The Philippine Navy test fired its first-ever ship-borne missile, signalling it's ready to 'strike a punch' in disputed waters

Dondi Tawatao/Getty ImagesA team of special warfare troops of the Philippine Navy patrol the coastline with the Philippine Navy ship, BRP Tarlac in the foreground on May 15, 2017 in Casiguran Province, Philippines.
  • The Philippine Navy has test-fired its first ship-borne missile, successfully striking a target roughly six kilometers away.
  • The Israeli-made Spike ER missile is expected to give the Philippine Navy the ability to “strike a punch” at sea.
  • The Philippines faces maritime challenges from China, which is expanding its military presence in the South China Sea, and pirates in the country’s southern waters.

The Philippine Navy has successfully test-fired its first ever ship-borne missile, making it a much more capable force in tense regional waters.

Navy personnel aboard a multipurpose attack craft, or MPAC, operating in waters off Lamao Point in Bataan launched a Spike Extended Range missile at a target six kilometers away, the Inquirer, a local outlet, reported Thursday, citing an announcement by the Philippine Navy.

“The target was hit dead center even if the sea state condition was moderately rough with a wave of at least one meter high but within the normal firing conditions of the missile,” Navy public affairs chief Commander Jonathan Zata told reporters.

The test was part of a Sea Acceptance Test for the missile system first acquired earlier this year.

The Philippines purchased the Spike ER missile system, which launches short-range surface-to-surface missiles, from Israel in late April for $US11.6 million. The systems are expected to be installed on three fast MPAC gunboats, while its warships will be armed with longer-range missiles.

“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,” a Philippine commander told Reuters in early May.

The Philippines faces threats ranging from China’s militarization of the South China Sea to pirates in its southern waters. The country is preparing to spend $US2.41 billion over the next five years to obtain warships, drones, fighter jets, radar systems, helicopters, and surveillance planes to bolster its capabilities.

The test-firing of the Spike ER missile system comes just a few weeks after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to “defend our interest” in the South China Sea. China has expanded its military presence there, despite an international arbitration ruling two years ago that discredited China’s vast claims to the highly contested waterway.

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