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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Philippine Navy to receive new AW159 and KAAV-7A1 this May, to reach modernization milestones soon

After a long wait that involved project planning, procurement, and construction phases that spanned several years, the Philippine Navy (PN) was delighted to report that they are finally receiving two major weapon systems this May 2019, and will be formally inducted into service during their 121st Founding Anniversary celebrations.

These weapon systems are the AgustaWestland AW159 Mk. 220 Wildcat naval combat helicopters that were acquired under the Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition Project, and the Hanwha Defense Systems KAAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles acquired under the Amphibious Assault Vehicle Acquisition Project. Both projects are part of the Horizon 1 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP) initiated by the Aquino administration.

The AW159 Wildcat helicopters and KAAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles. Photos taken from and credited to Westleigh Bushell/Spotter Magazine (left) and Ahn Seung Bum/

Delivery of AW159 Wildcat helicopters:

Note: for more information about the project including a summary and detail updates on the project prior to delivery, you can refer to our main portal specific for the project:

“Leonardo AW159 Wildcat naval helicopter of the Philippine Navy” – specifically talks about the acquisition of the AW159 Wildcat

“The Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition Project (Horizon 1) of the Philippine Navy” – discusses the actual project prior to the selection of the product for delivery.

One of the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat bound for the PN, seen here mounted with a training torpedo round on April 2019.
Photo taken from and credited to UK plane spotter Liam Toohill (aviation.too).

The Philippine Navy ordered the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat naval combat helicopters after the Department of National Defense (DND) signed a contract with AgustaWestland (now part of Leonardo Group) for two units under a deal worth Php5.36 billion.

Originally the helicopters were supposed to be delivered on or before 29 September 2018 as stipulated in the contract, but Leonardo requested for a six-month time extension, with the delivery rescheduled to March 2019 and approved by the DND.

Due to circumstances, Leonardo can only deliver the helicopters by May 2019.

The first helicopter, with temporary UK serial number ZZ549 was first seen by British plane spotters on November 2018, while the second helicopter with temporary UK serial number ZZ550 was first seen by plane spotters on January 2019.

Both helicopters were used for training the air and ground crew of the Philippine Navy, which appears to have been trained pretty well by one of the most experienced Wildcat pilots in the UK.

The two AgustaWestland AW159 as they leave Yeovil for London-Stansted Airport for delivery preparation..
Photo taken by and credited to Westleigh Bushell and Spotter Magazine.

UK plane spotters and Dutch aviation media outlet Scramble Magazine confirmed on April 30 that the two helicopters were being flown from Leonardo’s facility in Yeovil to the London-Stansted Airport in preparation for delivery to the Philippines via a chartered civilian Antonov An-124 Ruslan strategic airlifter. The helicopters were disassembled to fit the transport aircraft, and was said to have left London-Stansted Airport on 05 May 2019 (UK standard time).

The aircraft carrying the helicopters is expected to reach Manila by 07 May 2019, although some additional information received by MaxDefense shows that trucks that will bring the helicopters from Manila to the Naval Aviation Group (NAG) facility in Danilo Atienza Air Base in Cavite City where the helicopters will be re-assembled and tested.

The two AgustaWestland AW159 Mk220 Wildcat naval helicopters for the Philippine Navy as they were prepared for delivery aboard a chartered Antonov An-124 Ruslan civilian heavy strategic airlifter.
Photos taken from and credited to Jojo Palma of Philippine Plane Spotters Group (PPSG).

** Update as of 07 May 2019:

They're finally home!

The An-124-100M Ruslan transport aircraft carrying the AW159s aeeived around 0340H 07 May 2019 in NAIA. Photos credited to Paolo Guinto (top) and John Bats (above), all from Philippine Plane Spotters Group FB page.

Delivery of KAAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles:

Another major project for delivery this month is the KAAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles from Hanwha Defense Systems of South Korea.

One of the KAAV-7A1 bound for the Philippines prior to its shipment last April 2019.
Photo taken from and credited to Ahn Seung-Bum / through Bemil @ Chosun Korean Defense Page.

These vehicles were ordered by the DND from Samsung Techwin (now Hanwha Defense Systems) in mid-2016 in a deal worth Php2.423 billion (US$55.553 million), and were supposed to be delivered in 2 batches starting 26 August 2018, although based on DND documents Hanwha committed to deliver the 1st batch of KAAV-7A1 by April 2018, and the 2nd batch by August 2018.

