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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Confirmed: Philippine Navy Acquires AgustaWestland AW-159 Lynx Wildcat as its Future Ship-based Anti-Submarine Warfare Helicopter

Previously MaxDefense discussed in several blog entries and in the MaxDefense FB community page, the Department of National Defense's (DND) then ongoing project for the Philippine Navy (PN), the Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition Project (ASHAP). This project is part of the PN's Horizon 1 stage under the umbrella of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program (RAFPMP).

Funded under Republic Act (RA) 10349, the Philippine Navy planned to acquire two (2) ASW helicopters that will be working together with another important PN project, the Frigate Acqusition Project (FAP), which will be discussed separately in another blog entry. The aircraft's mission is primarily, to conduct anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), and maritime patrol, while secondary missions are Search and Rescue (SAR), and passenger & cargo transport. The project also involves the acquisition of an initial batch of air-launched munitions for the helicopters, as well as an Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package.

AgustaWestland's AW-159 Lynx Wildcat will be delivered to the Philippine Navy after winning the Anti-Submarine Helicopter Acquisition Project.
Photo copyright by Przemyslaw Burdzinski and taken from website.

More discussions about the ASHAP can be found on previous MaxDefense blog entries below, and readers, especially those new to the project or new to MaxDefense blogs, are encouraged to read them:

1. Importance of ASW Helicopters for the Philippine Navy...Why Block their Acquisition? - dated March 31, 2014, discussing the importance of an ASW helicopter for the Philippine Navy;

2. Its a Cat Fight for the Philippine Navy's ASW Helicopter Acquisition Program - dated July 11, 2014, discusses the Technical Specification of the project, the events before the 1st stage bidding of the ASHAP, and the possible bid submissions of AgustaWestland and Airbus Helicopters-PTDI Joint Venture;

3. The Fight for the PN's ASW Helicopter Still On, and Possible Acquisition of the FASGW(H) Sea Venom Missile for the Helicopters - dated October 22, 2014, was a discussion after the the ASHAP 1st stage bidding failed. It also discusses the possible entry of the MBDA Sea Venom missile into the Philippine Navy.

Airbus-PTDI offered a navalized variant of the AS565 Panther helicopter, to be built under license by PTDI in Indonesia.
Photo copyright Augustas Didzgalvis and taken from website.

Pre-Win Short History of the Project:

During the first stage bidding held on October 2014, only two companies, Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland Ltd. and French-Indonesian partnership Airbus Helicopters-PTDI joint venture, submitted their bids to the DND. AgustaWestland was said to have offered the AW-159 Lynx Wildcat, while Airbus-PTDI offered a navalized version of Airbus' AS565 Panther helicopter, licensed built by PTDI in Indonesia.

As indicated in previous Supplemental Bid Bulletins with DND's replies to queries made by Airbus-PTDI, it appears that they had some difficulties meeting requirements of the project, including a need for the manufacturer to have supplied a helicopter with a capability for ASW and ASuW in the past 10 years to foreign armed forces. It turns out that Airbus' Panther was supplied to foreign armed forces with either ASW or ASuW capability only in the past 10 years. Only AgustaWestland's bid was considered responsive after the bid opening ended, declaring them the Single Responsive Bidder and automatically disqualifying Airbus-PTDI from the race.

Other prospective bidders like Bell Helicopter Textron did not submit a bid.

Second stage bidding was made in 2015, with AgustaWestland complying with the technical, legal, financial, and other requirements stipulated in the specification. This automatically brought them to a lengthy Post Qualification stage, which they passed by late 2015 after having delays in the side of the Philippine government with regards to sourcing funds.

In the end, the DND issued a Notice of Award (NOA) to AgustaWestland sometime between February and March 2016, and a contract was finally signed on March 29, 2016 at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. The contract is worth Php 5,362,762,748.56, and will involve the delivery of AgustaWestland's AW-159 Lynx Wildcat naval helicopter. It is unclear though if the DND already provided a Notice to Proceed (NTP) to AgustaWestland, signifying to proceed the preparation and manufacturing of the helicopters and acquisition of subsystems and munitions.

The Philippine Navy joins the Royal Navy and the Republic of Korea Navy as the 3rd operator of the type. It would be used in tandem with the new frigates to be built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers of India.

A copy of the Notice of Award given by the DND to AgustaWestland.
Photo taken from PhilGEPS website, as raised by Herbie @ PDFF Forum.

AgustaWestland's Cat:

It was confirmed in the past by MaxDefense sources, and seconded by reports made by IHS Jane's and local media, that AgustaWestland's offer was the AW-159 Lynx Wildcat, a new product by the company but is a further development to the proven Lynx & Super Lynx series of naval helicopters. It is actually one of the newest naval helicopters in the market today, with the first production naval variant received by the Royal Navy only at the end of 2013, and in entering service in 2015.

The Lynx (above) and the Lynx Wildcat (below) flying side by side and can be used to differentiate the two naval helicopters. The shape may have similarities, but the Lynx Wildcat is a totally different bird that has little similarities in parts, equipment, and performance with its older stablemate.
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

The Wildcat is capable of both Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), and could be armed with a variety of air-launched munitions, including anti-submarine lightweight torpedoes, small and medium anti-ship and air-to-ground missiles, rocket and gun pods, plus pintle-mounted machine guns.

