Manila: The Philippines has received six unmanned aerial vehicles from the US as officials said that the addition of the new air assets will greatly contribute to improving the country’s capabilities in surveillance and reconnaissance.
According to Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the delivery of the ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the Philippine Air Force will not just improve the country’s capability to secure and monitor its areas, but will also modernise the country’s airborne fighting forces.
US ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are lined up for the formal turnover Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at Villamor Air Base in Pasay, Manila, Philippines. Six drones were acquired by the Philippine Air Force from the United States for $13.76 million and will be used for counter-terrorism, security operations, maritime patrol and disaster response operations, especially in assessing extent of damage caused by disasters and calamities and locating victims and survivors. - AP
“With a number of security issues confronting our country, there is a need to upgrade our nation’s armed forces and to establish a more credible defence. The acquisition of ScanEagle UAV is one way to modernise the military to deter those who want to wage war against our country,” Lorenzana said.
Worth a total $13.76 million (Dh50,533,482). The ScanEagle is a small, long-endurance, low-altitude UAV built by Insitu, a subsidiary of US aircraft maker Boeing.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim inaugurated the ScanEagle UAV during a traditional turnover and blessing ceremony on Tuesday at Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim (3rd from left) and Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (3rd from right) are briefed on the features of the ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles during its turnover Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at Villamor Air Base in suburban Pasay city southeast of Manila, Philippines. - AP
“The transfer of the ScanEagle to the ‘unmanned’ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) group and the transfer of the two Cessna 208Bs in July 2017 to the ‘manned’ ISR group represent our strong commitment to enhance the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Kim said during the ceremony.
The UAVs were acquired through the US Foreign Military Financing programme.
A Cebu Pacific passenger plane takes off as a ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is mounted on a Skyhook launcher during its turnover Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at Villamor Air Base in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines. - AP
With one of the world’s biggest coastal waters, the country is stretched thin in safeguarding its territory from intrusions and the United States, as a long-standing ally, continues to provide support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Through both grant assistance and expedited sales of arms and munitions, the US is helping the Philippines achieve its long-term military modernisation goals for counter-terrorism and Humanitarian and Disaster Risk Reduction Requirements (HADR).
During the middle of 2017, airborne assets such as helicopters, attack and surveillance aircraft as well as drones lent by the US and Australia had played a crucial role in defeating Daesh-backed extremists during the battle in Marawi City.
The military claimed the eyes in the sky provided by UAVs likewise helped minimise civilian casualties during the five-month-long conflict that also resulted in the elimination of key leaders of the Maute-Abu Sayyaf alliance.
The Philippine Air Force said the ScanEagle will further enhance operations of land, naval, and air forces of the Philippines.
“It is capable of several missions such as internal security operations, counter-terrorism, and limited maritime patrol.
"More importantly, ScanEagle UAS can be utilised by the Philippine government for humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations since it is capable of assessing the extent of damage caused by disasters and calamities, as well as locate victims and survivors,” the air force said.
The Philippines is a relative newcomer in the field military applications of UAVs.
In 2001, it was able to acquire four smaller drones from Israeli unmanned aircraft maker EMIT Aviation Consult Ltd of Petah Tikvah.
Earlier in 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte announced plans to get bigger drones from Israel’s Elbit.
The Hermes 900 MALE is larger than the ScanEagle and can be fitted with missiles to hit ground targets.