Philippines boosts sea deterrent with first ever navy missiles

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine has completed the purchase of its first-ever ship-borne missile systems, boosting its maritime deterrent as part of a military modernization program, defense and navy officials said on Wednesday.

The Israeli-made Spike ER missiles were fitted on locally manufactured gunboats, known as multi-purpose attack craft, said Arsenio Andolong, defense ministry spokesman. It is unclear when the short-range surface-to-surface, surface-to-air missile systems will become operational.

A senior naval commander said the Philippines would now be more of a force in patrolling the South China Sea and its pirate-plagued southern waters.

“It will be a deterrent because, this time, we have a credible armament that can strike a punch whether the target is a small or large ship,” said the commander, who declined to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The missiles have a maximum range of eight km (5 miles).

The Philippines is paying $11.6 million in total for the system and the missiles will be installed on three boats from its fleet of small, fast gunboats.

Its warships, which include two South Korean-made frigates, will be armed with advanced, longer-range missiles.

The Philippines has allocated 125 billion peso ($2.41 billion) over the next five years to acquire frigates, fighter jets, helicopters, surveillance planes, drones and radar systems.

Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel