The poorly-equipped Philippine military said Thursday it is buying eight helicopters from Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland for 3.4 billion pesos ($78.7 million) to help in the fight against guerrillas.
The eight AW 109 Power helicopters will be used mainly to support troops in battling insurgents but can also be used for maritime patrols and "territorial defence", said air force spokesman Colonel Miguel Okol.
"These will be armed helicopters for close air support... in general, it is for internal security operations," he said.
The twin-engine helicopters will be an improvement over the military's ageing fleet of US-made MG-520 attack helicopters since they will be able to carry more men and weapons and will be night-vision capable, he added.
The Defence Department said the contract was for 3.4 billion pesos but gave no further details.
Air Force vice commander Major General Raul Dimatatac said the new helicopters were urgently needed as the Philippines only had about seven MG-520 attack helicopters still flying.
AgustaWestland said on its website that deliveries of the helicopters would begin next year.
The Philippine military is battling both a 4,000-strong communist insurgency in the hinterland as well as various Muslim guerrilla groups in the southern island of Mindanao.
It also faces external challenges such as a territorial dispute with China over parts of the South China Sea.
Earlier this year, the navy announced it was acquiring three naval versions of the AW 109 Power helicopter.
The cash-strapped Philippines has one of the weakest militaries in Southeast Asia but has been seeking in recent months to obtain new equipment.
by Anna MALPAS © 2013 AFP
Date: Nov 7, 2013