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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Philippine Air Force Receives 6 ScanEagle 2 Unmanned Aerial Systems, and Discussion of Existing and Future AFP UAS

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) finally formally received the Insitu ScanEagle small tactical Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) into the service on March 13, 2018. Based on the PAF's own public statements, they received 6 systems in a package worth US$13.76 from the US Department of Defense under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) scheme. The UAS were said to have been delivered on March 10, 2018.

The PAF formally accepted the ScanEagle 2 UAS into the service, which will be assigned with the 300th Air Intelligence and Security Wing.
Photo taken from Eunice Samonte / PTV FB page.

Among those present during the event held at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City were Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, US Ambassador to the Philippine Sung Kim, and head of JUSMAG-Philippines, US Army Col. Ernest Lee.

The ScanEagle UAS were then handed-over to the 300th Air Intelligence and Security Wing, which is the unit handling surveillance and intelligence gathering assets of the PAF, including the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan ISR aircraft.

MaxDefense believes that the contract cost of US$13.76 million also includes the training of the flight operators, ground crew, and maintenance personnel, and others aside from the actual unit cost of the systems.

The statement coming for the PAF's Public Information Office as provided during the official handover ceremonies.
Photo taken from Nikko Dizon /

First of: UAS vs UAV:

Before we proceed, MaxDefense wants to make use of the opportunity to discuss the difference. What is a UAS, and what is the difference with UAV.

Umanned Aerial System (UAS) is the complete set, that combines individual pieces of equipment into a "system" that works together. This includes the Unammed Aerial Vehicle (UAV), which  is the actual drone, the flying platform, the most obvious piece of equipment of the system; plus other equipment like the ground station which controls the UAV in its flight and picks-up the information being seen by the UAV; the launching system which puts the UAV into flight; and the recovery system which allows the UAV to safely land in the absence of rolling landing or vertical landing capability.

A UAS includes the drone (the UAV), the ground station, launching system and recovery system. Shown on the photo are the ScanEagle 2 UAV and the ground station trailers.
Credits to owner of photo.

ScanEagle 2 UAS:

Based on the photos coming out from the event, the PAF actually received the newer ScanEagle 2, which is a newer model from the ScanEagle family. According to Insitu, the ScanEagle 2 is improved compared to the older models by having more payload capability and power, and allows the integration of better sensors. It is also said to have better endurance despite the heavier payload.

Physical differences between the ScanEagle 2 and the older ScanEagle include the bulbous head that houses the sensors being carried 

According to Insitu, the ScanEagle 2 retains the same wingspan as the older model at 3.2 meters, but the new UAV is heavier and can carry 3.5 kilograms of equipment, up by an additional 100 grams of payload compared to the older model. The drone is also using a reciprocating combustion engine technology, and can take gasoline or heavier aviation fuel. The ScanEagle 2 also has a vertical fin just on top of its rear engine, something that is not present in the older variant.

The ScanEagle 2 does not carry air-launched munitions, and was designed for surveillance use only.

The statements coming out from the DND and PAF mentioned that the ScanEagle 2 UAV are capable of flying up to 24 hours non-stop. If MaxDefense may add, this depends also on the payload being carried. Other sources also confirmed that the ScanEagle 2 has a less endurance than the older variants, with only a flight endurance of 16 hours instead of 24 hours. So this needs to be reconfirmed as the PAF may have use the data from the older ScanEagle for their statements.

The ScanEagle 2 can provide 100W to 150W of power to its sensor payloads, plus the Ethernet-based architecture and reduction of Electronic Magnetic Interference. This allows the ScanEagle 2 to carry more sophisticated equipment, including a fully digital video system, compared to the older variant.

The PAF showed probably what composed 1 system, which includes 4 ScanEagle 2 UAVs.
Photo taken from Nikko Dizon /

The PAF was said to have received 6 units, which might be misinterpreted by people who are unfamiliar with the system. The PAF actually received 6 SYSTEMS, and based on similar contracts made with Insitu, 6 systems is indeed closer to the US$13.76 million contract cost, compared to 6 units, which would not cost as high as the contract amount.

Based on the photos from the event, a ScanEagle 2 UAS (the system) probably includes the a Ground Station, at least 4 ScanEagle 2 UAVs, a

The ScanEagle 2 UAS' Mk. 1 Mod. 2 Skyhook recovery system, which is used to safely recover a flying ScanEagle 2 UAV.
Photo taken from Nikko Dizon /

Other Current and Future UAS in AFP:

The Philippine Air Force is expected to receive more sophisticated Unmanned Aerial Systems in the near future, with the ScanEagle 2 being the initial system being introduced to the services. These systems will assist the PAF's current and future manned aircraft fleet which includes the still non-moving Long Range Patrol Aircraft and the future Command and Control aircraft that would be introduced to the PAF hopefully within the Horizon 2 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP).

There is also a persistent rumor that the Philippine Air Force operated 2 General Atomics RQ-1 Predator drones for the Office of the President, but were flown by US military. No confirmation on this one, although there are reports that 1 of the drones crashed and there is only 1 RQ-1 left.

The Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) actually has a similar system that they are using for target acquisition and surveillance, the Marine Forces Imagery and Targeting Support System (MITSS), which was acquired by the PMC under its Horizon 1 modernization phase and delivered in 2017. The PMC received 6 unmanned systems plus 2 spare systems, with 3 MAG Aerospace Super Swiper II UAVs in each system, for a total of 24 UAVs, plus supporting equipment including a Brigade Combat Operations Center and Brigade Mobile ISR Integration Kits.

The PMC's MITSS, based on the MAG Aerospace Super Swiper II UAV, was displayed during AFP Day last December 2017. The Super Swiper II is actually in the same category as the ScanEagle 2, although payload-wise the ScanEagle 2 is said to be better.
Photo taken from Presidential Communcations Office.

In addition, the PMC has 1 system (with 3 drones) of the smaller AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven man-launched mini UAS provided by the US Department of Defense in January 2017. These are small UAVs that can be used by small field units. MaxDefense believes this is just an initial delivery for training purposes, with more of these requested by the PMC from the US. Additional units may be provided again under the US Military Assistance that the Philippines annually receives.

The RQ-11 Raven being explained by US Marines to their Filipino counterparts during a Joint Military Exercise a few years ago. The PMC operates at least 1 system with 3 drones.
Photo taken from the US Department of Defense.

The Philippine Navy is also reported to be testing ScanEagle UAS since last year, with sources saying that the PN successfully tested a few of them in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija last year and were already testing them for ship operations. No confirmation though if they are just test units while more units were reportedly coming up soon.

The Philippine Army currently only operates a few locally-made UAVs, some of which were seen in action during the Zamboanga City siege in 2013. But this will change as the Army is preparing the acquisition of three types of UAS under its Horizon 2 modernization program, categorised as Tiers 1, 2 and 3 and vary is size and range or endurance. This would be discussed further in future blog entries here @ MaxDefense.

The Aeronautics Orbiter III is among those being considered by the Philippine Army for their Tier II (mid-level) UAS requirements. It is competing with 2 other systems. It was seen here during a demonstration held last April 2017 in Clark.
Photo exclusively provided to MaxDefense by our sources.

1 comment:

  1. Sir Max anything about the Hermes that were trialed by the PA I think?


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