Australia has deployed two AP-3C Orion spy planes in Mindanao to help the Philippine government in its ongoing campaign to liberate Marawi City from the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute terror group.
Lockheed AP-3C Orion is a variant of the P-3 Orion used by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) for tasks such as naval fleet support, maritime surveillance, search and survivor supply and anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare.
Australia has upgraded about 18 AP-3C Orions from P-3Cs between 1997 and 2005, with the program taking three years longer than expected due to systems integration problems.
The two spy planes will provide surveillance support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in fighting terror. “I recently spoke with my counterpart Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana about how Australia can assist the Philippines in its fight against extremists.” Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said Thursday.
“We agreed the best way to defeat terrorism in our region is for us to work together,” Payne added. “The regional threat from terrorism, in particular from Daesh and foreign fighters, is a direct threat to Australia and our interests,” she was quoted as saying to Philstar Friday.
“We would gladly welcome any form of foreign assistance allowed under our Constitution to help suppress the rebellion in Marawi,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
“Our defense officials are in close coordination with their Australian counterparts in the latter’s offer of providing surveillance support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he added.
Australia is the second country to confirm providing military hardware to support Filipino troops battling the Maute militants. The first was the US.
Russia has also expressed willingness to support the Philippines in its fight against extremists. Moscow is ready to grant any request for assistance from the Duterte government and share its expertise in fighting terrorists, Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev said in an interview with Net 25 on Thursday.
The battle to retake Marawi – now on its fifth week – has claimed 369 lives, according to official estimates.