US giving Philippines reconnaissance airship to monitor West Philippine Sea

The United States government is providing the Philippines with military aid worth USD42 million to boost the country’s maritime surveillance capabilities in face of West Philippine Sea dispute.

“We will add to its capability to put sensors on ships and put an aerostat blimp (non-rigid airship) in the air to see into the maritime space,” US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

The said military aid was first announced by United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations April 8 before starting his Asia-Pacific trip that included travel to Philippines.

Last year the US government announced its five-year Maritime Security Initiative, a commitment to help partner nations like Philippines address common challenges. The initiative has a total budget of US$425-million.

“We’ve just released the first tranche of this money, nearly 80 percent of which is going to the Philippines. There it will help modernize the technology and train staff at the Philippines National Coast Watch Center, enhance an information network to enable the sharing of classified communications between U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii and key Philippines maritime command centers, provide an aerostat reconnaissance platform (airship), and outfit Philippine navy patrol vessels with better sensors so they can see and do more in the region’s waters,” Carter said.