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After BrahMos, Philippines will buy India’s ALH MK III helicopters to counter China

As it prepares to counter China, the Philippines is buying military hardware from India, including the BrahMos missile and the ALH helicopter

The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile gave the India-Philippines defence relations the needed boost. The two nations have been openly courting each other since the deal.

The Philippines has shown a keen interest in the military equipment India has to offer, including the Advanced Light Helicopter Mk II and the indigenously built warships. The Coast Guards of the two countries signed their first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which paved the way for more information sharing in the maritime domain.

Prior to the MoU between the coast guards, India raised concerns about Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. India explicitly requested China to recognise the 2016 tribunal decision seven years after the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In a joint statement in June 2023, the foreign ministers of India and the Philippines urged China to follow the South China Sea arbitration ruling from 2016 and end its long-standing policy of neutrality regarding conflicting territorial claims in Southeast Asia.

The Indian Coast Guard, after signing the MoU, said: “Indian Coast Guard and Philippines Coast Guard have signed an MoU for enhancing maritime cooperation in the presence of ICG Chief Rakesh Pal and his Filipino counterpart Admiral Artemio M Abu yesterday (August 22). The first-ever bilateral meeting between maritime agencies signifies dedication to strengthening professional bonds.”

Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Mumaran, while talking about the development to a Filipino TV channel, said: “Maritime is a bridge that connects our very ocean-reliant economies…. We have identified maritime affairs as the focus of our relationships. There has been no structured cooperation between the coastguards.”

A Filipino Coast Guard chief was in India for the first time on this trip. In Goa, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the Indian Coast Guard carried out a customer demonstration flight on the ALH MK III.

An adaptation of the domestic Dhruv Helicopter is the ALH Mk III. The Indian Navy and Coast Guard have both adopted the Mk III model. It is a 5.5-ton multi-role, multi-mission, and adaptable helicopter.

The Coast Guard can maintain vigilance along Indian coastal areas thanks to ALH Mk III’s advanced surveillance radar, which can detect and identify ships and boats up to a range of 120 nautical miles.

With the help of its electro-optical sensor, it can detect even the smallest vessels up to 30 nautical miles away. These helicopters may do long-range Search and Rescue missions in addition to maritime reconnaissance. A heavy machine gun is also added to the ALH MK III for use in law enforcement operations.

In addition, the chief of the Philippine Coast Guard went to Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) to “see the Indian shipbuilding industry and how Indian Coast Guard ships are made.” The group from the Philippine Coast Guard went to Goa to see the Indian Coast Guard Offshore Patrol Vessel Sujeet and was able to see both the ship’s “multi-role capabilities” and design.

The MoU will also pave the way for information sharing for better Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). Chinese militia vessels in the South China Sea becoming a menace for regional commercial vessels is one such example.

Experts see this burgeoning friendship as a sign of India being ready to take a more assertive role in the Indo-Pacific region.


Philippines countering China’s Gray-Zone tactics

In the midst of a potentially dangerous standoff with China over the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, the Philippines Coast Guard expressed interest in Indian helicopters and surface ships.

The Chinese Coast Guard fired a water cannon at a Philippine Coast Guard ship delivering gasoline, food, water, and other supplies for its military soldiers stationed at the Second Thomas Shoal, putting the two nations’ ties in peril.

The Second Thomas Shoal is more than 1,000 km away from China’s closest major landmass, Hainan Island, and roughly 200 km away from the Philippine Islands of Palawan.

The agreement was signed as India joined a chorus of nations denouncing China’s aggression and invasion into the West Philippine Sea, which Beijing says belongs to it and is a portion of the Philippine exclusive economic zone. Read more in this EurAsian Times report to learn more about Chinese Grey Zone strategies.

The Philippines claimed to have finished a resupply operation to its grounded cruiser on a contested territory in the South China Sea on August 21. This came two weeks after the Philippines had to abandon a similar attempt due to Chinese hostility. The Philippines Coast Guard chief was in India at the time. The Chinese Maritime Militia attempted to “block, harass, and interfere,” according to the Philippines task force on the South China Sea, but the mission was still successful.