BOOSTED CAPABILITY. Personnel of the Puerto Princesa City, Palawan-based Western Command pose with a ScanEagle unmanned aerial system on Tuesday (Oct. 25, 2022). Aside from conducting intensified maritime air intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in northeastern Palawan, these air assets will be particularly deployed to protect and secure the Malampaya Natural Gas-To-Power Project in Wescom's area of responsibility. (Photo courtesy of Wescom)

MANILA – The Puerto Princesa City, Palawan-based Western Command’s (Wescom) capability to protect the vast areas under its jurisdiction, including the Malampaya Natural Gas-To-Power Project (MNGPP), got a much-needed boost with the operationalization and activation of its ScanEagle unmanned aerial system (UAS).

In a statement Tuesday night, Wescom spokesperson Maj. Cheryl Tindog said the ScanEagle UAS codenamed "Alpha Flight" had completed its site set-up, series of ground runs, and test flights earlier in the day.

"With the entire system now in place, the 'Alpha Flight' of the Maritime Unmanned Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron (MUARS) 71 headed by its mission commander, Lt. Joecarnine B. Pulangas, will be placed under the operational control of Joint Task Force Malampaya," she said.

Aside from conducting intensified maritime air intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in northeastern Palawan, these air assets will be particularly deployed to protect and secure the MNGPP in Wescom's area of responsibility.

"We are beefing up the capabilities of the Joint Task Force Malampaya to ensure that we can protect the country's crown jewel, the MNGPP, from all forms of threats," Wescom commander, Vice Admiral Alberto B. Carlos, said.

Wescom's Joint Task Force Malampaya secures the country's energy and economy in countless ways, including reducing oil imports, ensuring a more stable supply of cleaner energy from an indigenous resource, and meeting up to 20 percent of the country’s energy needs.

"In doing so, we can safeguard the MNGPP's unimpeded operations and sustain the country's energy requirements," Carlos said.

With the ScanEagle UAS now in their inventory, he said they would have more "persistent eyes" for Joint Task Force Malampaya's operations.

The ScanEagle UAS was acquired through the initiative of the Philippine Navy in coordination with the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) - Philippines.

The US Department of Defense granted the system to the Philippine Navy under the authority of Section 333 of the "Authority to Build Capacity" and provided the training, and equipment to national security forces of partner nations to conduct maritime and border security and intelligence operations.

The Philippine Fleet, through the Naval Air Wing, deployed one UAS together with its flight crew to Wescom joint operations area on August 15.

PAF combat air controllers join Aussie Exercise Havoc Strike 2022

As this developed, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Tuesday night announced that six of its combat air controllers (CACs) have participated in Exercise Havoc Strike 2022 held at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base William Town, New South Wales from September 3 to 18.

"This activity was RAAF 4 Squadron's premier close air support (CAS) and tactical level training exercise in support of the combat control mission-specific training objectives. The training focused on preparing combat control teams for the application of CAS, rules of engagement, and laws of armed conflict. The PAF sent six CACs who underwent several trainings provided by the RAAF’s aircrew and joint terminal attack controllers," PAF spokesperson Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo said in a statement.

Exercise Havoc Strike 2022 enabled the participants to experience controlling and doing live and simulated CAS with the 4 Squadron PC-21, 76 Squadron Hawk 127, and F-35A (5th generation aircraft).

"With the experience and lessons learned, the PAF participants can better identify future requirements that they can recommend in line with the PAF’s combat air control capability development," Castillo added.

Aside from equipping PAF personnel with knowledge and skills, the activity also presented an opportunity for the Air Force to strengthen international engagement and interoperability with its allies. (PNA)