President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. Marcos on Wednesday, April 26, witnessed the live-fire sea drills involving the sinking of an old Philippines Navy ship, hoping the country could benefit from enhanced cooperation with the United States.
During the drills some 2.8 kilometers from the Naval Education Training Doctrine Command (NETDC) in San Antonio, Zambales, U.S. and Philippine combat units participated in a combined joint littoral live-fire exercise, culminating the field training event for Balikatan 2023.
Approximately 1,400 Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Coast Guardsmen from both countries took part in the Combined Joint Littoral Live Fire Exercise (CJLLFX), which involved detecting, identifying, targeting and engaging a target ship using a variety of ground and air-based weapons systems.
The exercise featured U.S. and Philippine weapons platforms delivering coordinated fires on a target ship, a decommissioned Philippine Navy corvette towed into Philippine territorial waters.
The bilateral weapons systems used in the war games consisted of U.S. and Philippine artillery, High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and the Avenger air defense systems.
State-of-the-art combat aircrafts were also mobilized including AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, Philippine Air Force FA-50 Golden Eagle fighter-attack aircraft, F-16 Fighting Falcons, U.S. Marine F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, and the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command AC- 130 Spectre gunship.
One of the most anticipated weapons from the U.S. arsenal was the HIMARS, a full-spectrum, combat-proven, all-weather, 24/7, lethal and responsive, wheeled precision strike weapons system.
HIMARS is a C-130 air transportable wheeled launcher mounted on a 5-ton Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles XM1140A1 truck chassis organic/assigned to Field Artillery Brigades.
Built to support an expeditionary, lethal, survivable and tactically mobile force, the HIMARS carries one launch pod containing either six Guided MLRS (GMLRS)/MLRS rockets or one Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missile.
During the littoral live-fire event, a U.S. Marine Corps command and control and sensor network enabled the various firing platforms to sense their target, develop firing solutions and deliver precision integrated fires against the target vessel.
According to Filipino and American military officials, the training event represented a tangible demonstration of the U.S.-Philippine commitment to strengthen military capabilities and interoperability to meet shared modern-day security challenges.
Balikatan, a Tagalog term that means “shoulder-to-shoulder” or “sharing the load together,” is the largest annual exercise between the two allies and 2023 marks its 38th iteration and the largest iteration to date.
It provides an opportunity for the two armed forces to enhance cooperation, increase capabilities and improve interoperability in conflict situation and disaster response.
A focus point in Balikatan 2023 was bilateral integration of command and control, sensors and multi-domain fires.
Approximately 17,600 participants are taking part in the exercise, developing interoperability and enhancing bilateral capabilities in the areas of maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban and aviation operations, cyber defense, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness.
Among key Philippine officials who attended were AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Andres Centino, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, Zambales 2nd District Rep. Doris Maniquiz and Zambales Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.
For the US side, the attendees were Ambassador of the US to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Lindsey Ford, and US Exercise Director Lt. Gen. William Jurney.
The Philippines is a key U.S. ally and the largest recipient of U.S. military assistance, equipment, and training in the region.
The U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty was signed in 1951 and is America’s longest standing defense treaty in the Indo-Pacific region.