Detailing Further the Spotted MQ-1C Gray Eagle in Zamboanga City

It is a fully-known fact that the United States Military deployed several of their known Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or “drones” as described by a typical citizen in the country especially in the City of Zamboanga which is perfectly situated in the Western part of Mindanao, covering much of the island group plagued with multiple insurgents primarily the radical Moro terrorists that seek to derail peace and order on this part of the country.

Furthermore, their presence has already been discussed in [our previous article] wherein additional details are also dealt on especially about the prospect UAV procurement projects that the Philippine Air Force undertook with their hardware originated from Israel.

In this article, we will discuss the MQ-1C Gray Eagle further as its recent spotting made by a netizen originated from the Ciudad Hermosa de Zamboanga clouts many comments on threads describing it as something other than the main one described even to the point that [other posters] created an unnecessary trivial content which leaves its viewers clueless about the platforms mentioned without diving into the details.

So, let’s get this one started.

Link for the actual video clip here.
On the video provided by the main poster named Charles Lee on a Facebook Group named Zamboanga Drone Enthusiast (Zambo UAV Club), the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was seen doing its final approach into the runway given its descending altitude and landing gear retracted down.

The video was taken from an urban area at the proximity of the runway which is currently shared by both the Zamboanga International Airport and Edwin Andrews Airbase which is the key Philippine Air Force installation in the region and also the one that sheltered several forces from the United States military that flies these UAVs.

On the comments provided on the main post on our Facebook page, their description of the aircraft ranges from the newly-procured Philippine Air Force Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 which are both procured from Israel’s IAI or Israel Aerospace Industries down to an absurd description of it being the MQ-9 Reaper UAV while others have it knowledgeably known it as it is.

While others have it almost-correctly describe it as the MQ-1 Predator, let it be known that there is a distinction between different variants of this Unmanned Aerial Vehicle wherein the difference can be clearly seen on its fuselage along with other details that will be discussed regarding this topic, giving insight about the tools employed by the United States military on its counterinsurgency assistance in the country.

Hence, this will provide the necessary information provided that will give its respective distinction that clarifies its difference from other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in both the United States and the Philippines currently use, as well as getting more grasp on the capabilities that this surveillance platform possesses and its use in keeping peace and order in the country’s volatile southern part.

Click the image to enlarge.
Before discussing the MQ-1C Gray Eagle further, kindly observe in detail the difference between four images depicting four different Unmanned Aerial Vehicles as indicated above.

The first image on the top left originated from a Youtube Channel named Aviation News and Analysis is the cigar-shaped fuselage of the Hermes 450 from Israel Aerospace Industries or IAI in which the Philippine Air Force already received several of such units for their own fleet of surveillance aircraft, with its tail wing (rudder/elevator) portion pointed upwards with its size being smaller than the other following unmanned aerial vehicles.

The second image on the top right is from the Aviation International News website wherein it shows the Hermes 900’s design attributes wherein the UAV, just like its Hermes 450 cousin, is originated from the same manufacturer from Israel. 

While it has a bulge on the frontal part of the fuselage that may go similar to the MQ-1 Predator, MQ-1C Gray Eagle, and even the MQ-9 Reaper as it carries on its main components like its essential sensors, navigational systems, and controls received from a ground station, its main distinction goes similarly with the Hermes 450 as both UAVs shares similar upward tail wing which is different from the two other images depicting the MQ-1 and the MQ-1 Gray Eagle.

Both the Predator and the Gray Eagle belong to the same family of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles wherein they are produced by the United States’ General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, with the latter being an upgrade from the latter with the United States Army being its primary user to date.

At the surface, the physical difference that can be clearly seen between these two platforms are the bulge seen near the tail of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle aircraft which houses an improved power plant that keeps it flying, preferably at the capabilities far better than the original MQ-1 Predator obtains during its tenure in the United States Air Force.

Discussions in detail between the Gray Eagle and the Predator will be provided as we read along with this write-up to gather deeper information regarding the upgrades that integrated on the MQ-1C along with the discussion of the overall developments of the greater MQ-1 family of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles serving the United States Military.

The basic specifications of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle, with armaments
and other features discussed separately.
From PDF file.
The details shown above provide an insight into the capabilities of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle possesses as far as its surveillance operation is concerned, giving real-time updates on the ground situation that helps give an advantage for an armed force such as those for the United States, in coping with its counterterrorism activities.

This type of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is capable to carry munitions, to be specific the AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles which is also a feature that its older cousin the MQ-1 Predator possess, wherein it gives its operators the discretion to fire on the target upright when it is needed, although not applicable in the Philippine setting since foreign parties can't engage directly on local-related affairs as prescribed on the 1987 Constitution. 

Its propulsion system is comprised of the Thielert Centurion heavy-fuel diesel engine which is basically the one that is being used on small civilian aircraft such as the Cessna 172 where the one was usually utilized for basic flying courses of aspiring civilian student pilots that seeks a career opportunity in the aviation industry as well as other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles like the TAI Anka of the Turkish Aerospace Industries which has the Centurion 2.0 engine as opposed to the Gray Eagle's 1.7.

