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Thursday, May 30, 2024

More ‘complex’, operations-driven, Balikatan begins today

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The expanded Balikatan military exercises between the US and Philippine militaries that will be launched today will be “more complex” and operations driven.

“This Balikatan exercise is distinctive due to its scale and evolving nature, adapting to contemporary security challenges,” AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said in a message to defense reporters.

Col. Padilla also said that the drills shall be more of an operational rather than tactical level. It will last until May 18 and will be participated in by over 16,000 troops from both countries.

It will also be first time that the Philippine Coast Guard will join Balikatan, according to Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Rear Admiral Armando Balilo.

He said the PCG would participate in the joint interoperability exercises among the Philippines, Australia, France, and the United States.

“The (PCG) will deploy four 44-meter multi-role response vessels (MRRVs) and two larger patrol vessels that regularly conduct maritime security operations in the country’s exclusive economic zones (EEZs),” Balilo said.

Members of the Coast Guard Special Operations Force will also join the Balikatan.

Balikatan 2024 executive agent Col. Michael Logico said on Tuesday that a number of the country’s vessels would be on full display during the military drills.

The Philippine ships that will be deployed are the FF-151 (missile frigate BRP Antonio Luna), LD-602 (BRP Davao Del Sur), PS-16 (offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz), FA-50s (light jet fighters), Super Tucanos (A-29B close air support aircraft), Black Hawks (S-70is combat utility helicopters), and the Philippine Air Force’s Israeli-made SPYDER air defense missile batteries.

The US, on the other hand, will deploy its fifth generation F-22 “Raptor,” the F-35 “Lightning II,” AH 64 “Apache” attack helicopters, AC-130 “Spooky” gunships, and at least two naval ships.

The AFP official further said that the Balikatan exercises are designed to bolster the interoperability of the Philippines as well as create a much stronger alliance and cooperation with other nations in terms of regional security.

He also said that their focus remains on bolstering external defense capabilities and fostering peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Balikatan is a demonstration of combat readiness and interoperability with the Philippines’ treaty allies such as the United States, Australia, France, and other Southeast Asian nations.

Colonel Padilla nevertheless pointed out that the military exercise is not in expectation of any peculiar actions by any nation. Its main objective is to enhance the readiness of every participating nation during the drills.

“We remain vigilant in the face of regional challenges, the exercise is not explicitly tied to any particular country’s actions,” the AFP spokesperson said.

“Its primary objective is to enhance collective security and readiness among participating nations,” she added.

The military drills will be held in Palawan and Batanes and in the exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

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