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PH, US sink target ship in Balikatan exercise off Zambales

Philippine and US forces using various weapons platforms on Wednesday sank a decommissioned corvette in a live-fire drill during Balikatan exercises in Zambales.

It was the first time that the two militaries sank a target ship in a joint littoral exercise.

In a statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Philippine and US weapons platforms fired at the target—a decommissioned Philippine Navy corvette towed to Philippine waters.

The bilateral weapons systems in the exercise consisted of the following:

  • US and Philippine artillery
  • High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems
  • Avenger air defense systems
  • AH-64 Apache attack helicopters
  • Philippine Air Force FA-50 Golden Eagle fighter-attack aircraft
  • F-16 Fighting Falcons
  • US Marine F-35B Joint Strike Fighters
  • US Air Force Special Operations Command AC 130 Spectre gunship

A US Marine Corps command and control and sensor network enabled these various firing platforms to sense the target, develop firing solutions, and deliver precision integrated fires against the target vessel.

Some 1,400 marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Coast Guard personnel from both countries joined the live-fire exercise.

According to the AFP, the training showed the commitment of the Philippines and the US to enhance military capabilities and interoperability to meet their shared modern-day security challenges.

It also advanced their combined modernization and capability development by expanding the exercise in a complex and realistic training environment, the AFP added.

The Balikatan is an annual joint exercise between the Philippine and the US forces.

Balikatan this year marks its biggest iteration with more than 17,600 participants and aims to enhance cooperation, increase capabilities and improve interoperability of the two countries.

The AFP said the focus point in Balikatan 2023, which opened on April 11 and will conclude on April 28, is the bilateral integration of command and control, sensors, and multi-domain fires.

"This enabled more battlefield awareness, the sharing of targeting data between geographically dispersed units, and precision strikes in a “contested maritime environment”, the AFP said.

The US director for the exercise, US Marine Corps Forces, Pacific commander Lieutenant General William Jurney, said the training increased the exercise’s realism and complexity.

“Together we are strengthening our capabilities in full-spectrum military operations across all domains,” Jurney said.

Philippine director for the exercise, AFP’s Education, Training, and Doctrine Command head Major General Marvin Licudine, said the activity showed new potential and revitalized the military’s strength.

“This event enhanced the interoperability of the Philippines and US forces in conducting combined joint operations utilizing both countries’ army, navy, and air force assets in conducting maritime security and territorial defense,” Licudine said.

According to the AFP, the Philippines is a key US ally and the largest recipient of US military assistance, equipment, and training in the region.

Signed in 1951, the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty is the longest-standing defense treaty of the US in the Indo-Pacific region, it added.

Under the MDT, the two countries agreed that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on either the Philippines or the US would be dangerous and that they would act to meet the common dangers under its constitutional processes. —NB, GMA Integrated News