Such an engine is different from what the Hermes 900 utilizes which is the ROTAX 914 of Bombardier Recreational Products which is a four-stroke, four-cylinder 114HP engine that has applications in multiple light helicopters and rotary aircraft which are actually can be found on earlier variants of the MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

With regards to its payload, it is known to be capable of carrying four AGM-114 HELLFIRE Missiles which makes the Gray Eagle lethal, wherein this missile was first produced with anti-armor use in mind until it became the known warhead that can blast high-value targets that came with the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and is also used in other platforms such as the U.S. Navy's AH-1W SuperCobra Attack Helicopter.

Moret Field, Edwin Andrews Airbase, Zamboanga International Airport, KCC Mall de Zamboanga, C-130H, Philippine Air Force
A certain C-130H aircraft in Edwin Andrews Airbase as seen from
KCC Mall de Zamboanga - a preferred place for planespotters.
From Pitz Defense Analysis archives
After understanding the drones deployed in Zamboanga City, this discussion will not be complete without understanding the airbase in the city which it was deployed wherein it has a runway that was also shared by an adjacent airport nearby which serves as Zamboanga City's primary access to its other major cities and other hubs in the Philippines aside from its seaport which is just nearby its downtown area.

The airbase was formed on December 6, 1956, by the Philippine Air Force in the honor of Colonel Edwin Andrews who killed in an air crash on May 18, 1947, although the runway itself was older than the airbase itself, of which it was once named "San Roque Airfield" named after an adjacent barangay that the strip was constructed by the Japanese and eventually named as Moret Field by the personnel of the United States Marine Corps landed in the airstrip after Lieutenant Colonel Paul Moret, a World War 2 marine aviator wherein, like Andrews, was died in an air crash during the war.

Since its formation as an airbase adjacent to a nearby airport that shares a single runway, the Edwin Andrews Airbase serves as the main base of operations for the Philippine Air Force which its jurisdiction covering most of Western Mindanao, augmenting other branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines assigned in the area especially at the nearby Western Mindanao Command in Barangay Calarian, Zamboanga City in which its role gets more highlighted as this part of the country is known for operations involving Moro radical bandits and separatists as highlighted in recent urban-related conflicts of the 2013 Zamboanga Siege and the 2017 Battle of Marawi alongside jungle-based skirmishes that take place occasionally.

Its location in the country as well as in Southeast Asia is seen as an ideal military access point for both the airbase and the adjacent military command base as it has the proximity of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi on the southwest as well as on places like Maguindanao and Marawi a bit Southeast beyond Moro Gulf as well as the grasp of the Sulu Sea which borders Malaysia and also an area of concern for Indonesia, so much that Trilateral Air Patrol Operations between these nations and the Philippines took place on 2017.

With the ongoing counterterrorism operations that both the Philippines and the United States are fighting, as well as Mindanao still being the volatile part of the country with its ongoing peace and security concerns involving Moro separatists and radical bandit groups, Edwin Andrews Airbase can still be seen as an area for the United States to deploy their unmanned aerial vehicles such as the MQ-1C Gray Eagle which was a sight to see for the locals at the time it takes off and lands on that single runway it shares with Zamboanga International Airport.

Moret Field when it was captured by American troops after
Japanese Occupation.
Obtained via Zamboanga de Antes
Facebook Group
Given the usual sight of unmanned aerial vehicles from the United States military taking off and landing in the shared runway for both the Zamboanga International Airport and Edwin Andrews Airbase, one might not help to see the difference that those platforms have with the ones procured by the Philippine Air Force as they looked the same from an untrained eye.

With this comes additional information and details about the difference between unmanned aerial vehicles that both the Philippine Air Force and the United States military employs in which these assets have the primary aim of attaining surveillance operations as part of counterterrorism activities that these forces have that is essential in dealing, if not thwarting possible threats that the Moro separatists and terrorist bandits pose against the safety and welfare of the Filipino public in Mindanao.

As the Philippine Air Force obtain both the Israeli-made Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 Unmanned Aerial Systems, it may not be surprising if one may be seen on the airbase especially if a military operation of the Armed Forces requires the presence of these surveillance assets that augments the MQ-1C Gray Eagles that the United States already deployed there, in the essence that the ongoing counterterrorism efforts will be effectively carried out, eventually paving for the peace and development that the people of Mindanao deserves to have.

Alongside the current operations in the Edwin Andrews Airbase, its history is also worthy to have a discussion as it goes, along with Zamboanga International Airport, the essence of having an established presence of the Philippine Air Force in Western Mindanao that can be traced back in the 1950s with the runway being traced back before when it was a Japanese airstrip which was successfully captured by United States forces of which they still used it until today, alongside civilian airliners carrying people in and out of the city as well as military assets of the Philippine Armed Forces.

Hence, it will be a nice thing to see more of these platforms for as long as the United States military still have these surveillance assets deployed in the City which goes along with their counterterrorism efforts and also with the future prospects of having more air assets of the Philippine Air Force seen on the Airbase as their presence evokes the security and assurance that the citizenry needs on the volatile, southern part of the country.

(c) 2021 PDA.

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