65, the rotors have to be folded in order to fit into the Hangar of the Hamilton cutter, Polar class Cutter, USCGC Healy and the 270 Famous class cutters.

      Here's a picture of the MH-68 Stingray on a 378 cutter
      http://www.aviationspectator.com/image/photos/military-aircraft/helicopters/mh-68-stingray-helicopter/mh-68-stingray-helicopter-0

      Here's Picture of the MH-68 on the USCGC Mowhawk
      http://www.aviationspectator.com/image/photos/military-aircraft/helicopters/mh-68-stingray-helicopter/mh-68-stingray-helicopter-55


      Here's an example of the MH-65 on the USCGC Boutwell in the Arabian sea
      http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/USCG_Cutter_Boutwell_patrols_the_Arabian_Sea.jpg

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    7. Here's a blog that is dedicated to USCG
      http://chuckhillscgblog.net/

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    8. Yes, I know Cmdr. Chuck Hill, he's been active in providing some info on USCG concerns with regards to Philippine issues.

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    9. Nicky, the Hamilton, although a larger vessel, has a smaller hangar than that of the Famous-class, even if the telescopic hangar is extended to the max. Of course you need to fold the rotor, as all navalized ship-based helicopters. The Dolphin's ASW version, the Eurocopter Dauphin and Panther, or even China's Z-9, are installed with a nose search radar and other ASW gear that would make the helicopter too long and too wide to fit in the Hamilton's hangar. Arming them is another problem. As for the AW109, it is a smaller helicopter and can definitely fit the Hamilton-class hangar.

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    10. That's why the USCG use to operate the MH-68A Stingray, which is a variant of the AW-109 for the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON). Then due to budget issues, they had to scrap the MH-68A for the MH-65 and since then has sailed on all US Coast Guard cutters from the NSC, 378's, Polar class cutters, USCGC Healy and the Famous cutters.

      I have been on deployments where the MH-65 has been deployed with the cutter and have first hand seen them put an MH-65 in the Hanger of the cutters. That's why boats such as the NSC, 378's, Polar class cutters and USCGC Healy have room for Aviation maintenance and an office for them onboard. As for 270's and 210's rarely have they hangered a MH-65 and only do so when they have met their flight hours for the day, while at sea.

      The only reason why the USCG recommended the Philippines take the AW-109 is because of their experience they had with the HITRON squadron and their limited use. In reality, they should have told ya to get the MH-65 because of it's performance.

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  14. merry christmas sir max and anyone here.....I salute you all our galant soldier for the protection you have provided to all our fellowmen. nway naybody knows the update on the 12 fa50 procurement?and how about the the new frigates?when is the next and final bidding may take occur? lem1

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  15. ung panglimang picture napansin nyo ba ung una sa tatlong nakahanay na ibon tingnan nyo walang flir control sa backseat. ang may ron lang ung may tail number na 430 at 432.

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    1. All have FLIR panels inside the passenger cabin.

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  16. they should order more of this multi purpose choppers. as the name goes, "multipurpose" which means this choppers can be converted as the need arises to attack choppers, can be armed with missiles and rockets. we do not need to buy attack choppers like the apache which are more expensive and can be shot down with shoulder fired missiles as they are slower. multipurpose are more common sense, if not on combat mission these choppers can be converted to medevac, transport and recon.

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  17. how about heavy lift transport helicopters like the chinooks. this can be used in disaster relief ops. and carrying of artillery and apc to operational areas.

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  18. @Sir Max,

    Are you aware if the AFP is considering beefing up these assets with 2nd hand units?

    Not sure if the sources below are correct, SAF is considering selling there AW109LUH.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9d/SAAF-A109LUH.jpg

    http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/money-woes-ground-saaf-choppers-report-1.1551696#.Ust44rScX40

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AgustaWestland_AW109

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  19. Replies
    1. To date he has no reply why his FB is gone?

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  20. saw a pair of these do a fly-over in the Macapagal area. sweet looking birds, IMO.

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