Sunday, August 6, 2017

PH eyes Israeli drones to assist ground troops

From The Standard (Aug 5): PH eyes Israeli drones to assist ground troops

State-of-the-art drones or unmanned aerial vehicles will soon be dotting the skies of the Philippines with President Rodrigo Duterte announcing that he would accept the offer of UAVs made by Israeli defense manufacturer Elbit Systems. In a press conference held at the House of Representatives shortly after his second State-of-the-Nation Address, Duterte said he was earlier offered two high altitude UAVs that could fly beyond the reach of bullets and survey the ground beneath, acting as the eyes in the sky of ground troops and police forces as they come into the battlefield. 

He said that the troops will now be able to study the high definition reconnaissance images provided by the high flying drones before they leave their camps to patrol.

Elbit’s Hermes 900 MALE UAV

The president was referring to the two UAVs that was demonstrated to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police by Elbit Systems in Lipa City, Batangas and offered in a government-to-government procurement arrangement with Israel. The two UAVs, a Hermes 900 and a smaller Hermes 450, are cutting edge military drones that are technologically on par with, or even better than, US military drones such as the Predator and Global Hawk.

The Hermes 900 has a remarkable flight endurance of 72 hours—or three full days in the air—and can carry various military payloads, including high definition thermal imaging devices that can scan and detect any enemy presence 24/7, day and night and even in inclement weather. These can provide unparalleled battlefield awareness and eliminate the possibility of ambushes, as well as allow quick and well-informed reaction for reinforcing and responding forces.

The high-tech UAV can also perform laser designating for high-precision smart ammunition, allowing pin-point air and artillery strikes and eliminating the possibility of ‘friendly-fire’ casualties or collateral damage similar to what happened at different stages in the Marawi conflict.

The Hermes 450 is a common medium surveillance UAV.

Israel has been the pioneer in military drones and the Israel Defense Forces has been using them extensively over the decades, which explains the renowned accuracy of their precision strikes and their relatively few casualties (compared to their enemies) in recent battles and skirmishes.

In fact, the highly reliable Hermes 450 accounted for a noteworthy 52 percent of the flight hours of the Israeli Air Force in 2016. Together with the bigger Hermes 900, the two account for about 70 percent flight hours of the Israeli Air Force. For unmanned flight hours of the Israeli Air Force, the two easily chalks 80 percent to 85 percent.

The president said that he wants to buy more of these high-altitude drones as part of the AFP modernization even as he prepares the Armed Forces for war footing vs. terrorists and the communists.

The UAVs are expected to prevent large scale losses of police and military armed personnel and could easily turn the tides of war in favor of the government.

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