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Philippine Navy's AW-109s to make first shipboard deployment before end of first quarter of 2014

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Tuesday announced that the three AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters, it has acquired and commissioned last December, will be doing shipboard duties by the end of the first quarter of 2014.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, Navy spokesperson, made this statement as the pilots and flight crews of the helicopters are still undergoing training on how to effectively use the night vision gear, forward looking infrared sensors and cargo hoist.

"The contract with AgustaWestland specifies that all of these trainings are completed by the end of the first quarter," Fabic said.

AgustaWestland personnel are the ones providing the PN with these briefings.

Aside from this, AW-109s pilots are now being trained on how to make deck landings on the two Gregorio Del Pilar frigates in service.

The helicopters are expected to extend the range and surveillance capabilities of the two ships once officially deployed to the fleet.

Also, the maintenance crews are also being taught to properly service the aircraft once aboard the frigates.

Fabic said there are seven pilots assigned per helicopter.

He added that an equivalent number of AW-109 trained co-pilots and crewmen are also available.

"More (pilots and crewmen) are now undergoing training to ensure that the aircraft can be manned at all times," the PN spokesperson earlier said.

At the moment, the Naval Air Group (NAG), the unit tasked to operate and maintain the PN's aerial assets, have more than 50 pilots at its roster.

Prior the arrival of the AW-109s this Dec. 8, the inventory of the NAG consists of one Robinson R-22 helicopter, Bolkow B0-105 helicopter, two Islander aircraft and four Cessna light utility planes.

With the arrival of three AW-109s, the number of air assets of the NAG has increased to 11.

NAG pilots, who were trained to fly the AW-109s in Cesto Calende, Italy last year, said the AW-109 is very maneuverable and ideal for shipboard deployment. 

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