Hanwha Defense Systems was not able to meet their commitment nor their contractual deadline, and the last commitment they made as confirmed by the Philippine Navy’s Flag Officer in Command (FOIC) Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad to be March 2019.

One of the KAAV-7A1 bound for the Philippines during assembly at Hanwha Defense System's facility in Changwon, South Korea. Photo taken from and credited to Kim Dae Young / κΉ€λŒ€μ˜μ˜ M-Inside's Facebook page.

According to Korean news BizHankook   the first batch of 4 units of KAAV-7A1s were shipped by Hanwha Defense Systems to the Philippines on April 2019, although based on MaxDefense’s check with sources, it appears that the vehicles have not yet arrived and may only be on its way to the Philippines as of this writing.

This was later on confirmed too by Korean defense pages and Bemil Chosun Korean Defense Forum, which shared photos of at least two completed KAAV-7A1 vehicles said to be bound for the Philippines.

The photo shows that the vehicles are mounted with the standard manned turret based on the Cadillac Gage Up-Gunned Weapon Station for a 12.7mm M2HB or equivalent heavy machine gun and a Mk.19 or equivalent 40mm grenade launcher. The vehicles were pained in olive drab, and appears to be fitted with the Enhanced Applique Armor Kit (EAAK) at least on the front section. Since it is illogical to have a partial armouring, it is highly possible that the vehicles for the Philippine Marines will have the EAAK similar to those used by KAAV-7A1s used by the Republic of Korea Marine Corps (ROKMC).

A Philippine-bound KAAV-7A1 fitted with a Cadillac Gage Up-Gunned Weapon Station for a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher. It also shows what appears to be an incomplete installation of the Enhanced Applique Armor Kit (EAAK) that started on the front end. It remains to be seen how much of the vehicle will be covered by it.
Photo taken from and credited to Ahn Seung-Bum /

Two more major modernization projects of the Philippine Navy are entering major milestones in the next few weeks.

Launching of future BRP Jose Rizal:

The first one coming in this month is the launching of the lead ship of the Jose Rizal-class frigates, the future BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) with Project Code P159, which was confirmed by PN FOIC Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad during an interview, wherein he said the launching will be happening sometime between 17-19 May 2019 in Hyundai Heavy Industry’s naval shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea.

A scale model of the Jose Rizal-class frigates, as provided by HHI to the DND and PN.
Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense by one of our contributor.

The ship was born out of the Philippine Navy’s Frigate Acquisition Project, which is a Horizon 1 project under the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

It appears that the SND himself would be there, and it is also expected that the PN’s FOIC and other navy leaders would be there to attend the ceremonies.

Based on previous reports from the AFP and DND, as well as inputs from previous MaxDefense posts that were taken from different sources, the future BRP Jose Rizal had its first steel cutting ceremony on 01 May 2018, and the keel laying ceremony on 16 October 2018, is expected to be delivered to the Philippine Navy by 05 January 2020 (based on a delivery date of 1,095 calendar days from NTP release). This delivery date is still subject to changes, with the FOIC even mentioning March 2020 as an alternative delivery date.

Based on updated photos that MaxDefense received, the frigate is now almost ready for launching, with finishing work on the ship's exterior being done by workers, while we received info that work continues to be made inside the ship.

The future BRP Jose Rizal as it is on April 2019. Newer updates shows the finishing touches on the external parts of the ship already almost done, although a lot of subsystems including weapons and launchers, and sensors still need to be installed after the ship's launching.
Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense by sources, decision to blacken the rest of the ship as sources wanted it to still be confidential.

Keel Laying of future BRP Antonio Luna:

Another milestone scheduled to be reached this month is the keel laying ceremony for the second Jose Rizal-class frigate, the future BRP Antonio Luna with Project code P160, which will take place after the launching of the future BRP Jose Rizal. The keel laying and assembly of the future BRP Antonio Luna will be done on the same spot where the future BRP Jose Rizal was assembled.

The ship had its first steel cutting ceremony on 17 September 2018, and is expected to be launched by December 2019.

