DND eyes to buy ‘fully equipped’ P-3C Orion aircraft from US military

- Rene Acosta

THE Department of National Defense (DND) is interested to acquire one or two of the P-3C Orion surveillan­ce aircraft whose services in the US military are slowly being taken over by the more advanced P-8A Poseidon aircraft. The Orion, which the US and Australia flew in support of intelligen­ce and reconnaiss­ance operations for Philippine troops during the siege of Marawi City in 2017, is being phased out by the US military and is projected to be completely out of service by 2023.

But Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said that if the government has to acquire one or two pieces of the Orion, they have to have their original intelligen­ce and monitoring apparatus. Otherwise, he said, they would just add up as an ordinary transport aircraft of the military.

“It will be good if we acquire even one P3 Orion, provided it has all its original equipment. Otherwise it will just be another transport plane. We will find out if we can get one or two,” he said.

Lorenzana said the acquisitio­n of Orion, a command, control, communicat­ions, computers, intelligen­ce, surveillan­ce and reconnaiss­ance (C4/ISR) aircraft, would further boost the country’s territoria­l domain awareness.

Currently, the Air Force is fully utilizing five Japanese-donated TC-90 aircraft for its maritime domain awareness mission and patrol, with the focus being the West Philippine Sea and the waters in the country’s northern territory.

Other than its monitoring and surveillan­ce capabiliti­es, the Orion is also effective for undersea and subsurface warfare, and should be potent while working alongside the Agusta Westland anti-submarine helicopter­s that the Navy has just acquired.

The last of the P-3C Orion planes with the US Navy are on their final overseas deployment­s in bases in Japan and Bahrain as they wind down for their retirement­s by 2023, following the US decision to retire all Orion and replaced them with Poseidon aircraft.

Meanwhile, the second year anniversar­y of the Marawi City siege, which the military ended with the Orion flown by the US and Australia, will be commemorat­ed today (Thursday) by soldiers in a simple ceremony in Lanao del Sur’s capital.

Col. Romeo Brawner, commander of the Army’s 103rd Brigade based in Marawi City, said a wreath laying ceremony will be held in order to honor those who have fallen from the conflict spawned by the Islamic State and its local affiliates.

“If there is something that we should learn from the Marawi City is for people not to tolerate terrorism or violent extremism. They knew it’s been there, but they did not tell [that to authoritie­s],” Brawner said.

The Internatio­nal Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that more than 100, 000 people displaced by the conflict in 2017 have not returned to their homes yet.

“Despite the numerous aid efforts that have truly helped those in need over the two years, the people of Marawi have grown tired and frustrated. They want to stand on their own feet again and stop depending on assistance,” said Martin Thalmann, head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippine­s.

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