Philippine Marines Are Eying Mini Drones for Recce, SAR Missions

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small drones based on hobby RC models were spotted during the recent crisis in Zamboanga City, in September 2013. Photo via AP.
small drones based on hobby RC models were spotted during the recent crisis in Zamboanga City, in September 2013. Photo via AP.
small drones based on hobby RC models were spotted during the recent crisis in Zamboanga City, in September 2013. Photo via AP.

The Philippines Department of National Defense (DND) is embarking on the acquisition of six unmanned aerial systems (UAS) as part of the Marine Forces Imagery and Targeting Support System (MITSS) anticipated to improve surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities over the nations’ thousands of islands. The Philippines Army is already operating some locally made ‘tactical’ unmanned aerial systems, among them a small drone produced by OB Mapua (photo below). These small UAS will be allocated to support the nation’s three marine brigades, performing reconnaissance, surveillance missions and help in search and rescue operations. While the specific unit to receive the small drones has not been disclosed, it is likely they will be fielded with the Philippines’ Force Recon Battalion (FRBn), a special-warfare specialized unit supporting all three brigades.

The acquisition of six SUAS is one of four priority programs supporting the country’s marine corps; the budget for the MITSS programs is about US$15 million (684 million philippine peso) including the UAS systems, EO payloads and initial training, logistics and support.

From the tender details it is unclear if the Philippines are after six UAS systems or six unmanned aerial platforms. The details as outlined by the Rappler mentioned the Marines’ shopping list for the project includes:

6 sets of small unmanned aerial vehicle subsystems
9 sets of Target Acquisition Device Subsystems
12 kits of Tactical Sensor Integration Subsystems
Initial Integrated Logistics Support (1 spare MITSS, training and manuals)

These assets will be used by the 3 Marine Brigades and initial Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) system, according to the invitation to bid.

Bidding for the MITSS will be conducted through open competitive bidding procedures using non-discretionary “pass/fail” criterion,” the department announced saying the DND Bids and Award Committee will hold a pre-bid conference on Monday, December 16, 2013.

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The Philippines Army is operating several of these Assunta UAVs. Built by OB Mapua and Partners under the national Self-Reliance Development Program (SRDP). With a wingspan of 120 inches (3 meters) and overall length of 50 inches (1.27 m’), the UAV can fly for two hours using a 40-cc two stroke gasoline engine. It has a maximum speed of 80 knots (148 km/h). Navigation follows GPS waypoints set before takeoff.