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C4ISTAR - Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Army

 As part of the Philippine Army's goal to improve its Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, Reconnaissance (C4ISTAR) capabilities, it has embarked on the acquisition of different types of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) which will provide the organization with platforms that can provide ISTAR capabilities from the higher leadership down to the smallest operating team in the field.

The project, known as the C4ISTAR - Unmanned Aerial Systems Level 1 to 3 Acquisition Project of the Philippine Army, is part of the Horizon 2 phase Priority Projects of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program (RAFPMP).

The project was among those given in-principle approval for implementation by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte in June 2018, although the project has been in the works since 2015.

The project was finally given the greenlight for implementation in early 2019, with the decision by the Department of National Defense (DND) to acquire it under a Government-to-Government (G2G) deal with the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD), which selected Elbit Systems Ltd. as the proponent.

The Elbit Systems Skylark 3 light tactical fixed-wing UAV, which was ordered for the Level 2 UAS requirements.

Project Summary:

Philippine Army C4ISTAR - Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Level 1 to 3 Acquisition Project

Note: Edited as of 05 April 2024:

End User: Philippine Army (multiple units)

Quantity: 4 lots (1 lot for each Level)

Modernization Phase: Horizon 2 phase Priority Projects of RAFPMP

Project ABC: Php8,000,000,000.00

Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government (G2G) deal with Israeli Government

Source of Funding: GAA Funds through AFP Modernization Program Trust Fund, to be paid via Multi-Year Obligation Authority (MYOA)

SARO Release: 

    - SARO-BMB-D-19-003824 dated 22 May 2019 worth Php5,399,625,000.00 (initial and partial amount), released 23 May 2019

Winning Proponent: Elbit Systems Ltd. (Israel)

Product for Delivery: 

    - 503 systems (2 UAVs each) of Elbit Thor Multirotor VTOL Mini UAS (Level 1)
    - 43 systems (3 UAVs each) of Elbit Skylark 1-LEX Mini UAS (Level 1)
    - 7 systems (3 UAVs each) of Elbit Skylark 3 Tactical Small UAS (Level 2)
    - 1 System (4 UAVs) Elbit Hermes 450 Tactical Long Endurance UAS (Level 3)

Contract Price: Php8,000,000,000.00

First post by MaxDefense: 16 March 2018

Searching Hashtag#PAUASAcquisition

* Project Status: Delivery has been completed as of end of 2023, although in-country training supervised by Elbit Systems is still ongoing as of April 2024. Only a few of the Elbit Thor Level 1 UAS have been deployed to specific units, while all others are still under operational control of Army Support Command.



First of all, take note that this is different from the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force. The Philippine Army has its own procurement projects that are separate from those made by the PAF.

For the Philippine Army UAS Acquisition Project, it consists of three (3) different lots:

Lot 1 covers the Tier I / Level 1 Unmanned Aerial Systems, which require for UAS small multirotor vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAVs., and are more applicable for small units from company to battalion level.

The VTOL requirement was only added after the Battle of Marawi happened in 2017, as their value was demonstrated during the conflict.

Lot 2 covers the Tier II / Level 2 Unmanned Aerial Systems, which require for a UAS that uses a fixed-wing light UAV that allows coverage more than 50 kilometers from the operator, while caryring different surveillance payloads.

Lot 3 covers the Tier III / Level 3 Unmaned Aerial System, which utilizes larger UAVs that can fly greater distances, has payload for ISTAR requirements, and are utilized in a larger tactical or even strategic purpose.

As early as 2016, the Department of National Defense (DND) originally decided to have the project covered under a Government-to-Government (G2G) deal with the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD)

Three (3) Israeli companies competed for the selection process. Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd.Elbit Systems Ltd., and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) MALAT Division.

For Level 1, Aeronautics offered the Orbiter 2, Elbit with the Skylark 1-LEX, and IAI MALAT with the Bird Eye 400.

For Level 2, Aeronautics submitted the Orbiter 3, Elbit with the Skylark 3, and IAI MALAT with the Bird Eye 650D.

For Level 3, Aeronautics pushed for the Aerostar TUAV, Elbit with the Hermes 450, and IAI MALAT with the Searcher Mk. III.

