US deploys surveillance drone as Duterte criticises American military kit

surveillance drone
A soldier with Delta Company, 25th Aviation Regiment inspects the airframe of an MQ-1C Gray Eagle last year at Fort Wainwright, Alaska’s Ladd Army Airfield. Picture courtesy of the US Army

President Duterte criticised the quality of American military donations shortly after the USA deployed a state-of-the-art surveillance drone in Mindanao.

A Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) is now set to lend assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) counterterrorism efforts.

“Compared to current surveillance platforms used in the region, the Gray Eagle has a longer flight duration which will enable a larger area of reconnaissance and surveillance,” the US Embassy said in a statement yesterday (Monday, September 11).

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana thanked the US government for the deployment of the surveillance drone.

“We paid for that”

Meanwhile, the said he was no longer interested in acquiring refurbished military equipment from the US.

He also claimed that produces better quality weaponry, citing the efficiency of sniper rifles recently donated by Beijing.

Speaking during a visit to the besieged city of Marawi yesterday (Monday, September 11) he said: “I will no longer buy secondhand helicopters from the Americans because the two – the three – one of the two crashed.

“What’s happening to these Americans?

“And we paid for that.”

He then said he preferred to buy brand-new equipment for the military. He said the military goods would be sourced from “two countries” — but did not identify which.

“For me, everything has to be brand-new. All the planes and helicopters will have to be brand-new. Your guns, I want just one source for it. I’m not going to mention what country it is but it’s just two — two countries.”

Meanwhile, army spokesman Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo said the military had been receiving technical assistance such as aerial battlefield reconnaissance and surveillance from the US.

“This is one of the areas where their assistance in counter terrorism will be very helpful,” he said.

Over the past three years, the US government has provided the Philippines with assistance valued at more than 15 billion pesos to establish better command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

Recent deliveries include a Raven tactical UAS and two Cessna-208B surveillance aircraft, as well as various munitions and weapons.

Aside from military assistance, the US has also committed $14.3 million for emergency relief and recovery assistance for civilians displaced by the conflict in Marawi.

Surveillance drone sparks controversy

The delivery of the new surveillance drone has not been without controversy.

One leftist lawmaker denounced “in the strongest terms” the deployment of the UAS, saying it represented American intervention in the Marawi crisis.

“I denounce in the strongest terms the Duterte administration for allowing the deployment of this harbinger of ‘death from above’ on our shores,” said Congressman Antonio Tinio today.

“This represents an unprecedented escalation in the level of intervention of the US government in the war in Marawi.

“The solution to armed conflict in Muslim cannot be found through the so-called war against terror and imperialist intervention, but through a political solution that will address the root causes behind Moro oppression and marginalisation.”