Previous announcements mentioned that the future BRP Antonio Luna is scheduled for delivery to the Philippine Navy by 1st quarter of 2021, although it appears that its possible for Hyundai Heavy Industries to deliver the ship by 4th quarter of 2020 based on their current performance.

Photo during the keel laying ceremony of the future BRP Jose Rizal in 2018. The same ceremony will be held for the keel laying ceremony of the future BRP Antonio Luna this month. Photo from HHI.

Delivery of Pohang-class corvette BRP Conrado Yap in June or July 2019:

Works are still underway in South Korea on the Pohang-class Flight III corvette to be handed-over to the Philippine Navy by the South Korean government, which is to be named BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39). 

The former ROKS Chunju (PCC-762) of the ROKN, will be the future BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) of the PN.

The transfer of the Pohang-class corvette is part of the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program. It is also expected to be the first Horizon 2 project of the Philippine Navy that will be delivered.

But while the current project is considered a Horizon 2 project, the transfer of a Pohang-class corvette actually spanned several years that started during the Horizon 1 phase, but was delayed due to the rejection by the Philippine Navy of the first Pohang-class corvette offered by the South Korean government due to its poor condition. Re-negotiations for a newer ship was made, and it was only in 2017 that an agreement was made between the Philippine and South Korean sides.

Philippine Navy officers and sailors are already in Busan, South Korea to train in preparation of taking over the ship. These training includes on-shore academic and technical courses, as well as at-sea on the job training with the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) aboard active Pohang-class corvettes, and STX Offshore & Shipbuilding.

An invitation during the send-off ceremonies for the first batch of officers and sailors to train in South Korea in preparation of taking-over the Pohang-class corvette provided by the South Korean government.
Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense by one of our contributor.

Previously MaxDefense reported that STX Offshore & Shipbuilding is the primary contractor on the rehabilitation works of the ship including providing the drydock, as well as the Weapons, Communications, Electronics, and Information Systems (WCEIS) works, while South Korean company Keumha Naval Technology Inc. (KHNT) handles the work on the ship's machinery and other repair works. Filipino company Apo Philtrade and Trading Services Inc. was contracted to provide the logistical requirements of the ship including consumables, furniture, among others.

Gun munitions appears to be provided in part by the Republic of Korea Navy, as well as purchased from South Korea's Poongsan. It also appears that the Philippine Navy will acquire some K6 12.7mm heavy machine guns from S&T Motiv. The ship won't have torpedoes with it when delivered, despite the torpedo launcher's availability.

Originally the timeline was for the ship to be delivered in 2018, but delays on the Philippine government's release of funding for works related on the ship pushed the schedule too long. Based on the latest information, the ship is scheduled to be officially handed-over, commissioned, and delivered to the Philippine Navy either within June or July 2019.

What's Expected Soon?

It would be noted that most of the upcoming assets were actually from the Horizon 1 phase, and it is expected to take several more years before the Philippine Navy can actually bear the fruits of the projects from the Horizon 2 phase. Out of 18 confirmed Horizon 2 projects of the PN, only 1 full project (Pohang-class corvette transfer) and 1 lot of another project (MPAC Batch 4 Combat Systems and Capability Upgrade) are awarded and contracted to proponents. That is a dismal accomplishment considering Horizon 2 has been in place for planned for since 2017, and approved for implementation since 2018. 

Also, a few more Horizon 1 and 2nd List of Horizon 1 projects are still being implemented until now, with the construction of the Multi-Purpose Attack Craft Batch 4 undetaken by Propmech Corporation-Lung Teh Shipbuilding Joint Venture expected to be completed within 2019.

MaxDefense looks forward on the Philippine Navy's 121st Founding Anniversary celebrations which will formally accept the AgustaWestland AW159 Mk.220 Wildcat naval helicopters and Hanwha Defense Systems KAAV-7A1 amphibious assault vehicles into service.


  1. We cannot consider it as, "slow but sure progress" in implementing the AFP Modernization.. for what i see it is "poor" process,implementation and budgeting.

  2. Lesson must be learned. NO MORE KIMCHI FOR OUR Armed Forces. Not only they look down on us Filipinos in disgust, they are manipulating and trying trying to use dirty means just to sell their products to us. They have great experience in this thanks to their chaebol corruptions. And the best part they think they can get away with this. If you can avoid such embarrasing disaster do it. For the love of my country and its Afp.


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