Above is the selection made by the Philippine Army's TWG for the UAS Acquisition Project. Three Israeli proponents offering 3 types of UAS during the initial pre-selection phase of the project. A forth category was added later on. Photo exclusively shared to MaxDefense by a source from the DND.

In 2017, the PA TWG revised the procurement plan, and added a requirement for a Level 1 VTOL UAS, while also revising the quantities needed. In this regard, only Elbit Systems submitted a proposal with the THOR multirotor VTOL UAS.

After the finalized evaluation process, the Philippine Army Technical Working Group selected Elbit Systems as the winning proponent, which the Philippine Army leadership supported and submitted to the DND for approval.

As part of the deal with Elbit Systems, the following UAS are to be supplied:

For Level 1, Elbit will supply the THOR multirotor VTOL UAS and the Skylark 1-LEX fixed-wing hand-launched mini UAS.

The Elbit THOR (top) and Skylark 1-LEX (above).

For Level 2, Elbit will supply the Skylark 3 fixed-wing pneumatic-launched light UAS.

For Level 3, Elbit will supply the Hermes 450 fixed-wing, short-take off and landing (STOL) medium altitude long endurance UAS.

The Elbit Skylark 3 light UAV.

The Elbit Hermes 450 MALE UAS.

No dates were provided yet on when these UAS would be delivered, but MaxDefense expects that a phase-by-phase delivery could be done considering the different products could be manufactured and completed at different speeds and dates.

U P D A T E S:

16 March 2016:

MaxDefense first mentioned on the existence of the Philippine Army's Unmanned Aerial Systems Acquistion Project, in a Facebook post that was actually discussing about Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana's statements that the Philippine Army will also be receiving unmanned aerial vehicles.

Back then, we mentioned that the proposed PA UAS Acquisition will have an Approved Budget for Contract (ABC) of Php8.115 billion, and is being planned to be a Government-to-Government deal with Israel.

MaxDefense's Facebook page on 16 March 2018 discussing the Philippine Army's Unmanned Aerial Systems acquisition project. Back then, the ABC was larger although we confirmed that its going to be a G2G with Israel.


28 September 2018:

US company AeroVironment Inc. 
participated in ADAS 2018. The company specializes in small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) including the RQ-11B Raven which is in service with the Philippine Marine Corps, the RQ-12A Wasp, and the RB-20B Puma, which was used by the US military during the Battle of Marawi campaign to feed information to the AFP.

Apparently the company was still trying its best to push its products to the Philippine Army, as well as to other branch services of the AFP especially the Philippine Marines which already uses the RQ-11 Raven.

Sampes of all 3 UAVs were on display in ADAS 2018 @ Stall 1622.

AeroVironment was present in ADAS 2018 defense exhibition in Manila. Photos shared exclusively by MaxDefense community members who attended the exhibition.


01 October 2018:

Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) was also present in the ongoing ADAS 2018 defense exhibition in Manila.

It displayed the Bird Eye 650D, which was displayed in the exhibition grounds.

MaxDefense also mentioned a brief summary of the impending Philippine Army Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) acquisition program, with the following statement:

"Bird Eye 650D, along with the Bird Eye 400 and Searcher Mk. III UAS are offered for the Philippine Army's Unmanned Aerial Systems Tiers 1 to 3 which is an upcoming Horizon 2 project that is already in advance stages of pre-procurement after Senior Leaders decided to go Government-to-Government with Israel for this specific project, although competition is still ongoing between IAI, Aeronautics and Elbit Systems. MaxDefense will discuss more about this project separately in the near future considering the advanced stage of this project."

The IAI display booth during ADAS 2018, which shows the Bird Eye 650D, which was among those offered to the Philippine Army's UAS Acquisition Project.


23 May 2019:

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released the Special Allocation Release Order (SARO) for the initial and partial amount of the project, under the reference no. SARO-BMB-D-19-0003824 dated 22 May 2019 and worth Php5,399,625,000.00.

The SARO can be accessed on the DBM's website HERE.


13-14 June 2019:

A report from Israeli business news outlet Globes came out saying that Elbit Systems Ltd. is close to signing a US$180 million deal with the Philippine Army to "supply Hermes 900, Hermes 450, Skylark 1 and Skylark 3 UAVs".

