Modern Eagles over the Philippines – US Navy or PAF?

Modern Eagles over the Philippines - a strange track

Modern Eagles over the Philippines! The question is who flies them, the US Navy or the Philippine Air Force. Let’s have a look at them.


Worldwide Flight Surveillance

ADS-B with FlightAware

A screen shot of our FlightAware ADS-B station

There are two worldwide operating companies, FlightRadar24 and FlightAware that operate thousands of observations around the globe. Both offer free and paid professional accounts for websites and  smartphone apps.
For now 7 years we host receiver stations for both companies. Often times we use our stations to check, if the flights of our guests are on time. Sometimes we also check for interesting flights or roam around.
Surprises are also on our observation menu!

Modern Eagles over the Philippines - a strange track

Modern Eagles over the Philippines – a strange track on our FlightRadar24 ADS-B station

Such tracks we observe sometimes over western Mindanao and western Leyte. But what the heck will fly in circles during more than 8 hours?

Modern Eagles over the Philippines – hide or discover?

First we did not understand what we saw. A “B350” is a Beechcraft 300 Super King Air 350. This is a modern 2 engine turbo-prop business aircraft. But we think that you don’t want to celebrate an 8 hours party circling over Lanao del Sur. In 2017 Marawi, the capital of the province of Lanao del Sur, had been the hot-spot of the Marawi crisis.

Therefore we thought that somebody is interested in gathering information in this region. The answer we found in the description of the plane on our FlightRadar24 screen.

Modern Eagles over the Philippines - the Squawk!


The Squawk  is a code attributed to any flight. This is a 4 digit code that helps air traffic controllers (ATC) to identify the aircraft on their screens. This code is manually entered into the transponder of almost every aircraft.

ADS-B Transponder
Some of these codes are reserved. especially when you see a 7xxx code, you know that there is something special ongoing. These 7xxx codes go from 7500 for HIJACKED to 7700 for EMERGENCY. Some of these codes are country-specific.

The 73xx code in the Philippines means: I am a MILITARY!

This makes sense! Our crazy bird over Lanao del Sur is a drone. We can understand that the government wants to keep an eye on this region. Interesting is that FlightAware does not report these flights on their maps. Since we operate a FlightAware ADS-B station, we can find these codes in our own raw data. For instance you can only see them on FlightRadar24.

Whose Drone is it?

The Squawk codes 73xx are assigned by the USA. Just recently the USA sold again some of these drones to the Philippines. These are Boeing Insitu ScanEagle.

Boeing Insitu ScanEagle

Boeing Insitu ScanEagle

But this isn’t our drone. It is much too slow. Maximum speed is 80 kn (92 mph, 148 km/h) and cruise speed: 60 kn (69 mph, 111 km/h). When we check the flight profile of our drone, we can see that its speed is between 170 and 400 kn.

Drone flight profile

Drone flight profile

Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton

Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton So we rather think that it is a Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton. This drone has much higher speed ranges. Maximum speed is 320 kn (391 mph, 575 km/h). These drones are only operated by the USA and Australia. It might be that our drone is a similar Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawka as shown in the title photo. Then we could even explain the few speed spike because maximum speed is 340 kn (391 mph, 629 km/h).

It might also be another kind of modern, speedy drone. Interesting is its ability to hide its real type. 

If someone sees such a bird, we would be glad to get a short report, maybe with a photo and location.

Modern Eagles over the Philippines – we prefer the Philippine Eagle

Philippine Eagle

Philippine Eagle

The Philippine Eagle is one of the world’s largest, most powerful birds of prey. The Philippine Eagle inhabits montane forests – mostly in steep and rugged mountains. Its diet varies depending on the availability of prey on different islands. Their primary prey species is the Philippine flying lemur, although they also hunt palm civets, monkeys, snakes, monitor lizards and sometimes other birds of prey.
You can observe this beautiful bird soaring in the skies of  Leyte, Luzon, Mindanao, and Samar. The majority of the population is found on Mindanao.

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