It is equipped with a Selex Galileo Seaspray 7000E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar to scan for surface targets, an L-3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical/infrared nose turret, and possibly the Thales Compact FLASH dipping sonar for submarine detection, which was chosen for use by South Korean Wildcats.

The Seaspray 7000E is a AESA multi-mode surveillance radar. Its solid-state transmitter improves its performance and maintainability than conventional radar, has a maximum range of 200 nautical miles, and could track up to 200 targets simultaneously, including small crafts. The use on Wildcats by the Royal Navy was its first launch customer, and it is likely that the Philippine Navy would also be using the same surveillance radar for its own fleet of Wildcats.

It is unclear which dipping sonar will the Philippine deal include, but MaxDefense believes that the PN may follow the South Koreans by adapting the Compact FLASH dipping sonar from Thales. This is a smaller version of those used by the US Navy with their MH-60R Seahawks, and are designed for smaller helicopters although the Royal Navy use them on the humongous AW-101 Merlin helicopters.

Currently the AW-159 is cleared to fire the British Sting Ray lightweight torpedo, while it is still being cleared to fire the new MBDA Sea Venom short-range anti-ship missile, which will replace the Sea Squa used by the older Super Lynx family, as well as the smaller Thales Martlet Lightweight Multirole Missile. 

In South Korean service, the Wildcat is also cleared to fire the Israeli-made Rafael Spike NLOS missile and the LIG Nex1 K745 Blue Shark torpedo. MaxDefense sources confirmed that Rafael is in talks with the Philippine Navy and AgustaWestland regarding the supply of these missiles to go with the delivery of the Wildcats. It appears that the Spike NLOS is gaining traction due to its immediate availability compared to the Sea Venom which is expected to only enter service with the Royal Navy by 2018, so it is not expected to be carried by the Philippine Navy Wildcat when it arrives. But it could be an option for the PN if they wish to have a bigger missile for use against ships instead of the Spike NLOS. Rafael's recent win to supply the PN with the Spike-ER for the Multi-Purpose Attack Crafts (MPAC) could also help push Rafael's offer.

It is also worth mentioning that there were indications that the PN prefer to use the Blue Shark torpedo, based on the Supplementary Bid Bulletin documents included in the Philippine Navy's Frigate Acquisition Program. 

The AW-159 can be equipped with the Sea Squa's successor, the MBDA Sea Venom anti-ship missile (foreground).
Photo taken from Wikipedia.

The helicopter is said to be the right size for the Philippine Navy's requirements, being smaller than the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk from the US, and the NH90 FFH from Europe, but larger than the Airbus Helicopters AS565 Panther from France, which was actually the only other contender of the Wildcat in this contest. This also makes the helicopter cheaper than the Seahawk and the NH90, but is said to be more expensive than the Panther.

Bill of Quantities for AgustaWestland's Bid:

Based on the Bill of Quantities submitted by AgustaWestland together with their bid, the helicopters itself costs only a little over half of the total contract amount. The helicopter's subsystems, notably the sensors, and initial load-out of ammunition took a huge share of the contract amount. The sensors are the helicopter's primary component, which makes the helicopter a versatile naval system for surface surveillance, ASuW, and ASW.

It also shows that acquiring ammunition is not cheap, and being a new user of such munitions, it is expected that the Philippine Navy will have to acquire more and maintain enough supply of warshot munitions in preparation of conflict, and program for live fire exercises once in a while. 

The BOQ also clearly shows what the deal includes. From the list above, it is comprehensive enough to allow the PN to be gently moulded from zero to a proficient and capable user of the entire system, with sufficient mission essential equipment, support, training, and logistics included in the deal.

With the Philippine Navy starting to have such capabilities, it would be easier for them to acquire additional units in the future, as long as they follow the same mindset of including essential training and maintenance support packages in the contract.

The AW-159 Wildcat, with labelling of its components for reader's understanding.
Photo taken from Finmeccanica.

Early Delivery Reputation:

With AgustaWestland's previous deliveries of the smaller AW-109E Power helicopters to the Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force, they were able to do so in a shorter span of time than what is stipulated in the contract. It is possible that AgustaWestland could also do the same with the AW-159 Wildcat, although it would be produced in a different factory than its smaller stable mate. The Wildcat will be built in AgustaWestland's facility in the United Kingdom, whereas the AW-109 were built in Italy.

Delivery is expected to be made in late 2018, although it is hoped that AgustaWestland can make a shorter delivery time even if production of the Wildcat for the British and South Korean navies are in full swing. This could allow the Philippine Navy to start training their men in the Philippines, and make the Wildcat unit into full operational status even if the new frigates are not yet available.. At a temporary basis, the Wildcat can be stationed with the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates and conduct ship-based training not only for the pilots, but also for the ship and maintenance crews.


Yes finally, after several attempts in the past to acquire a real ASW naval helicopter, the Philippine Navy is getting some. As more helicopter-capable naval assets become available, it is expected that the PN will request for more units as part of the Horizons 2 and 3 phases of the Revised AFP Modernization Program. MaxDefense will update its readers on this project, as it progresses until the next administration after those of Pres. Benigno Aquino III. 

Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Air Force Modernization Projects