US Marines Deploy MQ-9 Reaper Drones to the Philippines

US Reaper drones have supported the Philippines in the South China Sea

US Marines Corps MQ-9A Reaper Drones are now operating in the Philippines as the US continues to beef up its military presence in the country, USNI News reported on Monday.

The Reaper drones, which can be armed with powerful Hellfire missiles, have been operating out of the Philippines since the spring at the request of Manila as the two nations are increasing intelligence sharing.

A spokesperson for the I Marine Expeditionary Force told USNI that the Marines Corps “will employ unarmed MQ-9As to provide reconnaissance and surveillance in support of the development of intelligence sharing between the US and our Philippine allies.”

US Reaper drones have been deployed to support the Philippines in the South China Sea, where tensions are soaring between Manila and Beijing over disputed rocks and reefs in the waters. The US is strongly backing the Philippines in the dispute and has even committed itself to intervene if the situation turns into a shooting war.

Map that shows the overlapping claims to the South China Sea

Whenever there is an incident between Chinese and Philippines boats in the South China Sea, the US takes the opportunity to remind China that the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty applies to attacks on Philippine boats in the disputed waters.

According to USNI, US Reaper drones conducted five sorties over the South China Sea in March to support “critical maritime domain awareness and overwatch of the Second Thomas Shoal,” referring to a disputed reef that’s been a major source of tensions between Manila and Beijing.

The Philippines has a World War II-era warship that’s grounded on Second Thomas Shoal that it uses as a base of operations for the area. China often intercepts Philippine boats trying to resupply the ship, and sometimes the encounters end in collision or with Chinese vessels firing water cannons.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.