PH Navy gets first advanced unmanned aerial system from US

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 25) — The Philippine Navy now has an advanced fixed-wing unmanned aerial system (UAS), which it said would boost the country’s capability to protect its territorial waters.

The US government formally turned over the ScanEagle UAS to the Navy in a ceremony at the Naval Base Heracleo Alano in Cavite on Wednesday. It was acquired through a grant under the US Maritime Security Initiative Program, with an estimated cost of ₱710-million ($14.79 million).

Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Kimberly Kelly and representatives from the US Embassy attended the turnover, along with Philippine officials led by Armed Forces deputy chief of staff Vice Adm. Erick Kagaoan.

Kagaon represented Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, reading his statement that the new assets "will complement the same kind being operated by the 300th Air Intelligence and Security Wing at the Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, which is very close to the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea that needs our consistent attention."

The ScanEagle UAS will be utilized by the Maritime Unmanned Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron – a recently activated unit under the Philippine Fleet’s Naval Air Wing – for the Navy’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations. It is a product of Boeing company subsidiary Insitu Inc., and is one of the most widely used tactical unmanned aerial systems in the world.

The ScanEagle UAS is composed of eight air vehicles, two launchers, a skyhook, and ground control station.

“With its longer range and prolonged flight time, it will improve our ships’ coverage in protecting our maritime waters acting as the ‘Eye in the Sky’ which is also useful during humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations, and search and rescue missions,” the Navy said in a statement, describing it as its "first-ever" advanced fixed-wing UAS.

Kelly said the delivery of the ScanEagle UAS "represents the steadfast commitment by the United States to our partners in the Armed Forces of the Philippines."

US military assistance continues as President Rodrigo Duterte again suspended the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement for another six months, or until June 2021. The Duterte administration sent the US a notice to terminate the two-decade-old agreement in February, only to hold it off citing mainly the coronavirus pandemic.

CNN Philippines' David Santos contributed to this report.