The U.S. formally delivered two new Cessna 208B (C-208B) Grand Caravan Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) during a handover ceremony on Thursday, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) said in a statement.
The delivery of the aircraft is part of a $33 million package through the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act Building Partnership Capacity Program, to provide equipment and training to improve Philippine counterterrorism response capability.
USPACOM Deputy Commander, Lt. Gen. Bryan Fenton joined U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim at the ceremony. “The U.S.-Philippine alliance is one of our most enduring, and the bilateral relationship has been a cornerstone of stability in the region for decades. This C208 event is just one example of our partnership and shared commitment to stopping the spread of violent extremism in the region,” said Fenton.
Over the past decade the U.S. has provided more than $179 million in counterterrorism equipment and training, including small arms, ammunition, communication tools, and surveillance equipment. The U.S. has also provided reconnaissance aircraft and pilot training, uniforms and body armor, combat rubber raiding crafts, night vision devices, rockets, and unmanned aerial systems.
Arrival of the C-208B ISR aircraft provides the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with technologically advanced ISR capability in support of counterterrorism operations. The ISR capability includes line-of-sight live data and air-to-ground info streaming.
Delivery of the aircraft comes amidst ongoing conflicts in Marawi between the AFP and local militant extremist groups.
Since the beginning of the conflict in late May 2017, U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) have been assisting the AFP with ongoing operations in Marawi mainly by providing information and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assistance to AFP commanders in their fight against Maute and Abu Sayyaf Group militants.
U.S. SOF have been providing support to the southern Philippines at the request of several Filipino administrations for many years.
Since 2002, the U.S. and Philippines have also maintained a Mutual Logistics Support Agreement which, during the recent conflicts in Marawi, has allowed the AFP to swiftly request and acquire material from the U.S.
In addition to equipment and training, the U.S. has also provided support for improving the infrastructure at Philippine military installations. Over the last 10 years, USPACOM has invested $14.6 million in construction projects, with 48 projects completed or underway. All projects support bilateral training objectives and capability development.
The C-280B aircraft flew to Edwin Andrews AB (EAAB) in Zamboanga, Philippines after the ceremony and in-country flight training for the aircraft is slated to begin on August 1.
In coordination with allies and partners such as the Philippines, USPACOM is committed to enhancing stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region by promoting security cooperation, encouraging peaceful development, responding to contingencies, and deterring aggression.