MaxDefense mentioned in its Facebook post that the report is "partially correct and partially incorrect", while also saying that MaxDefense would discuss further and clarify the report in a blog entry.

The report from Israeli business media outlet Globes saying Elbit is almost done with a US$180 million drone deal with the Philippine Army. Screenshot taken from Globes' English website.


14-15 June 2019:

MaxDefense released a blog entry to finally confirm the existence of such project, and also discussing the project further and in more detail.

This blog entry also clarified the reports made by Israel's Globes Business News which mentioned the impending deal between Elbit Systems Ltd. and the Philippine Army. MaxDefense earlier mentioned that the Israeli report was partially right, and partially incorrect.

The blog entry can be accessed on the link below:

Philippine Army orders Several Levels of Unmanned Aerial Systems from Israel for C4ISTAR Requirements" - first posted on 14 June 2019.

The Elbit Skylark 3 as it was launched from its pneumatic launcher.


07 October 2019:

Elbit Systems confirmed in their page that they were awarded a US$153 million contract to supply a networked multi-array unmanned aerial system array to a Southeast Asian army.

While they did not identify the country, MaxDefense has been reporting for some time  now that the Philippine Army is getting several Tier 1, 2 and 3 UAS from Elbit Systems in a G2G deal between the Philippine and Israeli governments.

US$153 million is approximately Php8 billion. Matches the Project ABC and Contract amount we posted on the Project Details above several months ago. 

Screengrab from Elbit Systems' FB page.


20 August 2020:

Elbit Systems reported that they completed Environmental Qualification Tests on the Thor Mini UAV, before delivery of more than 1,000 units to an Asia-Pacific country.

Elbit was obviously referring the Philippine Army's Thor UAVs, as the Philippines is the only country from the Asia-Pacific region that ordered the type in such numbers.

We decided to copy the article from Elbit Systems' website as they have tendencies to remove their press releases after a few years.


THOR VTOL Completes Environmental Qualification Tests Ahead of Delivery of 1,000 Units
The THOR multi-rotor VTOL meets the requirements of MIL-STD-810

Haifa, Israel, August 16, 2020 – Elbit Systems’ THOR, a multi-rotor Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) mini Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), successfully completed a series of environmental qualification tests ahead of the delivery of more than a thousand of units to an army in Southeast Asia. As announced on October 6, 2019, the Company was awarded a $153 million contract to provide a networked multi-layered UAS array to an army in Southeast Asia, including more than 1,000 THOR VTOL mini-UAS. 

Elbit-Systems’ THOR VTOL mini UAS successfully completed a series of environmental qualification tests

The environmental qualification tests measured the operational durability of the THOR VTOL mini-UAS under a range of extreme environmental conditions and its capability to withstand the physical stress requirements under the MIL-STD-810.  The tests demonstrated the capability of THOR to maintain operability in temperatures varying from minus 40ºC up to 65ºC, withstand hard gusting rain and rough vibrations, and resist penetration and damage from blowing sand and dust.

The tests demonstrated the capability of THOR to resist penetration and damage from blowing sand and dust

The tests demonstrated the capability of THOR to withstand hard gusting rain
The tests demonstrated the capability of THOR to withstand hard gusting rain

The THOR VTOL mini-UAS is designed for surveillance and reconnaissance missions over land and at sea. Electrically propelled, THOR is capable of carrying up to three kg of payloads and has a flight duration capability of up to 75 minutes of operation, a maximal range of 10 kilometers and a flight ceiling of up to 2,000 ft.

THOR assembly line
Photo credits to Elbit Systems.


05 April 2024:

Sources of our parent page MaxDefense Philippines confirmed that Elbit Systems has completed the delivery of all Unmanned Aerial Systems as of end of 2023.

But training to operate the UAS are still ongoing under supervision by technicians from Elbit Systems, and is expected to take longer than planned.

Only a few of the Thor multirotor Level 1 UAS have been deployed with select units, most likely from the Special Operations Command, considering they were the first ones who received training on their operations.

Units from the strategic 1st Brigade Combat Team is also expected to be among the initial beneficiary of these new UAS, as they have been given priority to undertake training.

First edit and release: 23 May 2019
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines / Philippine Defense Resource

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