THE United States will be bringing sophisticated war materiel to be used by US and Philippine forces during the annual Balikatan military exercise that will start on April 4, an official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) disclosed on Monday.
Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson, Exercise Balikatan 2016 spokesperson, also said US troops will be using 55 aircraft that included Osprey and C-130 carriers.
Missile destroyers like the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a light multiple rocket launcher mounted on a standard Army Medium Tactical Vehicle (MTV) truck frame, will be used during the live fire exercises in Crow Valley, Tarlac.
Developed by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control under an advanced concept technology demonstration (ACTD) program, HIMARS is a highly-mobile artillery rocket system that has the firepower of MLRS [Multiple Launch Rocket System] on a wheeled chassis.
It was designed to engage and defeat artillery, air defense concentrations, and trucks, light armor and personnel carriers, as well as support troop and supply concentrations.
Sayson said HIMARS will be brought to Palawan as part of troop deployment.
He added that mobility or distributed exercises will be conducted in Palawan. He clarified that the drill has nothing to do with what he described as an “emerging threat” in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“This [Balikatan] is on its 32nd iteration. We have been doing these exercises every year so we would like to make it clear that this is just any other exercise. We just added some good stuff especially the mobility exercises and the HIMARS coming in as part of the live fire exercises,” he pointed out.
At least 3,773 Filipino soldiers and 4, 904 of their American counterparts will join the war games. Australia, which has a limited participation in the drills, will be bringing in 80 soldiers and an aircraft.
Throughout the exercise, Philippine and US forces will work together to enhance maritime law enforcement throughout the archipelago. Techniques, tactics, and procedures will be enhanced as a critical part of the interoperability of Philippine forces.
Military service members from both countries will also conduct combined simulation supported events and operational events in three main commands of the AFP (Western Command, Northern Luzon Command, and Southern Luzon Command), and other major Philippine military camps such as Crow Valley, Fort Magsaysay, Clark Air Field, Subic Bay, Palawan and Panay to improve their ability to work together, partnering in capabilities and plan follow-up operations.
Military personnel from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India, Japan, South Korea, and Timor-Leste have been invited to observe this year’s exercise.