President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Wednesday witnessed the combined joint littoral live fire exercise of the Philippines and United States armed forces in Zambales as part of their Balikatan Exercise.
The exercise also included the sinking of target ship Philippine Navy's (PN) BRP Pangasinan (PS-31), a World War II-era corvette decommissioned in 2021.
The vessel, positioned 12 nautical miles off the coastal waters of San Antonio, was treated as an adversarial vessel and targeted to be sunk.
Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. was beside Marcos as he watched the exercise.
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 bilateral weapons systems used in the war games consisted of US 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.
During the littoral live-fire event, a US Marine Corps command and control and sensor network enabled the various firing platforms to sense their target, develop firing solutions as well as to deliver precision integrated fires against the target vessel.
The activity was paused briefly after an "interloper" was reported around the area.
"We are just informed that there has been one air interloper that entered into the opera box and has been pushed out. We have now deconflicted the airspace,” the commentator said.
"Currently, the range is cold because of a safety issue because of the interloper that has been reported. We are waiting for the range to clear, once the interloper has left the opera box,” he added.
After over 15 minutes, the firing of High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems against the target ship resumed as the range was declared cleared.
Balikatan Exercise is an annual exercise between the Philippines and the US military.
For this year, Balikatan marks its biggest iteration with more than 17,600 participants and aims to enhance cooperation, increase capabilities and improve interoperability of the two countries.
Balikatan 2023 opened on April 11 and will conclude on April 28. — with Anna Felicia Bajo/KG/RSJ/BM, GMA Integrated News