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Sunday, November 22, 2020

Philippine Navy to induct new Insitu ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles provided by US

 
The Philippine Navy (PN) is scheduled to induct a batch of brand new Insitu ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) provided by the United States government. The induction is expected to happen in a matter of days after this blog is posted.

These new UAVs were part of the US government's Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative Strategy (then called Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative), which was started by the Obama administration in 2016, and continued by the Trump administration.

These new ScanEagle UAVs will become the Philippine Navy's first fixed-wing drones that are actually inducted into service, rather than just tested and evaluated. 

One of the ScanEagle 2 UAVs handed-over to the PAF last March 2018. Credits to original source of photo.


US Grants to Philippines and Other Countries:

In 2017, the US government confirmed that another batch of ScanEagle UAVs will be granted to the Philippines, and will be a follow-on after the first batch that were also ordered in 2017 and handed over to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in March 2018.

ScanEagle 2 UAVs of the Philippine Air Force. Credits to original source of photo.

It was first thought that the second batch will still be for the PAF, but checking with sources within the Armed Forces of the Philippines, MaxDefense Philippines was told that it would be for the Philippine Navy (PN) as a similar request was also made that would be used primarily for maritime surveillance.

The Philippines will not be the only country to receive ScanEagle UAVs from the US. Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam are also earmarked to receive the same UAVs to assist them in improving their maritime surveillance capabilities. The orders for all 4 countries were only processed in 2019.

Malaysia was given priority, and received 6 units early this year. The Philippines is believed to be the second to receive ScanEagles this year, with an expected 8 units based on the reports made in 2019. It remains to be seen if the PN will indeed receive 8 units, since it is possible for the quantity to increase or decrease.

ScanEagle 3?

While the PAF received the ScanEagle 2 UAV in 2018, it remains to be seen if the PN will be receiving the same ScanEagle 2, or the newer ScanEagle 3 variant, which was launched only in 2018 after the PAF received their drones.

So far, there is no confirmation found if the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) received the ScanEagle 2 or ScanEagle 3, as it could be the best basis of what the Philippine Navy could be receiving.

The ScanEagle 3 is the latest variant of the ScanEagle family of small UAVs, with improvements made on payload carrying capacity, said to be almost double compared to earlier models, while retaining its freedom from International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) control.

A CGI of the new ScanEagle 3, which features twin tails siliar to the concept of the PAF's OV-10 Bronco attack aircraft. Credits to original source of photo.

This allows for additional or larger sensors to be carried that previous ScanEagle models are not capable of doing. It also allows for multiple sensors to be carried, improving its surveillance capabilities than ever before.

It also has improved endurance over previous models, using a new purpose-built propulsion system that allows more payload without compromising endurance. The new design allows for the wings to be adjusted and moved to alter the drone's center of gravity for rapid payload integration in the field. 

It has a length of 2.5 meters, a wingspan of 4 meters, and a gross takeoff weight of 36.3 kilograms. It now can carry 9.1 kilograms of payload which may include C2 datalinks, video datalins, Electro-optical turret, dual imager, and Mircowave Radiometer (MWR) that can detect radio or microwave energy emitted by targets.

An actual ScanEagle 3 during its unveiling in 2018. Photo credits to Shephard Media.

71 Maritime Unmanned Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron:

As reported several weeks ago by MaxDefense Philippines and our extension Philippine Defense Resource, the Philippine Navy's Naval Air Wing (NAW) has created a new squadron that will handle the operation of these new ScanEagle UAVs, which is the 71 Maritime Unmanned Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron.

The 71 Maritime Unmanned Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron's logo, which actually incorporates a ScanEagle UAV, albeit the older ScanEagle 1 variant showing the older nose design. As feared by MaxDefense Philippines, this could be a sign that many in the PN do not really know the difference between older and newer variants of the ScanEagle. Photo taken from the PN's publication.


The new squadron is expected to be the first UAV squadron of the PN NAW, as MaxDefense Philippines was told that the PN is interested in acquiring larger maritime surveillance UAVs in the future.
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Similar to how the PAF deployed their ScanEagle 2 UAVs, it is expected that the PN would also deploy their ScanEagle UAVs in various locations, most notably facing the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and the tri-border with Malaysia and Indonesia.

But we are actually hoping for the Philippine Navy to consider deploying these ScanEagle UAVs on ships, and act as eyes and ears for the surface warfare ships on top of their existing radar and EO/IR systems.

Examples where the ScanEagle UAV can be deployed are the Jose Rizal-class frigates and the Del Pilar-class offshore patrol vessels, both of which have a helicopter landing decks. Even smaller ships like the Jacinto-class are capable of operating ScanEagles, as already demonstrated by other navies.

Singapore's Victory-class corvettes, which are almost the same size as the Jacinto-class OPV, are equipped with launcher and recovery systems for the ScanEagle UAV. Photo taken from RSN.


In any way, the addition of these ScanEagle UAVs to the Philippine Navy are very much appreciated to allow the force's continuous improvement, thanks again to the assistance of our ally.

It remains to be seen if the PN will receive another batch of ScanEagles, as the US government appears to have prepared for the allocation lof a 3rd batch of ScanEagle UAVs to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Since the Philippine Army is standardizing with Israeli-made UAVs which it bought on its own, additional ScanEagles could either be for the PAF or PN.

This would be dependent on the policies on upcoming US President Joe Biden, who is believed to be on its way to half US military assistance to the Philippines due to Philippine Pres. Rodrigo Duterte's poor human rights records.

Several weeks ago, our extension Philippine Defense Resource TV posted a video on the creation of a new unit to receive the new ScanEagle UAVs from the US. This was already a sign of things to come considering the deliveries have already started for the entire order made for the 4 selected Southeast Asian countries.


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Project Summary:

ScanEagle UAV Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy:

Note: Edited as of 22 November 2020.

* End User: Philippine Navy (Naval Air Wing)

* Quantity: between 6 to 8 units

* Modernization Phase: Special Projects of the AFP

* Project ABC: Not applicable

* Acquisition Mode: US Military Assistance Grant

* Source of Funding: Funded by US government

* SARO Release: N/A

* Winning Proponent: Insitu Pacific Corp.

* Product for Delivery: 

    - 6 to 8 ScanEagle UAVs, still to be determined if ScanEagle 2 or 3 variant, including launching and recovery, and support equipment

* Contract Price: Not applicable

* Residual Price: Not applicable

* First post by MaxDefense: 11 December 2017

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag:
 #PNScanEagleUAVAcquisition

* Status: US government announced grant of surveillance equipment to select Asia-Pacific countries in 2017. Contract awarded by US government to Insitu Pacific in 2019, for delivery by late November 2020.

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First edit and release: 22 November 2020
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines

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