The Philippine Navy’s maritime surveillance capabilities received a big boost on Tuesday with the acquisition of a new 28M Class Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) donated by the Joint United States Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG).
On Tuesday, Col. Ernest C. Lee, chief of the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group in the Philippines, formally transferred TARS to Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Joseph Ronald Mercado in a turn-over ceremony at the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) in Zambales.
The TARS is a self-sustained, rapidly deployable, unmanned lighter-than-air platform which can rise to an altitude of 5,000 feet while tethered by a single cable.
The TARS includes a weather station that provides telemetry data for the monitoring of ambient temperature, pressure, wind speed and other pertinent parameters to successfully operate the system.
It is expected to enhance the PN’s capability in Maritime Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance by detecting maritime and air traffic within the country’s coastal waters using sensors.
PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said the TARS would also be utilized in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) operations.
Lincuna also said that 16 Philippine Naval Information and Communication Technology Center personnel would undergo a six-week training program with JUSMAG personnel at NETC to learn assembly, handling, operation, maintenance, and troubleshooting of the TARS.
The NETC in Zambales is the staging point for the TARS as it is the largest PN base with flat terrain, and fits the minimum requirement of 300 square feet for the launching of the system.
The US Embassy in Manila said the donation was made through the US Maritime Security Initiative (MSI), a 425-million-dollar program by the US government to assist Southeast Asian nations in addressing maritime challenges. The program was launched in 2016 in response to the aggressiveness of China in the South China Sea.
Other countries granted by the MSI are Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, and Taiwan.
According to the US White House, the Philippines will receive a total of $140 million from the MSI and will transfer equipment from the US excess defense articles.