US delivers Philippine navy’s first ‘eye-in-the-sky’ surveillance system

US delivers Philippine navy’s first ‘eye-in-the-sky’ surveillance system
US Embassy acting deputy chief of mission, Kimberly Kelly, and the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) representatives at the turnover of the ScanEagle UAS. (Photo courtesy: Philippine Navy)
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Updated 26 November 2020

US delivers Philippine navy’s first ‘eye-in-the-sky’ surveillance system

US delivers Philippine navy’s first ‘eye-in-the-sky’ surveillance system
  • Officials: ScanEagle’s long-range, prolonged flight time will help military protect country’s maritime areas

MANILA: The Philippine Navy on Wednesday received its first advanced fixed wing unmanned aerial system (UAS) from the US to beef up its surveillance capabilities, officials said.

The US Embassy in Manila’s acting deputy chief of mission, Kimberly Kelly, and representatives from the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) handed over the $14.79 million ScanEagle UAS to Filipino navy commander Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, during a ceremony at the Naval Base Heracleo Alano, Sangley Point in Cavite.

The ScanEagle system comprises eight unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), two launchers, a skyhook, and ground control station.

It will provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities to the Philippine fleet’s 71st Maritime Unmanned Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron (71 MUARS), increasing the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) “maritime domain awareness and border security capabilities.”

Kelly said: “Transferring the ScanEagle system for operation ... represents the steadfast commitment by the US to our partners in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

AFP deputy chief of staff, Vice Admiral Erick Kagaoan, who represented Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at the handover ceremony, said: “This new asset will complement the same kind being operated by the (Philippine Air Force) 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 (Philippine government-designated eastern parts of the South China Sea) that need our consistent attention.”

The ScanEagle UAS is a product of Insitu Inc., a subsidiary of the Boeing company. It is a small, long-endurance UAV that can provide the navy with real-time coverage and can be launched from both land and sea.

Officials said that with its longer range and prolonged flight time, the system will improve the Philippine Navy ships’ coverage in protecting the country’s maritime waters, acting as the “eye in the sky.” It would also be useful during humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations, and search and rescue missions, they added.

“The ScanEagle UAS will greatly aid our organization in the effective assessment of the subject areas, timely decision-making, and prompt action in the conduct of territorial defense, internal security operations, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster response,” said Philippine Fleet Commander Loumer Bernabe.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the ceremony, Bacordo said that the ScanEagle UAS would “greatly enhance” the navy’s capabilities in conducting missions at sea. “Whatever missions we were capable of before, with this system it will expand the coverage of all these missions ... by more than five times.”

He added that in times of calamities or disasters, the ScanEagle could be used for rapid damage assessment.

“With this system, we can have it airborne and gather rapid damage and ready analysis so that our HADR responders can quickly proceed to the areas where they are most needed,” Bacordo said.

With the ScanEagle in their inventory, Bacordo added that the navy would now have another option – on top of its helicopters and radar systems – to expand its patrol coverage.

“In the area of territorial defense, it will expand our horizon. Let’s say if one ship can patrol a certain area in 24 hours, with this system we can cover that same area may be in just about four hours instead of the usual 24-hour patrols,” he said.

Bacordo pointed out that data from the ScanEagle was as reliable as that taken from the navy’s existing electro-optical systems, radars, and surveillance conducted by helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft.

The ScanEagle UAV and its associated equipment were acquired through the Maritime Security Initiative Program of the US based on a request lodged by the navy in 2017 and formalized in February 2019, after a series of dialogues with the JUSMAG-Philippines.

America has always provided the AFP with grant assistance and expedited sales of arms and munitions to support its modernization goals and urgent maritime security, counterterrorism, and humanitarian aid and disaster relief requirements. 

“The Philippines is by far the largest recipient of US military assistance in the Indo-Pacific region. Since 2015, the US has delivered more than $650 million worth of planes, ships, armored vehicles, small arms, and other military equipment to the Philippines, while training side-by-side with our Filipino allies,” the US embassy said in a statement.

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas
Updated 51 min 5 sec ago

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas
  • NRA execs are facing charges of illegally diverting funds for lavish personal trips and other questionable expenditures
  • New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight

AUSTIN, Texas: The National Rifle Association announced Friday it has filed for bankruptcy protection and will seek to incorporate the nation’s most politically influential gun-rights group in Texas instead of New York.
The announcement came months after New York’s attorney general sued the organization over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for lavish personal trips, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenditures.
The coronavirus pandemic has also upended the NRA, which last year laid off dozens of employees. The group canceled its national convention and scuttled fundraising. The NRA’s bankruptcy filing listed between $100 million and $500 million in assets and between $100 million and $500 million in liabilities. Still, the NRA claimed in announcing the move that the organization was “in its strongest financial condition in years.”
The NRA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in Dallas and said it planned to incorporate in Texas, where records show it formed a limited liability corporation, Sea Girt LLC, in November 2020. Sea Girt LLC made a separate bankruptcy filing Friday, listing fewer than $100,000 in liabilities.
In its filing, the NRA said its longtime leader, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, made the decision to file for bankruptcy protection in consultation with a “special litigation committee” comprised of three NRA officials that was formed in September to oversee its legal strategies. The NRA board voted Jan. 7 to clarify LaPierre’s employment agreement, giving him the power to “reorganize or restructure the affairs” of the organization.

National Rifle Association executive Wayne LaPierre and other officials of the gun lobby are facing charges of diverting the gun lobby's money for lavish personal expenses. (AFP file photo)

“The move will enable long-term, sustainable growth and ensure the NRA’s continued success as the nation’s leading advocate for constitutional freedom – free from the toxic political environment of New York,” the NRA said in a statement.
A message seeking comment was left with a Dallas lawyer who made the bankruptcy filings on behalf of the NRA and Sea Girt LLC.
Shortly after the announcement, New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight. Her office’s lawsuit last year highlighted misspending and self-dealing claims that have roiled the NRA and LaPierre in recent years— from hair and makeup for his wife to a $17 million post-employment contract for himself.
“The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt,” James said.
The gun-rights group boasts about 5 million members. Though headquartered in Virginia, the NRA was chartered as a nonprofit in New York in 1871 and is incorporated in the state. Going forward, the NRA said a committee will study opportunities to relocate segments of its operations to Texas and elsewhere.
The NRA’s largest creditor, owed $1.2 million, is Ackerman McQueen, which is the group’s former advertising agency that was behind the now-shuttered NRA TV service. The NRA sued the Oklahoma-based company in 2019, alleging it was being overbilled and said in Friday’s bankruptcy filing that the debt it is owed is disputed. The lawsuit is pending. A message seeking comment was left with Ackerman McQueen.
In the New York lawsuit, Ackerman McQueen was accused of aiding lavish spending by LaPierre and other NRA executives by picking up the tab and then sending a lump sum bill to the organization for “out-of-pocket expenses.”
“No financial filing can ever shroud the moral bankruptcy of Wayne LaPierre and his wife and their lap dogs on the NRA board,” said Bill Powers, an Ackerman McQueen spokesperson and former public affairs director for the NRA.
Court records also show more than $960,000 owed to Membership Marketing Partners LLC, a firm that lists its headquarters at the same address as the NRA. Another $200,000 is owed to Speedway Motorsports, the North Carolina-based company that owns and operates NASCAR tracks, according to the records.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott quickly welcomed the news, tweeting: “Welcome to Texas — a state that safeguards the 2nd Amendment.” The NRA said it has more than 400,000 members in Texas and plans to hold its annual convention in Houston later this year.