MANILA --- Aside from giving the Philippine Navy’s (PN) first dedicated anti-subsurface platforms, the two newly-acquired AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) AW-159 "Wildcat" anti-submarine helicopters will also extend the capabilities of the two Jose Rizal-class missile frigates being constructed by South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI).
Navy spokesperson Capt. Jonathan Zata, quoting Offshore Combat Force head Commodore Caesar Bernard Valencia, said Friday that the two AW-159s, once fully integrated into the missile frigates, will extend the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) range of the ships, aside from providing over-the-horizon (OTH) targeting and surveillance capabilities of the ships.
"(Once the AW-159s are fully integrated into the BRP Jose Rizal frigates), the AW-159s exponentially increase the ASW range of the frigates and (provide) OTH targeting and surveillance," Zata said in a message to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Besides these capabilities, the AW-159s will also boost the ships’ electronic warfare range and expand their capability to do humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.
"These systems allow (the) BRP Jose Rizal and her sister ship to perform multi-role functions, such as anti-surface, anti-air, anti-submarine and electronic warfare simultaneously and with a higher degree of effectivity, a giant leap to the current capability of the PN," he said.
Of the two ships, the lead ship of the class, the BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), was launched at the Ulsan shipyard of HHI last May 23, while its sister ship, the BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), had its keel laid on the same date.
The Philippines and HHI signed a PHP16-billion contract for two missile-armed frigates with another PHP2 billion set aside for its weapon systems and munitions in October 2016.
The ships will be armed with the Oto Melara 76mm Rapid Gun an Aselsan SMASH 30mm remote-controlled secondary cannon, anti-submarine torpedoes, and anti-air and ship missiles.
It is also equipped with Hanwha Systems' Naval Shield combat management system (CMS) that integrates all shipboard sensors and weapons and decides on which is ideal to deal with any incoming threat.
Each ship measures 351 ft. long and 46 ft. wide. It has a maximum speed of 25 knots and can travel up to 4,500 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 15 knots and can sustain operational presence for 30 days.
It is also capable of withstanding rough sea conditions up to Sea State 7, which means waves of six meters to nine meters high.
Zata also said that the advent of the Jose Rizal-class frigates, along with the Spike-ER armed multi-purpose attack craft (MPACs), ushered the PN to the missile age.
"(The) BRP Jose Rizal ushers the PN and the Armed Forces of the Philippines with a greatly improved capability to better perform its mandate. Likewise, the recently acquired Spike-ER currently installed on our MPACs ushered the Navy and the entire AFP into the missile age, a deliberate, tedious and coordinated effort in our ongoing modernization program," he added.